Travels with V
Mountains, rapids, and wild walks
Part three, Abisko - Nikkaluokta
We load our bags in the trunk for a ten minute drive to Abisko where we check in at the Abisko Mountain Lodge. Our room is claustrophobically small but we don’t spend much time there except for when we sleep. But they have a very nice lobby area with a bar and a fire going. Some 100 meters from the lodge is a heliport where choppers constantly land and take off, carrying hikers into the wilderness. Or to Kiruna for their flight home.
A bigger river than the one in Björkliden flows in a rugged canyon through Abisko. It’s unsurprisingly called Abiskojokk, “jokk” meaning river in the Sami language. When the railroad was being built the engineers were reluctant to build a bridge over the rapids, so instead they diverted the river by blowing a tunnel through the rocks. It’s quite amazing to think of how they managed to tame this wildly flowing jokk.
THE RIVER POURING OUT OF THE TUNNEL
A few kilometers upstream there used to be a marble quarry. It so happens that in the rocks here there are streaks of the same mineral as in Carrara in Italy. You can see these light streaks here and there in the river.
This journey’s longest hike starts in the same spot as the famous “Kungsleden” trail . In total this trail is some 400 kilometers long, but we only follow it for 2-3 kilometers, then we break off in the direction of an iconic sight, the so called “Lapporten”, or Lapland Gate. It’s an almost perfect semicircle formed by two opposite concave slopes. Below the gate is a small hilltop called Paddus, where there was once a place where sacrifices were made to Sami gods. And that’s today’s goal.
We walk in total 14 kilometers this day, through mountain forests, heaths and mires with pale red cloudberries. We haven’t walked such a long way in many many years, so the hurting body whispers “thank you” when we drop down in a sofa in the lobby with a cold beer in hand.
Staying a couple of days near the shores of the big lake Torneträsk we realize that we haven’t once seen boats on the lake. This is very unusual, especially given the fact that there’s plenty of fish in the water But the only fishing here is done when the lake is covered with ice, through holes in the ice sheet.
Hiking from Abisko the first part of Kungsleden ends in the village of Nikkaluokta. That is for most people a 5-7 days march. We do it sort of backwards and drive to Nikkaluokta and from there we hike towards the mighty Kebnekaise massif that has the highest summits in Sweden. We carry the most important stuff in one backpack och follow the other hikers on the stony trail. After a few hours we arrive at a spectacular place in the middle of nowhere. It’s a restaurant called “Enoks”, built right on the trail by the lake Laddjujauvri.
Enoks takes its name from a famous Sami man, Enok Sarri, who was a formidable weather forecaster in the 1950s and 60s. The Sarri family lost their entire herd of reindeers one harsh winter and they decided instead to get into the tourist business. So Enok’s children and grandchildren built the restaurant and a few cabins, and they also have a boat service on the lake. Enoks is now a water hole for many hikers who stop here and try the speciality – a reindeer hamburger with cloudberry salsa. It may sound as an odd combo, but it’s great!