Day 31 – Sunday 4th August – Abisko to Riksgränsen…
As I set off from the hostel, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, leaving behind a place which was warm and welcoming, to rejoin a life of solitude on the road. However, at the same time, the excitement of reaching Narvik and of finally heading in the right direction was also fresh in my mind, and I knew that realistically this was the only option, so I may as well enjoy it.
The first day involved walking to the end of lake Torneträsk, before climbing higher into the mountains, towards the town of Riksgränsen – the final settlement that I would pass through before going back into Norway. The weather seemed to mimic my feelings – the persistent rain constantly reminding me I was no longer in the comfort of civilisation, and the icy winds almost pushing me back to it. Still, my legs were fresh and I pushed on, determined to gain back that sense of independence and adventure.
As the road twisted away from the lake to rise higher, the scenery began to distract me from thinking about how things had been, stealing my focus even more with each step I took. And so I plodded on, ignoring the rain and actually smiling to myself, being grateful for the experience despite the fact I was wet through and really quite cold. I pitched up just outside the town, content with covering more than 30km and keen to get out of the wind.
I forgot to add that for the first time I voluntarily ventured off the road on this day too – I saw signs to a waterfall and couldn’t resist getting as close as possible again – scared myself this time though as the rock was a little slippery 🙈
Day 32 – Monday 5th August – Riksgränsen to the Nordic Coast…
After a restless night (the temperatures up in the mountains are notably colder) and waking to the sound of rain on the tent, I knew I was in for another cold day, shivering as I packed up my things and put my (already wet) waterproofs back on. Luckily, being just outside of the town I was able to walk 2.5km and pop into the supermarket to stock up some food, some warm socks, and to my amazement buy a hot coffee and a couple of bananas. I then proceeded to sit in the supermarket for a good half an hour whilst I consumed these things and dried off a bit. I know this must have been a little odd… but at the time it felt like a sensible thing to do.
Food and coffee consumed, I could wait no longer and it was time to set off, with the Norwegian border less than a km away.
Riksgränsen, by the way, is set in beautiful surroundings, but seems to offer very little itself other than an expensive hostel and a small supermarket.
A few moments later I was leaving Sweden and going back in to Norway – muttering into my video camera about a love of Lappland/Sweden as I went. Little did I know, this section of road leading towards the Norwegian coast, was set to be one of the most beautiful bits of road I have ever travelled down, despite the fact it was still hammering with rain and the wind was still fiercely cold. Around every turn there was something which made me make audible noises of admiration – with many wows/whoas/dayums escaping my lips.
To add to the enjoyment (and to help with the whole I’m slowly freezing to death scenario) a lot of this day involved descending, which meant I actually ran for about 14 km… steadily, if the doctor asks, and more importantly, I enjoyed it!
Eventually the road wound down to reveal a huge fjord, filled with nothing but the mighty North Atlantic Ocean. And it took my breathe away. I actually found myself having to pause. I actually felt extremely proud, meeting something so huge and with so much power, on foot and under my own steam. It’s a tricky one to explain but I will admit I had to fight back a tear. All briefly, of course, before realising that once I reached the bottom of this hill I could once again dive into my tent and escape the rain.
I pitched up this evening in the most beautiful of spots – right on the coast – and watched the sun set over the water in the distance.
Day 33 – Tuesday 6th September – To Narvik…
Morning came and for the first time since leaving Abisko, I was treated to a bit of sunshine. Wanting to dry my tent, but also a little too cold to sit still, I ate breakfast on the beach and then packed up and headed off for the short 15km plod into Narvik.
Once again the scenery had changed, but was no less beautiful, and despite having to dodge lorries around some very tight bends, this 15km was very enjoyable.
By the time I reached Narvik, it was raining again, and I dived into the Tourist Centre to pick up the kindle and find somewhere cheap to stay. Weirdly however, every single hotel in Narvik was fully booked. Every one. So I made the decision to keep going southwards- though I made a quick stop at the shopping centre first- leaving my tent hanging in the Tourist Centre to dry thanks to the kind and helpful staff there.
Shopping wise, I picked up a new waterproof jacket, a warmer sleeping bag liner and another set of gloves. I wanted to get a couple more warm items, but scared of destroying what was left in my bank, I considered these to be the most essential things to keep me warm, and quickly left before spending more money!
I then returned to pick up my tent and carried on down the road – stopping to take a couple of photos – and then pitching up on a beach about 8km south of the city. I’m still not convinced I was allowed to pitch here, but noone complained so I think that means it’s okay.
So overall, yes I had missed out on a rest day, but I had a few warmer items of kit and I was still slowly edging ahead of my renewed schedule. This actually felt pretty good and the thought of still being in Narvik now (when I am 42km further en route) reassures me I made the right decision.
The next rest day should now be in a few days time – in a smaller town called Innhavet. In the mean time I will just be plodding on, running when I feel comfortable (which is happening more and more often) and walking whilst swearing at the weather when this suits more.
It’s starting to feel pretty lonely again, and the distance still to go is daunting, but as long as I keep going each day, I have to reach the end at some point.
And if that’s not an inspirational quote right there… I don’t know what is.