Go north!

>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
(>Pictures at the bottom!)

The trip from Tallinn to Helsinki was like another departure over the sea into another world for us. We rummaged around in many travel guides to get an idea about the vastness of the Scandinavian countries and still, we did not know exactly what to expect there.

Already the entry into the harbour through the countless narrow streets and fortresses on both sides caused the first “Hello” in us and only after this passage the Finnish capital was in front of us. What exactly did we want to look at here? The abundance was oversized and everything possible is offered for the arriving foreign tourist. But after the odyssey of wanderings in this city, we were soon drawn out into more rural areas.

For a long time it was also unclear for us whether we should go directly northeast into the large lake plateaus, or follow the history of the earlier time. History prevailed and so we followed the coast westwards to Turku, which was once built and fortified by the Swedes and was considered the capital long before Helsinki.

After the much piled up stones and imposing buildings we finally retreated to a camping site where washing facilities for people and material were available. In the Scandinavian countries a free standing on general ground is possible without any problems, but there are no toilets or other facilities available. We suppressed the laundry washing until the laundry bag was about to burst or the smells became unbearable. For the daily personal hygiene a simple brook or a refreshing lake is often enough.

2 days later we were heading inland towards the countless lakes again. The way led us through wide areas, where agriculture and vegetable growing is practised, even strawberries grow wonderfully here. Finally we reached the long-awaited Finnish lake plateau with, let’s say a thousand and one lakes, which often presented us with almost insoluble problems when choosing the route. Many roads and paths led out into the “nothing” or end in front of a lake or stream. The lakes are almost without exception in the woods and are not always immediately visible from the road. Hundreds of kilometres followed through this almost endless landscape of birches, pines and pine trees, broken up with farms and open small settlements. We asked ourselves again and again; what the people are doing here in these endless expanses, so many are certainly not needed in agriculture and forestry.

In Central Finland we had seen enough of the many forests and the countless lakes, which are almost nowhere to be seen. So we decided to drive towards the Baltic Sea once again. The places Oulu and Kemi sounded very tempting and in Kemi Santa Claus is said to have opened his summer office on the beach. So, let’s go!

The large forest areas, where huge machines harvest the wood like the farmer harvests the grain with a combine harvester, and even bigger trucks drive the cut trees to some factory, were soon behind us and we squeezed through the suburbs of the first coastal town Oulu.

In Oulu, we once left our “RuGa-li” on a parking lot, strolled through the city and enjoyed the historic harbor district. Of course, one must not imagine the abundance of an Italian old town under historical quarters. Mostly there are some old sheds and some stone houses, probably from the beginning of the industrial fishing, which are now pimped up to peppy restaurants and offer all kinds of things for the passing guests in the terrace restaurants. Tourist shops and countless museums also advertised their favour and attract visitors with many good offers. For us this visit was a little bit irrational and shocked at the same time. Also here, there is a lot going on during the summer months and many guests crowd through the streets and over the squares; one often stands close together in crowds. Probably all Finns are immune against this worldwide corona virus and as a mask wearer you are looked at like a leper! A little bit thoughtful we moved further north along the Baltic Sea.

In Kemi we turned northeast again, leaving Santa Claus’ summer residence behind. We left the summer hustle and bustle at Santa Claus to the Finns. So we moved inland again, where it was a bit quieter. We followed the Kemijoki (river) upstream, where there is intensive agriculture on the right and left banks. Behind these agricultural areas there are forests and this as far as the eye can see. Even our constant urge to discover and drive on some “backroad” we had to put back; these lonely roads through the endless widths and forests simply do not exist. Mostly they just end somewhere in no man’s land.

In the meantime we were already deep in Lapland, actually a wonderful area. But the annoying mosquitoes were everywhere on the lookout and when we opened the car doors, it started right away; thousands of these pests are looking for fresh blood. Yes, these mosquitoes can make the most beautiful resting place, or a 5* campsite into pure hell. Only thanks to the mosquito repellents from the American North we could bear these flying monsters to a certain extent. Will they possibly soon be completely immune to these products? In urban areas it was mostly pleasant and good to bear, but as soon as you stay in rural areas and water is always available somewhere, you have many bloodsucking friends somewhere on your skin.

A little north of Rovaniemi, exactly at N66°32’35” we crossed the polar ice and found ourselves right in front of Santa’s door. Yes, this is where the “mail goes off” at Christmas time and all wishes are almost possible. It’s crazy, what’s going on here and reminds us of the amusement industry in North America. With the natural northern lights, the human glitter world can probably gain a lot more. Unfortunately, when we passed through, the whole business was shut down and we didn’t know whether this was due to the pandemic or simply less busy in the summer months. In the end, Santa Claus was not on site either and enjoyed the summer in Kemi at the Baltic Sea.

We continued our way northwards through Lapland with a smaller swerve towards the Russian border. Again many, almost endless stretches of forest, which hardly allowed any views of the countless waters. But soon the big trees gave way to smaller plant growth and the trees were no longer crowded together. Finally the landscape became more open and immediately we could discover something new through the trees. If there is a hill somewhere, mountain one may not say, one immediately finds one or even several ski lifts and the corresponding holiday resort. It is amazing how far winter sportsmen travel for a few metres of piste! Or is it more about wellness and snowmobiling?

The further we moved northwards through these expanses, the more aware we became that here in Lapland, or Northern Finland, not even one person lives per Km². There are only a few settlements left that function like advanced trading posts, offering us the most expensive diesel we ever paid for.

On the side road to Norway not many vehicles drove, but many reindeer moved on the road or beside it. These animals are probably so accustomed to the traffic that they hardly move aside or somehow escape when a vehicle passes by. We also discovered our “first” moose behind a group of trees. Unfortunately these loners are rather shy and if you press the release button too late, the animal has already disappeared from the picture.

The clouds hung very low and a fresh wind whizzed over the wide areas. We were on our way towards Kirkenes/N and were surprised by the slowly changing landscape. The gentle waves and wide open spaces were followed by increasingly rugged terrain. It became more and more hilly, the cuts of the river courses deeper and deeper and to our surprise: We were already in Norway.

Still before Kirkenes we turned to the west and left the last place before the Russian border on the right behind us. With the North Cape we headed for our next destination. After Finland and its infinite surfaces, Norway inspired us more and more. The whole landscape was like changed and almost after every change of direction, or behind every hilltop there was something new to discover. This enthusiasm was from the first moment on and the forthcoming drive over the Norwegian coastal roads will surely give us many more highlights.

Up to Olderfjord it was very quiet on this main axis and only a few vehicles met us. From Olderfjord this changed abruptly and a lot of traffic was on its way to the northernmost point of the European continent. Whole convoys with motorhomes and cars forced their way north along the coastal road, along the steep slopes of slate, through countless tunnels and sea crossings (Magerøysund/-212m) to Honningsvåg and further to the Cape. We were also part of this leisure traffic. Beside fishing and reindeer breeding this tourist stream probably brings some income. Anyway, the prices at the northern end of Europe are very high, but they are paid willingly. The hype at the North Cape was accordingly large, although the whole thing is a bluff. The real northernmost point of the European mainland is 67 kilometres further east on the Kinnarodden!

At the touristic cape it was wonderful thanks to the pleasantly warming sun and the fresh breeze hardly bothered us. We enjoyed the wonderful far view out into the arctic sea. But we did not want to stay on this parking lot, where camper to camper was lined up along the fencing. All of us put ourselves in the best position for the midnight sun. Our “RuGa-li” would have had to be content with the second row and so our decision was made quickly; we drive a short distance back and set up our camp away from the hustle and bustle; also there the midnight sun will still shine towards us.

The hike to the western tongue, which is a little more northern than the North Cape, was also up for discussion and would have been a really great hike for me (Tom). We set up our evening camp a few kilometres south of the Cape. In order to avoid a nightly change of our jeep, we set up our accommodation as “wind-favourable” as possible, so that the pop-up roof will be opened in the right wind direction during the night.

We enjoyed the evening sun, which never sets here at this time of year, and were not entirely unhappy not to have to stand in the first row at the North Cape. We chatted about this and that, what we had experienced and what is still to come. When we withdrew into the interior the sky was already covered with many veil clouds and the wind had increased in strength.

In the morning the wind had changed, it was really cold and very cloudy. To make our coffee we had to change the car accordingly, otherwise the wind would have blown out the gas flame sooner than the coffee would have come out of the espresso pot. Impatiently we looked for the most accurate weather information possible and the hike was immediately taken off the wish list; a bad weather front that lasted several days was getting ready and the first raindrops were already clapping on the roof of the car.

In rain and fog we withdrew from the North Cape. Hopefully it will only be a short weather disturbance!

>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
(>Pictures at the bottom!)