“You need these!” Sundip said when we got off the train in Murjek to catch a 2 hour taxi drive to what was locally known as the cycle trek, located at the border of Scandinavia’s wildest national park – Sarek; “I am telling you, these are very important on a trip like this.”
Sundip handed me two packets of handkerchiefs. I am not easily surprised but I was now. We were already heavily loaded for our week in one of the most spectacular national parks i have ever visited, Sarek, located in the far north of Sweden. I had only visited the park for winter training and tours, never in summer, and last time I was there, was like 5 years back in time. I guessed things had changed, since the Swedish outdoor magazines continuously write about the park which than attracts many visitors. That is why we had decided to go and hike before the official tourist season was on, to avoid people, because we both needed a rest from our respective lives. Me as a slightly too worried daddy and Sundip as a successful businessman from London with the world as his arena.
Since I pretty much originate from the north myself, I realized during the taxi ride how much a miss the laid back local people. I have lived in cities the last five years and there´s a major difference between people. The locals in the north are very straight forward, genuine, honest and extremely down to earth. During those two hours in the taxi we learned a lot about the local situation around Jokkmokk, the main town for us to enter the park. Mining is big again and the hydro electrical plants and building dams is still going on and Samí culture seems to be fighting back, which to me is a big joy.
“Aah, I love this!” Sundip said when we got out of the taxi and crossed the bridge into the park; “I needed this!”
Words he would come back to many times during our week on the mountain. We were carrying around 25 kg:s per person, not a big deal really, not even for Sundip, since he had walked the Skeleton Coast a couple of years back with a 35 kg backpack. We immediately decided that this would be a trek of full enjoyment, no competition, no firsts, unsupported and best on earth, but to the point what a trek or any journey should be, a trip within using the environment to live to its fullest and slowly discover things. So we began with lunch on the other side of the river. The weather forecast had threatened with rain all week, but the sun was out and the air was lovely crisp. And I immediately felt at peace, at home and realized how much I missed this eternally crisp air. It makes you feel healthy, strong and alive!
The first day consisted of an easy trek on pretty much a gravel road up to a mountain station called Aktse. But for us, having been away from the forest and its inhabitants, especially the curious Siberian Jay Perisoreus infaustus this was wilderness. We were hoping to see moose, we saw a one year old on the ride inside from the taxi, curiously running after us, bear, possibly wolverine (I had seen one during a winter tour) and lynx. But except the Siberian Jay, some mosquitoes, a few crows, we only met a Sami on his four wheel dirt bike training his dog, an Australian kelpie, which I knew they used for herding their reindeer. It was such a joy to be walking again!
One of the main goals of the trip was climbing a beauty of a peak called Skierfe, which we could see all the time whilst trekking into to Aktse. Our idea was to climb east of it and walk down into the Rapa Valley via another symbol of Sarek south, Nammatj. But when we arrived at Aktse, we were first met by a sign saying we couldn´t camp on the great grass plain offered and that was followed by a group of bird lovers who after saying they had drunk all the beer they had brought with them, said that the valley was really wet and not that easy to cross, which gave me a few moments of thoughts how to orientate through the park. So, we moved up a few hundred meters, pitched the tent, were offered a great view of Skierfe, Laitaure lake and Tjaktjavarre mountain and than Sundip, enjoying the peace and sense of freedom, brought out his back up shoes just in case the boots broke, a pair of slippers. I realised that he was probably more eccentric than I had first thought. I love eccentrics, but I realized that Sarek is so rocky and wet, that boots do brake, and if it happened, we would have serious problems. So, I just prayed to the weather Gods that we would have great weather throughout our visit. They heard me.
If there´s one thing I love more than anything, it is travelling with people who enjoy life and feel genuinely happy for what they experience. Sundip was really good at showing his emotions and his appreciation for the great environment we traveled through. It took us an easy day to climb up onto the plateau called Njunes and than just before midnight, since it was 24 hours of daylight, climbed Skierfe and were offered some of the greatest views I have come across my 25 years of professional travel, overlooking the Rapa Valley, or the the delta belonging to the great lifeline of Sarek, river Rapaätno.
“I am telling you….” Sundip said, “…I relish this view more than most things i have experienced!”
Part two of three will follow on Monday.