Beginning our journey
This morning (19/08) we left the vandrahem after a typically swedish breakfast of boiled eggs and prawn caviar, making our way to Selånger to begin our hike. Our packs were heavy and our spirits high as we reached the the local church, where we had been invited to meet pastor Helene and her colleagues, before starting our pilgrimage.
We were welcomed warmly and were showed around the grounds of the church while Helene told us its history. We then received our first stamp in our pilgrim passports officially marking the beginning of our pilgrimage. Helene walked with us for our first few steps, helping us begin our walk along St. Olavsleden in a joyful and ceremonious way.
Sweden – land of cake
About two kilometres in, the heavens opened. So when we came across a farmhouse with a sign for an outdoor cafe, we took the opportunity to have a break from the rain under a gazebo.
Unfortunately the outdoor cafè itself was closed, dashing our hopes of a warm drink. However, out of the farmhouse came 15 year old Selina, who said she would give us coffee and cake anyway. After some delicious cookies and a farm yard tour from Selena, we said our goodbyes and headed back into the downpour.
It wasn’t long before we were stopped by a car driving past. It was Tommy, a man who regularly offers free Fika (a Swedish cake and tea break) to passing pilgrims. He said he had some cake for us to have when we reached his house along the way. Two offers of cake breaks in two kilometres – this is my kind of place! We eventually reached a house with a sign outside and knew we’d arrived at his house.
He invited us in to his home, where we had tea and sandwiches with him and his wife. A little later, two other pilgrims – Norwegian sisters, arrived and joined us for fika. One of them would become Pilgrim 100 to pass this year so Tommy celebrated by handing her a sign he had made. I then discovered that I am number 99 – and only the 3rd from the UK to pass this year. We sat together and chatted for awhile before continuing on to Matfors.
We eventually reached Matfors, extremely tired after taking a wrong turn and having to double back on ourselves. Our host for the night Rania (who lives next to the trail) came to find us in her campervan and took us back to her home.
Angeliqa and Rania were acquainted through social media. So when Rania learned that we would be walking past her home, she offered to have us stay with her for the night. She and Andreas cooked us dinner while we cuddled with the 8 day old kittens living in her bedroom. At dinner we made plans for the next two days where Rania would be hiking with us.
Kindness of strangers
Only a day in, I am already overwhelmed by the warm welcome we have received from everyone have met along the trail so far. This journey is by far the most challenging thing I have ever decided to do, so it is so nice to know that there are people here who want to support you along the way.