Kungsleden with a toddler - part 2: Saltoloukta to Kvikkjokk
Day 9: Vakkotovare- Saltoluokta 32km
This part of the journey for us technically began with a bus and boat journey to Saltolukta. We spent the whole day pondering if it is a good idea or not to continue our hike, but we couldn't have hoped for a better weather forecast. As it is Kungsleden, and good weather does not come around that regularly (certainly not often can one hope for 2 weeks of consistently good weather with no rain, we decided to go for it. There was not a single cloud in the sky.
As it was the end of season, the bus came only once. a day, so we spent the whole morning waiting around and chasing Baba around the hut. What made the morning easier was a dog Monti that stayed in the hut as well (obviously together with his owners) so that made for the entertainment for the day, and Baba kept reminsescing him (which for a toddler means saying his name and wanting me to draw pictures of hime) long after the trip.
The bus and boat journeys went well, as Baba was not scared of boats anymore. Getting a room with big bed, just for ourselves was a nice change. Having a hot shower too - after having lived the simple life for few days, suddenly things you don't think twice about back at home become a luxury.
We had a buffet delicious dinner of local delicacies (two portions of everything pleeease!) and spend the evening after that doing some drawings in the library room.
We also had a chance of resupplying, but to our big disappointment (but not to be unexpected though) as it was only a week before all huts close for winter, there was not that much to choose from - not even jam or peanut butter for our porridge. And everything was very expensive - we paid 200CHF, more than we would have paid even back at home in Zurich for 5 days worth of food!
What we didn't know before, and what would have made our lives much way simpler, is that we could have actually sent ourselves a package to Saltoloukta (only with local Swedish post) with supplies of food (and most importantly nappies!) and that would have saved us some backpack weight and money. Oh well, water under the bridge now, but we will know "next time".
Day 10: Saltoloukta-Sitojaure 19km
After having a whole day break from hiking, having woken up to clear blue sky and eaten a massive breakfast, we were full of optimism and energy for the road ahead. Even though we were expecting it to be a taugh day, we knew we had it in us.
As we were on lower altitudes and there was not a single cloud in the sky (and maybe because we were slightly more south, although I am not sure if that makes a big difference), it was very warm. For the first time we took all of our outer layers and wore only T-shirts.
As we were ascending, the landscape behind was just spectacular - yellow and orange trees and the view of the clear blue lake. It was just magical, we were so happy we decided to comtinue.
And the hike turned out to be easy, too. Even though it was long by distance, the terrain was easy (no big rocks) and we had all the energy needed to walk. Our backs were rested so the weight of backpacks were bearable. And on the sunny days we could really enjoy our long picnics, so Baba was also happy.
To our surprise we reached the hut quite early in the afternoon and were greeted by the hosts with delicious cranberry lemonade. The hut was situated by the lake and we we had it all to ourselves. The hosts even had a high chair and a box of old toys which was definitely unexpected.
Day 11: Sitojaure-Aktse 12km
This day we had another motor boat crossing to do, but this time Baba was very excited about it. In the boat she kept saying "duck bubbles" which means that water was making bubbles. And since bubbles are her favourite thing, I think she enjoyed the ride.
After the boat there was an ascent, that was a bit hard but short, with views as good as all the other days. On the top there was a vast plateau with a nice surprise awaiting - there were probably 50 or more reindeers there! The biggest group so far - Baba was overwhelmed with joy!
The way down, though steep, was really nice - the day was short so we had plenty of time to stop and look down - and you wanted to stop and look down all the time.
We arrived in the hut early in the afternoon and had plenty of time to sit down, relax and enjoy the sunshine. We bought some cheeky treats like chocolate and tinned pineapple and in the evening relaxed in the sauna.
We couldn't have hoped for a better hiking day. On top of that, next day was our detour day for a day hike to Skierfe, which meant we didn't need to pack in the morning - yay!
Day 12: Aktse-Skierfe-Aktse 16km
This was the day of the detour from Kungsleden to the border of Sarek National Park with the iconic view of the Rapa valley. It was also one of the reasons we decided for that route in the first place. Already the day before we got a little taste of what the views might be like as part of the hike you go back the same way. You can do this hike also as a detour coming from Sitojaure, but we couldn't have possibly done it - it was not worth it to test our limits with Baba in the backpack possibly getting annoyed that it is taking so long.
So somehow in my head this day was supposed to be the day of rest. I don't know why I would think that hiking up 700m on a quite steep ascent would be easy. Yes, since it was a day hike it was only Baba and a daypack that we needed to carry, but it was still a long and definitely challenging hike - maybe one of the harder days! Terrain was the whole way either muddy or rocky, so you didn't really get a break. And, I don't know why, maybe because I wasn't carrying the backpack so my muscles were moving differently, or maybe it was just the accumulated effort, but on the way back I started to get pain in new places that were previously fine.
But, and I cannot stress it enough, the pain was absolutely worth it - the views along the way and especially from the top of Skierfe are spectacular, one of the best views I have seen while hiking. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be when you get a chance to camp up there and see the sunset and sunrise over the valley.
Once again we had an indulgent (for hiking standards) dinner of pasta carbonara and fish balls (which Tadzik turned to a hit song that we sing with Baba even now). With desert of tinned pinapple of course! We need to gather strength for the next day, which was yet another hard day on the agenda.
Day 13: Aktse-Parte 22km
Another boat ride, yey! The boat was at 9am, which on one hand meant we didn't need to rush as much in the morning, but on the other meant we were starting this long day quite late. When we got to the boats, some people were debating rowing. There was only one boat at our end, which by the rules of the park that require that there shall be at least one boat on each side of the lake would mean that you need to row three times to get across the lake - go once, pick up the second boat and row back with it and only then row once again to the other side. According to the estimates of people who wanted to row, it was "about 20-30minutes each way". We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. The boat guy looked at those people with "what a bunch of idiots" written all over his face. When they asked him if they can row 4 in one boat (the rule is max 3 people per boat) he calmly replied: "well you are free to do whatever you want, of course there are only 3 life jackets, and you have your backpacks on top of that, the water is now around 6 degrees, which in case you fall gives you around 5-10 minutes before you get hypothermia. Good luck". 2 people bailed instantly (and it seemed that they never actually had an intention to row), 2 decided to row. We were laughing in our heads.
I was all in pain and could barely walk, so I suspected the day would be very hard and slow.
And I was right. I could barely walk uphill, so we had to take it very very slow. Baba was also quite annoyed (maybe by how slow her mummy is). After the ascent it got much easier (and I was full of hope that the hard part is over). The views once again did not disappoint - autumn in "full bloom", if one could say that. Weather was still good until late afternoon, only to get cloudy later on.
The painful part came at the end - it was already late, Baba was bored and the descent was... terrible. Fooling ourselves that this would be the easy part, we soon discovered that it was the definitely not going to be so. The whole way down was covered in big stones, so even on the flat bit at the end you had to concentrate all the time. My feet were in pain every step of the way, and there was no way to speed things up. We arrived at the hut at 18:30 exhausted.
Funnily enough the "rowers" arrived 30minutes after us, and we were very very slow. They said it took them 3 HOURS! It means that they started hiking at 12. We were imagining how they must have felt when 30minutes have passed and they were in the middle of the lake with still 2.5lengtgs to go. That has made our day - even though they didn't seem to feel stupid about their slight miscalculation.
Day 14: Parte-Kvikkjokk 16km
Last day and the weather already turned. It was misty and dump in the morning, and we were so scared of the rain that we stopped only once and powered through the last 10km non stop. We were glad it was the last day - and I honestly don't believe we could have done any more. We didn't take almost any pictures that day, and there was nothing to take pictures of - only cloudy forrest all the way.
We were really happy to arrive at the tourist center. It wasn't as nice as the previous ones, and to our disappointment (and mostly Baba's) they didn't sell soft toys in the shop - we've been telling her the whole way that we will find her a big one as we didn't want to carry it all the way from Saltoloukta.
Other than that it was like a perfect ending - we knew that it will rain for the next week so we had no regrets about the hike ending. We were ready to start our journey back to the civilisation and spend a night in a warm hotel with hot shower.
... in the end, Baba got her Cheeky Reindeer on the way back waiting for the bus from Jokkmokk to Gällivare!