Maria Fornstedt from Stockholm has walked countless kilometres over the years and is now hiking S:t Olavsleden at a pace of about 35-40 kilometres each day. We met her as she was passing Brunflo and tagged along for a bit so we could hear more about her walk from Selånger to Trondheim.
Why did you choose to walk S:t Olavsleden?
I have done quite a few pilgrim trails before and have seven Santiago diplomas* at home so I thought it would be exciting to do something new. When I was on my way home from a long hike in Norway, I drove via Östersund and saw a S:t Olavsleden trail marker at the Frösön church that made me curious. So I decided to ask about it when I was visiting the tourist information centre in Sundsvall. They gave me the address to the website and I started planning.
How often do you go on a long walk like S:t Olavsleden?
Usually every year or every second year. My first pilgrim walk was Camino Frances in 2004 after I saw it featured on a TV travel programme. Before this I had done some trekking in Nepal. I usually go by myself but I have also tried walking with a group.
What is it that is so special with pilgrim walks?
They are quite practical – there is accommodation along the way and you don’t need to pack as much. Then you see so much more when you are walking; this trail is fantastic as you get to see how the landscape changes as you walk from one coast to another.
How have your first few days been?
They’ve been good, but yesterday I got it a bit wrong so it was a really long day. I started at 7am and arrived at my accommodation at 10.30pm – it was hard work. I only managed about 2km/hr towards the end. Otherwise it’s perfect for me to walk between 8am and 5/5.30pm. I stop for water every hour and take a longer break for lunch in the middle of the day. Some of the people I meet think I’m doing it too fast and that I should take it easy and enjoy it more, but I really like walking all day long.
What has been the highlight so far?
The best day so far was actually the shortest day, when I walked to the old homestead in Borgsjö. It was the first warm day so I went for a swim and also met a man who made me some coffee.
How does S:t Olavsleden differ from other walks you have done?
I have mostly met local people here but on the trails in southern Europe like Camino Frances you meet a lot more pilgrims. People often stay at the same places along the trail and meet up again in the evenings – much more than here.
Do you have any advice for other walkers?
You don’t meet as many people along the way on this trail so be prepared for that, and try to do a bit more research than I did. I wasn’t prepared for parts of the trail to be tiny forest paths, this has made some days much longer than I thought they would be. Visit the website, it’s really informative and you can find out about almost everything there.
If you only have a couple of days, the stretch between Bräcke and Pilgrimstad is really lovely, even if there are a lot of mosquitoes in the forest.