Hike Sweden, Day 2: sauna like the locals

Day 2: Abiskojaurestugorna to Alesjaurestugorna

This day’s hike from Abiskojaurestugorna was utterly depleting, thanks largely to the 26° cloudless sky and 23kms up and down hills.

The trail runs close to a hidden Swedish bunker from WW2 when the “neutral” military was protecting their railway against the nearby Germans, glimpses a distant Sami village, then converges alongside a long narrow lake. As such, the second half of the day was thankfully punctuated with lake swims.

It’s possible to catch a boat for 5kms of the route, but at 350kr, it’s not really worth it, as the lake-side path is exceptional, and you miss the swimming.

Cool off in Alisjavri lake
Alisjavri lake is so hot right now

The water is refreshing (read: icy), and I had a moment of panic when the rocks were too slippery to easily get out, leaving me (not for the first time in life) writhing naked, not quite half in, not quite half out, and fearing for life and dignity..

I entered the camp site in Teva sandals, having delightfully shed the boots at the last swimming spot 500 metres away, and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours, just as I had the night before. The sun and walking with a pack might be taxing, but the hut mattresses are clean and inviting to rest on. Getting tax back always feels good.

A young family I met en route in the morning was travelling with 3 kids and Jack Russell, wearing special doggie booties on his front paws.

“He’s smart,” said the mother about the dog. “He’s been faking an injury in his tail so that we walk slower.”

He was clearly smart enough to read and map and do basic math: their proposed route was 100km long, and a Jack Russell’s leg stride is about 20 cms.

Cute little doggie hiking boots
Look at those cute little doggie hiking boots

That night, I sat up with a Swedish hiker. He’d chosen to do some overnight hikes back and forth from Alesjaurestugorna, notably to Vistas, which is apparently stunning, and was therefore taking a helicopter back to Absiko: “It’s 100 euros and you skip the boring lake bit…”. His loss.

Even so, between the boats and the helicopters, this trek was becoming less intrepid, and more easy rider, with every day.

We sat in the dining room of one of the huts (there are usually several huts, each with multiple separated dorm rooms and a common living/eating area with gas stoves, kitchenware and cooking pots, and near complete decks of cards) watching an incoming storm gather on the surrounding hills.

“There’s usually 21 days of rain here in July,” he said, knowledgably.

“Well that’s great news, because tomorrow is August 1!” I said.

“Do you think the counter resets each month, or what?” he responded with a hint of derision.

Swedish dry humour notwithstanding, dehydration and rehydration are definitely recurring themes on the Kungsleden trail. The sun discretely saps your energy and ability to move. In the nightly sauna, it’s the same process again, but this time you’re aware it’s happening, and what’s more, you like it.

Saunas: a how-to guide for everyone’s sake
Speaking of, there are just a few so-called “comfort rules” to respect in the sauna.

  • Wash your feet before entering
  • Don’t ogle
  • Feel free to go nude, wear a towel, or wear swimmers
  • Don’t do as one guy did and nearly slip down the stairs onto the red hot coals
  • Also don’t do as another guy did and sprain your foot jumping into the lake afterwards

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