Back in Civilisation

16/6/17. It was another cold night by the goldmine, perhaps not surprising as we were at about 1,000 ft above sea level, but when we woke it felt a touch warmer.

The start of the day was not quite as flat as we had hoped but after a couple of smallish climbs it levelled out and we made reasonable progress. Passing through the village of Vuotso we took the opportunity to top up on supplies as it looked as though it was the last place of any significance for about 100 km.

However, crossing a river that flies between two large reservoirs we came across a small cafe and souvenir shop so we stopped for cloudberry pancakes with cream and ice cream – yummy! While we were eating a British motorhome drove up and we started chatting to the couple who got out. They were from Sevenoaks in Kent and explained they were on a group tour organised by the Caravan Club with 20 other motor homes – which explained why we had seen several British number plates driving in the opposite direction throughout the morning.

As the afternoon progressed it warmed up and we removed clothes so that by the end we were both down to two thin layers on top and Stephen was in shorts. However, as the sun got lower in the sky more clouds blew in and the temperature started to drop again. At these latitudes, if, the sun is out it is generally lovely and warm but as soon as it goes behind a cloud or you move into the shade, it gets nippy.

Late in the afternoon Stephen reached significant milestone, or rather his bike did. It passed 30,000 km since he bought it eight years ago, 18,000 of which have been done since we set off from home in April 2015.

With no prospect of reaching a proper campsite for at least a couple of hours we were on the lookout for a place suitable for wild camping. Spying a clump of trees on what appeared to be dry ground we went for it and it was only after Stephen had put up the tent that Christine spotted that a house was visible through the trees. After some discussion it was decided that it was too late to move (i.e. Stephen couldn’t be bothered to pack the tent away again) unless someone came and told us to be on our way. As it transpired we were not disturbed.

Again it was a cold night but by the time we stirred our stumps in the morning it was warming up nicely and so Stephen was in shorts from the start and even Christine set off with only three layers on the top.

The road was a little busier than previously and, although relatively flat, it was quite hard going as, when we were cycling there appeared to be a headwind which mysteriously disappeared whenever we stopped. We passed houses with increasing regularity,and it was a much more pastoral scene than we had passed through as we saw a small flock of sheep (the first farm animals we had seen other than the reindeer wandering freely) and a couple of the houses had small vegetable plots.

By late morning we saw an excellent cycle path on the opposite side of the road so we knew we were approaching the town of Sodankylä. We say “town” but compared to what we had seen since Kirkenes it was a bustling metropolis with 3 (count them) large supermarkets and at least half a dozen cafes, restaurants and pizza joints. And it was thriving with people! A few days earlier two Finnish girls on a tandem had told us we would probably reach there in time for the Midnight Sun Film Festival and clearly we had.

We made our way to the campsite just across the river and were told that, although busy there should be room for us to squeeze into the free camping area. Well, compared to a couple of sites in Germany last summer where it was almost impossible to walk without tripping over overlapping guy ropes it was positively palatial! In addition there was a washing machine which was only €1 and plentiful hot water in the showers (to catch up on personal hygiene after a night’s wild camping). All in all it seemed like paradise – so much so that we decided almost instantaneously that we would stay a second night.

As we both enjoy a good film we poured over the programme for the festival, hoping to find something to watch even if it was in the middle of the night (it runs throughout the “night”) but were disappointed to see nothing that took our fancy, it being mainly arty-farty Finnish language productions. These do not feature highly on our list of must-see films!

So instead we have had a very relaxing day and a half mooching around town, taking in the sights. These mainly consist of two churches, imaginatively called” the old” and “the new”! The former is very impressive being made entirely of wood and saying dating back to 1689. We also went for a very pleasant walk alongside a wide and lovely river that flies right through the town. The whole ambience here feels very relaxed and laid back, and we fitted right in!

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