Monday, November 19, 2018

Day 21: Hiking with Style!

September 5: Karolina and I woke up to a beautiful, clear day! But we were in no rush to wake up or get moving since we were stuck on our side of a large lake and the next boat across wasn't scheduled until 12:15pm. The boats were timed to arrive with a bus on the main road on the other side of the lake, however. There's a large, 30-or-so kilometer gap (about 20 miles) in the Kungsleden Trail at this point. Some people might walk the narrow, windy road between trailheads, but they are few and far between. Instead, thru-hikers take a regularly scheduled bus between the two points.

I weighed my pack before leaving--a miserable 26 kg (almost 60 pounds!)

But the 12:15 boat was timed to meet with the eastbound bus--hikers heading southbound might catch it to get to our location. But we'd end up sitting on the other shore twiddling our thumbs because our bus wasn't scheduled to head westbound until 3:00 in the afternoon! And the boat that was timed to meet it crossed the lake at 2:45pm.

So.... we were basically stuck here. Until 2:45pm. Which was okay by me--it was practically a zero day! And I had plenty of time to get online and catch up with email. I also watched a fair number of Netflix shows. =)

Karolina paid for the breakfast provided by the hostel but I skipped it to save money and ate my usual cereal instead. Not only did I save money, but it lightened my pack weight as well. With the added weight from our mail drop, my pack was much too heavy and counting out breakfasts, I realized that I might have too many of them anyhow. I needed to eat them!

When Karolina arrived back from breakfast, she said that other hikers who had camped outside and got up to pee at 2:30 in the morning had seen the northern lights! What?! And we missed it?! Karolina was immensely disappointed to have missed the show. It was one of the big items she had been hoping for most. I was outside until 11:00 at night (I got a better wi-fi connection on my computer outside of our dorm room) and did periodically look up at the sky, but I never saw anything.

While trying to get into my Wells Fargo account online, I managed to get myself locked out. First I got my password incorrect, but things really went south when it asked me for a second way of verifying my identity because I was logging in from a suspicious location (since when is Sweden suspicious?!) and the only options provided were a text to my phone (which didn't work in Europe) or a phone call to my phone (which also doesn't work in Europe). Unable to prove my identity, I gave up. I could have probably called them (I can make phone calls using Skype through the Internet) to get it sorted out, but it could wait until I got back to the states which is what I wound up doing. Traveling internationally can be a hassle at times!

The boat dock! And our boat has already arrived!

By around 2:30, Karolina and I finally headed down to the dock and await our boat across the lake. The boat had already arrived, but they weren't letting anyone on yet while loading supplies that were supposed to cross the lake. We were joined by Claudia and the Polish couple, now becoming regular sights on the trail. There were others as well, but we didn't know the others. They were section hiking the trail or did day hikes from the mountain station.

Finally we boarded and were on the move. This was a relatively large boat with an inside area that allowed us to get out of the cold wind outside. All of the other motorboats to date where small, dinky things. Essentially rowboats with a motor on the back that could barely fit four people. This boat could hold dozens in a pinch!

On the other side of the lake, everyone disembarked and most of us walked a half-mile up a small side road to the main road where a large bus was already pulled over and waiting for us. Threw our packs into the holding bays at the bottom of the bus then paid the bus fair while entering the bus.

This bus would take us between the two Kungsleden trailheads.

The bus ride was fairly short--only about 30 km (about 20 miles)--but it took nearly two hours! Mainly because we stopped halfway at a roadside stop for 50 minutes for the driver to take a legally required break. The bus doesn't just travel between the two trailheads for the Kungsleden, but rather begins long before picking us up and continues on long after dropping us off. We were just taking the bus for a very short section of its entire route. And there are laws that require the driver to rest every so often--which happened to come right during our short segment on the bus.

Fortunately, we were allowed to get off the bus and check out the area during our stop. It stopped at a small grocery store and restaurant, and I splurged by pigging out on a sandwich, Coke and a bag of popcorn. All of it was expensive, but it felt nice to eat something that I hadn't been carrying on my back and unlike the problem I had with too many breakfasts, I did not have enough lunchable foods in my pack. So it was okay to buy lunch. *nodding* =)

Karolina checks out the selection at the small grocery store during the bus break.
After an hour of wandering around and admiring the views, we boarded our bus and continued the short distance to our final trailhead by the Vakkotavare hut. We arrived at 4:35pm. Most of the day was already gone and essentially wasted, which was a shame because the weather had been beautiful all day long and we barely walked at all.

However! Sunset was still fairly late and we could easily get in a few hours of hiking before calling it quits for the day. The trail climbed steeply and steadily out of the glacial valley toward a high plateau with wonderful views all around. Some of the mountains to the south of us were filled with glaciers and covered in snow--the kind of stuff you imagine you'd see when you're in the arctic. I hoped that wasn't the type of terrain we were heading into....

We set up camp near an unnamed lake (at least it didn't have a name on our topo map) and prepared for a cold night. The wind on the treeless plateau was brutal and temperatures were falling fast. The windchill would be extreme! Cooking dinner on my soda can stove was a challenge in the wind, but I got the job done then quickly dived into my sleeping bag for the rest of the evening.

Our day's hike was done!

Karolina boards the boat. The blue barrels at the front were what we had to wait for to be loaded. I have no idea what was in them!
And this was a big boat! With an inside! And even a small mural on an inside column!
We've disembarked from the boat and are now walking a small side road to the main road where the large bus is waiting.
View from the bus! Which is why you see reflections on the glass windows of the bus, and why the foreground is so blurry (the bus was in motion).
The bus break was at a rather scenic location, so Karolina and I walked around after checking out the grocery store and restaurant to admire the views.
Me with my bag of popcorn and bottle of Coke.
This is a replica of a Sami encampment.
And back on the bus, heading to the Kungsleden trailhead just ahead! (See Karolina with her glasses in the reflection of the window?)
And we're back on the trail! The thing I like most about this photo is my shadow in the lower right corner. It's easy to overlook! =)
Views as we near the top of the steep climb to the plateau are wonderful! You can almost see where we started the morning at the mountain hut--near that pointy mountain on the right of the U-shaped valley on the far end of the lake.

The distant mountain scenery was awesome--filled with snow and glaciers, but I couldn't get good photos of them because that's also where the sun was setting.
I'm cooking dinner in the stiff, cold wind!

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