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Walking in a Finnish Wonder(lap)land

By Phil on 2015.01.06 In General

Last week I visited Finnish Lapland for a mini Fjällräven Polar 2014 reunion with Tuija (Finland), Manon (Netherlands), Melanie (Germany) and our mini reunion organiser Tuomo (Finland), along with Tuija’s boyfriend Tero, Melanie’s boyfriend Stevie and my friend Rhiannon.

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Manon, Melanie, Stevie, Rhiannon and myself arrived at Helsinki airport at around 23:00, which meant we had just over 6 hours to kill in the airport before our very early flight to Kittilä. Luckily me and Rhiannon had brought a supply of mini bottles of Grey Goose vodka, Whiskey and Brandy to help pass the time in the airport.

It was great to meet up with Manon and Melanie again at the airport, though we had already had our own individual Polar reunions when Manon came to visit me in the Lakes in May and Melanie came to visit in August, where I took them both to Scafell Pike during their visits. You can read about Melanie’s visit here: Eine Polare Wiedersehen, Pet (A Polar Reunion, Pet)

“One Night in Levi, One Night in Levi”

At around 5am Tuija and Tero arrived to join us on our early flights to Kittilä. The flight to Kittilä was just over an hour and took us further north into Finnish Lapland, where we were greeted by Tuomo and an outside temperature of -25! It was so cold, that each time I breathed through my nose it felt like my nostrils were freezing. Quite a bizarre sensation.

We landed in Kittilä at around 8am and it was still very dark. I knew they didn’t get much daylight in Lapland at this time of year, but I was expecting it to be a bit lighter. Tuomo then taxied us to our luxury cabin in Levi for the night, which he had managed to get access to from a family friend, so we could get a few hours’ sleep before planning our hike to Tuomo’s wilderness cabin deep in Finnish Lapland near Saattopora.

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The cabin would be the last time we had access to running water and electricity before we headed north. After a few hours’ sleep we woke around lunchtime and ventured out onto the frozen lake behind the cabin. Luckily it was a bit lighter than when we arrived in Kittilä, but only just. It didn’t last long before we were in darkness again at around 3pm.

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On the night we ordered Pizza’s while Tuomo took Manon, Melanie and Tuija to the supermarket to get supplies for our next few days in the wilderness. We had to choose carefully what we would take as we would be carrying all the food and drink during our 15km hike to the cabin. Luckily the girls got their priorities right and spent more money on alcohol than food. It was New Year after all!

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“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Its Off To The Cabin We Go”

The next morning Tuomo arrived with a journalist who had previously written an article on him during his Fjällräven Polar 2014 campaign and wanted to do a follow up interview with him, Manon, Melanie, Tuija and myself about our time during the Polar.

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After the interview and photo shoot, it was time to start our hike to the cabin. As usual I had the heaviest rucksack, but this time it wasn’t because of all my usual unnecessary gadgets I usually carry, it was all the frozen meat and sausages I had sitting on top of my new Fjällräven Kajka 75 rucksack. All the extra weight we were all carrying, made the hike a lot harder, especially in the very deep snow and darkness.

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After a 5 ½ hour hike through the wilderness and avoiding 100 mph skidoos along the way, we finally arrived at the cabin. Luckily Tuomo’s Dad had been earlier in the day to get the fires going in the cabin and get it warmed up prior to us arriving. Which is a good job as Tuomo said the temperature inside the cabin was just as cold as outside if not colder, as the cabin had not been used for quite some time.

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While we all unpacked and settled into the cabin, Tuomo started the most important task of getting the outside sauna ready for us for later, which requires a lot of wood burning to get the temperature right.

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After a few hours it was time to hit the sauna, and wow what a sauna! It was one of the hottest saunas I have ever experienced. Keeping with Finnish sauna tradition, Tuomo told us that once you reach your limit in the sauna, you have to run outside and dive in the deep snow while naked to really get your blood pumping, before returning to the sauna and repeat as many times as you like. I have to say he was right. The worst part was walking out of the sauna before hitting the snow, once you dive into the deep snow you can instantly feel the blood pumping around your body. It brought back memories of the ice hole dip after the Polar, though this was much more enjoyable.

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After our slap up meal prepared by Melanie and Tuija, we headed outside to see if we could spot some Northern Lights. Despite the clear skies, there were no Northern Lights to be seen, as some headed back to the cabin. Then just before the rest of us headed back, Rhiannon spotted the start of some light starting to appear above the tree line around us, shortly followed by flashes of green Northern Lights! It was amazing! Tero ran back to the cabin to get the others as we all stood and watched them for a good 45 minutes. Luckily Tero is an excellent photographer and managed to capture some great images. A perfect end to great first day at the cabin.

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Happy New Year!! (Onnellista uutta vuotta!)

The next morning I slept in and missed the sunrise which the others managed to see. After breakfast we all headed out on snowshoes to the hill behind the cabin where we could see Levi in the distance. Tuomo suggested this would be where we would return just before midnight to see the New Year in as we would also be able to watch the fireworks from the Levi resort.

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As we wandered around the forest on the snowshoes we also got our first glimpse of reindeer wandering around our cabin. We managed to get up very close and take photos without them running off.

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Again it soon became dark as the moon started to appear between the trees at around 2pm. This really messes with your body clock when you aren’t used to so little daylight, so we headed back to the cabin where Stevie and Tero would start building a snow shelter, while the rest of us played the card game Uno with involved the loser of each round drinking shots of vodka and other concoctions, with Melanie adding new rules throughout. Though playing “Silent Uno” was one of her better rule changes, which resulted in having to take a shot if you made any sound other than laugh.

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After a few hours we headed out to see how Stevie and Tero had been getting on with their snow shelter. What started off as something fairly small ended up being a mansion for 4 people. It seemed the bottle of Raspberry Vodka they had managed to finish between them while building it helped them exceed their initial plans. Very impressive! So much so, that Manon and myself decided we would attempt to re-create our last night on the Polar later and sleep outdoors in the snow shelter.

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Following another great meal cooked by Melanie and Tuija it was time for another sauna session before heading up to the hill behind the cabin to see the New Year in with a bottle of Vodka and Champagne. We made it just in time for a countdown to New Year and to see the fireworks over Levi, while sharing the drink between us. A perfect end to an amazing year.

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“For love we’ll give it a (Blueberry) shot. Whoa, livin’ on a prayer”

Following our early morning wakeup call by Tuomo, it was time to clean up the cabin and sauna before starting our hike back to Levi, which we could have done without, following the little sleep and amount of drinking done the day before.

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At 11:30 we headed off back to Levi. It was a stunning day and possibly the lightest day we had experienced during our stay. It was great to see the route we had walked two days prior in daylight. Some of the colours in the sky were amazing.

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Despite us not having to carry food or drink back with us, it didn’t seem to make the hike any easier, though this was probably due to hangover and feeling slightly fragile.

We finally arrived at our hostel in Levi before a quick shower and change and to hit Levi to party! We were all starving and dying for more alcohol after such a long walk and had not eaten anything since breakfast, so we headed out for lots of food and drink!

Later Tuomo and his wife Tiia joined us for more drinks, where we were introduced to some amazing new shots. Especially the Blueberry shot. Awesome! As well as a Finnish version of black Sambuca. The drink was certainly going down nicely.

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Later Rhiannon, Manon and myself went to IHKU, which is a karaoke/nightclub. I have to say it was the funniest karaoke place I have ever seen, as we watched the locals singing numerous familiar sounding tunes but in Finnish and singing very badly! So we decided to do a song in English to get the crowd going and opted for Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, which seemed to go down quite well as we were joined on stage by a group of German’s amongst others, before being kicked out at closing time at 4am.

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It’s Really Poo Saying Goodbye

As the first of our flights home, via Helsinki wasn’t until around midnight, we spent the day wandering around Levi recovering from an even worse hangover than the one from New Year’s Eve.
Before heading to the airport for the first flights, we all went for a traditional Finnish meal where most of us ordered reindeer dishes, with Stevie opting for the one where you can eat as many of them as you like, for which he ate 3!

Before saying our goodbyes to Tuomo and Tiia, Rhiannon gave my fellow Polarists a handmade Fjällräven Fox Christmas decoration as a thank you present before Tuomo gave us all a packet of reindeer poo for our journey home.

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After arriving in Helsinki after 1am, we said our goodbyes to Tuija and Tero as they headed to their home in Helsinki, while the rest of us spent the next 6 hours camped out in the airport before me and Rhiannon said goodbye to Manon, Melanie and Stevie before our flights back home.

Finnish Lapland is an amazing and magical place in the winter. It was bizarre how little light there is during the winter months, which can often make your body disorientated and confused with what time of day it is and what you feel or think you should be doing at that time.

The scenery was breath-taking at times and is exactly how I had seen it on many photos I had seen previously and which I thought had been enhanced, but they had obviously not been.
It was great meeting up with my fellow Fjällräven Polarists as well as being joined by Rhiannon, Stevie, Tero and Tuomo’s wife Tiia. We had such a laugh the whole time and all had a New Year we will never forget.

I would love to spend all my future New Year’s in the Finnish Lapland wilderness, as it was without doubt the best New Year I have ever experienced. Hopefully some more Fjällräven Polarists will join us next time.

We all can’t thank Tuomo enough for how well he organised our visit. It was perfect from start to Finnish! (See what I did there! ;) )

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You can view a lot more photos from our amazing time in Finnish Lapland in my video montage below:

You can also read my review on my Fjällräven Kajka 75 rucksack I used during our time in Finland here.

2 Responses to "Walking in a Finnish Wonder(lap)land"

    Comments (2)

  1. Sounds like you all had a fun time =)

  2. Leave a comment

Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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