On April 27th, I had decided to leave Lofoten and my friends at the hostel behind and head to my next big adventure, which was something that I had been wanting to do for ages. I was going to Båtsuoj Samecenter in Norrbottens Län in Sweden, but it would take me two days to get there.
It was time to move on from the safe haven in Ballstad to the unknown. But this time, I wasn’t scared. I had a feeling that I would meet people and that the good luck that I had had throughout the journey, would continue for a while. I could feel it.I left Ballstad at 11:55 on Monday morning to start the two-day journey to Båtsuoj Samecenter.
Originally, I had planned on going straight to Northern Finland after Lofoten, but since my tent isn’t great in bad weather, I decided to go south instead and therefore, I was going to make my way down Sweden first and then sail to Southern Finland and fly home from there.
I had booked a night at Båtsuoj Samecenter for 1100 NOK on April 29th and I was really excited to experience the Sami way of life. It was one of those things that I just had to do during my journey through Northern Europe, so the two days of travelling were worth it to me.
In order to get there, I had to go on the bus from Ballstad to Narvik in Norway for 7 hours, stay overnight in Narvik, go on the bus for 4,5 hours from Narvik to Gällivare in Sweden, stay overnight in Gällivare and then go on the bus for 4 hours to Slagnäs, where I would be picked up by Tom, who is the owner of Båtsuoj Samecenter with his wife, Lotta.
I didn’t get to see as much of Narvik as I would’ve liked, as I was simply to exhausted to explore the city with my rugsack, but I definitely had a great experience there that I’ll always remember!
The next day, on April 28th, I took the train to Gällivare in Sweden. The train ride was absolutely breathtaking! I saw the most majestic nature with mountains. forests, lakes and rivers around every corner! The area around Riksgränsen, where you leave Norway and enter Sweden, was especially beautiful.
4,5 hours later, at 2.30 PM, I arrived in Gällivare, a somewhat-big town in the middle of absolute nowhere in the Lapland part of Sweden. The train station was very small and not suitable to sleep in, so I called the camping place, which had a cheap-ish hostel, but it was not available. It was too cold and snowy for the tent, so I found the second cheapest hostel instead, which cost me 395 SEK for the night – the most expensive accommodation on my trip, but it was lovely to have a bed and a warm shower!
The owner of the hostel was really friendly and he gave me my own room with shared bathroom and showers, which were still private. He made me feel like royalty, as he treated me to free cokes and information about the area. He even offered me a free night, so I could get to see more, but since I had already booked the night at Båtsuoj Samecenter, I couldn’t stay for more than one night, so he told me to come back in the summer. And who knows, maybe I will – someday!
After relaxing in my room for a bit, I went for a long walk around the town, which is really lovely! I walked through a small pine tree forest to Fjällnäs Castle, which is actually a resort, and then back across the lake and through the center of the town to the beautiful church and back to the hostel. It was a lovely evening and I was glad I got to see some of Gällivare, even though there is so much more to explore in that area!
The next day, the owner bought me two sandwiches and two sodas for breakfast (he was sooo nice!!), and then I caught the bus to Slagnäs at 9.15 AM for 265 SEK, which is stupidly expensive… But I had to get there somehow!
After travelling for another 4 hours on the bus, I finally arrived at my destination – two days and 15,5 hours of transportation later. Every time I had mentioned to someone that I was going to Slagnäs, they had all responded with a “what!?” and a weird expression on their faces, which is quite understandable, considering the size of the town. It was extremely small, yet charming, and it reminded me of the town where “Ulvepigen Misa Mi” was filmed, so it was cool.
I didn’t spend much time there, as Tom picked me up 10 minutes later and drove me another 17 km. to the middle of even more nowhere – I honestly don’t think it’s possible to be in anymore nowhere, but it was awesome nonetheless! Here, surrounded by forests, mountains and a frozen Lake Naustajaure, lies Båtsuoj Samecenter, a Sami farm, which takes you back to a bygone era, where the Sami people lived in small huts, slept by the open fire, and lived of reindeer herding. For 24 hours, this would be my life. And I couldn’t wait to experience it!
I was welcomed by Lotta and their five gorgeous dogs, who were all very eager to be petted. Before going to see my hut – or hotel, as Tom called it, he took me to see their pet reindeer. They have about 300 reindeer and most of them are used for breeding and are the families main source of food, but right next to the farm, they have a large fenced-in area with about 15 reindeer, which are all considered pets, which I think is amazing. I love that the reindeer that I petted and fed aren’t going to be slaughtered, but can instead enjoy their lives in this large forest area.
After feeding all of the reindeer, Tom drove me to my hut on his snowmobile. The hut is situated near Lake Naustajaure, about 1-2 km. from the farm in an area with other authentic huts to sleep in, a hut with a kitchen and a sauna, a toilet and a few other buildings that Tom has built himself. They are all made to look like the traditional houses that the Sami people used to live in.
Since I was the only tourist there, I had a hut for myself. The hut – like all the others – was made of wood with a fire place in the middle and a hole at the top, so the smoke could escape. Around the fire there are loads of reindeer skins, where people are supposed to sleep. I am very much against killing animals for their fur, but since these reindeer were mainly killed for their meat and out of respect for the Sami culture, I found a way of laying in my sleeping bag without touching the skins. I relaxed in the hut for a bit, eating some dried reindeer meat and maintaining the fire, before heading out to the lake with Tom for some ice fishing!
First, we checked out all of Toms ice fishing holes to see if he had caught anything. Unfortunately for him (not so much for the fish), the fish hadn’t been hungry that day. He then drilled some holes for me to try as well, which was quite fun although I didn’t catch anything either. But even if I did, I would’ve put it back in the lake, haha.
After a good hour or so on the lake, Tom drove me back to my hut and cooked my evening meal over the fire, while I played with two of the dogs. It was reindeer meat again, but this time it looked like a hamburger and I liked it more than the dried version. While I was eating my meal, Tom told me all about the Sami culture, language and way of life, which I found very interesting. Although Tom and Lotta don’t live like the Sami people used to and they don’t speak the language, they still do reindeer herding for a living, which the Sami people have always done. I find different cultures so interesting, especially old ones like the Sami culture!
By the time that I had finished asking a million questions, it was 8.00 PM and since I didn’t have wifi in the hut (lol) and the dogs wouldn’t stay with me, I decided to call it a night and went to sleep. I woke up at about 3.00 AM and the fire had gone out, so I was pretty cold. But stupid as I am – and non-smoker as I am -, I couldn’t figure out how to use the lighter, so I crept inside my sleeping bag and with all of me covered, I fell asleep again and didn’t wake up until the next morning – at 6.30 AM. It was a very authentic experience and I enjoyed it very much, despite being cold.
Tom had said that he would be at my hut at 8 AM, which is very late for him, but extremely early for me. But he had promised to take me on a snowmobile trip around the area that they own with four other Sami families, so I was really excited. And it was awesome!
First, we drove onto the lake and checked his ice-fishing holes, which were still empty. We then drove 40 km. through the forests, in and out of trees and up two mountains, Gargovarre and Naustavarre, which both had breathtaking views of Norrbotten at 600 m/h. He showed me his bear, fox and wolverine traps, where cameras are set up to catch them so the Sami people can prove their presence to the government and claim money when they kill one of their reindeer.
He then had to work for about an hour and I helped a bit and he then drove me back to the farm, where I finally met their beautiful cat, saw some traditional Sami clothes and said goodbye to Lotta and the dogs.
I had a great experience at Båtsuoj Samecenter and I don’t regret it one bit! Even though it was quite a pain to get to, it was all very worth it! I learned a lot about the Sami culture and I experienced it myself in a very authentic way!
At 2 PM, Tom drove me to Slagnäs, where I caught the first bus on my long journey through Sweden to the capital, Stockholm.