2017/07/25 (Tuesday; Vittangi -> Gullesfjordbotn Part 1)
After the cool night the sun came up bright and strong in the morning, and I rose at 5 or 6. The Austrian was up as well, and I went for a run while he got ready to leave. He waved farewell and headed out around when I was having my breakfast after getting back. He was heading down towards Stockholm planning 750 km per day on highways to get back. He’d already had his fun up in Norway, where he’d done both Nordkapp and Lofoten on a 2-week trip.
My own ride started out in calm windless sunshine and became progressively more amazing as the morning wore on. The road wound up into the hills and then the snow-capped mountains dividing Sweden from Norway. I passed through Kiruna, a mid-sized mining town that is and was one of Sweden’s primary iron mining areas, the other being Gällivare, also in the north. The entire mining operation here was run by LKAB (originally Luossavaara–Kiirunavaara AB), a Swedish government-owned enterprise. Aside from that it was all open mountain land, with sweeping vistas and very few trees. It must be positively arctic here in the winter, but for now it was nearly 70 degrees and sunny with no wind. What a fortunate time to come!
I had been following the Tornio river since early yesterday when I’d crossed near its exit mouth into the Gulf of Bothnia (the northern arm of the Baltic Sea), and now I was coming to its source: the mighty Torneträsk, a lake in the far north of Sweden. At this relatively early hour I arrived to find its surface was pure glass, a mirror reflecting the green hills and snow-capped peaks surrounding it at various points.
At one point when I had stopped to gawk and take photographs a couple riding two-up on a mid-sized KTM (600ish) pulled up behind me. It turned out they were Finnish! Although I’d left Finland only yesterday I was still surprised and happy to see them, and we discussed our recent journeys and planned routes for a while before moving on. They were riding ahead of me when we came afterwards to a long stretch of construction where the road was periodically interrupted by rough unpaved sections of a few hundred meters. Their bike had off-road tires and was well-suited for the job, and they took off passing other traffic left and right. Well, my bike shouldn’t be a slouch either, I thought, so I stood up on the pegs and blasted off myself, ending up well-pleased with the way it handled. Despite being a heavy tourer, the first-class suspension really got the job done.
Eventually we exited the construction area and I followed them for a while longer before pulling off at another roadside parking place to snap some photos. There was a small trail leading up the hillside through some scrub birches and a sign with an eye-like symbol on it.
I assumed this meant there was a viewpoint up there, and, indeed, I could see a falls crashing down some distance above. I went to investigate and after about 5 minutes found myself at a more minor, but still lovely, falls with a bridge over the stream and posted hiking trails leading off in multiple directions.
I’d already pulled off my jacket but I wasn’t really set up to cover any distance at the moment. I settled for lounging by the stream and even drinking a little of it, so clean and fresh did it look. There were even trail brochures in waterproof boxes, and in them I read that the main trail here was called the “Navvy Road” in English, “Rallarvägen” in Swedish, and was the modern evolution of the supply road that had originally been built to support the railroad built here from 1898 to 1902 to carry the LKAB-mined ore from Kiruna to the port at Narvik. Perhaps someday I could come back here with Päivi and hike it.
(Continued in Part 2)