Kungsleden 2016: Day 13

18th August 2016
8:30am – 3:30pm 21km

On account of the mosquitoes and midges I decamped, packed up and left without breakfast. Half an hour down the trail I pulled off and spent twenty minutes finishing off the last of my cereal. The only food remaining in my pack now was Heinz Baked Beans, Bullens and the last of a few snacks. The Bullens had been de-canned and double bagged in zip-locks. The beans were still in the can and whether responsible or not, took the blame for what felt like a heavier pack weight. Nevertheless, lunch today was going to be epic!

What's that I spy? A can of Bullens!!
What’s that I spy? A can of Bullens!!
Hitting the multi-lane trail early before rush hour.
Hitting the multi-lane trail early before rush hour.

I set my goal on reaching a Reindeer fence by noon. The path was clear, fairly flat and relatively unhindered by rocks and debris. In comparison with other paths, this felt like I had jumped on a motorway. As the kilometres sped by the scenery, though still beautiful in the morning sun, was fairly consistent for the day. It was nice to plod steadily along, knowing I could make good time and finish early enough to spend some time relaxing. The ‘pressure’ of the last couple of days to get the miles under my belt has eased. It’s hardly any ‘pressure’ mind!!!

Mountains on the other side of the lake slowly creeping by.
Mountains on the other side of the lake slowly creeping by.
Azure lakes gleaming under a virtually cloudless blue sky...
Azure lakes gleaming under a virtually cloudless blue sky…

On account of the monotony, which I refer to in the most relative of ways, there was not the need to keep track of time or indeed of where I was on the map. As noon drew close it was not apparent which segment of lake I was passing. I had not been walking as swiftly as other days and couldn’t believe that I was close to the Reindeer fence. Nonetheless the winding mesh barrier complete with stile appeared. I had expected the traditional slatted barrier where each rung is slide aside and replaced once you pass through. This one had a set of steps which one ascended and descended. This is no doubt a much more reliable Reindeer barrier given the quantity of traffic that passes this way and the chance for gates to be left open.

Reindeer fence with a unique stile.
Reindeer fence with a unique stile.

Having set this as my goal for a lunch break I decided that the next river I were to come across would be my chosen resting spot. On the map there appeared to be two rivers within the next few kilometres. A stiff fifteen minutes more walking would be fine to wait for my Bullens n’ Beans.
Thirty minutes passed, then forty five without sign of the rivers. It dawned on me that an earlier measly trickle of water under a set of boardwalks was probably the river I had been looking for.

Vast beauty wherever you look.
Vast beauty wherever you look.

At this point there was no telling how long it would be until another river appeared. I plodded on with the feeling of hunger starting to grow. A bag of nuts came out and kept me running as time and the kilometres ticked by. Clearly the size of hill we were passing did not hold enough water at this time of year to keep a stream running.
Eventually I realised that the main bridge, by which was a number of official camp places, was going to be the place for lunch. At twenty past one I arrived at the bridge and found a spot where I could dip my feet in the water and heat up my Bullens and Beans. I could have stopped earlier but would have had nowhere to wash up. An hour spent in the shade, eating, drinking coffee and cooling off with the roar of the mountain river felt amazing. This was more than perfect.

Bullens n' beans. An epic lunch!
Bullens n’ beans. An epic lunch!
Mountain river lunch stop.
Mountain river lunch stop.
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Boots off! Beware of numb toes!
Refreshing but freezing ... beware of numb toes!
Refreshing but freezing … beware of numb toes!
Even Lego matey had a dip!
Even Lego matey had a dip!
Behind my lunch spot was a drop in the river ... you can imagine the roar!
Behind my lunch spot was a drop in the river … you can imagine the roar!

The last three kilometres were taken at a somewhat more leisurely pace. I notice a couple of my toes are feeling quite painful. Whilst paddling in the shallows I’d bent them back on the rocks but at the time had felt nothing on account of the numbness that comes with paddling in freezing water. I’d been warned about this by Andreas. I can see why people take Crocs for back-country river crossings. The steepness of the drop and the knowledge that I was close to my final destination meant that there was on need to rush. I could feel in my knees and feet a stiffness that is no doubt the result of a few consistent days of hard walking. In any case twenty one kilometres in under six hours is good going.

Back in the birch forest following the red bands.
Back in the birch forest following the red bands.
Approaching the Abiskojaure cabins.
Approaching the Abiskojaure cabins.

The Abiskojaure cabins were basic and rustic as expected, and indeed as others had been. Arriving at 3:30pm gave me time to do a little laundry. Hopefully this would give my fellow train passengers a more fragrant ride home.

I finished off the day with an amazing sauna. I’ve had the hot sauna a couple of times but this was the full Swedish experience. After soaking in the warmth I stepped out into the lake and doused myself with a washing up bowl full of cold water. The feeling of cold water on your hot skin feels so refreshing and invigorating. I had expected it to leave me feeling cold but the warmth that has soaked deep within your muscles keeps you from feeling internally cold. I can see the appeal. Three times I flitted between sauna and lake. Amazing!
In between the dips I chatted with the other gentlemen. One Swede, two Germans and one Dutch who had worked with Huskies in Finland. I asked what the benefits of the sauna were? Was it for the skin, muscular or both? “Everything” was the reply! Including your social life and mental well-being. Apparently the sauna is a great venue for spending time with your mates, much the same as a pub in the UK. We discussed the differences of language, cultural and politics. It was all in all a very enjoyable manly couple of hours.

Last day of walking tomorrow. Just fifteen kilometres which if I start at 8 should bring me in to Abisko between noon and 1pm. I’ve mixed feeling of wanting to see the family but enjoying the walking and scenery. Both are great!

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