Do you need a guide…

…to hike in Laponia? Probably a good question this time of the year as many are working on vacation plans for this summer. And, when you think of the costs for guided tours as well as personal equipment and costs to get to Jokkmokk, it would be wise to think double hard about guide services.

tarrapath04.jpgPhoto: A small group of hikers crossing Palkat Stream in the Tarra Valley

The background to so-called “Laponia Guides” is that, after close to 10 years of doing nothing more than erecting a few signs, Jokkmokk and Gällivare municipalities had to market and advertise “Laponia” in order to sustain, or at best, create new income areas within tourism. Through EU project fundings, the Laponia Group was created to get the ball rolling. A few people were employed in this temporary project group. A website was created, and a course in “Laponia guiding” was started, where participants would receive an “official Laponia guide” diploma. (It should be added here that this project doesn’t exist anymore and people are grappling for new ways to make an income)

Participants in these courses were mostly motivated to attain diploma status, a status to prove a person’s knowledge of Laponia and give them a “legitimacy” with guiding, but the participants had very little, if any, experience in dealing with people or even quality time in Laponia to such a degree that locals would almost feel uncomfortable. I feel it was like start-a-business-and-hope-to-learn-on-the-way. One can ask, does a diploma make a person a guide and does this diploma signify quality?

But, everyone was happy. It was a win-win situation. Long-term unemployed people could start new businesses as tour guide operators and the Laponia project could show they actually did something other than warm chair seats.

The key thought with all this is that, since the end of the 19th century, people have been hiking in Laponia without needing a guide! So, Why need guides now? The answer is probably to satisfy the egos of community leaders, possibly create a new market saving communities from financial decline and to instill a belief that visitors are incapable to hike in Laponia without this…uh…guide person.

If you want to go hiking in Laponia, all you need is some equipment, a little knowledge with map reading, some experience with tenting, an eye on weather conditions, being out in the bush and… plain old common sense! Just follow the paths. Not hard, eh?

resize-of-churchcoffeestalo01.jpgPhoto: Laponia hikers at the yearly church services at Staloluokta. WHICH ONE IS THE GUIDE?

What people need is extra equipment. Like a kajak or canoe. What Laponia needs is an outfitter…they don’t need people portraying themselves as guides and who need a yearly income to be able to live in the area. If anything, beginner Laponia hikers need a few hours of common sense talking with an experienced Laponia hiker and…off they can go.

With a correct frame of mind, investigations and planning of a hiking trip and some risk management, most people don’t need to follow in the footsteps of a guide to enjoy Laponia. Most people shouldn’t want to shell-out between 12,500 SEK (£1,034)-16,500 SEK (£1,328) extra to follow after these guides and most people should need to use their savings for travel costs, basic equipment and food needed to get so far north. It’s all a bit of a scam, really, for people to fall for.

If people need anything, it is the confidence to not be so easily led to believe they need a guide to hike in Laponia! Think about this!

Lillan’s Eulogy…

The Lady has left us peacefully, today! For being a grand old dame, for which no one really knows how old she really was, perhaps 17, her kidneys were shutting down and she had become weaker and weaker these past weeks, if not since Christmas.

I can remember when she first came into our lives. We had been sitting around the dinner table on a dark evening many years ago, when some person my wife knew was coming by with “Lillan”; a strange name for a cat since it lacked the familiar “s” sound. My sons were young and we all were excited when the lady finally came in through the door holding a wide-eyed little tan tabby-like creature.

This acquaintance explained that she, in her turn, had gotten Lillan from someone else several years before, which explains the uncertainty of Lillan’s age, and now the woman was leaving Jokkmokk (I think she worked for social services) and could neither take Lillan along nor felt it fair to the cat. My boys, and especially my oldest, who had sorrowful disappointments with cats being run over on the main road in front of our house, were immensely pleased and we all were very willing to accept this responsibility. Little did we know at the time that this cat would prove to be an unforgettable delight in our lives.

The two most fears we had with Lillan was being smeared all over the road by a fast moving and heartless vehicle or being carried up the hill into the woods in the jaws of a fox needing a meal.

resize-of-dsc_0037.JPGPhoto: Cat`n a box

Now, Lillan was smart! She learned quickly that any sound of a vehicle would mean to wait in the ditch until it couldn’t be heard any more. Then, with this quietness, it was safe to cross over to the other side, where the river bank proved to be a popular and lucrative hunting ground. In the darker times of the year, she added the wit of waiting for approaching headlights to pass until she knew it was safe to proceed.

But the fox theory was puzzling! The first summer we had Lillan, she disappeared for what seemed to be all summer. She left no signs of existing and we all felt that ole riley Mr. Fox had taken her straight away. But, to our surprise and amazement, Lillan would show-up around when school started a new year. Somewhat thin, but definitely full of stories to tell and adventures experienced, had she been able to speak English or Swedish. She simply took a vacation from us this way each year!

Then, she rested contently the rest of the winter and only took the occasional mouse to keep in practice. She was a tremendous mouser and could pile up her beasts in front of the front door for us to (almost) step on, as we opened the door to let her in at night.

She could do tricks! One trick she learned quickly was the open-the-door-and-let-the-dogs-run-away trick. When she wanted in the house, she jumped at the doorknob, which in Sweden are not round but stick out to one side like a lever. Once she had this down pat, she loved to watch our dogs run out the door and, afterwards, strut herself proudly into the house with a small smirk on her face, as we humans would frantically run out calling for the dogs to come back.

Naturally, we had to change the door handle downwards to prohibit this act!

resize-of-dsc_0123.JPGPhoto: “Don’t forget Miss Moi, please!”

She laid down where she wanted to and at her leisure. She screamed demandingly for food in the mornings as soon as one woke up. She kept the dogs at bay as if she was a lioness training them and they quickly toed the mark with her. She could spend hours on my wife’s desk to watch the birds at the bird feeder, planning imaginary attacks and kills. She loved grill-style potato chips or, for that matter, any snack food and immediately climbed on a person, with drool running from her mouth, with only the mere sound of a snack package being opened.

As my boys became older and moved out of the house, I felt that I had the roll of guardian for Lillan. I’m more a canine person than a feline person and Lillan wasn’t the cat that craved attention or petting. She pretty much kept to herself and had her routines. But, we somehow found each other these last couple of years and I learned to love her wide, green eyes looking at me or when she would buff-up against my leg near dinner time. And, occasionally, she would fall asleep at night on my stomach or curled against a back or knee.

And, though it was sometimes bothersome, I enjoyed her reaching up and pulling my right arm at the dinner table, begging for food. I was always amazed that Lillan ate anything I would throw into her food bowl nearby, be it carrots, pickles, cucumbers, spicy curry food, macaroni or plain old anything! She ate! Anything!


But, these last couple of months, the lady has been slowing down. She had been losing weight in spite of eating normally, she would lay down almost in her pawprints and I noticed that she was drinking more water than usual. I always thought that her wanting fresh cool water was her reminder of living the wilderness life in the forest during summer.

Unfortunately, this was not true. Her days were closing in on her and, though she survived the road,the foxes and near death at giving birth to several dead fetuses, she couldn’t survive kidney failure. It was her destiny, somehow, and today we allowed her to rest the rest she so badly needed. It’s tough when you love an animal. But, isn’t that what love is?

I know there are people who are very fond of cats and who will swear to how great their cat is, or was. I can appreciate this and understand. But, speaking for my family, Lillan is going to continue to be in our memories and lives. We’ll miss the turned down doorknob, she standing on the window sill wanting in on a summer’s night, the placing of foodstuffs out of her reach, her lying on the kitchen table under the warming kitchen lamp, the long drinks of water she did, straight from a running tap at the kitchen sink …I even think the dogs are going to miss her! The house has lost its night watchman.

Sometime later, we will all probably find her again in another life and then we can tell her how very happy she made us and how honoured we had been with having her! Thank-you so much, Lillan!

resize-of-dsc_0140.JPG“Thank-you, too!”

“Lampik Executed for Murder”…

…would have been the appropriate headlines if there had been a newspaper in Jokkmokk in 1823. A journalist would have been one of twenty or so men, women and children that were ordered to watch the execution of Påhl Larsson Lampik, for the murder of his older sister Lotta (Lohtsa) Påhlsdotter Lampik just a year earlier, and he would have reported these details for any readers. The execution took place east of “Death Pond” in Jokkmokk, February 17, 1823.

According to the court records of the time, Påhl Larsson Lampik, a short 4 ft. 3½ in. (1.42 mt) 25 year-old, believed to be a “weak” person, having learning difficulties and known for a rowdy behaviour, was left at home with his sister. The father, Påhl Lampik, had skied to the winter market in Jokkmokk. Thrity-two year old Lotta Påhlsdotter, quick to learn, honest and respectful had charge of attending the reindeer and sheep.

When the father returned from market, Sunday the 24th of February, niether Påhl Larsson Lampik nor Lotta Pålhsdotter could be found. Reindeer and sheep were unattended and there were several storage houses broken into with things scattered all over the snow covered ground.

With the aid of a local official, the father searched the area. After a couple of days of light snowfall, it was somewhat difficult looking for signs of anyone, but they finally found Lotta Pålhsdotter face down in the snow by a fishermen’s hut near a frozen lake. Påhl Lampik and the official brushed the snow off her body, turned her over and found that her hair was matted with frozen blood from several deep cuts in her head. They took her body to a neighbouring house when, afterwards, Påhl Lampik skied to Jokkmokk and told constable C. M. Granström what had happened.

The constable sent out requests concerning the whereabouts and detention of Påhl Larsson Lampik. Apparently, Påhl Påhlsson Lampik had been seen and held by Johan Petter Chrisophersson, Tjauruträsk, near Gällivare. Lampik was sent back to Jokkmokk for questioning, was arrested for murdering his sister and went to trial March 28, 1822.

During the trial, witnesses explained how Lotta Pålsdotter was found, how her skull had been violently split in five places, that a couple of these cuts had gone deep into the brain, and that she had a large cut on her left arm. She obviously died instantly. (It can be noted here that the autopsy was conducted by a surgeon E.M.Waldenström, Luleå, who had taken 7 days using three horses to get to Jokkmokk and charged the court a little more than 44 Swedish Kronor for his services.)

When Påhl Larsson Lampik was summoned to witness, he explained that on the morning of Feb. 18, Lotta and he went out to gather hay and to feed the animals when they started to argue. He became angry and left his sister. He went back to the village, where he forced open all the storage houses, stole a reindeer steak and some flour and went to the Lampik “hut” and started to make dinner for himself.

After this, Lotta Påhlsdotter apparently returned to their “hut” and became angry. Påhl Larsson Lampik entered into a struggle with his sister and, after grasping the small ax his sister was known to carry in her belt, hacked his sister in her head several times killing her.

He stayed in the village that evening and the next morning, after letting loose the sheep and killing one lamb for food, tried to escape towards Luleå. After reaching Harads, he changed direction towards Gällivare, where he was captured by Christophersson.

Påhl Larsson Lampik had earlier been convicted of reindeer theft and punished with being placed in irons, strapped to a pole and given 12 whiplashes. At his murder trial, he explained his deed as being under the control of “evil powers” and was not to blame for killing his sister. And, he added, he was only defending himself because his sister had hit him.

The court found him guilty of murdering Lotta Påhlsdotter and sent Lampik to the regional prison until he would be summoned back to Jokkmokk for execution.

In 1823, almost a year after his trial, Lampik was transported back to Jokkmokk and the winter market, together with an executioner. February 16th, he was locked in a small timbered shed, east of “Death Pond” and near the road from Luleå at the top of a hill overlooking the Lule River Valley.

The next morning, February 17th, all the men, woman and children of Jokkmokk were forced to attend the execution as witnesses that murder would not be accepted in Jokkmokk. A small, probably very cold and scared Påhl Larsson Lampik was taken from the shed towards the chopping block where, after laying his head down, he was beheaded by the executioner’s ax. Rumor has it that it took two ax swipes before Lampik’s head was severed from his body.

Påhl Larsson Lampik’s head and body parts were nailed up on poles along the old road from Luleå to warn people of the consequences for murder. These body parts hung there for several months and were finally taken down and buried in the grounds nearby. Murderers were not allowed to be buried in “blessed” churchyards.

resize-of-re-exposure-of-dsc_0377.JPGPhoto: “Exectution Hill” as you approach central Jokkmokk along Rt 97 from Luleå-Boden

In Jokkmokk, the place of execution is somewhere at the top of the small hill, which the road from Luleå follows as one approaches the central part of Jokkmokk. Still today, people in Jokkmokk always refer to this slope as “Execution Hill”.

References: Tingsprotokoll, Jokkmokks Dombok 1822
Norrbottens Hembygd för Tidskrift 1924, Häft 3
Döds- och Begravningsboken 1823, sid 60 rad 3

PS- Sorry this was late coming. I had/have very much to do just now. My apologies!