Outside of Sundsvall where I live, there’s a place called Selånger. That is the starting point of St. Olavs pilgrimage. It is the road the holy Olav took when he in the summer of 1030 walked with his army towards Norway to reclaim the throne. The pilgrim road went from Selånger, through Sundsvall and out past my house on the countryside in Matfors I live, and then it continues all the way to Trondheim in Norway. You can read more about the path and the saint Olav Haraldsson here (in Swedish)
The S:t Olav hiking path is 564 km long and my friends Angeliqa and Leanne are currently walking all the way, a hike that takes about a month to complete. They started on a Friday and late that evening (after walking in the wrong direction after reaching Matfors) they finally ended up at my house.
We had dinner consisting of sweet potato -and halloumi burgers and oven roasted root vegetables, and then we sat up for a long time just chatting about photography, nature, hiking, the outdoor lifestyle and work as a freelancer. Feet where being filed and taped before it was time to go to bed. They had to continue their long journey the next day, and I planned on tagging a long for a bit!
Saturday 20/8 | Kvällsjön – Gålviken (about 18km)
After spending the morning cuddling with my kittens for far too long we left my old house and started walking. It had been raining continuously all Friday and the clouds hung low with fog dancing over the meadows when we started but later in the day it got better and we had sunshine for the rest of our hike. I’d been traveling along this road by car so many times that it felt strange to walk it, but I really liked it cause I got to see a lot of new things and had more time to take photos as well.
I really enjoyed showing my friends some of my favourite spots that I’ve been visiting pretty regularly. Since Leanne and Angeliqa had their own guide (me) they did not have to use their map vert much either with I think they appreciated. This stretch aslo has good pilgrim signs put up and is pretty straight forward following along the water so it’s hard to get lost.
At one point I had to stop and re-pack and adjust my backpack quite a lot. I’d borrowed the pack so it wasn’t a perfect fit and I wasn’t very good at packing so I did have a few issues. It was their second day hiking which is usually one of the heaviest days of a longer hike, until your body and mind adjusts, something I would come to learn later on. Leanne had some trouble with her feet so we also made sure to stop and tape them up some more.
Our lunch stop was by a lake where I’ve been before and we felt so warm, me and Leanne actually went for a swim. It was cold but so refreshing! After eating our meals we also had some coffee, tea and cookies. Then we continued walking before reaching another spot I really wanted to show them. We planned on a quick five minute break but Angeliqa fell asleep on the rocks so our break got extended haha.
But when you’re doing a longer hike like this it’s so important to listen to your body; resting when needed, airing your feet, re-adjusting packs, tape, shoes or socks. A blister or a little shaving from a pack might seem like a small thing, but as long as you continue walking it won’t go away – rather the opposite, so if you need to stop more often to prevent it from happening, do it!
All along the pilgrimage there are stations with stamps to add to your passport.
It was getting close to dinner time and everything had started to feel heavier, so when we saw a St. Olav sign next to the name “Gålviken” with information about a hostel for pilgrims we got very excited and decided to check it out. Our goal had been to reach Stöde Camping and spend the night there but we we’re getting too tired and we would’ve arrived there quite late had we decided to continue.
And it feels like we were meant to stop here. We walked down the hill and were greeted by a beautiful house with a tower that reminded me of the Moomin house. The garden was amazing and we received such a warm, lovely welcome. For a very good price we got to sleep in a small cabin and we we’re given some Swedish fika in the sunset and they even heated up the sauna for us.
In the warmth from the sauna our tender bodies got to soften, relax and rest for a bit. Then we sat outside talking while the sun set over the lake. We ended it all with a very cold skinny dip before it was time to go to bed. What a magical ending to this day!
Photo © Leanne Downs
Sunday 21/8 | Gålviken – Ede (about 15km)
We we’re offered breakfast that we enjoyed together with two sisters from Norway who were also doing the pilgrimage and that started at the same time as Angeliqa and Leanne. They’d been sleeping in another cabin on the property. The mood around the table was great with lots of laugher and important, inspiring conversations and living a slower, simpler life closer to nature. About joys in life and crafts, about listening to ones body and about not needing to own so much stuff – choosing to rent or co-own instead. Ah it was such a long, good breakfast and it was hard for us to pack up and get going – our stay with them will be with me for a very long time. A memory for life!
Since I live close to them I can also visit them again, and also let other pilgrims that pass my house know that they offer great ackommodations. They actually recognised me cause they’d read about me in the local news paper last year, and they really appreciated it and my thoughts and values which makes me so happy. Thank you for a most wonderful stay!
As we said goodbye we hugged and had a good look at each others packs and their weight. The Norwegian sisters left first and after a few more goodbyes and photos we were off as well.
Our day was gray and heavy clouds hung low over the mountains and tree tops, but luckily we never got any rain. A deer peeked out from the forest but darted back in again, Leanne didn’t even have time to see it and we definitely had no time to take a photo. We also didn’t manage to walk very far before it was time for a Swedish fika again… We passed by a huge, beautiful house and a grand St. Bernard dog was out just rolling in the dirt. We stopped to take photos of her and got invited inside to get a tour of this house from the early 1900’s with a unique tile stove in every room.
The owners had travelled a lot and told us about many exciting experiences and showed amazing photos. They had relatives in Scotland (or was it Ireland) and their grandchild spoke both English and Swedish. The woman in the house had lived near where Leanne lives in England when she was vert your, and they we’re also photographers! We had a lot to talk about and we got stuck over a really nice coffee break.
I made a fool of myself though, by saying I was grateful for really coffee since I hate instant coffee.. just to be offered a cup of instant coffee hah! But I got pleasantly surprised because this coffee actually tasted good, and not at all like instant coffee usually does. It was dark, strong and really good.
The trail has given us so many wonderful encounters, there are a lot of lovely people along it that invite you in to their homes. Even though I was only on the path for two days I had time to experience so much, have so much fun and I got very inspired – it feels like I’ve been out hiking much longer than that!
After another long break we were a bit behind our time plan but it was worth it. Now we had to set a good pace so that we could finally reach Stöde though! And finally the church showed itself – hurray! We hurried there and sat down to eat lunch and study or maps + plan the next stretch.
Freeze-dried food is great when you’re out hiking, but it can quickly become boring after a few days along the trail – so mixing with one another to try different flavours helps! I also pulled out some pancakes from my pack which was very much appreciated.
After eating we walked by the camping where the pilgrims could get another stamp (there’s one by the church as well) and we also got a cold coke each which tasted heavenly. Then we continued walking towards out end destination for the day and slowly the countryside transformed into more forests.
We saw a lot of cranes headed south as it gets colder here.
After hiking through the forest for a bit we reached a nice spot just by the water where Leanne and Angeliqa pitched their tent. As they did so the sun was setting and I called a friend who came and picked me up. We’d been walking for two days and experienced so much, our steps feeling heavier and heavier but he got there in 30 minutes… That felt so weird!
I felt tired and my body was sore, but I had an amazing time during these past two days and I felt invigorated and inspired, not at all ready to leave the tow yet. But their adventure had just begun and I look forward to follow them on their journey until they reach Trondheim in Norway.
You can read about the entire pilgrimage from Angeliqas point of view here (Swedish), and from Leannes eyes here (English)
But my adventure was over for now, I am glad I managed to walk for two days – my longest hike so far. To be in nature and live this simply, carrying just what you need and to let your mind wander together with your steps is something I want more of. Hikefullness at its best.
Thank you Angeliqa and Leanne for letting me tag a long for a bit, I wish you all the best on your pilgrimage to Trondheim!