On the fifth day of our holiday, our group went on a two-day hike along the Vasaloppet route. We set out from Berga, a small town in the middle of Sweden (which, to my surprise, means almost exactly the same as “in the middle of nowhere”) where the Vasaloppet starts. The hiking trail does not precisely follow the cross-country skiing trail, but this is mainly because it would be a little too boring–the hiking trail leads you through forests, across marshes, and only occasionally along an open road.

Nine of us at the start of Vasaloppet, in Berga

Planks in the marshes to avoid sinking into the ground up to your knees (that’s Michiel in the picture)

All along the trail, at irregular intervals, there are log-cabins available for those on the Vasaloppet hike. It’s a sure sign of the Swedish hospitality and mentality that these cabins are indeed only used by those that hike the trail, and are also well-kept, tidy and usually unoccupied when you get there. We came across the first cabin at 12.5km into our hike, but since the conditions were pretty good (no rain) and we weren’t tired yet, we decided to move on to the next cabin, which is located at 17.5km. Luckily, the Germans that were in there the previous night together with the other NoSun group had left some wood burning for us, so the cabin was very warm and comfortable when we got there.

This also meant that everybody took their shoes off to dry them next to the heater, and put up their socks to dry as well. Of course, doing this in a confined space, like you would find inside a log-cabin, makes the air very… uhm… aromatic. But that’s just part of hiking, I suppose.

The log-cabin we stayed in for a night (that’s Loes in the picture)

The following morning (after an early night) we set out on the final 12.5 kilometers to the meeting point where we would be picked up. Again, the group split in two where one group would hike a lot faster than the other group (I was in the lead group). At one point, as we went into the forest after crossing a small village, I heard a noise ahead of me and when I looked up… there was a 6 foot moose about 10 meters away from me, darting away from the path and into an open bit of forest! It took me so much by surprise that all I did was look at it, and only remembered to get my camera when it was standing a little bit further away and doing his camouflage stance (that is, standing still).

The moose I saw (it’s behind the ant-hill)

After this, we crossed more beautiful terrain for one or two hours, and were at the finish rather more quickly than we anticipated. After driving back to the stugby, I had a good hot shower, a good hot shave, and a good cold beer. When we met up with the other group we exchanged our experiences and stories. As it turned out, the other group had to hike almost continuously in the rain while we had sunshine all the way–something that I am relieved by but also a little bit jealous of. Hiking in the rain… you can’t really beat it, can you?

Here is a link to the history of the Vasaloppet route.