Björn met Claudia, John, and I at the Fjällstation at 8 AM. We walked down to the delta together. Björn pointed out interesting sights along the way including his cabin and potato patch on the other side of a river, a towering raspberry bush (the largest I've ever seen!), and a poisonous plant that I had never heard of.
The delta was so socked in mist, that we couldn't see a thing as we peered out from the north bank. I wondered if it was safe to head out in the boat in such conditions but figured I'd leave it to Björn who had lived there his whole life to decide. He didn't even hesitate and helped us get our packs into his skiff and turned over mats on the seats since the bottom sides were more or less dry.
As we headed out onto the water, the fog only grew thicker until we couldn't even see the land. Björn navigated channels skillfully in the near white out conditions. He paused at one point to stir up the ground with his oar to show gas bubbling up from below. "I took two Russians across last week and told them to tell Putin to leave us alone. We don't need anything from them. We have our own natural gas." He then paused "Maybe I shouldn't have shown them."
All the while, the fog was only growing thicker and we completely lost view of everything. All we could see were white walls around us and the water which reflected the mist so perfectly, you couldn't quite tell where it began around the boat.
"Does anyone have a compass?" Björn said at one point and he wasn't even kidding! We were all completely disoriented, lost in white, oppressive, still air. Luckily Björn spotted a landmark.
We finally made it to the other side. Björn tied up his boat and walked down the trail with the three of us to show where an emergency phone was hidden should something go wrong and we need a ride back to Kvikkjokk. We thanked the good man profusely and bid him farewell.
I exchanged e-mails with Claudia and then headed south.
The trail went straight up and I was delighted to find myself completely above the suffocating clouds an hour later. The views, the light, everything was lovely. I camped just north of Gistojāvrātj in a spooky little forest back down in the awful mist. There was a tree that looked so human in the dark that I had to walk over it to make sure it wasn't a person. After that, I forbade myself from looking outside my tent door because it was just too creepy so I curled up in my sleeping bag and tried my best to sleep.
I woke up still in the mist and spent the day in chilly clouds thick with water, and slogging through boot- drenching bog. It was too cold to stop and eat. There was a very brief break in the weather conveniently around lunch time and I was, amazingly, able to dry out all of my soggy gear during a break while the sun was out. How very convenient!
I ended up hiking all the way to Vuontjviken and made it just as the light was dying. I walked into the Sami village with no plans other than to camp somewhere out of the way and figure out how to cross the big lake in the morning. I was hit with another stroke of luck though and I happened to run into the wife of the man who ferries travelers across the big body of water. She recommended a camping spot on the beach and told me to come back to her cabin once I had settled in.
This Sami village was so tidy and lovely. There were barely more than footpaths between homes and each one had well-kept lawns, sod smokehouses smoking away, and cozy looking homes. I set up my tent in the rain and did my best to look presentable. I washed my face in the lake and put on my dry long underwear under my clean down jacket and then walked back up to the hill to the Sami home. I knocked nervously on the door and when no one answered, I pushed it open hesitantly. Warm light and warm air spilled out. I stepped in. It turned out to be not a home but a restaurant of sorts. The daughter of the ferry operator saw me and beckoned me to sit down, offering me tea and biscuits on the house while I waited for her father to return. She was about my age with long blonde hair. Neither her nor her mother spoke much English but we could more or communicate.
I was horrified to realize my feet smelled worse than I can ever remember them smelling in my entire life so I stuck to the corner and covered them up with each other, hoping that would somehow repress the embarrassing odor. I didn't realize my exhaustion until I sat down in the warm room and it was a fight just to keep my eyes open.
A group of travelers appeared at the restaurant door. They were grouse hunting and had come all the way from Spain! In my third unbelievable stroke of luck that day, their hunting guides were Italian, so they were speaking a combination of the two languages. Aside from English, the only language I can speak is an embarrassing mix of Spanish and Italian. BUT with this crew, I could chatter away unabashedly and not even feel self-conscious as I matched Spanish adjectives with Italian verbs in the same sentence.
The man who takes people across the lake in his boat and we agreed to meet at 9 am the next day when he was driving the hunters to their spot on the lake. After this was set, I went back to my tent on the banks of the Riebes and completely passed out, very happy that I would be able to sleep in the next morning.