Hiking Kungsleden / The Royal Trail. Part 3

As I mentioned, at the start of my trip I had checked the weather report at Abisko tourist station, and Day 3 had predictions for heavy rain and wind (more than 11 mm). When I woke at 3:30 AM to take a photo (posted in the previous entry), it seemed like it could be a perfectly beautiful day. But at 7 AM I woke to the sound of heavy rain and wind. Checking with the STF host about what the weather was going to be like, she said, “Heavy rain all day, and it should start to clear around evening.” They don’t seem to give very detailed weather reports in the STF huts to the guests, although I know they do have radio or satellite phone communication. Judging by her annoyance at my question (I likely wasn’t the only one who asked), they could post the weather reports up somewhere for all the guests to see.

I had factored in extra days in case of rain, so I was quite content to stay inside for a day. I had met a nice Norwegian couple in their late 60’s/early 70’s in the hut kitchen from the previous night. They decided they were going to walk on to Tjäktja in the rain. “What! But do you enjoy walking in the rain?” I asked them. “Well… We don’t enjoy it exactly…” But coming from Norway, the rain for them was just the way it was. Tough Norwegians!

Lucky for me, Alesjaure has a really nice cafe which was perfect for waiting out the rain. Well, if you can call it a cafe – it’s a common room overlooking an amazing view, with books and games for borrow. I wasn’t alone in deciding to wait out the rain. In the evening, after my sauna, a boatload of poor people arrived after having walked all day in the pouring rain. I didn’t regret my decision to stay another day, as the rain hardly let up even by the time I went to bed!

I decided to start early on Day 4, waking at 6:30 AM in order to start walking at 8, with the idea I might walk past Tjäktja to Sälka, for a 12 or 25 km day. As well, I might possibly avoid any bad weather that could start up later in the day.

1Departing Alesjaure on Day 4

Only one set of footprints before me, plus lots of animal hoofprints and droppings. Reindeer crossed ahead of me, and then I realized there was a whole slope of them to the side of me! Quite special to be the only one on the trail at that hour! At this point I decided I didn’t need to walk to Sälka -I saw reindeer, what more would I want of my day!

23Reindeer!

As I walked on, I could see the sky to the south was becoming more and more grey, and that I should expect more rain.

 

4Sign that rain was going to start moving in… what, did you think they signaled the end of rain?

Since I started hiking early, I managed to enjoy the few hours of great weather (about +8 C but not stormy yet) in the day.

 

56

For the last hour of walking to Tjäktja, the rain started to come down, but I was quite comfortable in my Gortex jacket and pants. The last kilometer to Tjäktja hut involved a small altitude gain (200 m). I could have carried on to Sälka, but the thought of walking another 5 hours in the worsening rain didn’t really appeal to me. Snagged a bed in the 4-bed room (another score for being female!).

The rain cleared for a brief moment, which allowed me to go out and take some photos:

 

 

78Rising clouds… beautiful, but definitely a sign of heavy rain to arrive.

 

9Tjäktja hut

Tjäktja hut was quite full with walkers coming from both directions who wanted to dry out during their lunch hour before continuing on to the next hut.  I heard from some hikers coming from the south that the previous day with the extremely heavy rainstorm, walking from Singi to Sälka, at about 3 km south of reaching Sälka they were “forced” to wade through a thigh-high stream at one point! I was really worried… At dinner time I mentioned this to my dinner companions, the 69 year old Japanese man I met previously, and a solo + a pair of German tenters who decided to sleep indoors. We all discussed about what we should do considering how dangerous it was to cross deep moving water, and about whether the previous hikers I spoke to could be exaggerating? A Swedish couple overheard our conversation and confirmed that they also walked through 1 metre deep water for 5 metres in order to reach a footbridge that swelled from the excessive rain. So then we were a little relieved – as long as it wasn’t raining 11+ mm the day we walk past Sälka, we shouldn’t need to walk through dangerously deep water. The German guys were great dinner companions, really funny, and broke my stereotype of what I thought German people were like! (shame on me… )

One of them, upon learning I was Canadian, said he had met another Canadian hiking up north: “Ah, so you come here to walk? He said there weren’t really any places to walk in Canada.” I was flabbergasted, but got over my surprise and laughed: “No, no, there are lots of places to walk. I’ve been studying in Sweden for the last year, so that’s why I’m here. He must have been from the east.” 😉 Pretty amusing! All in all, I really enjoyed meeting the types of people who walked Kungsleden, as they all seemed to be friendly and considerate people.

Before I had left on my hiking trip, I had read a blog account describing Tjäktja hut as “barren” and “hardly worth visiting”. Tjäktja turned out to be by far my favourite hut on Kungsleden! It’s the smallest hut I stayed in during the trip, with only 20 beds, and no shop or sauna, but I think the ruggedness adds to its charm and coziness. I had a great time bonding with the other hikers while the rain started coming down sideways and didn’t let up for the rest of the day or night. There were a few brave, hardy tenters that set up outside the hut but one group finally gave in to the temptation of sleeping indoors, bringing the total to 21 persons inside the cabin (one had to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the largest bedroom).

To be continued…

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