Friday 23rd June
We woke up in the arctic circle this morning; if you can call it morning, when the sun didn’t set last night! Maybe this morning is actually still last night. Or tomorrow, we really have no idea. Our eye masks are probably the most valuable thing we bought along with us, allowing us to sleep in a tent or the car, even in perpetual daylight.
As usual, most of the camper vans that had been parked next to us last night were gone already when we woke up, and the “late morning break crowd” didn’t start rolling in until we were almost ready to go. So we had the lake to ourselves as we started to make breakfast, and realised our camping stove was suddenly not working. Morgan soon spotted the problem and used a penknife to bend the offending bit of metal back into shape.
Being a beautiful day, we decided to go hiking after breakfast and drove up to the nearby Muddus National Park. We had no particular plan for our walk, and as we plunged blindly into the woods, a hitchhiker stopped us, asking if we were heading back to Jokkmokk. We were planning to head there later in the day, and told him so, but he was really keen to go right away.
“The Midsummer celebrations are starting at 1pm” he told us enthusiastically.
“But it’s only Midsummer eve today” We replied, slightly confused. We though the main celebrations were tonight, and then tomorrow?”
“Nope, today starting at 1pm” came his reply. And off he went to try to score another ride, seeing as 1pm was in about 15 minutes.
Midsummer is a huge deal in Sweden; it’s a public holiday, so everyone can celebrate the summer sun together, and we’d heard the festivities were quite spectacular. Maypoles, festivals, dancing, drinking all night as the sun never set… this was one of the reasons we’d come to Sweden. But, we had driven up to national park to hike, so we weren’t going to turn around right away. We’d been told the celebrations would be going on for the next 2 days!
We found some trail markers to follow, and off we went into the woods. Tall pine trees fringed a huge blue lake, with plenty of large dark shapes that scared us into thinking there were bears everywhere. The forest floor was pretty boggy, so long planks of wood had been laid our to make the trail easier to walk on. Easier that is, for everyone except Lex who is scared of walking on any sort of floor that moves or has gaps in it. He crept along behind us, splaying his little paws wide with every step, to make sure he didn’t fall through the centimetre wide gaps in-between the planks of wood.
We got back to the car after a couple of hours of enjoyable hiking and a hearty lunch of pepper flavoured crisps (Morgan would happily eat these crisps for every meal, because he loves them too much.) On driving into Jokkmokk, everything seemed pretty quiet. We had a walk through the deserted small town streets until we found a tourist information centre and asked about Midsummer celebrations.
“The Midsummer festival? Yes, that was today between 1-3pm. I expect it’s over now” the information lady stated, matter of factly.
This did not tally with our wild expectations of all-day and all-night parties full of maypoles and debauchery. But it appeared she was right. The festival was over until next year, and there wasn’t a single sign of an after-party going on.
Instead, we ended up exercising with some outdoor gym equipment in a park – which is the complete opposite of going to an all-night party.
Slightly dejected, we drove south out of the arctic circle and set up camp for the night at a rest stop. Things started looking up when we made dinner, and realised that the instant mashed potato we’d bought on a whim was really, really, really tasty and the easiest thing ever to make on the camp fire. Combined with some Swedish meatballs, we had our own little mid-summer celebration. Just us, Lex and about 5000 mosquitoes.
Also we found M&Ms with peanut butter inside them! Yes, they were amazing.
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