Published: September 18th 2012September 18th 2012
In between driving like hell
for thousands of kilometers, my faithful unlicensed co-driver and I stopped to wander about Urho Kekkonen National Park
in Sodankylä, North of Finland. We arrived there around midday, and set off with pristine equipment and sufficient accessories - two pairs of dry shoes, two backpacks that were not about to fall apart anytime soon, first aid kit that could easily sort out a decent-size village that had faced a series of weird accidents all taking place simultaneously, enough astonishingly mild ready-made pasta to suppress our appetites for days, flashlights, towels, sleeping bags, repair kits, pinhole cameras, you name it. We had confidence in our earthly belongings but little faith in our physique and weather conditions.
Nevertheless, we were off.
I'd rather not wait for the information desk staff to arrive in my impatient and irritable mode that appears together with the fight-or-flight response. My travelling companion disagrees and we wait, only to receive pleasant and friendly customer service as well as some valuable advice on route planning and whatnot. There was an exhibition of some sorts on at the information centre, but unfortunately we are told to leave after I attack a stuffed bear. Again, the fight-or-flight response is to blame. Plus, I swear that the bear was going to start something.
After a round of coffees and leaving our contact details in case of emergency at the Saariselkä centre, we finally make it to the trail leading towards fjelds. I seriously ponder if my travelling companion has added some rocks into my backpack. I consider throwing some belongings away in clandestine, because after the first twenty minutes I'm mentally and physically done. How am I supposed to carry all this with me for a few days? Elderly people and families with children who overtake us by strolling and singing happy songs don't make things easier. We arrive to our first stop - Niilanpää day hut - fairly quickly. We have astonishingly mild pasta for lunch and carry on. Backpack doesn't feel so, so, very bad anymore, but I still mainly plan on new schemes how to get rid of things instead of for example admiring the views. Luckily, Anna had her camera with her.
Soon we discover that there was absolutely no point in leaving an elaborate journey plan to the information desk, as we are lost already. Great job, urbanites! We try and scout the area where we are to spot some landmarks that might help us, and in that process we end up losing sight of each other as well. Established truth: if you shout in the fjeld, no one will hear you. After some time I return to the spot where we decided we were lost, and in about half an hour my travelling companion appears from the tiny bit of forest where I lost her. All this is a laugh at this point as we know that we could easily reach the parking place and our car in few hours and just head back south. That would be slightly embarrassing, but at this age and day it's more acceptable to be humiliated than dead in the terrain. So I've heard. We don't know what the hell we are doing but walk along the river. This pays off, and we find a bivouac shelter of Suomunlatva. It is everything but warm at this point, and we get in touch with our primitive sides by chopping wood and setting a fire. Thumbs up for Anna who set the fire ablaze and a sore back for me who did the axe work in a very aggressive manner.
I've been awoken during the night once. I heard some trembling from a distance, and came to it. I got my head out of my sleeping bag and realized I'm staring a wild reindeer straight into the eye. He is about half a meter away from my face. I slowly retreat to my sleeping bag, and hope to god that puncturing with reindeer horns doesn't hurt as much they make out of it. Reindeer retreated as well. Perhaps he was terrified senseless by my travelling companion's loud snoring.
We find our way to Suomunruoktu day hut that was not on our intended route, but will do for now anyway. Another depressing middle-aged couple appears out of nowhere while I'm napping. They tell me they've just walked twelve kilometers in some ridiculous record time, and that they are about to continue the same distance before the night falls. Our easygoing amount of kilometers per day started to sound pathetic. Would we ever get out of here? Where is the finish line? After our conversation the husband catches a halibut barehanded mid-air and built an extension to the day hut using his pocket-size axe. No, he didn't. But this hard core trekking couple seemed the kind of people who could have done that given the right conditions.
The next opportunity to snap and get the infamous Irish temper going on arrives, as we need to cross a river. In my stupid mind, the crossing would go better with shoes on to remain better balanced, and I end up with one wet shoe. My travelling companion suffers similar damage, and we sit about sometime drying our shoes with microfiber towel and regular towels. This does the trick. I do not resort to yell abusive words to the river this time. End is well, all is well. Our next stop will be at Kopsusjärvi, a fire place by the lake, where we arrive without further complications. Terrain and landscape looks completely different to earlier trails through fjeld, unfortunately I'm staring at the ground while I walk ahead and wish that someone would end this pain. I get to swim in Kopsusjärvi and feel fresh as a daisy again. I sleep soundly in our tent while Anna takes some incredible night time pictures. Oh, did I mention we had some astonishingly mild pasta for dinner?
We sleep well. We sleep so well we almost forget to wake up. There is nothing incredibly important to report from this bit of trek, except that we start singing and speaking in tongues. I'm mainly talking to myself all day. Cabin fever starts kicking in - although there are no cabins in sight. Stocking up extra magnesium doesn't seem to help at all, my muscles ache and insanity takes over. Nevertheless, our walking pace fastens as we notice that our nicotine supplies are running low. There is more cigarettes waiting to be smoked in the car, but by now we are nowhere near my beloved Nissan Sunny.
We are walking along Ruijanpolku, which is part of a longer trail called Ruijanreitti
. This historical route is the oldest known one in Lapland and its usage dates back to 16th century. Perhaps we enter through some kind of wormhole in space-time continuum, as I feel we arrive to our next intended spot early and still fairly intact. We spend the night in Kopsusjärventie shelter. Wood chopping and all that jazz goes like dance by now, and astonishingly mild foods start tasting astonishingly milder than what they were in the beginning of this culinary suicide journey.
Final day according to our original plan, and certainly the final day according to our cigarette situation. We almost ran the remaining few ridiculous kilometers. Well, we would have ran if this last day wasn't the hottest and sunniest day in ages.
A miracle awaited us in Nissan - our bottle of coke had remained cool in the heated car. I don't know what forces of nature I need to thank for this, but carbons I had. We told the people at the information center that we had returned from the wilderness, and they didn't seem surprised at all. Perhaps they've seen even more foolish visitors coming and going. We left (without paying the ridiculous parking charge) in order to find some non-astonishingly mild foods and beverages. The rest is history, as you can see from the previous post.
I've seem to have forgotten what day we joined the weird forest cult, but if evidence of such events resurface I will keep you posted.