Monday, 26 July 2010

The Scandinavian Expedition 2010 - Diary Day 26

Fjords, check. Swedish coast, check. Midnight Sun, check. North Cape, check. Three Borders, check. Second visit to Finland, in progress...
All photos from Treriksroset, Nordkapp and Pyhatunturi.

Three Borders and no stamps in the passport
I can't believe I haven't written anything for a whole week... again. I'm in Finland now, for the second time. With the spin this trip has taken, I can easily say I've visited Norway three times and Finland twice, haha. My trip started in Norway, then I crossed into Sweden for a week, Norway again, two days in Finland, back to Norway and then Finland one more time. If I added the merry-go-round at the Treriksroset border marker, I wouldn't actually know how many times I entered and left each country. Perhaps it could be a new Guinness record - how many times can you cross three national borders in one minute?

 After taking the last notes (laundry room) I made it quite easily to Kilpisjarvi in Finland, stayed two days, got extremely lucky with the weather, discovered how bloody expensive accommodation is in this country (16€ for a tent, minus 4€ if you have a camping card), rediscovered the cool effects of sauna, and before the sauna, I went to the cairn where Sweden, Norway and Finland touch in one spot - a recommendation by a dear Swedish colleague of mine (thanks Fred). I hiked 25km in just 8 hours. It was such a piece of cake that it makes me wonder whether this holiday is so beneficial to my fitness or if it's really better to drop the baggage before you go hiking.


Going in not like getting out
While I had no problems reaching Kilpisjarvi, leaving was a nightmare. It took 90 minutes of standing in the rain to get a ride back to Norway, and then, for a change, inconsiderate drivers left me standing in the cold and rain for over two hours. The next ride was short, but unjinxed my day. No sooner had I put my thumb up again than I was sitting in another car, and then another, and then... no, not another, because then I was with a very nice family who took me first to their home for refreshment and then gave me a 400km ride across the Finnmarksvidda, way past Alta, and to the last junction before Nordkapp.

This family had a daugher about 12 years old, an extreme example of Nordic beauty. Despite her age, she was gorgeous. I wonder how many men she'll drive crazy when she grows up properly. Anyway, thanks to this family the day that started so bad had been totally overturned and by nightfall (another weird word to use up here in the Arctic) I was 500km closer to my next destination, ready to tackle the last stage of my Nordic ascent.

North Cape 
71° 11′ 8″ N, 25° 40′ 54″ E

My luck stuck with me the following day. In less than 10 minutes' thumbing I was chatting with an Italian guy, Riccardo, headed to the 130km distant North Cape. We were mutually happy to have met someone who speaks Italian, and on top of that, he's a keen hiker, so we ended up walking together to Knivskjellodden, the official Northernmost tip of Europe (many people think that the tourist centre on the neighbouring peninsula is the real thing, but they're mistaken). The trail makes an 18km loop and the terrain is not difficult. That said, we were "lucky" enough to have extreme conditions, if a 100km/h wind and 4°C can be called that. It was a struggle to stand upright and not have the air pulled out of my lungs, never minding the sharp face-whipping rain drops, so when we finally reached the end of the trail, we had a real sense of achievement. I couldn't have made it without my wollen hiking socks, though, because I didn't have any gloves...

We also shared the disappointment when we entered the tourist centre, costing us about 25€ each, and seeing the already cloudy sky getting covered by an impenetrable wall of fog literally five minutes before midnight. If I hadn't seen the Midnight Sun back in Sweden, I'd have been really, really mad (like those fifty Japanese fellas with their cameras at the ready for 12 o'clock snapshots). Five past midnight was the cue to vacate the area and avoid The congested road (capital T as it's the Only road).

Beyond the horizon... nothing but the North Pole.

Finlanly, Finald... Finlandia!
The following day we drove 500km South and although it meant having to skip a few places I was looking forward to see (Inari and Ivalo), the ride was worth it. We split in Muonio, on the Finnish/Swedish border, and my Italian friend went to Sweden. The weather had gradually improved throughout the day and after Nordkapp's 4°C, it was rather pleasant to stroll with 17°C and sunshine in the face. Thanks to the lucky hitch-hiking streak, I managed to reach the Nordkapp and get back South in just three days instead of the forecast week, and now I have two extra days to spend in Finland. Maybe it's too much time for this country, to be honest, considering that Norway was the main target of my trip, but I'll do my best to use it well.

I must be in Pori, all the way South, on the 8th August. It's my birthday and the Iron Maiden are playing there, at the Sonishpere festival, fuck yeah! I love that band, especially how they manage to schedule concerts for my birthday whenever I'm in the area (this is the second time, first time it happened in Prague, 8.8.08). To be totally frank with my heavy metal conscience, I was hoping to see Lordi live, them being my favourite Finnish band and me being in Finland, but Iron Maiden will do just fine.

Anyway, let's not jump too much ahead. I'm still in the North for the moment. After saying goodbye to Riccardo in Muonio, I started exploring the Finnish country. First discovery – the law prohibits the sale of alcohol after 9pm in shops (not in pubs). Tough luck when you cross the border at 20:12 and don't realize Finland is one hour ahead... For what it's worth, I saved 3,50€.

Hiking WITH the luggage is somewhat harder...
Right now, on day 26 of The Scandinavian Expedition, I'm in Pyhatunturi national park, hiking through amazingly beautiful nature, breathing the cleanest air on the continent, picking blueberries, sleeping in paivatupas (free huts along the trail) and currently getting ready to light a fire and roast some meat. Sausages from Lidl, yummy.

Bzzzzzz and Chrrrrrrrrr
The only thing making life miserable are the mosquitos. I've never experienced such an infestation in my life; they occupy every inch of air. You stop for a minute and there's 50 bloodsucking little bastards flying around you and sitting on you. Even more annoying are snoring women, though. More precisely, one snoring woman who, to my utter bewilderement, beats even my grandfather! I couldn't care less, if she and her friend didn't stay in the same paivatupa!

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