Kungsleden Day 8: Nikkoulakta

Wednesday, September 10th
I had made it to the last day of the longest hike of my life!
I had a terrible night’s sleep, only getting a combined two or three hours between being invaded by mice and the hikers who for some reason needed breakfast at 530am. They were most likely going to attempt a summit of Kebnekaise but it didnt make their racket in the kitchen any less disturbing. But I was the one using the space in a way it wasn’t intended (or allowed) to be used so I just pushed the tiredness to the back of my body. I would have to deal with it later.
I avoided the tent for a long time. Took my time making breakfast, packing the bag, and mentally preparing myself. While I wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been a few hours ago, I was still upset about the night’s events.
When I finally did get to the tent, it was just as I had remembered it. Three mouse made holes, a Ben made tear, and mouse shit everywhere. I decided that I wasn’t in the state of mind to deal with repairing the tent then and there so I did a thorough cleaning of the tent, strapped it onto my pack, and headed out.
The walk did me good. 19 kilometers nearly entirely alone gives you time to work through a few things. I went through the various stages of coping at a record pace. When I was no longer upset, I became hateful, followed quickly by sadness over the damage, pursued almost immediately by a sense of acceptance and willingness to set it behind me. I knew that I couldn’t let the mentality of the mice ‘taking’ my tent away from me manifest itself any further so I buried it under the rhythm of my boots and the few rays of sun poking through the clouds.
The 19k went smoothly. The trail was marked off nearly every kilometer and was broken up by two docks where a boat service acted as a short cut for those that felt 300 SEK was worth 4 kilometers of their energy. This served to pass the time quickly and predictably. I got stuck in the midst of a high school class. I could almost smell the douchey hipsters before I could see them.
The hike was a tad monotonous but when I was able to set aside everything going on inside my head I was able to stop and appreciate the birch forest that served as my scenery. A river valley historically used by the Sami culture, there were several side paths that led to historical/cultural sites from this native people. The sun breaking through was always appreciated.
When I saw the sign hanging over the trail, the word Nikkoulakta carved into it, I could feel my body relax, as if it was finally able to feel tired and hungry and dirty.
I had done it!
Despite the use of huts, the unexpected but equally appreciated saunas, and generosity I had been the fortunate benefactor of, I felt a very large sense of accomplishment. The longest hike, both in distance and time, of my life was completed! It was both relieving and reassuring to think back on the past week, the distance I had covered, and the incredible things that had happened to me. It seemed like yesterday that I had left Abisko and the days ran together but individual faces and sights stuck out bright in my mind.
At the cafe at the end of the trail I met Folke again, who said I could join him and the students on their chartered bus into Kiruna. I told him I had planned on camping in Nikkoulakta but he said that Kiruna was a much bigger and better place to spend a few days, plus he had an aunt that he would try to put me in contact with. I accepted his gracious offers and spent the next few hours sitting with him and his colleague. I tols them about the mice invading my tent and it was remarkably comforting for them to find it so humorous. Normally you’d think that someone laughing at an event that rattled you would make you upset but in this case it proved to move myself away from those negative emotions and closer to being able to laugh at myself.
I loved the time I spent on the Kungsleden and will always remember it as my first big test, and triumph, in my quest to find my niche in the world. But with that beinf said, I was very happy to collapse into that bus seat and head off to Kiruna.

All my love.

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