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Reindeer on the bicycle way

Ylläs-Lemmenjoki tour July 29 – August 4, 2005

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Fri July 29, Helsinki, 25.01 km, 21.0 km/h

Still a normal work day before holidays — busy trying to get all the work done and simultaneously print some timetables and natural park info for the trip from the web. Had to go to city center to get my new handlebar bag and install it.

A little bit rush with packing, but made it to the train leaving Pasila at 20:25, heading towards Kolari. The guy sleeping in the uppermost bed (I had the middle one) turned out to be a mountain bike enthusiast living in Muonio.

I hadn't had time to eat anything after lunch, so I headed for the restaurant car. The mushroom soup seemed to be the most edible thing on their short list and it was actually quite ok. Chatted with a guy who was going to Toijala but actually missed his station and got off some 30 kilometers later in Tampere.

Sat July 30, Kolari-Kesänkijärvi, 67.13 km, 19.6 km/h

Reindeer on the bicycle way
The train arrived to Kolari in schedule at 10:30. Shopping for groceries and adjusting the gear so that everything fit in comfortably took almost an hour. After making a few phone calls to sort out things I should have actually done before the trip and riding for a while I was ready for lunch. Game soup at Wood Jevel was good, although the side salad was rather pathetic.

I saw the first reindeer next to the road only about 15 kilometers from Kolari. Took photos enthustiastically, but later found out that there was no hurry: it was difficult to ride 10 kilometers without seeing any. Near Äkäslompolo I was tailing two for several hundred meters when they were walking along the bicycle way.

I made it to the Nature Center Kellokas at 16:45, only a quarter of an hour before they were closing. Very good service and useful advice from the info desk person, definitely worth a visit. Bought a map of the local hiking routes.

The short 4 km Varkaankuru trail was nice, I added a small detour by climbing slightly higher to get a better view of the Ylläs mountain. After that it was already getting late so I headed towards lake Kesänkijärvi. Next to it there was a laavu, Finnish word for a smallish shelter which has one side open. The 1.5 km path from the parking place there was more designed for hikers and a bit suboptimal for a heavily loaded hybrid bike, but I made it about two thirds riding and one third pushing. It was magnificent, not only a beautiful place but even a fresh water spring just next to it for drinking water and cloudberries for dessert just a few dozen meters away. During the daytime the weather had alternated between sunshine and rain showers, but in the evening the sky was clear.

When I arrived at the laavu there were two people sitting around a campfire and grilling sausages. I hadn't brought any stuff for grilling but they offered me some sausage too, not even wanting any of my vegetables for a trade. I had expected more people, actually after 10 o'clock I was completely alone again. Mosquitoes weren't a problem so I didn't bother to set up the tent but simply rolled my sleeping bag on the laavu floor.

Before going to sleep I still climbed up Pirunkuru on top of the Kesänki fall to admire superb views in the evening sun. I even descended on the other side making the tour quite a bit longer. It was about 1:00 before I finally closed my eyes.

Sun July 31, Kesänkijärvi-Levi, 90.00 km, 20.6 km/h

I woke up around 8:00 and crawled out of the sleeping bag half an hour later. The morning was relatively cold, during the night the temperature had dropped to about 5 degrees. I tested my new gas cooker by preparing some tea and instant mushroom soup: fast and convenient. Complemented with bread, cheese, tomato, cucumber, youghurt and a few cloudberries it made a fine breakfast.

After packing up and getting out of the woods I started riding towards the north. Visited Äkässeita lake on the way because it was marked as a worthwhile sight. Well, it was a pretty lake with an interesting history but based on the description I expected still something more special. On the other hand, the Äkäsmylly old water mill was very nice. The coffee shop keeper told one reason why the reindeer are so numerous on the road: they escape the mosquitoes in the forest to the road where it's more windy.

Ride to Muotkavaara and further to Levi went without any major suprises: again quite a lot of sunshine, some cloudy sections and some rain. Had a picnic on the way and went to see paintings in Gallery Raekallio — the reindeer ones were best.

Levi was the first place which had restaurants and even there the selection was a bit slim at this time of the year. I went to eat at Hullu Poro, unfortunately missing the good-looking cheap (10 €) all-you-can eat buffet by one hour. Well, eating a three course meal a la carte wasn't bad either but the price was more than threefold. A Swiss couple on their honeymoon trip were sitting in the neigbouring table.

I hadn't worried too much about accommodation, as I had a tent and in Lapland it's quite easy to find a good spot for camping wild. However, with a few rain showers again in the horizon cheap accommodation under a roof seemed like a good option too. One place offering cabins for 30 euros was already closed, but the second attempt at Junttila's small private accommodation business scored: a cabin next to their house for 20 euros. It wasn't fancy and missed bedsheets but had plenty of space, a toilet, cooking facilities and warm water in the big wood-heated water pot; a good deal for the price. And once again I was loyal to my basic principle of spending more money on eating than accommodation.

Mon Aug 1, Levi-Menesjärvi, 142.53 km, 21.7 km/h

Cooking with the Poles.
After a long breakfast and a quick visit to a shop I was on my way towards Lemmenjoki. This was the most rural part of the trip this far: sometimes a few dozen kilometers without a single house let alone villages with shops and services.

After about 30 kilometers on the gravel road towards Pokka, in the middle of nowhere, there were two guys sitting by the road eating soup. Hikers were my first thought but they had tents, bicycles and two more friends 50 meters away in the woods: a group of four Polish students heading for Nordkapp. To make it even better, they were from Wrocław where I had done a quick visit a year earlier. They had just woken up and had breakfast after setting up the tent in the middle of the night and sleeping late.

I joined the Poles to make a group of five and we continued together towards North-East. In Pokka we visited a small but cozy museum of Lappis clothes, utensils and other goods. The 80-year old lady told that it was a family museum: all the objects on display had been used by her, her parents, grandparents or their grandparents etc.

In the crossroads where the road to Lemmenjoki parted from the main one going to Inari we had a quick discussion and decided to camp somewhere nearby. Just a few hundred meters towards Inari on the left there was a perfect place: dry, flat, next to a small river. Or almost perfect: it had the largest number of mosquitoes this far. I went swimming for the first time during the trip.

The dinner consisted of some mashed potato (from powder), meatballs, tortellini and pasta sauce. The Poles had been mainly on a pasta diet for the last three weeks so they tried to avoid it, but as most of what we had was pasta they agreed going with my bag of tortellini. At least it looked different than spaghetti and we added cauliflower in the sauce! Hot chocolate, cookies and blueberries for dessert.

In the evening before going to sleep I still wrote a couple of postcards. The two going to Sami and Mikko were finalized the following morning with the help of my new Polish friends. Ala ma kota! :-)

Tue Aug 2, Menesjärvi-Lemmenjoki, 13.23 km, 18.1 km/h (+ about 25 km walking)

A fallen tree.
I woke up a bit after 8, earlier than most of the Poles. After a good breakfast and saying goodbyes I was alone again. I rode the short distance to Lemmenjoki hoping to find a shop. There weren't any but the cafeterias had some items for sale. Neither of them had bread on display, but when I asked the shopkeeper in one of them she went to get a home-baked bread from the freezer and sold it to me for 1.50 euros. I bought still a few smoked perches fron the neighbouring cafeteria and was ready to go.

I walked first to the top of Joenkielinen mountain, then down to the river, following it upstream until a wooden cottage. In total it was about 25 km of walking in rather varying scenery. One special characteristic of the forests at Lemmenjoki were long ago dead trees, some of which were still standing, most fallen. In some of the trees the grow lines were strangely twisted around the trunk.

At the cottage there were six people, and as the nominal capacity was 17 there was plenty of space. Like most of the cottages in Finnish national parks this one was also completely free of charge. It had basic facilities and a superb location next to the Ravadasjärvi lake. I took a quick swim and had a relaxed dinner chatting with the two other hikers who were still sitting outside around a small campfire.

Wed Aug 3, Lemmenjoki-Inari, 60.08 km, 22.3 km/h

Ravadasköngäs falls.
In the morning after breakfast three reindeer came to greet us at the cottage. The reindeer in Lapland are sort of between domestic and wild animals. They stroll around freely in the nature but almost all are owned by someone and gathered together two times a year. Nowadays they are also fed with grass in the winter.

Next I went to see the Ravadasköngäs falls. They were quite impressive and the surroundings were beautiful too, easily the best waterfalls I've seen in Finland. I spent about half an hour watching and taking pictures, then came back to the cottage to wait for a riverboat. The most famous places in Lemmenjoki can be accessed with minimal walking by taking a boat, another popular option is to walk one way and take the boat other way, like I did. The boat ride back showed the river from a different angle and went through several rather shallow passages and even small rapids.

While waiting for the boat I also met Tapani, the founder of the Finnpeak company which makes custom bicycles, according to him the only Finnish company which does aluminium frames (others order them from abroad). Tapani had done a three-day trek with his wife and two daughters. Going outdoors brings likeminded people together.

After the boat trip I went to fetch my bicycle and had lunch in Ahkun tupa before continuing. The 45 kilometers to Inari went quite fast as I had the wind behind me, allowing me a quick stop by the beach of lake Solojärvi and still two hours to see the Sami museum Siida. The museum was definitely worth visiting, it was large but not extensive, and well done.

While buying more food at the supermarket I met a Swiss couple which was also on one of the last legs of their biking trip and going to the same direction. However, our way together was cut relatively short. They wanted to have a warm shower and wash some clothes so they stopped at the first campsite just outside town. I considered doing the same but the place asked 15 euros per tent. It wasn't a question whether I could afford the price but if the warm shower is all what I get compared to camping in the wild in an area with plenty of nice rivers and lakes, it's a pretty expensive shower. Besides, I could have probably found a hotel room or a cottage for about 20 euros if I'd wanted, the prices are quite competitive during the summer.

Thu Aug 4, Inari-Ivalo + Rovaniemi, 37.99 km, 21.2 km/h

The morning was warmer than a few previous ones, I didn't need to put a jacket on while cooking breakfast. Rye bread with blue cheese and reindeer meat tasted good, in the evening I had noticed that a thai flawored stew — one of the "just add water" variants — with the same meat also made a nice combination.

The road to Ivalo was beautiful but windy and this time headwind. I barely made it to the 12:15 bus going to Rovaniemi. There wasn't any panic as there was still a 16:15 bus which arrives early enough to catch the last night train, but I didn't want to count on the last connection. Indeed, after arriving at Rovaniemi it turned out that there were no sleeping places left in the last train so I booked one in the previous train leaving three hours earlier.

The train change destroyed my plan of going to see Arcticum, a renowned museum of arctic nature and artic peoples, but I'll have to do that some other time. I did have enough time to cycle to Ounasjoki for a quick swim to wash off day's sweat and change to clean clothes. For the dinner I had to once again pick from the short menu of the restaurant car in the train. The meatballs were edible but at 8.80 € not a very good deal compared to what I could have eaten in some nice small place in Rovaniemi.

Fri Aug 5, Pasila-Haaga, 3.62 km, 18.8 km/h

Friday morning was my earliest wakeup during the trip to get dressed and pack before the train arrived in Pasila at 6:55. Short ride back home made the trip total 440 kilometers (including the ride to work and Helsinki city center on first day), plus about 40 km on foot.

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Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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Last update 2007-05-09.