The Hunter Gatherer
Views across to Norway from Kåtaviken Sweden. A primordial landscape, that shouts back to the age of ice and the times of hunter-gatherer societies. Those characterized by obtaining their food primarily through hunting animals, fishing, and gathering wild plants, rather than through agriculture or other settled means.
Ajmal Samuel, captured in the cozy confines of Christers Bergfors' living room in Slussfors, Sweden, is far more than just a traveler. He embodies the essence of a modern-day hunter-gatherer. His prey? Not game animals, but immense challenges, and his harvest? Not food, but a rich collection of ideas meant to ignite inspiration, especially among those who, like him, live with disabilities.
During our month-long journey through Northern Europe, we've been captivated by a deep sense of connection to the past, drawn by the timeless beauty of rural landscapes that tell stories of centuries gone by.
The sight of old barns and castles against the horizon, the experience of wandering cobbled streets built for horses and stagecoaches, and the reverent ambiance of medieval cathedrals all transported us to a different era.
Yet, as we venture through the landscapes of Finland and Sweden, a distinct cerebral connection to the land stirs within the Ajmal Samuel posse, each of us experiencing and contemplating the terrain in our unique way.
For Ajmal Samuel, his connection as he says; 'As I traversed this captivating landscape, I couldn't help but feel an innate connection to the ancient lands that shaped our existence. These were the very territories where prehistoric creatures once roamed, offering a profound perspective on the vastness of our world and our relatively diminutive presence within it. Yet, paradoxically, it also highlighted the enduring strength of the human spirit and its deep-rooted connection to the land, reminding us that despite our smallness, we continue to thrive and endure'.
Ajmal Samuel navigates through terrain that beckons with an irresistible allure, captivating in its untamed, primal ruggedness. Road to Hemavan, Sweden.
As the official photographer of the ASF epic and with a family name, Dobson, fair hair, and blue eyes, the author of this blog playfully entertains the notion of Nordic origins—perhaps a Viking in a past life? He's always held a fascination for Viking mythology, and now, as we approach Norway, that fascination merges with the rugged, wondrous landscapes that envelop us.
Enchanted by deep forests of silver birch, conifer, and pine, our thoughts turn to the creatures that may roam these woods—moose, wolves, reindeer, and wild boar. As we gaze upon the colossal lakes and crystal-clear streams shimmering under the silver northern light, we can't help but envision the Paleolithic era. With the arrival of autumn, a chill permeates the air, adding to the sense of antiquity. We conjure images of fur-clad hunters, wielding flint-tipped spears, stalking woolly mammoths through primordial landscapes.
Northern Lights. Slussfors, Sweden.
As we witness Northern Lights while traversing landscapes of gargantuan lakes, and deep forests of silver birch, conifer and pine, I think a lot about paleolithic times.
Ironically, our host in Slussfors, Central Western Sweden, Mr. Christers Bergfors, gifts Ajmal with a pair of mink fur gloves as a nod to ancient wisdom. Christers believes that even in this age of high-tech winter gear, there's no substitute for real fur when facing the harsh Nordic cold.
Ajmal's fur gloves, gifted to him by Christers Bergfors in Slussfors, Sweden. Ajmal's had this to say about his beloved gloves 'they have connected me to my ancestors'.
These fur gloves resonate with our sentiments about this environment—of mountains, vast woodlands, and lakes, some over 120 meters deep. It's a landscape that whispers of the Paleolithic era. In every forest glade, we envision hunter-gatherers, men in fur, with flint-tipped spears hunting woolly mammoths. Our imaginations run wild, and rightly so.
As we traverse these landscapes strewn with lichen-encrusted giant boulders, we reflect on the geological time that has shaped this land. The lakes and river systems of Central Western Sweden, including Vänern and Vättern, bear witness to the immense geological forces that shaped this region. During the last Ice Age, glaciers sculpted the landscape, leaving behind depressions that filled with melt-water as the glaciers retreated. The slow rebounding of the land further molded the intricate network of rivers and lakes we see today.
Ancient rocks, lichen, mosses, bracken and ferns.
Ancient Lichen. The one on the right as big as a dinner plate. With this in mind, consider the facts; Lichens are incredibly slow-growing organisms, and their growth rate can vary depending on several factors, including the species of lichen, environmental conditions, and the substrate they are growing on. On average, lichens grow at a rate of around 1 millimeter (0.04 inches) per year, although some species can grow even slower.
So, if you have a lichen patch the width of a dining room plate, let's say around 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter, it could take several decades to centuries for that patch to grow to its current size. In some cases, larger lichen colonies can be thousands of years old.
This geological history adds to the unique beauty and ecological significance of Central Western Sweden's waterways. Our camera captures landscapes that are a testament to time's enduring impact. We're surrounded by lichen-encrusted boulders and savored facts about their origins:
Glacial Erosion: Massive glaciers acted as bulldozers, eroding bedrock and shaping the terrain.
Transportation: Rocks and boulders of all sizes were picked up by the advancing glaciers.
Deposition: As glaciers receded, they deposited these rocks, leaving behind the giant boulders we see today.
Boulder strewn Lake Stensele, Sweden.
Glacial Erratics: Some of these rocks, known as glacial erratics, were transported over long distances from their place of origin, adding to the mystery of the landscape.
The Paleolithic period, often called the Old Stone Age, holds great significance here. This era speaks of nomadic hunter-gatherers who left traces of their existence—remnants that illuminate their way of life. A treasure trove of facts unravels their history:
Lifestyle and Habits:
Nomadic Life: These early inhabitants were nomadic, following the seasonal rhythms of animals and edible plants.
Hunting and Gathering: They relied on hunting game like reindeer, elk, and wild boar, alongside fishing and foraging.
The moose, or elk, in Sweden traces its origins to the post-glacial period, evolving and thriving in the lush, forested landscapes of the region for thousands of years.
Hunting moose in Sweden has a deep-rooted history, dating back to ancient times when early human inhabitants relied on these magnificent animals for sustenance. The practice of setting up a circle of stones for a campfire has remained timeless, echoing the traditions of countless generations who sought warmth and camaraderie around these fires after a successful moose hunt, creating a bond between the past and the present.
Tools and Weapons: They crafted tools from stone, bone, and antler, with flint being a prized material.
Dead tree flotsam and jetsam on lake Umbukta Sweden, reminded this author of giant bones of mammoths and other behemoths of the past.
The exceptional sharpness and durability of chert or flint stones made them the perfect choice for crafting stone-age spear tips, enabling early humans to hunt and defend themselves with remarkable efficiency.
Shelters: They likely lived in temporary structures made of animal hides or utilized natural caves.
Art and Culture:
Cave Art: While not as famous as French cave art, Scandinavia has its own prehistoric cave art, often featuring animals.
Alex" and "Lina" are etched, a testament to love's timeless artistry. In the spirit of our Paleolithic ancestors, who communicated their desires and dreams through cave paintings, these modern inscriptions speak of the enduring human impulse to leave our mark on the world, both in love and art, as we navigate the winding roads of our hearts
Rituals and Beliefs: Sparse direct evidence hints at some form of belief system, inferred from artifacts and burial practices.
An engraving on the road to Kuldiga, Lithuania. This author does not know how old this is, but there is something definitely pagan and ritualistic looking that suggest it's an inscription from ancient times.
Finland. A sharp rock placed on top of a larger rock or boulder is often called a cairn. Cairns are used for various purposes, including trail markers, navigation aids, and sometimes as artistic or symbolic structures. They have been used by different cultures throughout history and are particularly common in areas with challenging terrain where traditional trail markers may be less effective.
Harsh Climate: Fluctuating temperatures during this glacial period challenged their survival.
Resource Scarcity: Scarce resources, especially in harsh winters, required resourcefulness and adaptability.
Archaeological Sites: Central and Western Sweden's archaeological sites, from ancient campsites to tools and even preserved human remains, shed light on Paleolithic life.
Genetic Heritage: Studies suggest modern Scandinavians may have genetic ties to these ancient populations.
The Paleolithic hunters of Central and Western Sweden were resilient, skilled, and adaptable, living in harmony with the land. Their legacy endures, a testament to their resourcefulness in an often-unforgiving environment.
The Husky dog breed has its origins in the Arctic regions, with their ancestry tracing back to the indigenous Siberian nomads known as the Chukchi people. These dogs were highly valued for their endurance, strength, and resilience in the harsh Arctic conditions. Over the eons, Huskies became integral to the way of life for both Swedes and Norwegians, serving as indispensable sled dogs, loyal companions, and steadfast partners in exploration and transportation across the icy landscapes of the far north.
Arctic light gracefully swathes strips of fiery orange across this primordial landscape.
For Ajmal Samuel, a man rooted in South Asia, his connection to this land resonates deeply. Having traveled extensively in the Himalayas, another ancient region shaped by seismic events, he finds himself in a familiar yet distinctly new terrain.
Ajmal's kinship with this awe-inspiring landscape amplifies his affinity for the Himalayas, where every peak and valley whispers the Earth's incredible geological history. Well-acquainted with rarefied mountain air, snow, and ice, one might say he's truly in his element, just as we are.
The Ajmal Samuel TRIBE seen crossing the border between Sweden and Norway at Matbussen.
TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED: 1,593.65km KM (20 September 2023)
Day 29 -Meravan to Mo I Rana 98.01km
Day 28 -Slussfors to Meravan 85.17km
Day 27 -Storuman to Slussfors. 62.00km
Day 26 -Lycksele to Storuman 102.9km
Day 25 -Vindeln to Lycksele 75.75 km
Day 24 -Holmsund to Vindeln 75.7km
Day 23 -Vaasa to Holmsund (Ferry Ride)
Day 22 -Rest Day Vaasa
Day 21- Rest Day Vaasa
Day 20 -Narpes to Vaasa 79.8km
Day 19- Merikarvia to Närpes 93.76 km
Day 18 -Pori to Merikarvia 52.8km
Day 17- Rauma to Pori 57.9km
Day 16 -Uusikaupunki to Rauma 47.4km
Day 15 -Turku to Uusikaupunki 73.5km
Day 14 -Helsinki to Turku (Car)
Day 13 -Tallin to Helsinki (Ferry ride)
Day 12- Tallin Rest & Recharge
Day 11- Märjamaa to Tallin 72.17
Day 10 - Pärnu linn to Märjamaa 64.1km
Day 9- Pärnu Rest & Recharge
Day 8 - Salacgriva to Pärnu 75km
Day 7 - Riga to Salacgriva 104.4km
Day 6 - Riga Rest and Recharge
Day 5 - Plieņciema kāpa to Riga 60.14Km
Day 4 - Kuldiga to Plieņciema kāpa 108.59Km
Day 3 - Liepāja to Kuldīga 97.34Km
Day 2 - Sventājato Liepāja 62.11Km
Day 1 - Klaipeda to Sventāja 42.89Km
Join the expedition, follow updates, and tag along on this inspiring adventure."
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