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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Iron rations for the Arctic Circle

It’s only a week or so till we head north to the Arctic Circle, somewhere above Tromso, so today we shouldered our packs and had a practice hike, carrying precisely what we will set off with: a bare minimum of spare clothing, a set of waterproofs, and mounds of grub.


Yesterday we laid out all our supplies on the kitchen table. It does rather look as though we’ll be living off trail bars, but since we took the picture we have performed miracles with the bags of flour and other dry ingredients (see below).

The hike takes eight days and takes us close to the point where the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway meet. The trail, we understand, is well marked, and our overnight accommodation will be in very basic wooden huts, situated at 15-25 kilometre intervals. Each hut has a stove for cooking, mattresses for sleeping on… and that’s your lot. Water along the route has to be taken from lakes and rivers; there are no refreshment stops at all. If we miscalculate, our last couple of days are going to be very hungry indeed. But, looking on the bright side, our packs will be feather-light.

We have spent a long time thinking about what to eat. Weight is the big issue, along with calories. Breakfast each day will be a measured portion of our trusty, bog-standard home-made muesli: oats, nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, raisins – and the magic ingredient, dried milk. Add water and it’ll be a little like being at home. We have plenty of coffee, of course, and a bag of Earl Grey tea-leaves.

Main meals have caused us the most concern. We have a selection of packet soups, some herbs and spices, and three staples:

(1)   3 packs of mixed lentils, rice, spices and dried onion – plus seasoning. That should cook in 20-30 minutes and make a hearty soup to a recipe we have tested and found excellent.

(2)   A mix of plain flour, baking powder and salt. 3 packs, each big enough to make 8-10 tortillas; that’s been tried and tested over many years.

(3)   A mix of self-raising flour, dried egg and milk powder, which will make a substantial pancake. Again, 3 packs. We tried these last week, and they certainly stick to a guy’s ribs.

We also have a few sachets of dried egg and milk powder. We tested that too, the other day, and the scrambled egg it made was… well, we agreed that after we’ve walked 20 km we’ll probably tolerate it.

Along with the staples, plus a few odds and ends like oatcakes, some canned sardines and dried banana, we have a number of treats:

(1)   dozens – and dozens - of trail bars, or flapjacks
(2)   a dry-mix that promises to convert into vegetarian sausage
(3)   some Oxo cubes – which make a very tasty drink
(4)   some freeze-dried ice-cream I was given for Christmas
(5)   lots of dates, nuts and dried apricots
(6)   a couple of tubes of vegetarian pâté
(7)   …and, if we get lucky in Oslo, where we have half a day on the way up, some smoked mackerel. The Norwegians are very good indeed with fish. 

With eight days of austerity looming, we thoroughly enjoyed today’s pickings from the vegetable garden:


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