Days 58-60: Weather!

58 – Monday:  A grey day with a splash of red

We slept in the national park car park with the empty cars owned by the intrepid serious overnight camper / hikers.  When we went to bed there were 6 empty cars.  When we eventually woke just two remaining …. the poor damp people had gradually come off the the hills due to the heavy driving rain.  The final remaining car belonged to two women who obviously meant business and were going to do the full 80km trek, come hell or high water (which it will be given the rain), judging by their over already over weighted rucksacks, then crammed with food.  We were just thankful that we had such good weather for our walk yesterday.  If it must rain, let it be a travelling day – or two as it turned out.

James braved the weather and ran.  K decided she is a fair weather Norker and went back to sleep.  A long drive and slow going,  given the rain and mist.  Enlivened occasionally by reindeer and their young grazing along the roadside.

I guess the highlight of the day was the Santa Caus village and standing on the Arctic Circle line, whilst trying to not gawp at the souvenir shop prices!  I am sure it is buzzing on a snowy Winter day, but in June with the rain, it was a bit of a damp sqibb.  We followed the red path to Santa, had a chat.  He knew Wembley was in London, so we guess he is a footie supporter!  Asked where we would be come Christmas, so he knew where to find us.  Wonder what he’ll bring?  But we refused to pay the EUR20 for a pic with him and no private pics allowed to be taken … so we can’t show you the real Santa 😦 .   We then wandered into another building: J had had enough, but K followed this path to another Santa.  There are two!?!  Not wanting to be pressed to buy a pic, she skipped over a cord and escaped.  But she did get to see the clock that stills time so Santa can get around the world.  Cool!  No reindeer, despite the sign, a deserted teepee and lots of signs for snow mobile rides (no snow currently – just rain!).

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We continued to south of Ivalo and parked up in a lay-by with a FIN motorhome.








59 – Tuesday:  Another grey and MISTY day to Nordkapp

During each evening-end preparations, K usually fills the water bottles for the night time water drinks… I climbed into bed – reached for my water bottle and took a hearty swig – it was pure gin!!!  Is this woman trying to murder me?  The explanation is all to do with colour coded bottle tops – well, she is/was a teacher….. I slept rather well…zzzzzzzzz

We knew today was going to be a long drive .. lengthened by the rain and wind.  Road conditions were better than expected, but still narrower and more bouncy roads than further south.  After J’s run …. in the tearing rain, we set off on our 10 hour drive.

We broke the journey at the Inari Sami centre.  Car park full of motorhomes, all heading in the same direction as us.  A really good museum explaining the lifestyle and changes of the Sami and about life for flora and fauna in the Arctic Circle.  Bears hibernate for 6 months.  Their heart rates drop from 44 hbps to a mere 8.  They do not wake to eat, drink or defacate – before they go comatose they eat something like an ant hill and the resin in this basically forms an anal plug!  Girls, check this.  The truly amazing bit is that in this near death like state, females give birth.  They don’t even wake.  The babies crawl up the body to the breasts to feed and then they all wake in the Spring … pronto – a ready made family.  We thought of Sarah and her recent mamouth labour!  We struggled to get our heads around this and checked it with two of the centre staff.


Small Sami storage – off the ground from predators


larger Sami storage – floor logs under walls to prevent predators lifting them


C18. carvings by prisoners in the Sami courthouse



























Long drive up to Nordkapp.  We had planned to do a longer route via the pretty salmon river road to Nuorgam, but did not see the point given the weather.   Actually, the scenery changed and opened out more almost as soon as we crossed the border into Norway.  New country number 4 for James. K is at 3 new countries since setting off.  The scenery along the coast is really special.  We got really excited about the possibility of being able to take some evening pix of the Nordkapp cliffs, as the sun came out at about 5.00 p.m., but as we approached Nordkapp, the fog set in – a real pea souper.  Handing over an arm and a leg in Krone, we entered the motorhome carpark … hundreds of misty white forms (motorhomes) … we were not alone.  As the evening progressed … 10.00 now, the mist is just clearing and we can see the outline of cliffs.  Fingers crossed for the weather tomorrow.

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60 – Wednesday:  Nordkapp

I discovered during the night that we had parked broadside to the gale force wind – we rocked and rolled in Nordkapp !  Morning didn’t dawn because Dawn is a 24 hour girl in the Arctic Circle – but in the AM mist and wind, we realised that our Jakes was full! Dilemma and Debacles ensued – K needed a release…. we won’t bore our reader with too much detail, or we risk losing him/her. Suffice to say, a previously empty water bottle provided some specimens that the doctor would have rushed to the lab – to test for sanity ! Much weelief all round…

Thus weeleased from pressure, we leaned into the force 17.5 gale and headed into the Visitor Centre – pretty good panoramic film about the Nordkapp and Aurora Borealus (boreallus ?). Pricey gift shop, history notes and history notes – oops repetition…  Out into the wind again, we viewed various sculptures – and dashed for the van (we had cleverly moved it head on to the wind by now) – and coffee!  Out of Nordkapp and back down the mountain (its really a very special place and well worth the trip – even with the minor bladderisation technicality).


































Headed for Alta – with fabulous scenery on the way.

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Parked overnight in the Museum car park – next to a motorhome where the folk have made a banjax of getting on their chocks – technical term for levelling the van – we just get friendly… we are happy to roll onto each other at night!


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Day 56: Moving Monuments

56:  Saturday … Moving and moving monuments

Last night we thought we had found another lovely waterside pitch.  Just look at these pix of our pitch and the third  photo of the setting sun on the water at after 100 p.m.  Gorgeous.




















However, one tramp rummaging through our rubbish, several boy racers on screaming mopeds either side of Chardonnay and what looked like a drug deal … and we decided to go with our instincts and vacate.  It was 11.00 but this time, but thankfully it was one of K’s dry nights so she could drive.  We moved to the Bomba House not far away … next door to the Spanish we had seen several times  yesterday.  Not stalking them, honest!

In the morning, after our exercise regime, we wandered around the Bomba House restaurant.  it is a large structure made of logs, a reconstruction of a house that was made after the owner had to vacate  the russian part of Karelia and made in Karelian style.  K’s Nork along the lake had been more interesting as it was through the complex of Karelian style houses and a lot of summer houses.  Have you ever come across public carpet washing facilities?  Well, in Finland they exist and are readily available.  Thanks to reading some of Matti’s blog, I knew what this was.














Modern Karelian architectural interpretation

Modern Karelian architectural interpretation


Carpet washing facilities

Carpet washing facilities

Can’t quite remember why J was stuck here, but took a pic anyway!


We drove then to the museum and memorial to the Winter War 1939-40.  The Spanish motorhome was there also!  This was another Matti suggestion.  Understandably, when taught history at school, one is taught about how WWII affects Britain, but this was really interesting and moving.  Stalin and Hilter met up, carved up Europe deciding who should have what and agreeing not to fight each other.  Russia was to have Finland and unannounced bombed Helsinki.  They mobilised massive battalions of troops and attacked northern Finland.  No country supported Finland, not even other Scandinavian countries.  The Finns were outnumbered 100 to 1 – they fought a guerrilla war – attacking on skis with only light weaponry – after 105 days, the Russians retreated leaving thousands of their troops dead in the snow. The museum and monument are at the end of the Raate road which saw some of the heaviest fighting.  The Finns captured a lot of armaments including 43 tanks. However, in the subsequent Treaty of Moscow, they were forced to concede 10% of their territory. They just did not have the man power for sustained conflict.  During the War of Continuation, they had to get the Germans out of their territory, who had troops positioned in case of a Russian affront. At the end of the war, Finland lost some of its land in Karelia to Russia … only 70 years ago … and had to pay massive war reparations to Russia as they had attacked first – Not!




















The field of stones represents the dead and affected by the Winter War.  The impressive sculpture of 105 bells refers to the 105 days of the war …..‘the absurdity of war’.  Have we learned ? Think Ukraine today…..












A Nearby church – modern as all the local villages had been raised to the ground. Unusual bell tower and war graves.

Back on the main road, we stopped off at the Silent People art installation.  It was so fitting after the War memorial.  1000 figures standing erect and facing the some way.  Heads made of peat and grass clods.  Clothes change biannually through donations.  Silent, except for the occasional passing car.  Quite erie walking amongst these semi human forms.













Spot the imposter!




















ff to south of Kussamo to park overnight in the car park of the Predator House – bears, etc in the wild – for the morning.  Watched two Finish girls (age 5 and 10) play horsey and gallop around, feeding their horses.  Lovely.

Day 55: NEW Valamo Monastery and Koti National Park

55.  Friday

Thank you Matti from Mikkeli in the Lakeland area for the monastery suggestion.  Indeed, many thanks for all your suggestions – they are a large part of our route planning.

We overnighted last night at one of the Valamo Monastery car parks.  As usual adjacent to water, but unusually, we had company.  A Finnish van and a Spanish one – even further from home than us.








After our now regular feature of run and Nork (J up to 3 miles :), we visited the Monastery.  We were not quite sure what to expect as last night we googled a bit about it … lots of intrigue: sackings of head Priest and Financial Director, then reinstatement of both, then sacking again … financial short falls … expanding into whisky making (ready in 2018).  However, is was interesting and the female volunteers really helpful.  It is Finland’s only orthodox monastery and was originally in part of Karelia in Russia and the monks had to flee during the Winter War of 1939 and settled the monastery here – hence now called the NEW Valamo Monastery.  The original church was constructed out of two sheds and the new one was completed in 1977.  In both there are lots of gilded icons, which contrast with the wooden rustic walls of the old church or the white of the new.
























The plan was then to do a decent walk around Koli National Park – we even splashed out EUR2 on a walking map.  Both feeling lazy, so parked up (next to our Spanish neighbours of last night), caught the free funicular to the hotel complex at the top of Ukkko-Koli (the tallest mountain in the Park) and then all of 300 metres (up stairs!) to the summit.
















Seriously LARGE ant hill made from pine needles!


All the lakes feature islands


Not cross … squinting!










Now parked up (by water) at Nurmes as will visit the Bomba House here tomorrow (another Matti suggestion :))











Day 54: Largest Timber Church and more exercise, even logging!

54: Thursday

We started with another up and at ‘em exercise for us both:  James a run and K day 2 of Norking.  Since we were parked by it, we went looking for the underground caverns that housed an art gallery and a concert hall …. a local sadly advised that it had gone bankrupt and was now closed.  Shame for the area as there was a water park, holiday hostels, other art galleries etc and the caverns must have been quite a tourist pull.

A short drive to one of the best churches we have ever seen.  It is the largest wooden church in the world.  The Reverend felt that nearly half the 12,000 residents should be able to attend church at the same time.  So it was built to accommodate 5,000 people in 1847.  Perched on top of a rise, it dominates the town, but the inside is really quite spectacular – the nave is 27 metres high and there are two tiers of balconies.  Even the organ is made largely of wood.  Although heaters were installed, they were insufficient to heat the church as well as being a fire risk, so a smaller church was built at the rear.  This main church is used in summer and at Christmas, when it is lit by candle light (fire risk?!  But must look wonderful).


One of the 8 heaters

One of the 8 heaters

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Wooden organ

Wooden organ … no comments, thanks!

High nave

High nave

Lovely view as J climbs the step and irregular steps

Lovely view as J climbs the steep and irregular steps


The newer, smaller and warmer church extension - hidden at the back

The newer, smaller and warmer church extension – hidden at the back

One lot exercise being insufficient we headed up to Kolovesi National Park and did a 3.3 km walking trail.  Not far, I hear you cry, but actually this was the only trail on offer.  To get around most of the National Parks around here you need a boat, and neither of us fancies the expense of hiring, let alone the rowing effort.  The walk was not as arduous as in the Swedish High Coast, but still involved a little clambering.  Yet again, we were taken with the colours of the lichens, leaves and tree bark.  A few information boards along the route explained how cutting down any of the trees would have changed the ecology as the plant and animal species need dead and rotting wood and damp.  DAMP  should have been a warning to us …. our first encounter with mosquitoes.  James 4 and Katherine 0 bites … K so thankful J is so much tastier!

A real bonus was coming upon a small woodpecker pecking away surprising low down on the tree trunk, only about 3 metres from us.  Real shame the woodpecker was lost in the pics with the standard lens.

There was a perfect campsite beside the lake:  fire pit, free logs and earth toilet.  But J would not be persuaded to carry tent etc …  why should he when he has perfectly comfy mattress in Chardonnay?   He did compensate by doing some serious log splitting … do scroll down to the pics of ma man being manly!

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Perfect campsite ... regrettably not for us!

Perfect campsite … regrettably not for us!


My hero!

My hero!


Day 51 – 52: Hail and Russia wins James’ Crown Jewels

51. Monday and a Travel Day

James ran for the second day on the trot … yeah!  Tidied up and collected the dry bedding and rest of the laundry.  Thankfully, the Laundry Room on the site had a warm drying room with lines strung across.  All facilities used:  we both showered (don’t know when our next might be!), emptied toilet and grey waste and full tank of fresh water.  Massive shop for us at the supermarket for staples such as water and juice – three massive bags full and only £72 … one does get used to looking at prices and budgeting … honest!  First lot of hail, yes the big cold lumps that come out of the sky!.  This is June right!

Ready to leave Helsinki.  We have both really liked it as a city … not too big and easy to get around and orientate.  However, it lacks some of the interest of Stockholm and Copenhagen – it only became the capital in 1812 and then was massively developed.  So the architecture generally has cohesion and the water makes it very attractive, but it misses out on the Royal Palaces and long history of some other capitals.  Worth 3 -5 days visit, if any of you are looking for destinations

We were definitely ready to leave the campsite. Chardonnay stayed on site 11 nights, James 7 and Katherine 5 nights.  We risked becoming soft and institutionalised (constant electricity from the hookup / hot showers on demand) had we stayed.

Drove to Porvoo:  2nd oldest city.  Sounded interesting as distinct districts … old town with wooden houses, red brick built warehouses from sea trade and the Empire area, developed under Tsar Nicholas I.  However, the Heavens opened as we arrived and dropped more hail on us.  So we lunched in Chard, and the hail kept coming.  Abort Porvoo.  Drove through the old town, up a random cobbled street to the Cathedral (Church really) on a hill.  And the skies cleared for a moment, so we were able to get out and take a look.  Very pretty and heated!


Prove Church Bell Tower



Typical old Porvoo narrow alley











More hail en route to Lappeenranta… parked up at a water front carpark … feels like home AND the sun had come out 🙂


Our night time pitch





Views across the lake








Lappeeranta Chuch


52.  Tuesday:  Fortress and Saismaa Canal

Laapreenranta marina (we like marinas !) overnight – and at crack of dawn – well, 0900 hours – young James went off for a run – 3 days running in succession!  2 slow miles along the waterfront past some good sand sculptures – but for those SouWesteners – Weston-Super-Mud has little to be worried about…




K+J went to admire the sculptures and then toured the Laapreenrantra fortress.  Like others of the genre, mostly craft shops and galleries – but quite tastefully done.





Good ship Chardonnay set sail for the Saimaan Kanal that has 17 deep locks from Saimaan Lake to the sea through Russia.  We cycled – Lady K was determined to bike it to Russia….  The spanner in the works (bad pun) was that James’ saddle was maladjusted – by a factor of 10-ish.  Technically speaking – it was sticking upward and impacting on the Crown Jewels!   With each downward stroke, a jewel was being squashed, technically speaking…  Enough of the cyclelogical gobbledegook!  We paused occasionally to watch massive tankers navigating the locks – once in the lock, you couldn’t fit a Crown Jewel between ship and dock wall.  After about an hour, James’ affected areas had turned a delicate shade of eau de nil! Time to abort Russia for now….





















Overnight and BBQ in the Kanal carpark – one Swedish motorhome parked also.  J’s anatomy returned to normal, assisted by some gin – K rubbed it on the, em, thingies… No photos.