Friday, November 16, 2018

Day 20: Adventures in a Swedish Sauna

Sept 4: Once again, Karolina has provided a guest blog post! This time, I actually requested that if she wanted to write some guest blog posts, THIS DAY should be one of them. She had an adventure of sorts in a Swedish sauna that I was not around for, and I felt the story would be better told from a first-person perspective. So once again, I'll pass the baton to Karolina....

I grew stir-crazy waiting for the boat to arrive.... (Don't worry, I'm just jumping up and down--not into the water!)

*********** Karolina's blog post *****************

Initially I wasn’t going to write this post, but at the end of that day I had certain adventure in a sauna which Ryan didn’t witness and he told me I MUST tell my story to the readers of his blog, so here I am again.

Even though it had rained at night, the morning was sunny and beautiful. Ryan and I took our time having breakfast and packing up camp—our motor boat transportation wasn’t supposed to arrive until 9:15, so we had plenty of time. I took the opportunity and had my breakfast hot that morning—I cooked oatmeal and brewed tea. Life was good!

To our surprise, around 8:00 we heard a motorboat approaching. That couldn’t be our boat ride, could it?! It was way too early! The boat brought a few hikers to our side of the lake and was now sailing away. Ryan and I wished we had known about that extra ride—we wouldn’t have minded starting our day’s hike an hour earlier, while the weather was perfect!

A half hour later, the situation repeated. The motor boat arrived, left a bunch of hikers on the shore and quickly left. Arrrghhh!! Now we had missed not one but two early rides!

Finally, 9:00 o’clock arrived and Ryan and I walked over to the dock. The motor boat arrived a few minutes later, bringing a group of four Swedish ladies. Once the ladies got off the boat, Ryan and I threw our backpacks in, put on the safety vests and took our places in the boat. We were the only passengers traveling with that ride. And what a ride it was! Little did we expect how fast that little boat would be traveling, nor how it would zigzag between poles marking the tight, shallow channel through the lakes. I clung tightly to the bench I was sitting on. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t accidentally fall overboard when the boat was taking one of the sharp turns! That ride almost felt like a roller-coaster!

And our chariot arrives!
When we arrived at the other shore, the woman who drove the boat told us she had to go that fast to keep the boat riding high due to the very shallow water. “How shallow is it?” I asked. The boat driver spread her arms maybe a meter apart. We couldn’t judge that just by looking at the water, though, as it was full of glacial flour and all we could see was its surface.

The woman also told us that the day before she had increased the price hikers had to pay for the boat ride—it now cost 400 SEK per person instead of 300 SEK. The high season for hiking the Kungsleden was coming to an end, which meant there were fewer hikers for each boat crossing. Also, the hunting season for moose had just started, and—since the boat driver was a hunter—she now had her hands full with chores other than transporting hikers from one side of the lake to the other. That meant Ryan and I had to pay a whopping €40 each for a 4 km roller-coaster lake crossing by motorboat. It was a lot, but still better than having to row across that lake. I later found out that even though the lake was shallow, there were strong currents in it that made rowing quite challenging. Allegedly, every week there were hikers who failed in their attempts to row across the lake and needed rescuing.

Anyways, Ryan and I paid for the ride, put our backpacks on and hit the trail. We walked for maybe a quarter of an hour when the path divided in two. We weren’t sure which way to continue. We couldn’t see any trail markers on trees or rocks. Checking the map didn’t help much either—mapping of the Kungsleden around this area seemed to be inaccurate. The trail must have been rerouted after the map had already been printed. We had little choice but to turn around and go back to the lake shore to make sure we were following the right trail. Which we were. So we had to turn around once again and walk the very same path we already had walked twice. We not only wasted about half an hour for backtracking and finding out we already had been on the correct path, but also as we were approaching the lake shore Ryan stumbled on a rock and sprained his ankle. Now he was in pain and limping, but assured me it wasn’t serious and he’d get better soon.

Back at the trail junction, we realized that if we only had walked about five steps further, we would have noticed an information board and clear trail markers indicating which way the Kungsleden went.

The day’s hiking was pleasant and easy. The terrain was mostly flat, the sun was shining and the views were spectacular. The only nuisance was the wind—strong and chilly—which prevented us from taking long breaks. At some point, we passed a tent pitched by a lake that I recognized as Claudia’s tent. How did she pass us?! She was supposed to spend two nights near Skierfe, which means she would be leaving that place this morning—and now she’s suddenly here?! Ryan didn’t even want to believe me that tent was Claudia’s, but I was sure of what I had seen. I started convincing Ryan that Claudia must be a witch. She must have used her magic powers—maybe her witches  broom?—to travel from Skierfe to here. “She’s probably traveling around the Swedish Arctic and collecting endemic herbs which she wants to use to brew her magic potions!” I told Ryan. “I bet that’s why she collected all those reindeer antlers—to do magic!”. I am not sure Ryan believed me, though.

For a lunch break we stopped in a small emergency shelter. Soon after arriving, we were joined inside by two girls from Czech Republic traveling southbound. We asked the girls about the trail ahead and they complained a lot about how crowded it was with French tourists—especially near mountain huts. One of the girls said she had some “typically French conversations” with those French tourists. I was curious what she meant by “typical French conversations.” According to her, it went something like this:

French: Yes, we’ve been to Czechoslovakia!

Czech: There is no Czechoslovakia anymore…

French: Really?! Since when?!

Czech: Eee… for about 25 years…

French: Oh, ah! So… what are you called now?

Czech: “Well, our country is called Czech Republic,  and the one we split from is Slovakia”.

Other annoying things they say, the girl told us, include: “Prague is a very beautiful city, you don’t see the communism at all!” or “How come you managed to learn French?” As if learning a foreign language was rocket science…

“Did you speak English with them?” I asked.

“No, French.”

“See? For them learning a foreign language is rocket science!”

The rest of the day’s hike went by quickly and was rather uneventful. Around 4:00 pm, we arrived at the Saltoluokta Mountain Station where we managed to get bunk beds for the night. We also picked the second mail drop that we had sent from Ammarnäs.

The fee we paid for the beds included access to the sauna, which I was very happy to use. I took my towel and went to another building where the saunas were located (there were two of them, one for ladies and one for gents), leaving Ryan—who isn’t big on saunas—to do whatever he wanted to do.

The sauna was very nice. It had a big window through which I could see the beautiful panorama of the lake Långås, the Lule River (which enters the lake) and mountains surrounding the shores.  Except for me there was just one other woman in the sauna. She was from Germany and had just finished her hike along the Nordkalottleden. We talked a bit about hiking, saunas and mountain huts in Sweden. I asked her about hiking to the top of Kebnekaise, the highest mountain in Sweden, which she did a few years ago, and I hoped to be able to do that in a few days’ time—if the weather conditions permit. Just when we were done with the conversation, another woman (this one from Sweden) joined us and the three of us sat there in silence, enjoying the warmth and the view.

After about twenty minutes of sweating, I finally decided I was getting hot and went out into the shower room where I quickly rinsed my body with cold water. Then I returned to the sauna. After another ten minutes, I repeated the cold shower. This time, after returning to the sauna, I started feeling funny… It was that weird feeling when you know there is a chance you’ll pass out. I wanted to avoid passing out as much as I could, so at first I laid down on the bench inside the sauna, hoping that would help me feel better. It didn’t, so after a while I went out to the shower room, which was much cooler. I laid down on the floor under the shower and tried to take deep breaths. None of it was helping and I was feeling nauseous.

A few moments later the German woman emerged from the sauna and as soon as she saw me laying there on the floor, completely naked, my face pale as a sheet of paper. She got worried and started asking whether I was okay. The Swedish woman heard the commotion and joined us in the shower room. She said she was a nurse and knew what to do, and that I was in good hands. She asked whether I had eaten enough that day and taken enough salts. She also called another woman from outside of the sauna to bring me a glass of water with salt and sugar.

I told the ladies that I felt like vomiting. I was a little embarrassed, but they told me to go ahead and vomit—after all we were under the showers, so we could easily clean up the mess afterwards. And I did that—I vomited, laying naked on the floor of the shower room, in the presence of two ladies with only towels wrapped around their bodies.

After vomiting, I started feeling a bit better and the German woman told me that the color started coming back to my face. The Swedish nurse told me to keep on laying on the floor and put my legs up against it, which I did (still naked). The third woman came back bringing me a glass of water with salt and sugar. She said that she’s “been there, done that”—she had also passed out in a sauna before. Now, that really made me feel better! Knowing that I wasn’t the only one to pass out in a sauna made me feel a little less embarrassed.

Eventually, I felt good enough to get up. I immediately wanted to clean my vomit from the floor, but the women who had helped me told me to go get dressed and take care of myself and that they would clean the shower room. It actually felt more embarrassing to have other people clean my vomit than to be laying there naked on the floor, but I didn’t have much to say. I got dressed and went back to the building where Ryan and I were spending the night. I was still feeling a little funny and weak, so I walked slowly.

When I told Ryan about my adventure in the sauna he was concerned about my well-being but he also found the whole story funny and told me I had to write a guest post for his blog about it. Later he was so kind to make mashed potato dinner for both of us, so I didn’t need to cook that night and could sit down, relax and focus on feeling better.

Some more funny things happened that evening—when I went out to check outhouses, I lightly sprained my ankle going down the steps of the hostel. In the kitchen, I was hit by cupboard door that got loose and fell down when I was reaching for plates. In the kitchen when we had our dinner, an older Swedish couple was sitting, eating and listening to the radio. When the broadcast they were listening to finished we chatted for a while. They came from southern Sweden and were here on holidays. They stayed in the Saltoluokta Mountain Station and did day hikes in the surrounding Stora Sjöfallet National Park. Ryan told them he would be doing the same when he’s old—staying in hotels and hiking light. That totally—though unintentionally—sounded like he was telling them they were old! Ryan realized that when the words had already left his mouth and he couldn’t take them back. Before the Swedish couple left the kitchen, they offered me some chocolate. I put an innocent smile on my face and nodded shyly, but Ryan laughed out loud. “And is the pope catholic?” he asked. Ryan knows I like chocolate and wouldn’t refuse when someone is offering me a piece. He even says that if he made a path from pieces of chocolate leading to the edge of a cliff, I would totally fall down it. I just hope this won’t be the way he shakes me off one day…

The reindeer curse had finally been lifted! We saw reindeer today--and it never rained the whole day!!!

This was the small emergency hut where we stopped for lunch to get out of the cold and wind.
This was, I think, the only water source on the entire trail that looked... not right! Why are all the rocks in it so red?! Pollution from a former mine, perhaps?

You can see a couple of small white dots on our side of the shoreline near the middle of the photo. That's the hut where we'd be staying the night. The next day, we'd take a boat across the lake to the civilization you see on the far shore near the right side of the photo. Then we'd walk up to the road you see cut through the trees near the shoreline to catch a bus to the next section of trail... but you'll read all about that in the next blog post!

Karolina was excited to find this moose antler in front of one of the dorms at the mountain station.
I (Ryan here!) called my mom to give her an update on my progress and mentioned that I had washed clothes which were now drying in the drying room. She had never heard of a drying room and wanted me to take a photo of it. So this is your photo, mom! =) It's not very exciting... just a warm room (kind of like a sauna, but with fewer naked people) for clothes to dry.
One of the most awesome bathrooms ever! Comics, comics everywhere!
There were several tastefully-decorated bathrooms to choose from. *nodding* I'm not going to post photos of all of them, however. You'll have to drop by for a visit if you want to see the rest. =)

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