Travel Blog

Finland       29. Mai  to  02. July 2015

from  km  310  to  km  2184          total  1874 km

My cycling in Finland started really well. A nice reindeer fillet with potatoes and some vegetables, served with a fine Chilean wine. Very satisfied I left the restaurant and got on the bike. And although we have been here before with the camper, I was surprised about the 10% slope (as indicated on a warning sign). I soon realized that I would never make it in the saddle. So pushing was announced. After 10 minutes, the short climb was done and we could continue cycling - until the next climb. But today we drove only 10 km and made an almost level additional loop to a reindeer loading station (which is called here Erotusaitu). The path was unpaved but located in a beautiful area.


We only made this loop because of the birds - the grounds itself consisted only of different pastures with relatively high fences. I soon rode back to the actual bird site. I found it easily and there was a kind of a hut with a fireplace in the middle. A perfect place to sleep, if there were not already two Finnish bird watchers with their two totally nasty  dogs. These dogs started barking and attacked Dimitri. One of the dogs  was especially bad and was held back by the owner. But then he was badly bitten into his hand. We decided to move a few hundred meters further and set up our tent.


The road between the border to Norway and the village Kaamanen was not an easy go. A constant up and down. But along this road were many nice places where an ornithologist could enjoy some exceptional bird species. . And when the "leading dog" was watching  these birds, Dimitri moved to a quiet place to rest.

The next day I had to decide to cycle ten kilometers to the north to visit the famous Café Neljän Tuulen Tupa. This café has a feeding station for birds throughout the year. A place known to many birdwatchers and I was really rewarded with two lifers. The Pine Grosbeak together with some other finches and the equally rare Grey-headed Chickadee.


Riding to Inari was afterwards a blessing, as it was practically flat and in addition the sun was shining. On the way I stopped at one of the souvenir shops to redeem a secret. I was told the day before, that there would be self-smoked salmon cheap to buy. For 7 euros I bought a huge piece, which was enough for lunch and dinner. We also enjoyed a beautiful picnic site before cycling to Inari.

 

 

When we finally got to the campsite, it just started to rain slightly. It was a continuous rain for almost 24 hours which made me stay the next day on this

site.

After this rest day, I wanted to travel the few miles to Ivalo as quickly as possible, because I wanted to visit the Rotary Club Ivalo in the evening. Despite a strong headwind, I managed to get along quite quickly and even found time to visit a souvenir shop for a kavi (the one in Finland) and to buy a flag from Finland for the dog trailer. The visit to the RC was very nice, but unfortunately only a few members were present and also the designated speaker fell out due to illness and so I was allowed to talk about the project "From Cape to Cape" for some time.


The other morning I tried to send a message to my club by video. First I asked the campsite manager, then a playschool teacher, but they both could not get the video on time. Annoyed, I gave up, but then drove back again (I needed WIFI) made a "Selfievideo" and it was not bad.

Evt video I've sent Vivi.

Not long after, we had pedaled our first 500 km and covered it on 4 paws.

This was followed by a leisurely drive to Saariselkä, a center of Finnish Lapland. What am I saying easy: the last 5 km were hard cycling and I was glad that my condition has improved. It was roughly comparable to the ascent little Pass. Of course I had to take a break and enjoyed a lunch buffet in a small restaurant. Here I forgot my cellphone in the washing room and made me in a good mood on the onward journey. Just before I arrived in Tankavaara - an old gold mining village, I noticed the absence of this almost essential gadget. Only the Finnish friendliness and helpfulness helped. I told the nice lady at the check-in and she immediately pulled out her phone and called the restaurant. Yes, the cell phone is here and we will bring it to Tankavaara immediately. I could hardly put up the tent and enjoy a shower - they were already here. Thanks again.

A quiet night in the tent and a beautiful morning followed. Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily in the afternoon and when I arrived at a interesting bird area. To add to this misfortune I could not find the proposed campsite. Therefor we just continue cycling respectively trotting. At km 94 we had enough and we moved into the pine forest (it was already after 22:00 clock). And at 23:00 the tent was standing.

The next day we were lasy. Sleeping until about ten o'clock and then an easy drive to Sodankylä, where we could pick up my passport with the visa for Russia (thanks Sinikka and Annina) and I also enjoy a nice lunch buffet in the hotel Sodankylä. Then we went to a shopping center and after some purchases we went to the campground.


At the campground I met a Finnish biker, Ari Tuori. He invited me to the first Finnish sauna session. Instead of the infusion from time to time the finish people just throw every few minutes a dipper water on to the stove. And without a beer or two - no sauna. Thanks Ari for this experience.

The next day, we write already the 6th of June, I rode on in a southerly direction on the busy road towards Rovaniemi. Here in Lapland heavily used means every five minutes a car. After the turn in Torvinen towards the ski area in Pyhä, we nearly had no other traffic. A beautiful area, with a few short ski lifts. But in winter it has to have a lot of cross-country sleighs and also lots of noisy snowmobiles. In a luxury hotel I inquired about the price of a "cabin": 120.- Euro per night. Not much, considering that there is room for at least 4 persons, an open fireplace and a private sauna. And the swimming pool with sauna and steambath can also be used.

Ok, I am at my own and so decided not to stay there. After about 15 km further there will be the next town but unfortunately it started to rain and I slowly started to swear about the idea not to stay in this beautiful hotel. Luckily I'm easy to be happy again and the observation of the Arctic Warbler did its best. But then it started pouring rain and I desperately tried to find a place to stay for the night. After about 300m came a chapel and next to it something like a hotel. I went to ask for a room. First they, because it was already booked by a group but finally they gave me one personal part in a hut, for just 15 euros the night and right by the lake. Internet and breakfast in the hotel Kairosmajan Revontulikappeli included they have been extremely nice hosts.

The following day was cloudy but I wanted to continue anyway - Kemijärvi was my goal. This was achieved without incident and then we went directly to the campsite where I took a hut again because of the unsafe weather conditions. It was raining the next day not permanently but from time to time. So I stayed and was allowed to work in the room behind the reception at the computer. The next day I visited the lunch lunch from RC Kemijärvi. The two pictures show the clubhouse and me with Mr. President.


After lunch I had to think about driving on. The ride went first along the lake ...

..and then on a barely used dirt road. This was probably a blessing for Dimitris paws, as I had to call him back all the time. The road then ended abruptly at a lake - but as soon as I was there, a ferry started on the opposite bank. The boat was pulled with a wire rope back and forth.


After the ferry crossing (which incidentally was free of charge) it was only a few kilometers and another line had to be crossed - the Arctic Circle. This time I came from the northern side.

Once again the possibilities something to eat, drink or to sleep were just not available or the premises were still closed. Therefore I took the first sign for a hut on the wayside and turned off. A little expensive, but worth the 60 Euros. And Dimitri also felt comfortable with the warm stove.


Of course, the sauna was also used, even if it is a bit boring to soak alone. But you can still dry the freshly washed laundry afterwards. At midnight I probably photographed for the last time on this trip the lovely midnight sun.

On the way to Valtavaara, the ornithological Mecca of Finland, all the problems arround Kuusamo started. On the first day I moved to the campsite Viipus just south of the valley to Valtavaara. Quick a little bit of shopping in Ruucka and back again to the campsite. Followed the next day by an early morning departure to observe birds in Valtavaara, unfortunately without much success. Then continue to Kuusamo. Suddenly we faced something new. Dimitri did not want to walk anymore - maybe due to the long walk we did  the other day. I loaded him into the trailer and this time without resisting. Then we drove the last 15km quickly to the campground 5 km ahead of Kuusamo, supported by a nice tailwind. The next day I drove into the city to search in certain areas for specific bird species. On the way to town, I wanted to make sure that the Rotary meeting in the evening then really takes place in the expected hotel. What a disappointment: the meeting was last night, a day before the usual meeting, because the speaker could not made it on the usual day. This and the unsuccessful search for Little Bunting and Rustic Bunting made it easy to say goodbye to Kuusamo. Another early Saturday morning shopping and we started towards Taivalkoski. Shortly after Kuusamo we had our 1000th km. - Hooray!

The campground of Taivalkoski was in a Husky camp and I was already afraid of a huge howl when they see my Dimitri. But that was not the case and luckily our blockhouse was a bit off the beaten path.

Early in the morning, it was a Sunday, cycled towards Pudasjärvi. It was a sunny morning with virtually no traffic. Ideal to enjoy nature. I was able to do this very passionately, but around noon, more and more traffic was added. The people went back home from their summer houses (500km are almost normal). No more ornithology - in the traffic noise one could not understood his own word. At a small crossroad I met two woman who were on their Power walk. We started talking and finally they invited me to enjoy a Finnish sauna and lunch. A really big family was present in the summer house, they enjoyed the lake and celebrated the confirmation of a grandchild. The sauna was an experience in itself. I  slipped on the wet floor, got a massive bruise on the back of my head and a heavily bleeding scar on my forehead from the door of the oven.


After a rich lunch and a short photo shooting I was on my way to Pudasjärvi. Despite some rain, I decided at the campsite in  Pudasjärvi to set up the tent. What a wrong decision. The mosquitoes have almost eaten me and Dimitri. I quick pitched up the tent and then i flew to the communal kitchen. Unfortunately, the kitchen was not mosquito proof but at least one could survive and more or less enjoy the dinner. In the kitchen I also met a nice couple with a few weeks old baby. Since the man was a photographer and wrote a blog, he wanted to shoot a photo the next morning in full rain gear. It rained all night and all day therefore

strong storm gusts and continuous rain on my drive to Oulu. I did swear several times about my idea of the Cape to Cape project. But in the end I drove just stoically 80km with Dimitri in the trailer and only the last 20km he had to trot alongside but on a comfortable bike path. After a long, exhausting ride we reached Nallikari, the campsite of Oulu.

The next three days I spent in Oulu. The first day was rainy and I only did the necessary walks  with Dimitri and some shopping. The second day we were a bit more active. We made a longer bird watching tour around the campsite and in the evening I cycled to the other end of the city to visit the RC Oulujoki. Unfortunately, the club was "on vacation" but luckily the secretary Erkki Halvari was present. The club meeting takes place in a kind of gallery and sended out a special flair.


After visiting the clubhouse, I was once again able to enjoy the Finnish hospitality, as I was invited by Erkki and his wife for dinner. With a fine fish soup in my stomach I cycled then back to my campsite.


The day I left Oulu I enjoyed the morning, loaded my bike and we made a short  sightseeing through the town. I also passed this eye catching, funny house.

Over lunch time I visited the RC Oulu (the oldest club of the city) and then made my way to Liminka - a large bird sanctuary south of Oulu.

A short night at the campsite and at six a.m. I was already riding towards  the first observation tower. The whole morning birdwatching and then, in the afternoon I wanted to ride a good strech. Luckily the whole agriculturally used area was flat and not very demanding. I easily made it over Muhos to the Oulu river where I found my next Campsite.


It was the day of the Midsummer night and thus a special ceremony of the Scandinavian Countries. It started with a fire on a raft out in the river. Everybody sat on the river bank and looked at the fire - such a fire has something magical everywhere, even if it smokes more than it burns. After the fire there was a band playing for the dancers but the vast majority of visitors did not enjoy dancing. So it came just as it had to come: most visitors got drunk and they lost their shyness and were not so reserved as I experienced the finish people elsewhere. I went early to my house for a good nap. The morning was without much traffic as almost everybody was still sleeping and I also found beautiful detours, where we only met at most a lonely wanderer. Dimitri was allowed to drown free in front of me or sniffing around everywhere. I had to whistle him back only from a rabbit hunt.

All the way from Oulusee to Kajaani was so rainy. Strong thunderstorms interrupted by short dry periods. Since the dog trailer was not tight, poor Dimitri had to lay in the cold, soaked dog bed, because he had to stay in the trailer due to the traffic and rain (meanwhile that works well too). The next day we made a short visit to Kajaani and after that it was a short ride to Vuokatti. An early end of cycling and a nice bungalow (with sauna) to stay over night nmade my day. The road to Nurmes (my next place) was lined by Cat`s Paws (Antennaria dioica) in all the shades from red to white.

And what looks like fresh fallen snow in the forest is actually reindeer lichen.


Nurmes and Lieksa were further stops on our way towards Russia. In Lieksa the weather was so bad again that I decided to have a day off. During the little walks with Dimitri he once again found two of his special objects of desire.


Sometimes you could see the opposite bank but more often it was invisible due to the thunderstorms.

Despite the unpredictable weather situation I moved out of Lieska. I was lucky and it was  cheering up. Shortly after Lieska I discovered on a side street a special spectacle. The lake on which Nurmes and Lieksa is located is said to be the longest lake in Finland, and therefor the logs are no longer carted across the country on trucks, but are pushed through the lake as a huge raft. The sequence of pictures shows the process from the truck to the "ready to go" raft.


After this experience I continued cycling along the road I found flowers similar to a mixed border of a garden.  For some kilometers I was riding on an old road already used by the Vikings which followed exactly the "up and down" of the landscape. Not easy to ride.


In the evening I experienced the wonderful atmosphere on the lakes of Finland. Later, the local hotel in Eno was closed, the firefighters allowed me to camp on their freshly mown lawn.


Strengthened with an expresso from the firefighters, I made my way via Ilomantsi to Mutalahti on the Russian border. There I met a Swiss who emigrated to Finland 36 years ago as a "village helper" and later married a finish woman. They live now in an old forestry school. Their children are all married in the area and he now runs a bio gas plant business.


After interesting talks (of course only after the sauna) and a peaceful sleep I left this family who gave me some impressions on the finish way of living. In Mutalahti I saw the first Russian Orthodox church and some houses, for example that of Jussi's mother-in-law, are also less than 50 meters from the Russian border. After Mutalahti I cycled towards Värtsilä - another bird paradise.

Auf der Fahrt durch Wälder und Moore, traf ich an einem Moor auf diese seltsam aufgespiessten Grassoden - leider weiss ich bis heute nicht was diese für eine Bedeutung haben.

Riding through forests and moors, I met on a bog these strange impaled sods - unfortunately I still do not know what these are - maybe just rotten hay on squats.

In Värtsilä I stayed in a guesthouse, which was listed in the bird guide and I was able to go for a 3 hour, nocturnal (01:00 - 04:00) excursion. Among many other interesting observations, I also got two "lifers". Maybe three hours sleep was too short and cycling after breakfast was a bit difficult, but great meadows full of flowers along the road gave me enough mental power to cycle on..

Finally, I arrived, near Kesälahti, on a beautiful campground. Barely arrived there I also met some people with whom I spent the evening.

The tent was set up, Dimitri got his food and I was on the way to the sauna. . Two boys from a chef who cooked during an event in Kesälahti were heating up the sauna. Here I met another couple, a Russian women and a Finish men with two pug dogs. The special thing about these dogs was, that they came with them into the sauna and they were sitting on the top benches in the greatest heat and they really enjoyed it. Funny things happen. After the sauna we had among other things a huge, smoked salmon and two bottles of vodka.  Dinner went on until the early hours of the morning. Despite the short night I was back on the road by 10 o'clock. This time I wanted to drive to Parikkala, but found neither a campsite nor any other opportunity to stay and the nearest campsite on the map in Koitsanlahti has been closed years ago. So I searched for a place in a byway but found nothing suitable. Now I asked some people who passed me in a car for a suitable place to stay overnight. They made a short phone call and then showed me the most beautiful place.    

I got up early in the morning, awakened by the calls of the Spotted Crake. I intended to reach Imatra as fast as possible - Russia should be "experienced" the next day. In Imatra I and Dimitri stayed in a ****** spa hotel, where my bike was allowed to spend the night in the checkroom. When I was enjoying the beautiful bath with sauna and steam bath my naughty dog  just opened the room door and walked through the hotel. At the reception he was spoiled by the nice receptionist with treats and paws. Of course he did not close the door of the room behind him - but luckily nobody has added anything to my belongings

Leisurely and with mixed feelings, I drove the short distance to the border. In the excitement I even ended  up in a dead end and had to cycle back to get to the right and only way to the border. On 2 July at 2:30 p.m. I left the Finnish soil. The adventure Russia could start.