Road Trip To Hell & Beyond

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August 22nd 2012
Published: August 22nd 2012
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We survived. 32 reindeers and a thousand-ish miles later I return to tell the tale.

On 6th of August my flat mate and I essentially moved into my Nissan Sunny '92 for two weeks. She analysed maps, I drove like hell. Our intended first stop was Seitseminen National Park at Ruovesi, but since we spent hours stuffing our faces with coffee and cake at Tampere we arrived quite late. The information desk was already closed and it was getting dark. The map hero, also known as my flat mate, informed us that there is a deserted road nearby. We decided to camp on that off-road spot, since Finnish Every Man's Right allows people to stick up a tent almost anywhere they please. We set up a tent and went to sleep. For some bizarre reason road construction began at one o'clock in the night. Our exhausted souls weary of all things urban were not pleased. We drove all day to hear wolves howling, not to witness gigantic trucks on idle run.

Next morning we ate the last of the fresh food we had with us and headed to Helvetinjärvi National Park. We set the camp at the shore of Haukanhieta - the Riviera of Pirkanmaa, according to staff - and began the exact 5,5 km trek to Helvetinjärvi, Hell's Lake. Hell's Lake and its gorges were born millions of years ago and as my flat mate noted, a sense of death and eternity surrounds you on the trail. Fallen trees are left to decompose and the scenery is eerie, austere. Had we not met couple of other people on the route, we could have easily been in a fairy tale forest somewhere at the realms of imagination. Here's, however, a shot of the swamp.

After five and a half kilometer trek we found ourselves at the viewpoint standing 200 meters above sea level looking down the Hell's Lake. My flat mate and I are only used to walking from one bar to another, hence we unfit urbanites were pretty damn exhausted. We were unsure whether to ascend down to the actual lake since it was getting late and we still had the return trip of the same calibre. I insisted that we should roll down the steep hill and have lunch there. In the end, it was a good decision and I swam in the actual Hell's Lake. Hell yeah.

The photographer:

Hell's Lake:

We returned in amazing record time of 2,5 hrs. A rainy night awaited us and in the following morning we realized that our equipment and physical condition are insufficient for serious trekking. So we decided to go ahead and drive to Lapland. No further questions asked.

One pit-stop in Jyväskylä. We borrowed a friend's kitchen who happened to be a semi-trained nurse as well as a kitchen-owner. My travelling companion had injured her knee at Hell's Lake trek, and conveniently enough she got a shifty knee operation done in the living room while our dinner was in the oven.

At this point we couldn't make up our mind as to what to do next. Original plan was to head east and from there to north, but we had to give a place called Hell's Pot a miss since rain front was heading that way too. We didn't fancy more water from the skies. We pondered whether to head west to see a meteor crater valley of Söderfjärden. Then we realised this was quite a bit out of way. We eventually settled for a camping site an hour outside Jyväskylä, but on the way there we rapidly changed our mind again and decided to drive as long as possible. This turned out to be Tyrnävä, near Oulu, where we borrowed a friend's floor and shower for a night. This friend living in the middle of nowhere sets a fine example on how to hoard and OCD at the same time. We also received valuable advice on how to craft your own ball-and-chains from everyday household goods.

On the morning of day four (or, late in the afternoon in normal time zone) we set our nextgoal to Tankavaara, where the real wilderness would perish and everyman would have to fight for their own survival. After some googling and whatnot with the iPhone, my co-driver without license educated me that we could spend the night at Tankavaara Gold Village. Metallica-CD that Nissan had refused to play began miraculously working. We were filled with awe and inspiration, and then obviously something had to go wrong. We accidentally drove into Sweden which took us off our rote. After screaming and cursing we found our way out of Sweden and to the right course.

Couple of hundred kilometers later reindeers started appearing. They are one froliccy type of wild animal bouncing about on highways. Beware. Because of reindeers and Sweden we definitely didn't make it on time but we spent a night at Tankavaara Gold Village, camping like you've seen no other.

We parked Nissan and embraced the surroundings. This camping site was not so much a camping site but a state-of-art film front from an old Western. We half-expected tumbleweed to roll by, but instead we heard German tourists parking their camper vans. Further down we could see an antique railway station and train designed for shifting gold and pioneers through prairies as well as rustic wooden cabins for settlers. We saw no Paloma horses pasturing about, but reindeers idly wandering here and there in the parking lot. We entered the restaurant/reception and it was like entering a saloon. Three cowboy-hatted olden time men were sitting about playing cards. Slowly they looked up from their game, and one of them got up, moved behind the counter and asked us what we wanted. I swear Morricone tune began to play somewhere in the distance. We said we needed a spot for our tent. "You've come to the right place." Cowboy #1 answered and charged us mere 6 euros a head for the night. Later on we discovered that the three cowboys were talkative types. Possibly not fluent in English, as I deducted from signs in an out-of-order toilet: "not in used" and "it works not", they said.

The following four days we spent in the fjeld and surrounding terrain trekking. It was all a bit blurry and we may have joined a cult of some kind. Luckily I have scribbled some notes, so I can share the wisdom 'what not to do while walking' in another post.

The journey back took us 14 hours (don't tell Mama, she'll get worried.) We got lost to Sweden AGAIN. They should have clear signs indicating which way is south and which way is Sweden. After midnight I, the driver, stopped using GPS and followed the flying foxes instead. Somehow no one got serious damage and at three o'clock in the morning we could finally collapse in to our own beds smelling of smoke, mosquito-repellent and sweat. Divine.

Photographic evidence (c) 2012 Anna Nummi


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