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Friday, 15 August 2014

The Troms Border Trail, Part 2

There’s a lot more I could say about our hike in the Norwegian Arctic. But really, the pictures tell most of the story.

It wasn’t the greatest weather when we set out; indeed, it was quite brooding. The trail was marked by a red splash of paint on the rocks here and there, and with cairns – not all as visible as this one:


As I mentioned in my last post, the huts are what made the whole thing practicable from our point of view. Here are the huts at Gappo, which was almost a village: two residential (or was it three?), an earth closet and a woodshed. I think we had five other people (plus a dog) staying the night when we were there. Sometimes we had the place to ourselves.


Here’s an inside shot of a typical hut. Despite the mild weather we were grateful for the log stove on a couple of occasions after we’d got caught in a late afternoon thunderstorm.

A feature of day 3, after we left Gappo, was that we managed to convert a 20-kilometre hike into a 32-km slog. We set off towards this very recognisable mountain and only after marching 5-6 km did we realise that we were heading west when we should have been heading southwest. Nothing for it but to retrace our steps and start again.


We expected to meet reindeer, and indeed we had to move through one herd that was several thousand strong – and were simply too exhausted to get the cameras out. But this sight caught our eye: a small herd apparently grazing on a snow-bank. A.’s theory was that this was the grown-up reindeer explaining to the youngsters what lay in store in the coming winter. That evening we met a couple of Norwegian women in a hut who explained that the reindeer didn’t like the kind of heat we were experiencing and were in fact cooling off; also, on the snow they would briefly be free of the mosquitoes.


Despite the rocky landscape, wild flowers were everywhere. It wasn’t always apparent what they were feeding on, but they seemed to thrive. Here are some harebells, doing well in an unlikely habitat.


… and a teasel:


With no supplies available in these far northern huts (the Trekking Association have many huts further south where groceries can be bought, or even prepared meals) we had to carry everything we would need. As well as having loads of cereals, home-made muesli, nuts, dried fruit, etc, we took our own dried ingredients for soup. We also made up batches of dry mix for tortillas and pancakes. At night we’d cook up enough for our supper – greasing the pan from our little phial of olive oil - and the using the leftovers for the next day’s midday meal.



When we got to the huts one of the first chores was always to fetch water. In the case of this place, with the supply 200 yards away, they provided a handy yoke. Note that I am wearing my midge veil: a vital piece of equipment up there.


The area where we were walking was staggeringly beautiful, but the truth is… there were few more wonderful sights than a hut coming into view after a gruelling day’s hike.


Actually, there was another very welcome sight we looked out for each morning, namely a suitable place to bathe after we’d worked up a sweat over the first hour or two. So here’s your blogger at his daily toilette – at a discreet 200 yards’ distance. I have a vivid memory of that lake. We’d just walked through one of the lowest-lying parts of the hike, through a marsh and a stunted woodland – and we’d been ravaged by mosquitoes. The feeling of cold water on our skin was sheer bliss.



We crossed rivers every day – sometimes a dozen or more, and very few caused us any real difficulty. This one, however, was a bit of a challenge, but with gaiters in place, and using our poles, we got across with dry feet.




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