Monday, September 22, 2014

Chasing the sun

Entering Finland, country nr 19 so far!
Riding up north this late in the year means the sun was behind us all the time, so we had been chasing our own shadows the whole time. Now that we were going south we were no longer chasing shadows but the sun! In more ways than one too. The sun was now in front of us and as the temperatures up north hadn't been that high, we were 'in the mood' for warmer weather. Where we were it was cloudy, bordering on black at times while at the horizon we saw this strip of light, so we were chasing that too!

The ride south from the Nordkapp lead us along a beautiful fjord. The last Norwegian fjord we were about to see on this trip. It was cold but the scenery made more than up for it. We had hoped to camp along the fjord somewhere but couldn't find a good spot and instead found a campground some 40 km further south. It turned out to be a fish-camp. The only questions we were asked was how much we had caught today… When we replied that we didn't fish, they were simply stunned. All the men walking around here were in waders, fishing rods were everywhere and the campings freezer looked like a deep-frozen aquarium. The salmon season was coming to an end and thus everyone was fishing, fishing and more fishing. For some reason they were all from Finland, big blokes too!    

We always knew that our trip through Finland needed to be reasonably quick. If we didn't, we would end up so far out of season everywhere in Europe that we could run into serious snow problems further south. Finland's northern scenery can be describes as trees, trees and much more trees. Now and then a lake gave a very welcome relief but then the trees took over again. I actually quite like trees, but when they are all the same type and the same length and there are a hundred million thousand of them… well you get the picture.

Still, our ride through northern Finland was impressive. I had read about the large number of trees and the lakes before, but somehow it only seems to 'hit' when you're actually there. The remoteness and purity can only be experienced when you are in the middle of it. Entering from Northern Norway, the contrast couldn't have been bigger. 

Long narrow wooden boat with an outboard, only in Asia? Think again, this is in Lappland!
Being able to pay for fuel or buy food in the supermarket turned out to be more problematic than anticipated. Everything was of course in the Finnish language. Unlike Swedish or Norwegian, Finnish is a language that seems to have no relation to any other language we have seen. In short, we had no idea what was said on menus, signs, packaging or even the fuel credit card terminal… The first time it's amusing but when you really need fuel and have no idea what it says on the screen… There are fuel credit card terminals with a translation into English option, so we thought we'd be ok from then… until we realised that the 'error' screen had not been translated! There were 4 options, all in Finnish, we had no idea what any of them meant but just wanted our card back… Luckily there was someone there to translate so that I knew which button to press to retrieve the card, apparently there was a problem with the pump of some sort.

Despite cold damp weather, we made good progress. In the evening the little no-see-ums came out in huge numbers. Little midgets, swarms of them. Mosquito repellent works but you need to cover every millimetre! If you miss one, they'll find it! Oh and don't believe the packaging when it says it will last for 4 hours… re-spray every hour or so! All part of the Lappland experience :-)