To the Middle of Snowhere

19/6/17. The relaxed atmosphere at the campsite in Sodankylä extended to people’s sleeping hours! On the first night we “enjoyed” being serenaded by someone playing the accordion 50 metres away from 1.30 to 4.00 in the morning. Unfortunately he was with about 20 other people who joined in the singing from time to time so we didn’t feel able to express our thoughts!

On the second night when we turned in there was a group of a dozen youngsters sitting around talking outside their tents – which happened to be about 10 feet from ours. Most of the conversation was in Finnish but every so often one of them would say in English “Perhaps we ought to get going”. We almost shouted out “Yes. Do.” but it was not until gone 11.30 that the rest agreed with her. Perhaps they were off to see a film.

We swallowed our annoyance and put it down to the Finnish youngsters enjoying the daylight after their long winter nights. Oh to be young!

As a result we were slow getting going on Saturday morning but by 10.30 we were ready for the off. As we were turning off the main road which we had been following for 3 or 4 days into less inhabited areas we made sure our food stocks were topped up.

It turned out to be a long day of undulating quiet roads passing many, many trees and lakes, about 4 villages and 1 shop which had closed an hour earlier when we got there at 3 o’clock. As we had been told that the weather was about to take a turn for the cooler and wetter we decided to aim for the next sizeable place, Savukoski, which had a campsite according to the guidebook where we hoped to get a cabin for the night rather than freeze our wotsits off wild camping beside the road.

Although the hills were not steep or long, they just kept coming for the first 70 km and we were both beginning to feel tiredness in our legs. However, the long light evening meant that we could keep plugging away and thankfully the last 20 km brought a welcome respite from the climbing as the road followed a river valley.

At about 7.30 w arrived in Savukoski only to find Mrs Santa’s campsite (!) did not open until 24 June which brought home to us how early in the “season” we are. Luckily a couple of hundred metres up the road was a hotel so we checked in for two nights to enable Christine to have her ”pill day” on Sunday.

Surprisingly the hotel was going to be closed on Sunday – in fact it closed at 9 o’clock on Saturday evening! – with large doors locked to keep the wing with the rooms, small breakfast room and sauna shut off from reception and the restaurant. The room key provided provides access to this wing through a separate outside for. Breakfast was plated up for each room (in fact only one other was occupied) and left in the fridge.

All in all a strange arrangement but it worked for us as we wanted a quiet day.

The rain arrived on Saturday night but stopped about 10 in the morning so Stephen went for a short ride (just to keep the legs supple, you understand!) while Christine walked into the village to visit the small supermarket for chocolate.

By Monday morning the rain had returned and looked to be set in for the day. We had our breakfast from the fridge and then, having packed, sat reading for an hour in the hope it might blow over.

It stopped – sort of – and so we decided to give it a try. The temperature was a real contrast to the toasty warmth of the hotel. Interestingly, Christine had over-estimated the cold and so soon started to remove an article of clothing or two while Stephen had veered on the optimistic side and had to resort to putting on more layers!

The rain did not hold off for long. It came and went throughout the day until mid afternoon but was not too heavy – just enough to give Christine grief with her glasses.

We headed southeast on a beautifully quiet road until we were within a couple of kilometres of the border with Russia. With a restricted number of crossings, there were several small, gravel roads that led off to houses but then came to an abrupt end. Eventually our quiet road met a more major one that did lead to Russia but we turned the other way as we do not have visas. (They cost more than £100 each and you have to list every country visited in the last 10 years with dates. This would be a major, major exercise for us since we are in our 37th country in the last couple of years and we did quite a lot of travelling before that.)

The road took us to our goal for the day – the town of Salla, which is close to one of Finland’s main ski resorts (ominous!) and which describes itself as The Middle Of Snowhere. We had read that most of the hotels were actually at the resort some 10 km further on but, having covered more than 80 km already in the day, we were hopeful that the one place in the town would need acceptable.

It looked pretty scruffy from the outside but decided to try. Inside was no smarter and when we were quoted €105 we declined figuring we would try our luck elsewhere. We pressed on and reached the resort surprisingly quickly as the road, while not flat, skirted the hill (it’s no mountain!) where we could see the ski runs. Pulling into the first hotel we saw we secured a small cabin with kitchen, bathroom and sauna for €70. Result!

Christine in particular was feeling pleased with herself for having completed more than 90 km on each of the last two days of cycling, meaning that we have averaged 60 km with a rest/pill day in between.

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