”To learn about the history as you’re walking across the country makes the walk more special” – meet Michelle and Mark Ryan on their walk along S:t Olavsleden
Michelle Ryan from Australia spends her days walking her way around the world, documenting it on her website walkingtwobytwo.com. Once a year her husband tags along for a longer walk in Europe and this year the turn had come to S:t Olavsleden, Selånger- Trondheim.
Why did you choose to walk St. Olavsleden?
‘We walked Gudbrandsdalsleden, Oslo-Trondheim, in 2016 and heard about this one from a gentleman we met along the trail. Mark got in his head that we have to do it, so we decided to do S:t Olavsleden right after the other ones we already had planned. When walking to Trondheim this time, we decided to go a month earlier though and get to Norway before all the festivities and celebration of the S:t Olavs festival in the end of July which we took part of last time.’
How has your walk been so far?
‘It has been nice, but there’s more gravel and hard roads than we thought, which makes it hard on your feet. Considering you have to walk a lot on roads I think they’ve done the path very well though. There’s nice surroundings and hardly any walking on the main highway and if there is, it’s only for a short section and then the path takes you straight off and into the forest again. The views are beautiful which makes it more fun to walk and all the lakes along the way are very nice, especially for us who are not used to being surrounded by lakes in our home country, Australia.’
‘You can keep the mosquitos though…’, Mark adds and shows some of the mosquito bites he had attained along the way.
How would you compare this walk to other walks that you’ve done?
‘When comparing level of difficulty, I would say this is a comfortable walk that a lot of people can manage, at least the part we walked so far. I think this is a great walk for anyone who wants to try pilgrimage but aren’t sure where to start. Here, you’re in the countryside but always near civilization, passing through several villages and towns, which’s is a great comfort. Then the Swedish people are the most polite and friendly people. They’re so courteous when driving and gives you such a wide space when passing. We have been quite impressed by how people slow down and go around you before taking off again, it’s very nice. Everyone we’ve met has been very friendly, smiling and waving, offering us a drink and being happy to see us.’
What has been the best part so far?
‘The best part has probably been walking along the lakes in the nice weather, listening to the birds. It’s so peaceful and even though the E14 (highway) is close you don’t notice it. I’m also loving the history along the trail. To learn about the history as you’re walking across the country makes it more special. And, it is very nice with all the benches along the way.’
What does a typical day along the trail look like?
‘We like to start the day with breakfast around 7 am and then start walking by 8. Usually we walk for an hour at a time with short breaks in between. We like to take our time and really see a place. Part of the experience for us is to stop and talk to people along the way, meet locals and learn interesting things about the area we’re walking in. We also like to keep an eye out for wild animals and are hoping to see a moose, bear or perhaps a reindeer on what’s left of this walk. Our plan is to walk the trail in 28 days but besides the start and finish dates we don’t have much planned. There’s so much that can change during the walk so we work out the rest along the way’
Do you have any must haves in your packing?
‘Coffee! Tigerbalm to relieve sore muscles, that’s a must. Then of course a sense of adventure and walking poles for Mark.’
What’s your best tips to future and fellow pilgrims?
‘Wear comfortable shoes! Keep your backpack light and only carry what you need. Don’t think about getting from start to finish in a certain time, if you only have two weeks to walk the trail choose part of the trail rather than rushing through the whole thing. Enjoy it, because you never know when you’re going to walk that section ever again.
Keep it simple and slow down. And finally, just do it, don’t be afraid!’