Gold and Cold

13/6/17. We had an excellent night’s sleep in the hotel – so much warmer than a tent but much more expensive than wild camping!

Christine took her weekly pill early and then, after sitting still for a couple of hours as required, made her way to the buffet breakfast making sure that she got our money’s worth, as Stephen had earlier. A cyclist’s appetite is something to behold!

As a result, it was nearly 11 o’clock when we got under way but this had been factored into our plans (we do have them sometimes) the next village, Ivalo, was only 40 km.

There was an excellent cycle path for the first few km out of Inari but then we had to join the road which was “acceptably” busy – not that we had much choice of course. Although there were no big climbs, it was appreciably more hilly than we had become used to since entering Finland and we were not encouraged when a German cyclist going the other way told us that the road ahead had many mountains!

The route took us along the southern shores of Lake Inari, the third largest lake in Finland and the sixth largest in Europe apparently at 50 km wide and 80 km long. The views were stupendous with the reflections of the sky and the trees in the still water.

It was a few degrees warmer than the previous two days so we left off a layer or two but it was still in the “not sweating” range, particularly when in the shade, so we were pleased to reach Ivalo, where we headed for a holiday centre that offered small cabins with shared kitchen and washrooms for €45 a night. The chatty guy in reception startled us when he remarked that he and similar businesses now derive 90% of their income from the Chinese (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) visits coming in the winter for the Northern Lights, husky sleigh rides and reindeer safaris!

Stephen had cause for great merriment when Christine returned to the hut while he finished pratting about on the internet. She reappeared saying that she couldn’t make the key work and would he come and try before she went to reception. It turned out that she had been trying to get into the hut next door!

By Tuesday morning (I was going to say “dawned” but the next dawn is at least 6 weeks away!) it had cooled down again so we were again well wrapped up. Again leaving the village we enjoyed an excellent cycle route beside the road for a spell of 8 km before we had to rejoin the road.

After a few small ups and downs we reached a long climb that seemed to go on for ever. It was probably only 2, or at most 3, km but it took us up to an area where there were still large patches of snow and the temperature was decidedly chilly. The birch trees were noticeably still leafless compared with Inari and Ivalo where the few days’ warmth had made them look very green.

Christine’s legs were feeling the effects of for four days cycling after a long time off the bike and so the downhill that followed was most welcome. Thankfully the road levelled out after that and we made reasonable time to the hamlet of Tankavaara where there is a museum and an opportunity to go panning for gold on the site of a former gold ”mine”. We think they must make more of their gold by relieving tourists of it than the original purpose of the place.

Of more interest to us, it also offered cabins (€70) and camping (€13). Guess which option two accountants went for! The small camping area was dotted with piles of snow but the kitchen and showers were beautifully warm. After dinner Stephen adjourned to the adjacent bar for a beer costing €6.30 and a Wi-Fi top up while Christine went to catch up on the zzzzzs.

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