Kungsleden Part 3: The departure of summer
Summer in Lapland appears to have been and gone. No, honestly, I'm not just being melodramatic: each morning I wake up to a crisp frost coating the ground and layer of determined ice over water; the once green leaves on the trees I'm now so frequently surrounded by are turning yellow, gold and red as each day passes; darkness is creeping in ever earlier each evening, welcomed in by some of the most glorious sunsets I've witnessed. Rumour has it, the Aurora Borealis have made their first appearances in the area (time to start crawling out of my tent in the middle of the night on clear evenings in the hope of catching a glimpse...?)
Despite being woken up five minutes into my birthday by my ill-fated tent once again collapsing and prompting an emergency evacuation, I had a wonderful day (albeit slightly unusual, as birthdays go). The weather conditions bore no trace of the previous night's ferocity; a seemingly infinite blue sky stretched out above me and the sun beamed down just strongly enough for me to get away with a short-sleeved t-shirt. My main company during the course of the day turned out to be reindeer, I saw as many as 60 before losing count! The terrain had the perfect combination of mountains, lakes, forests and panoramic views. There was even a short lake crossing at the end; the woman driving the boat was clearly a bit of a speed demon as she slalomed her way between the buoys marking the safe route. Not entirely convinced by my tent's ability to stay erect, I opted to sleep in a very basic wooden shelter, comprising of three wooden benches and a table - nothing fancy, but preferable to a collapsing tent. In the evening, I was joined by five Germans, all my age, who even sang me happy birthday. Blowing out the flame of a lighter was as close as we could get to blowing out a candle...
My decision to avoid my tent transpired to be a wise one, as overnight the weather made a drastic change and I awoke to torrential rain and a feisty wind. After finally dragging myself out of the relative warmth and safety of my hut, I discovered that I was perfectly happy, regardless of the inhospitable weather! There's a well-loved quote within outdoorsy communities: "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing". I can definitely vouch for the accuracy of this; even crossing exposed mountain plateaus and ridges, once armed in my numerous layers of waterproof and warm clothing, I felt impervious to whatever was thrown my way.
Having now covered around 200km, I have reached the start of the least walked section of the Kungsleden and consequently am not expecting to see many people over the next ten days of walking. The predominant reason for this is that these 180km are the most remote; there are only one or two opportunities to restock my food supplies and few sleeping options that don't require a tent. However, I'm not letting this deter me, much as I know my parents wish it would... Instead, I am now equipped with a satellite phone (with SOS emergency response function), plenty of high-energy food and a sturdy tent that I've been assured will NOT collapse, regardless of whatever horrendous weather may come my way (though naturally hoping for continued clement conditions). The latter has involved some fairly intense logistics in order to get it to where I currently am and I'd like to say a massive thank you to both Jenny from outnorth.se and my wonderful mum for making sure my new tent reached me!
Well, wish me luck!