I’m typing this post in the lobby of the Kvikkjokk Fjallstation, the lodge and location of the only tiny store in this tiny town. This place makes some of the Icelandic villages I visited look like metropolises, though it’s incredibly picturesque with its mountains and lakeside view.
Rather than stay at the lodge, I’m camped on the lawn of the “tourist services center.” At 50 kronor ($5.89), it’s my cheapest night of accommodation on my Nordic trip outside of the free wilderness camping. I took a shower for the first time in nine days, and also used said shower to wash my clothes. There were detailed instructions on how to use the coin operated shower, but when I turned the knob there was plenty of hot water so I’m treating this as a victory.
After the (admittedly fine compared to Iceland) rainy first few days, the weather became absolutely perfect. The cloudless Arctic sky made me get out my PCT ridiculously shading wide brimmed hat and sunscreen. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting it to be this sunny and over 70 degrees in the mountains of the Arctic.
At the Teusajaure hut the trail stops at a lake, with rowboats to ferry hikers back and forth. There are multiple lake crossings on the Kungsleden, and you often have two choices:
1. Row across. There are three boats on the lake, with at least one and at most two on each side. If there’s only one, you have to row across the lake, tether a second boat, return to your starting point, drop off one boat, and then return to the opposite side for a total of three crossings. Since there are more southbound hikers (like me), this is usually the case.
2. Pay the hut warden 150 to 200 kronor ($17.50 to $23.50) to take you across in his or her motorboat at the posted times. Usually once in the morning and once more in the evening.
This first crossing was only 1km (0.6 miles), and two other hikers opted to join me. We figured we’d each row one trip across, and I volunteered to go first in the hopes that I could just ditch them after the first crossing.
It quickly became evident that I had no idea what I was doing, but the guy from Normandy was very helpful and taught me how to use the rowboat. He kept getting left and right mixed up in English, but other than that he was a great set of eyes and advice. As we neared the other side a big group took both boats and zoomed across the lake, so we didn’t have to do the other two trips! A great day.
After relaxing in the sun and getting annoyed by the German woman who kept complaining of how tired the crossing made her even though she didn’t row at all, I zoomed ahead on the trail and camped on a high plateau overlooking snow capped mountains and the Vakkotavare hut.
It was only a 40 minute walk to Vakkotavare, which is right on a lakeside highway. At the highway the trail terminates and picks back up 19 miles down the road on the other side of the lake. A bus stops three times a day to pick up hikers and drop them off at Kebnats in time for the ferry to the Saltoluokta Fjallstation (lodge).
As on the PCT, whenever I open my pack it seems to unleash a hurricane of gear and food all around me. I sprawled out all my stuff on a picnic table in front of the hut while a troop of German Boy Scouts sang a few feet away.
I overheard a couple speaking in English, which was weird because it seems like everyone on the trail is Swedish. They seemed to be around my age, and were on vacation for six weeks as a break from their studies in Germany. Ivan was from outside Moscow and working on his physics PhD, and Margarie was a German masters student studying art therapy. Margarie couldn’t stop laughing at the German Boy Scouts and their songs, and also seemed fairly embarrassed.
The three of us sat together on the bus, which pulled up precisely on schedule at 9:40am. It seemed weird that the 19 mile bus ride took an hour and 40 minutes, and it soon became apparent why when we pulled over at a rest area cafe for an hour. It was really cozy inside, with the comfortable rustic atmosphere all the buildings up here seem to have. There was a lifelike stuffed fox inside, which made me jump when I looked next to me and saw it for the first time. I thought it was a real fox, but luckily stopped myself from yelling out from the shock of it when I realized it was dead and on display.
Ivan, Margarie, and I bought the weirdest looking ice cream bars we could find and went outside to taunt somebody’s huskies with food (it wasn’t intentional, they just went crazy when they saw the ice cream).
Finally we arrived at Kebnats, though I’m not sure why it even has a name since it’s just a jetty. The boat was waiting for us, and the non-hikers wished us luck and cheered as we got off. It was all in Swedish, so I’m assuming it was that and not “death to the foreign devils.”
The ride across the lake was fairly quick, and the boat large. They collected the 200 kronor ($23.50) fee from everyone in cash, but since I didn’t have any the fee collector said I could just go ahead and pay at the lodge.
The Saltoluokta lodge store was closed when I arrived, but the waiting area was inviting with lots of cushy chairs, outlets, and free wifi. I’d brought too much food for the first leg of the trip, and ended up having to buy just a little more. There wasn’t much selection, and though it was expensive it wasn’t totally unreasonable especially considering how far we are from pretty much anywhere. I also bought the map for the next section, though with the GPS tracks I’ve loaded into my phone it’s really just a backup.
I ended up staying way later than I’d planned, not leaving until around 4:30pm for the trail. After a steep climb I got to another plateau, free of trees and surrounded by great views. I picked out a nice reasonably flat spot when I got tired and, with my eye mask to ward off the 3am sunrise and perpetual twilight until then, passed out quickly.