All in all, I think I would class the past 10 days as some of the most testing days of my life so far.
Well, I would have done yesterday.
Today, following loads of food and a good nights sleep, I feel like some of the intense emotions I have felt over the past few days have eased, and I start to question whether or not it was as bad as it seemed at the time.
Looking back it can’t have been. There were moments where I lay in my tent, tears rolling from my eyes, feet burning with pain, wondering if I would be able to hobble on the next day. These moments were tough – raising questions of why the hell I had got myself into this position.
Then the next day would roll around and like clockwork my body started to move again – not quite as smoothly as clockwork to be fair- but it knew it was time to get moving and somehow got going once more.
This constant battle between fighting an urge to stop moving and knowing there is no option but to push on was – at times – the only thing keeping me going.
It has also shed a little light on how far one can push oneself – the body is truly capable of remarkable things (not that I am saying I’ve done remarkable things) we just have to have the courage to push it.
So in an attempt to summarise what exactly the past few days have been like – here’s a short summary of day by day for the first ten days. I will try not to waffle too much…
Day 1 – Wednesday 3rd August – Nordkapp to the Mainland…
I arrived in Nordkapp full of optimism… my journal entry describes my feelings as ‘excited, nervous, baffled, slightly unprepared and a little cold’ adding that all I need to do is ‘do my best and keep putting one foot in front of the other’. With hindsight this is hilarious. On the one hand I guess it was/is that simple. But on the other – one reaches a point in this landscape, in these conditions, when attempting to do what I have been doing, that your best isn’t necessarily enough. And nothing you have done before even comes close to comparing, so the idea of ‘doing your best’ becomes somewhat irrelevant.
Still we set off from the cape, following trail markers which were somewhat difficult to find (rock markers in rocky terrain?!) and headed off on an attempt to reach the mainland. The island on which Nordkapp is situated is beautiful – throwing up viewgasms (another barefooted monkeyism) left right and centre. There was also the novelty of seeing herds of reindeer in the wild for the first time. Making for an exciting day walking tough terrain.
On this first day we did manage to lose the trail – taking a bit of a detour around the lower half of the island, which meant it was getting late in the day when we finally reached the tunnel. Having stopped a passing motorist, I discovered it was possible to run through the 7km tunnel – “There’s no restrictions” being his words of choice – and we set off into the darkness. It was about half way through the tunnel, with about 50km ground behind us, that my first experience of death hit. The lack of food throughout the day had caught up with me and boom I was gone. Big time. Which meant a 4km section of tunnel had to be covered at an agonisingly slow pace – I imagine this is where Aleks realised I would struggle with the pace over the coming days. The light at the end of the tunnel was a welcome site and we pitched up almost immediately. It had been a tough end to the day – but I was convinced that this was day 1 – it was bound to be hard. But that tomorrow would be better. And I went to sleep slightly more nervous, but also still with a glimmer of optimism.
Day 2 – Thursday 4th August – Head of mainland to someplace near Vardancohka…
At the start I promised a brief description of each day and from now on I will make good on that promise as in all honesty – the days have all rolled a little into one – and being as though it was a slow progression into proper death – I didn’t write at all over the first few days.
Day two proved to be a tough day – still feeling the deficiency of calories from day one, movement was sluggish right from the off. This was not helped by the fact my pack felt hugely heavy, the day started with a pretty steep climb and the terrain was proving equally as rough. Still convinced this was the breaking in stage – I continued to trudge on, not quite aware of how slowly I was moving til a couple of days later when we realised how little ground we had covered.
Still, at this stage I was able to appreciate the remarkable scenery, I was in awe of my surroundings and felt incredibly lucky to be out here, experiencing what very few will experience, even if I was tired, aching and hungry.
Day 3 – Friday 5th August – Hattir East…
Okay so to be honest – I’m not entirely sure this is where we went on day three. But we did at some point cover this ground.
Day three was my marker – if I could make it through the first three days (I thought) I knew I could do it. Again hilarious. But I did not know this yet. Not much to say apart from another long day of walking, with the scenery rapidly changing as we did so – from open mountainous planes to a more densely vegetated moorland and eventually rolling hills covered in trees (or as I was thinking in the back of my mind – bloody bear/elk/wolf territory)… again a hilarious thought as following more days with sections of woodland not a single one of these animals has made its presence known – though we have seen a couple of suspect prints.
Days 4,5,6,7 – Saturday 6th August to Tuesday 9th August -Hattir East to Bojobeaskihytta….
This block of days started out promisingly… A REAL TOILET and my first poo of the trip. Not to mention a sink to wash my hands and face and a delightful crowd of elderly Scandinavian tourists – one of whom mistook my water bottle for a soap dispenser and would not hand it back to me as I tried to explain what it was.
We also had chicken on this morning. And many other items of food. Winner winner chicken (quite literally) dinner (well breakfast).
Following the previous days feast… the natural bodily functions which had been scarce over the past few days were returning to me – meaning my first adventure poo of the trip occurred on day 5 ish – behind this large stone. Not that there was any need to be behind anything – the only person around was Aleks and he was miles off in front. I should mention that pooing has really become something I am happy to discuss – so if it offends you you may wish to not read any more of my updates.
Not entirely sure where this one was taken but these delightful little berries (Billberries) have been a life saver over the past few days. Handfuls of these (and cloudberries) have been consumed in an attempt to keep energy levels up. Delicious. And nutritious. And they make your poo black so are effectively like Guinness. So I am told – never tested the Guinness theory.
Day six was death. It was a day where I genuinely started to think it was all over. Painful feet, zero energy, a day of battling wind and rain, and a double trip up the same mountain (hill) because the trail markings mysteriously vanished.
It was on this day that the decision to change route became crystal clear as something I needed to do. I plan to look into this in more detail later on to find out how dark I really found this day – but for now I will leave it at that image of me finally in a sleeping bag, having a protein shake for dinner because I had zero energy left to cook.
And finally, back to the poo theme, this is the toilet at Bojobeaskihytta. I loved this toilet. Loo roll galore. Actual walls and door. And a foam seat which was both warm and comfortable.
And to answer your question yes I am wearing the flag as a skirt. The trousers were drying by the fire and I had little else to wear. The shoes were a gift from the Hut too. Vogue will probably be in touch shortly after seeing this but feel free to take this look and make it your own.
Day 8 – Wednesday 10th August – Bojobeaskihytta to Somewhere beyond Mollesjohka…
Day 8 was the first day we were able to run for some distance… covering 35km odd with relative ease when compared to the previous days spent trudging through bog and over hills. This first stint took us to Mollesjohka where we were going to stay and buy food. However on arrival at Mollesjohka it was clear the owners were not in – so we were not able to purchase food. After having a gander in one of the cabins, borrowing some electricity and porridge, a couple of men turned up on quad bikes – though not the people in charge. We therefore decided to push on and try to cover the next 17km between us and the next hut.
Little did we know when we set off over that epic bridge, this was going to be one of the hardest 17km of the trip so far. Firstly it was bog death. Then it was midge death. Then we got lost again, this time in a wood, with very little reference points, dwindling phone batteries and tired bodies (well mine was I can’t speak for Aleks). After more swear words than I have ever heard anyone mutter in one go, Aleks miraculously found a way back to the trail and we managed to traipse on. Again, looking back, it feels like it wasn’t that big a deal, but in reality, that could have been it.
Day 9 – Thursday 11th August – To Masi…
Yesterday was another slow day – the exploits of the previous day having an effect of slowness on both of us. I think this was the first day I have ever heard Aleks complain at feeling awful (though mostly I think this stemmed from a potential injury he had picked up during a particularly dodgy river crossing the previous day). We even stopped for food at lunch time – something we have not done previously – as we knew food would be awaiting us in Masi.
Again this day was filled with beautiful scenery which did not escape me as I trudged on, determined to reach Masi, with a dry place to stay and abundance of food at the forefront of my mind. We met a couple of lovely Swedes on the way too – one of whom is writing a book about the trail, the other of whom introduced us to the edibility of cloud bereies (hugely useful when facing bog death as these are the one good thing to be found in the bog). As we left them a short while after meeting, something Aleks had said a few weeks ago about the joyous melancholy of meeting people on your travels began to make sense to me, and I did think it was a shame to have to leave them behind so soon.
But onwards it was, with a fast paced last few km with the promise of beer and a room if we arrived before 7. Safe to say, we arrived at 18.48 and shortly after found ourselves in possession of lots of delicious goodies and a few cans of (not brilliant) Norwegian lager. But at the end of the day, beer is beer.
Day 10 – Friday 12th August – Still in Masi…
And here I sit… in the extreme comfort of a cabin courtesy (and by courtesy I mean we are paying the dude, but still) of a bizarre yet very friendly shop owner. The clothes have been washed. My shoes deconstructed and washed. Kit is dry. I have been washed. I have been fed. There is beer in the fridge. More food in the cupboards. And the beautiful sound of raindrops falling on the windows has just started, to remind me how grateful I am to be indoors.
I look back now at what I thought were the toughest days I have endured and realise that I’ve not got it bad at all. Yes they were tough. Yes they pushed me mentally. But a couple of days later and I am relaxing in a cabin with all the luxuries (and more) than I need.
We live so comfortably that we forget what it is like to be challenged. Just ten days into my trip and I feel like I am learning about myself, about how far I can go and about how much more I have got to give.
I found those days in the wilderness tough but now I realise I emerged relatively unscathed. Will this allow me to push further in the future? Only time will answer that one.
But one thing I do know for sure is that I am ready to push on – to start a new chapter of this adventure and to keep pushing my own personal boundaries, in the hope it inspires others to do the same.