It was not a promising start. “Where are you going?” asked the guy in the outdoor store in the town of Jokkmokk, situated just above the arctic circle in northern Sweden. “We’re going canoeing in Sjaunja,” we said. “Oh, you mean the mosquito swamps?” he replied somewhat puzzled.
It was clear that no-one in their right mind headed there in summer. Armed with mosquito head-nets, DEET, jungle oil, and mosquito spirals, however, we felt ready for anything. And, as we were soon to find out, the mozzies were ready for us.
I’d been many times in Sweden’s far north – often on trips with my mate Björn who was living up there. But this would be the first time that we had explored the area by canoe. Part of Laponia, a huge wedge of land dubbed as Europe’s last wilderness, our plan was to canoe for the next ten days through the gloriously remote Sjaunja nature reserve.
Paddled by only a handful of people each year – if that – we would not see another soul for a whole week. To put that in context, we had a playground of primeval forest, river, lake and marsh twice the size of Greater London all to ourselves.
We drove to our starting point on the western end of Lake Satihaure. It was pushing on to late evening but here, in the height of summer, daylight reigned 24 hours.
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