I love the very north of Sweden. This is the mountain area called "Fjällen" and home to some of Swedens most amazing National Parks (Abisko, Padjelanta, Sarek and Stora Sjöfallet). Endless areas of wilderness, perfect for making multi-day hikes.
This is a long time dream coming true, visiting this amazing national park and hiking almost 2 weeks in this fantastic place!
It is early morning and I open my eyes and yes it is light outside, as it is always light outside this time of year in the Fjällen. But to my total surprise, it wasn't clouded, it wasn't raining... and it wasn't snowing either.... but it was sunny!! And warm! After all the weather man warned me for, the rain, the storm and maybe even snow, we got summer warmth and blue skies instead! Sometimes I am really really happy that the weather forecast is always wrong ;-))
The night had been cold though, +4C inside the tent, but equipped with some good quality sleeping bags, the cold wasn't a problem at all. This could not be said of the thin sleeping pad though! The mattress is thin, too thin to my liking and the floor so hard, that all the bones in my body are feeling stiff. Could I really move again after a sleepless night like this? Hahaha, I guess so! I need to anyway; only 150 km's to go before I reach Ritsem! :-)
But hey, forget about all that, the sun is shining and look where we are! It's beautiful out here! So despite my squeaking bones, protesting with every move I make, I get out of tent, splash my face with the ice-cold river water, put a smile on my face, force some breakfast in me, and start packing the backpack for our next leg of the journey... Tarrekaise... here we come!
Today we have 4 kilometres to 'catch up with' as we didn't hike as far as planned yesterday. But it doesn't really matter: we have all the time in the world, so no need to keep to a tight schedule but can just relax and enjoy our hike. It's good to know there is no pressure and we can adjust our schedule on a daily basis, adjusting to our form of the day, enthusiasm and of course the weather conditions. So relaxed we start to go on our way.... the first few metres are steep up a hill, but after that the hike towards Njunjes is easy.
Just as yesterdays hike, the trail goes through a forest of birches. It is a rather comfortable trail to hike... but having said that..... I am watching closely where I put my feet! The trail is at certain points scattered with stones, and I certainly don't want to fall down. Not here anyway! We walk slowly but steadily on, and after about 2 kilometres the landscape starts to open up before our eyes. The landscape changes and we are able to view over parts of the valley. The fields of flowers are a real feast for the eye.
The wooded area we went through at the beginning of the day was dominated by the Wood Crane's-bill flower, but out here, in the open meadows, the Stormhatt (in Swedish) / Wolf's-Bane (in English) is the flower that clearly has the upper hand. I take a deep breath and smell the wonderful scent of the flower and breathe in the fresh air. The sun is shining, the world around me looks bright and happy, and so do I... this northern part of Sweden is such a beautiful place to be.
Well, of course I didn't WANT to fall down! But I did in anyway, hahaha, and what a good trick it turned out to be to get a well-deserved rest in the middle of a field of flowers :-) Make a good choice though where you decide to use this 'intelligent' trick. My pick was a large field of flowers, and some soft grass to land on and break my fall. Choose a tiny stone to trip over and make an elegant crash to the ground. Make sure you don't break any body parts, look hurt for a few minutes, and yes, you've got your 10 minutes rest that you so eagerly longed for the last 30 minutes. Hahaha, I did anyway. And as you can see the fall wasn't hard, as I am sitting here on the 'crash-site' with a big smile on my face :-)
After a short rest with something to drink and grabbing the opportunity to take some photos, I scramble myself up again from the ground to continue our hike. The last little bit towards the Mountain Hut of Njunjes is slightly up, and we are making our way over big slabs of rock. The sun is shining brightly and burning on my head, wow, it is so warm! Although the terrain isn't so difficult to hike, I do start to feel exhausted. The long travel by train, the sleepless nights and the hike of yesterday are sabotaging my legs to move. I have to convince them to move for every step I make, but it works! Tired but happy I finally throw off my backpack at Njunjes. Time for some soup and bread and a good rest for my tired feet and legs!
The welcome of the 'stugvärd' (the one that takes care of the mountain hut) is very friendly. Upon arrival we have a nice little chat and he gives us some good advice about the next part of our hike. A steep climb is next, he warns us, but after that the terrain gets easier... which makes me very happy!
But we aren't ready for that yet! First that hot bowl of soup, to fill that big empty space in my stomach. Hiking does make me hungry! We find a good spot in the shade, crashing down with our lunch on a big picnic table.
The water supply is a bit different at Njunjes then in most places. Our first reaction was to go to the river below to fill up our water bottles. The stugvärd looked at us with a grin on his face and said innocent: "If I were you, I would use that water hose over there instead. It collects water from the mountain. The river down below and is a little bit harder to reach." We looked at him puzzled seeing this tiny trickle of water coming from the water hose and wondering how good this water would taste. But okay, he probably would be right: the river would be a bit more difficult to reach.
Well, that was the understatement of the year! The cliffs beside the river were several metres high, making it impossible to collect water here! A good cause for laughter afterwards :-) And it also proves that it is good to listen to the advice of a far more experienced stugvärd. The "Stugvärd" is the person hired and trained by the Swedish Tourist Board. The stugvärd lives during parts of the year in this area, mostly knows the landscape very well (although, be warned, not all of them!) and can give you some good advice about the hiking trails in the area, good places to set up your tent, where to find water, etc, etc. One thing they don't seem to know is the weather conditions for the next few days.
At Njunjes it is also possible to cross the river Tarraätno / Darrhaädno. As you can see in the photos the river is quite strong and difficult / impossible to cross. But here at Njunjes is a sturdy bridge making it possible to cross to the other side without any problems. Crossing the bridge will bring you to 'off the beaten path' terrain; most hikers keep the main trail towards Tarrekaise.
It is time to move on! We can't be lazy all the time and sit in the sun the whole day in Njunjes. Well.... we could, hahaha, but we are too eager to see more of this beautiful area to sitt still all day and do nothing. So we toss on our backpacks and start moving again.
The first little part of the trail makes us feel like being in a jungle of flowers. We cut our way through the plants while the trail slowly makes its way up out of the valley. But suddenly in front of us we see the 'big climb'; the dreaded climb that the Stugvärd warned us for. Luckily we are mentally prepared for the steep climb that is ahead of us which just made me determined to get to the top as so quick and fit as I can. We strap on our backpacks a bit tighter, take a sip of fresh water, and start moving up the mountain. The climb is steep, but certainly not impossible to do! In my imagination I made it to an enormous climb... wasn't that what the Stugvärd said?? Hahaha, most likely not, as it wasn't even close to being terrible. Yes it is steep, and quite a bit of a hike, but nothing to be afraid of. And before we know it we are at the top, gasping for air while the sun shines brightly over the valley below us.
The view from the top is wonderful; looking over the valley below us we can still spot the Mountain Hut of Njunjes, which is now nothing more then a little dot in an oasis of green trees.
And in front of us opens a whole new landscape. The next kilometres we make our way over a rocky surface and enjoy the lovely views over the mountains that are surrounding us. The snow covered mountain peaks, the sound and the sight of the waterfalls in the distance, and the river that seems to follow us with every step we make are a feast for the eye and soul. We stop often, just to sit on one of the large boulder that are scattered around and take in the amazing landscape.
Finally: Tarrekaise!! I am feeling dead tired, but I made it! Hahaha, although for a little while, it felt like I would never get here. The last bit of the hike, before arriving in Tarrekaise, is rather boring, moving through a forest area. This stretch seems a bit endless, and when tired from walking all day long, not the most exhilarating experience. But now I am finally here, the end destination for the day.
I crash down on a veranda of one of the huts.... I am tired, so tired..... And yes, there are those mosquitoes back again as well. All that my mind tells me is *tired*, not really being able to think anymore and I can't really care much about those annoying little insects either. But slowly I seem to regain some energy again and I start looking for my bottle of insect repellent and put on a thin sweater. I also start to realize that I can't sit here forever; it is time to put up our tent! Åke found a nice spot at the edge of the lake, a good place to stay for the night. My tired body crawls up and complains with every step, yes, yes, I know it is tired. But hey.... it has been worth it! It's been another wonderful day in the Fjällen. A happy smile, a tired look, and already dreaming about tomorrows adventure.....
The view from our tent is lovely, but this location has clearly one disadvantage: it is mosquito paradise! The little insects are here by the hundreds, zooming around me irritatingly and never wanting to give up their quest of finding a nice bare spot of skin.
After dinner we give up and seek shelter in our tent from the army of insects. I don't mind really, inside it is nice and cosy. I put my feet up a bit to give them a nice rest and stare outside of the tent, enjoying the wonderful views. I munch on a bar of chocolate, mmmm, life is good!
The bar of chocolate was bought at the Mountain Hut where you can buy some basic provisions. The selection of food is very limited, but it is good enough to make a simple lunch or dinner. Don't count on being able to buy anything fresh food here though, the only thing available is canned food or in food in packages. And for the ones that want to have a bit of luxury: they also sell a limited selection of chocolate, candy, soft drinks, and even light beer! Hahaha, it maybe doesn't sound like much, but after a long day of hiking in the wilderness it tastes better then haute cuisine :-)
Bzzzz... bzzbzzzzzzzz..... can you here them! Mosquitoes!! The area around Tarrekaise is rather well known for its BIG collonies of these little pesty animals. The valley of the Tarra (Tarradalen) is covered with forest and low growing shrubs and plants. There are many little rivers and creeks, a combination that makes this area a heaven for the mosquitoes! And as there aren't that many people around, the ones that do walk here get all the attention of them! So make sure you don't forget to apply anti-repellant, wear long sleeves and light colours, which all will make you a little less attractive for these little zooming bugs.
The mosquitoes have their 'seasons', all depending on the previous and current weather conditions, time of the season, water levels, and so on, there might be more or less of them. Just be warned that there might be quite a few of them.... and feel lucky when they are not around :-)
The Mountain Hut of Tarrekaise is located on a nice spot at Lake Tarraure, surrounded by forest. There aren't so much of alternative locations to put up your tent in the area, so we decided to stay here. You can either camp, like we did, or stay at one of the little Mountain cabins. There are 26 beds available at Tarrekaise: one bigger cabin, with 2 x 10 beds, and a smaller one with in total 6 beds. You can buy some supplies here, although very basic: canned food and food in packages, a limited selection of chocolate, candy, soft drinks, and even light beer. No fresh food though! There is a stugvärd around taking care of the properties and a phone available in case of emergencies. The mountain hut is open during winter and summer, but closed during spring and autumn. Open from 24/2-23/4, 29/6-10/9 (2017).
This Mountain Hut is owned by the STF (Swedish Tourist Society) and the quality of the mountain huts is often good and the stugvärd experienced. And unfortunately I have to say most of the time..... but not this time! I guess the mountain cabins were up to standard (I didn't take a look inside), but the stugvärd was inexperienced and couldn't give us any advice about the surrounding area. They regularly change the ones that are running the cabins though, so maybe you are more in luck then we were and are able to get some good advice about the surrounding area by the Stugvärd.
You can read a bit more info about Tarrekaise on the website of the Swedish Tourist Association (STF)
On our way towards Tarrekaise we passed the Mountain Hut of Njunjes. The Stugvärd here gave us a warm welcome and some good tips about the next leg of our hike. Outside the Mountain Hut is a camping table, making it a perfect spot to stay for lunch. The water supply comes from the mountains above, transported down by an easy accessible hose, making the process of collecting fresh water an easy task. They even have a luxury of an outdoor shower cabin! One warning though.... the water is probably freezing cold! But showers are very rare in this area, so this certainly can be a luxury item :-)
There are no provisions for sale at the Mountain Hut, but there is a phone available in case of emergencies. There is one log cabin available that sleeps 20. Like all the Mountain Huts in this area, the Mountain Hut is never "full". Maybe there are no more beds available, but you can always take shelter inside the mountain hut and stay for the night, although this might mean sleeping on the floor.
The Mountain Hut is open: 5/3-23/4, 29/6-10/9 (2017). Costs per person per night: 360 SEK for members of the STF, 460 SEK for non-members (during summer season). When you are putting up your tent it will cost you 150 SEK/night for STF members and 250 SEK/night for non-members. (prices 2017)
You can read a bit more info about Njunjes on the website of the Swedish Tourist Association (STF)
Simone & Åke, Tarrekaise, Sweden
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