Allright, so our brilliant friend Marisa wrote a post a while ago about exploring and vacationing closer to home. It really inspired me to tell you all about the wondrous hiking route I found last year that takes you all the way through Sweden and Norway, coast to coast. The first couple of signs on this thousand year old pilgrims route incredibly enough starts right outside my door in Sundsvall. It made me curious and I had to ask to my better half Thomas ‘why not try it out’?
The St Olav Pilgrimage is 564 kilometers walking route through Sweden and Norway. It starts in Selånger in Sundsvall (where my family lives) and ends in beautiful Trondheim and this magnificent church, The Nidaros Cathedral, which was build in memory of King Olav Haraldson in the 11th century. Supposedly all kinds of miracles happened during the kings’ journey though the countryside which is why people originally started walking in his footsteps. I would say this route is still pretty unknown which makes it even more exciting and adventurous in my eyes.
So why would you ever get it in your head to try and walk 564 km on an unknown thousand year old trail? Maybe you can’t afford to fly abroad? Or maybe any other means of transport is simply too fast for you? Perhaps both were the reason in my case but mostly because the both of us had forgotten the lovely sound of gravel under our feet. It is an equally historic and scenic route to walk, and surely you can hear the whispers through time – but doesn’t it sound awfully a lot like cars swooshing by in 120 km/h on the E14 road to Östersund?
One of the first discoveries on our journey was that most villages in northern Sweden are exactly 20 km apart. That is just about one day of walking. And just enough blisters for me to happily stop for the evening in one of the bed and breakfasts along the way and huddle up in a sleeping bag after a nice meal at the nearby grill.
Fortunately we didn’t meet any bears on the tracks leading through the forest. And if we would’ve met one it would have been loads more scared of us. Most people are afraid to meet wild animals, but you are actually very lucky if you get to see one. In Sweden you can but almost never do see moose, badger, beaver, bear, wolf, lynx, fox or any of those kind of magnificent creatures. Most of the predators already are, or are about to go, extinct. Thomas would like to add: “Unfortunately we didn’t meet any beers on the tracks leading through the forest.”
There are not many poisonous animals in Sweden. Just remember to bring some mosquito repellant.
The first couple of days were the most challenging ones for my feet. It was weird. I could only walk an hour at a time and we would have to rest for a long while. Two days in we discovered that my new boots I had been walking in for some time before the hike didn’t have any insoles! They are sold separetly. Which leads us right into the next subject. Oasis. A supermarket can appear as just that after a long day hiking through the Swedish forest. It really highlights the perks of civilization. Going to the grocery store can be quite a boring chore in everyday life but when you’re on the edge of civilization (or in between, 20 km to be precise) it becomes a highlight of the day, a depot of survival goods! Nuts and dried fruit in all its glory but a nice pair of soft new soles for the shoes is like balm for sore feet.
The route follows the main road, the railway and the rivers across Sweden. But mainly you follow in Olav Haraldsons’ footsteps. These days his trail is cleverly marked by signage and red mailboxes with stamps in them so you can mark your pilgrimage passport along the road. You can find the passport at the tourist information at the start of the Pilgrims’ route in Sundsvall. Well you could if you’d go there. We didn’t, so we made our own passport!
In the end of this post I have added our light weight packing list and some awesome movie tips about surviving in nature.
By now we have made our way through half of Sweden, walking a perfect few days at a time. Most pilgrims walk the whole route in one go but we are in no hurry. They say it takes about 30 days in total and we have been out in about 11 days so far. We made it all the way between our two home towns Sundsvall and Östersund this year which feels awesome. And the aim is of course to walk all the way to Trondheim, but in the end of the day the Norwegian town is not the main goal for us. The old cliché really is true, the journey is what counts – all the way!
Here is our light weight packing list:
– Small size backpacks
– Light sleeping bags or bed linnen
– One change of clothes (wash when possible)
– Powdered foods: soup, mashed potatoes, coffee
– Light shoes to change to in the evening
– Small size water bottles
– Tooth paste, tooth brushes, toilet paper and a bar of olive soap
– Mugs, sporks and of course a Swiss army knife
Great movies to watch for inspiration: