Lapland 2014: The E10

Last night, I summarised Saturday in a short Facebook post from the hotel reception. The wifi doesn’t reach as far as my room – I watch endless cycles of connected – obtaining IP address – disabled.

Let’s start from the beginning. I already knew there wasn’t much to see or do in Kiruna. Town’s built on a mine, not tourism. With a train in the afternoon, there wasn’t going to be time for dogsledding or snowmobiling or meeting reindeer, even if those things were available on such short notice. Armed with luggage, I knew it’d be more than.enough simply to get on the train.

I checked out as late as possible, dragged my suitcase through fresh, fluffy snow to the supermarket for bread and cheese and juice and chocolate, stopped at the TIC for a while and then decided to start the epic trek down to the bus station. Even with a detour to an ice sculpture, it took about fifteen minutes. I was an hour early for the shuttlebus and didn’t realise that the vänthall was open, if you just used all your strength on pulling the door.

I got an earlier bus, reasoning that the station at least would have a slightly different view. It did but most of it was behind stuff. I waited for the Luleå train, which was delayed half an hour. My very limited Swedish seemed tp suggest my train was replaced by a bus. This turned out to be true.

A packed bus. I sat wedged in a corner, my bag on my lap, unable to move, hoping it didn’t get too hot because that coat was staying on. There were two young kids opposite me and their bag was wedged against my legs and not going anywhere, no matter how hard I pushed it.

Mercifully, at Abisko, two-thirds of the passengers got off. I moved to the horseshoe of seats around a table at the back, enjoying the freedom. For about five minutes.

Five minutes down the road, we met the tail end of a traffic jam and a glimpse of a neon ! sign in the distance. We detoured up to the station in the village next to it (no one on or off, what a waste) and came back to the jam. It was a little longer by now.

We sat there for two and a half hours. I ate bread and cheese and counted the minutes and got bored. Started to wonder at what point we’d give up and go back to Kiruna or Abisko. I managed to steal a tiny bit of very unreliable wifi to complain on both Facebook and Twitter and look up and translate the news. The train was cancelled because some containers fell off a train at 6.30am and had caused quite a lot of damage to the track between Kiruna and Abisko. Quite why we couldn’t get the train onwards from Abisko, I don’t know. The road was closed because of a storm. I couldn’t see a storm. Yes, it was misty, borderline foggy and there was light snow but no storm. After two hours, I saw traffic coming the other way but still we didn’t move. The driver started the engine and everyone applauded. I muttered impatiently about “Yes, but where are we *going*?!” It turns out my lack of Swedish had led me to miss a whole other drama. The bus had broken down and the company had been phoned for a replacement before the driver managed to get it going. Even better, this bus had refused to start in the morning! Train cancelled, road closed for imaginary storm and unreliable bus! What a brilliant day!

It seemed the road was open one direction at a time. We travelled in convoy, at a crawl, along a snowy (but no.snowier than the Kiruna-Abisko stretch) road for an hour, detoured at the first town to the station where I honestly thought we were either going to hit a lorry or roll down the hill. More crawling. Half an hour standstill at the Norwegian border (at this point, I pulled my hat down over my face and cried a little bit. I’d left Kiruna at 2.45. It was now 8.15 and we’d been stationary longer than we’d been moving. The convoy had taken us 26km and taken an hour and twenty minutes. And now we weren’t moving – again!

We crawled along the Norwegian part of the E10 and then turned onto the E6 and it was like someone had taken the brakes off. We still weren’t moving quickly but it felt like being out of first gear for the first time in three hours.

The final straw was arrival. We were dumped at tge station at 9.25pm. It was dark. It was cold. There were weird people in gowns or strange hats with instruments and candles making weird music around a steam loco. Any other time, I’d have stayed longer and taken photos.

There were no buses. A taxi that drove past me three times without stopping. I had no idea where I was going. I dragged my suitcase up to a petrol station, half-crying, and asked for directions. I was given a map with my route marked on it and off I went.

This was not the best half hour of my life. I panted, dragging this suitcase up the hill, a hill covered in lethally slippery ice, off-balance because of pulling the suitcase, occasionally swearing but mostly crying out loud. It was a horrible day, much too long and now here I was trying to drag a suitcase up a very slippery hill, on my own, in the dark, in a strange place.

And then to find the wifi didn’t work in my room so I couldn’t even tell everyone about it!

405km Kiruna to Narvik took six and three quarter hours. That’s averaging about 26kph. With no internet right now, I can’t convert it to mph.

Sweden is held up as a paragon of ability to deal with snow. Hahaha. No it can’t. Fifty mile standstill on a major road for a minor flurry. I was there, I saw it. This is a myth and a lie.

Sweden’s showers don’t go hot enough. The one here in Norway is wonderfully powerful and will go hot enough to take my skin off if I want. It’s by far the best thing that’s happened to me all day.

Sweden’s fruit juice is watery and almost tasteless.

Kiruna’s website is so unusable, you have no idea what activities it actually has to offer until you get to the TIC. And then it’s too late, usually.

Nothing is pronounced how I think. Kiruna is almost closer to Keerna (sort of half say the u) and Abisko seems somewhere near AAHbshko. I’m still not sure how to pronounce Sámi.

On the positive side, the Swedish word for lift is “hiss” and that’s just beautiful, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that Emilio transported our snowshoes to the cabin in an Ikea bag.

I wish I’d gone to Iceland again instead.

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