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  • Day359

    An Arctic Midsummer at Vajkijaure

    June 20, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Approaching the town of Jokkmokk we could hardly believe our eyes when we passed a small herd of reindeer grazing the verge just meters away from the road! We'd been keeping our eyes peeled for them and for elk, but hadn't expected to see them in this context.

    Our overnight spot was about 5km beyond the town, a stone's throw from Vajkijaure reservoir. Being midsummer's eve we'd planned to have a traditional Swedish köttbullar (meatballs) dish, but in our excitement we'd forgotten to buy potatoes, so Will put his excess energy to good use and cycled back to fetch them, narrowly dodging the rain showers.

    We had very much hoped to see the midnight sun but although it was definitely daylight, the sky was full of rain clouds that blotted out the sun. We'd also thought we might have a midnight canoe or swim but the intermittent rain, the cold and wind dissuaded us. As is sometimes the case with highly anticipated events such as summer solstice in the Artic, the idea can overtake the reality.

    Rain mixed with hail woke us on Midsummer's Day and warned us of the cold Artic wind that had set in. It was definitely a day to turn the heating on and snuggle up in a throw, unlike the scorching summer's day back in the UK! The weather meant it wasn't suitable for canoeing, so after a morning of relaxing and watching the Goldeneyes diving for food in the reservoir, we wrapped up and took a walk along the shore.

    As we were reaching the dam, sirens began to wail and a thunderous rush of water was heard as one of the floodgates began to open. We were able to look down on the raging torrent and walk downriver in time to see the second gate open and the white water surge forward. The dam and outbuildings had been decorated by a few high profile artists to symbolise the way of life of Sweden's indigenous people; the Sami. The paintings showed a drum covered in symbols, representations of the Sami gods and a reindeer caravan. The Sami are reindeer herders and we found out the animals we'd seen earlier were probably in the area to be branded.

    Walking a little further we explored some deserted forest trails (possibly made by the reindeer) before returning to the van, picking up some driftwood on the way. After warming up and getting some food in us, Will lit a fire in one of the concrete fire pits and we sat watching the flames, feeling our cheeks become rosy with the heat. Two fishers approached us to check we knew the Swedes celebrate midsummer on Friday, we did, but explained that in England it is celebrated today and that we were planning to celebrate both! Will played a couple of songs on his guitar before we retreated to the comfort of Martha Motorhome.
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