In this post, let me introduce a close and inspiring friend of mine. His name has appeared already several times on my blog. Six years ago, I met Willem Vandoorne on a flemish hiking site on the internet. Early 2007 we made a first hiking trip together, something we have been repeating every year afterwards. These trips have also become packraft trips since this summer as Willem is now an avid packrafter too.
Just like myself, Willem likes long solo adventures and we often discuss about our adventurous dreams and the regions on the planet we would like to wander one day. It’s clear our dreams and preferences are not always exactly the same, but that makes it just fascinating for me personally.
In 2007 Willem made a thru-hike in 54 days along the high Pyrenees chain from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and he almost copied that in 2010. Today, I’m sure these longest adventures will definitely remain the trips he has the most abundant and diverse memories about beside all these other trips he already accomplished before, afterwards and in between. He didn’t follow exactly Ton Joosten’s HRP route through the Pyrenees in 2007, nor anyone else his variant of the HRP. Rather composed his own thru-hike just by looking at the maps and let the affection grow in his mind. Eventually this method will give birth to a hike which comes straight out of your heart. Don’t copy what others have been walking or don’t always just follow predefined thru-hikes. Hike your own hike! That’s my attitude and definitely also Willem’s attitude and probably the main adhesive in our admiration for each other in terms of the adventures we accomplish. Just try to have a look at what he did in the Pyrenees in 2008 and 2010.
Now Willem has a serious new plan for next year, hiking and packrafting the entire length of the Scandinavian divide. From Lindesnes, the extreme southern land point of Norway all the way to the Nordkinn, the most northern point on the Scandinavian mainland (unlike the North Cape which is located on an island). A not so well known route which runs from Lindesnes to the North Cape is called the Norge på langs, or in English words the “Norwegian Lengthwise” (despite the name it runs through parts of Sweden and Finland also). This walk can be compared to the HRP in the Pyrenees. The Norge på langs is not a marked long distance trail on its own. It’s a pre-defined hike which combines multiple marked trails on the terrain. A few people make a thru-hike or thru-ski of this long distance route each year. However, this pre-defined hike tries to find its way northward by searching trails and the easier terrain whenever possible, eventually missing these more interesting places along the way. When Willem told me the first time about his plan last summer I asked him if he would take the Norge på langs as a basis for his route. In fact by knowing Willem, this was a stupid question. The answer I got was a serious and resolute no! Following the Norge på langs doesn’t fit Willem’s philosophy. It will not be a surprise the route he’s planning to follow will combine the most spectacular mountain ranges in Scandinavia often doing so by walking off-trail and is in many ways not corresponding with the Norge på langs. Moreover, much of the distance of his plans will not be covered on foot but floating rivers in a packraft.
Many of you will know one person which has already accomplished such a hike-your-own-thru-hike in Scandinavia before: Chris Townsend. Unfortunately his Scandinavia end to end trip in the early nineties has never got much attention afterwards. I would like to read more about his long distance trips and especially also his trip in Scandinavia. I’m excited now and see it as a privilege to follow a close friend doing his own hike along the entire length of this vast peninsula of Northern Europe. If you’re interested too in Willem’s plans, then definitely have a look regularly at his Transscandinavia 2012 blog to follow his preparations!