|Meindl Dovre Extreme|
We purchased the last supplies needed in Sodankylä. We munched on the huge, delicious kebab rolls Hidi had made in the parking lot of the Tankavaara Gold Museum. The Tankavaara Visitor Centre was closed, so we headed for Saariselkä next. We got the keys to the rental wilderness huts from the service point Kiehinen of the State Forest Enterprise. We were told that there were a lot of hikers about. According to the weather forecast, at least Saturday and Sunday would be dry. We left the car in the parking lot at Kiilopää. It took us some time to get our gear ready. We did not make it to the trail until after 2 p.m.
|Suomunruoktu unlocked/rental wilderness hut|
www.Calazo.fi). The manufacturer guarantees that the map will endure to be folded 20,000 times. For our evening meal, we cooked Mexican stew with some kebab meat. After dinner, I prepared myself for my upcoming role as a dishwasher by watching Hidi’s model performance. After washing the dishes, Hidi was contemplating his fork. For eight years it had followed him on these treks, but it had never been needed. Now it was time for this useless burden to stay behind and become part of the amenities in the Suomunruoktu hut.
|Dinner by the campfire of Suomunruoktu|
2nd day of the trek. Sunday 4th September, 2016. From Suomunruoktu to Tuiskukuru to Luiro. Up at 5.30 a.m. As per usual Kake had made us our morning coffees. I munched on some chocolate biscuits while sipping the coffee. The night had been cold. There was frost on the rain cover of my rucksack. There was only enough power in the old camera battery to take a couple of pictures. I shoved the battery in my trouser pocket to warm it up. Tapsa was out in the yard trying out his new tortuous tripod that could be wrapped, for example, around a tree branch. The weather forecast for the afternoon promised rain, so I willingly put on my rain pants already in the morning. They would also keep me somewhat warm. I also decided to leave a thin, long-sleeved shirt under my coat at least for the first leg of the day’s trek.
|Old mules at Suomunruoktu|
|Light My Fire|
Grandpas Fire Fork
|Luiron autio- ja varaustupa|
The three ladies who had dined at the campfire site took over half of the lower bunk in the rental hut and the old mules took over the other half. It was nice to sit by candlelight in the hut. Ulla, the teacher, was able to tell us that the berries resembling lingonberries were actually bunchberries. The berries are not poisonous, but not that delicious either. Fowl are eager to eat them, and they spread the plant to new places. I was getting sleepy. Once again, I remembered my wife’s warning about the temptresses roaming in Lapland. I climbed to the upper bunk and curled up next to the wall. The day’s trek on the map.
|First snow in Luiro|
|Luiro in the morning|
|Mules of Lapland in Luiro|
|Tapsa by Raappana kammi|
|Sokosti fell in the background|
|On top of Apujoukkojenvaara fell|
The rental hut already had an occupant who got up from the lower bunk as the Mules of Lapland made their noisy entrance. Seppo was enjoying a day off, while his hiking companions were visiting Anterinmukka. As per usual, the old mules seized the bed places on the lower bunk. Seppo promised us to snore loudly during the night, so the upper bunk seemed once again to be the better option for sleeping. The base boards and mattresses in the bed are excellent at muffling the nightly sounds that sleepers might make. Tapsa made us some grub. As we were dining, we watched how a man and a woman waded slowly and carefully through the river Muorravaarakkajoki. Neither of them had walking sticks to help them in this task. The couple made it through the river without any mishaps, but both were really hungry. I washed the kettle that the Mules of Lapland had used, returned it to the hut for Greta and Markku to use, and only then continued to do the rest of the dishes.
Stefan, Sylvie and Johanna were from Halle in Central Germany. Stefan told us, that the name of the city comes from salt. ‘Halen’ is the old Celtic word for salt that was mined from a valley near the city. The German ladies’ knees were aching so Kake went to get some magnesium gel from his rucksack. When you rub it on the skin after exercising, it relieves the aches and pains. The Germans were more social than the Czechs we had encountered on our first night. Stefan even promised us to be our guide in the alpine landscapes of Germany and Austria should we ever find ourselves in that area. I delighted the Germans by studiously reciting the only German sentence that I can remember by rote; ‘Helsinki ist die Haupstadt von Finnland.’ You can find the family’s notes about their hike here. The day’s trek on the map.
|Purnuvaarakka of Muorravaarakka|
blog and admire his excellent photos on Instagram. The documentarist collected some material in Anterinmukka by interviewing couple of people.
I scuttled down to the sauna beach. The old mules had already bathed in the sauna and were now happily cooling off on the porch. The geezers were sipping the beers they had lugged around with them the whole trip just for this particular occasion. To me, the fresh water in the river Anterinjoki tasted better. I heard that the old couple had once again neglected to fill the water pot in the sauna. The mules of Lapland had spent a considerable amount of time carrying water and firewood as well as tinkering with the fire chamber before being able to enjoy the steam in the sauna. At the same time, there were multiple people in the hut still waiting for their turn in the sauna. We kept wondering and pondering on the motive for such a lack of consideration for others. In our conversation we established that from now on the old man would be known as the ‘sauna curmudgeon’.
|The Old Mules of Lapland on the porch of Anterinmukka sauna|
Kake, Tapsa and Hidi had taken a dip in the river Anterinjoki after the steaming sauna. The cold water held no allure for me, so I washed myself in the sauna. It felt nice to put on clean clothes for a change. Our return journey began immediately after having something to eat. After hiking for three hours we arrived back at Muorravaarakka. The mouse had frolicked in the hut while we were gone. The rodent had torn a hole in the plastic bag where I kept my breakfast things. Oatmeal, almond flakes and raisins had poured on the table. The little mouse, who obviously appreciated a balanced diet, had also opened a packet of crispbread. Finally, it had been planning to feast on chocolate biscuits, but that plan had never come to fruition. There was a dotted line of angry bite marks on the edge of the plastic carton covering the biscuits. The steep decline along the Tiuhtelmakuru gorge at the end of our sauna trip had been trying for Hidi. Both of his knees were aching and burning. I suggested a course of ibuprofen for the remainder of the trip. The crêpes we made for dinner were delicious. The day’s trek on the map.
|Chocolate biscuits were out of reach of the mouse|
|Muorravaarakka rental hut|
|Close to Pirunportti|
At some point, ‘sauna curmudgeon’ and his wife had made an appearance at the hut. It was easy to distinguish the couples’ delightful vintage rucksacks on the side of the hut from all the other rucksacks. Luckily, ‘sauna curmudgeon’ was sleeping in the unlocked wilderness hut. It was getting duskier. It was starting to look like we would be the only people staying in the rental hut. The old mules were heartily eating their dinner. Smokey tabasco was apparently just the thing that the food needed. I devoured four sausages with loads of mustard and was completely full. Kake pushed the kettle in my direction. There was still a small amount of pasta carbonara left. According to Kake, everybody else was too full to eat the last portion. In my opinion, you shouldn’t waste good food. I heroically emptied the kettle.
The day’s trek on the map.
|Break by Sotavaaranoja|
|Bridge over Sotavaaranoja|
The path took us now straight towards south. After a while, we found another charming rest stop on top of a waterfront ridge. Someone had lugged a couple of dry deadwood to sit on around the stone circle surrounding the campfire site. However, I was unable to enjoy this scenic spot. My stomach had started to gurgle in an unpleasant way. I wanted to hurry onwards. On the map, the way to the river Lankojärvi hut seemed easy enough. All I needed to do was to follow the path travelling on the western side of the river Suomujoki. I couldn’t get lost even if I missed the path. On the left side there was the river, and on the right side the hillsides of Karunaslaavu. I just needed to stay between the river and the hillsides. The old mules stayed and sat by the campfire as I continued my way.
|Hidi and Kake|
The legendary ‘Meänteinen’ lived in Lankojärvi in the 1950s and 60s. Originally, Meänteinen came to Saariselkä as a lumberjack when he was just a lad of fifteen. Later on he built a turf hut, a statue trove and some other necessary things at the Lake Lankojärvi without permission. The remnants of Meänteinen’s living area are still visible in a southern islet of the Lake Lankojärvi (N68°18ʹ26.9ʺ E27°48ʹ51.5ʺ). It is said, that the hermit man had harassed hikers and stolen their food. By pleading guilty to these crimes, Meänteinen was able to spend some time among civilization enjoying the warmth and food in prison. Living in the future national park was not looked kindly upon and finally the authorities forced him to leave his home. Nowadays Meänteinen lives in Taivalkoski.
|Two swans in Lankojärvi|
The day’s trek on the map.
Some final thoughts. During our seven trekking days we walked altogether 127 kilometres according to the GPS. In reality, the route was somewhat shorter. For example, during the breaks the Suunto Ambit GPS had misconstrued our movement and had interpreted it as us walking back and forth in a small area. 20 kilometres per day carrying a rucksack weighing 20 kilogrammes is a reasonable goal in the easily trekked terrains of Saariselkä. Except if it’s raining heavily. Or if you get sick. Or get lost. In reality, it was nice that on some days the trek wasn’t that demanding.
During this trek the weather was excellent. It never once rained so much that we would have had to hike in wet clothes. A couple of showers and some sporadic drizzles didn’t bother us. The temperature was also perfect when it came to preserving our food. During the trek we ran into many old friends of the Mules of Lapland. We didn’t see any reindeer or grouse. An interesting change to the situation we had a couple of years before, was that there were now a lot more foreign hikers about. Hiking in Lapland seems to appeal especially to young couples from Central Europe. Maybe it has something to do with testing the stability of your relationship in the harsh conditions, kind of like ‘If we are still together after this trek, then we are really meant to be.’ Or as Arja Saijonmaa sings:
“How to recognise who is a true friend,
If they are the right one for you,
Let the mountain hills determine,
Who will always stand by your side,
When everyone else is so far away,
And there are no more duckboards to walk on,
The one who just whimpers by your side,
Can go back to where they came from.”
Inspired by the stomach problems I had on the 6th day of the trek, I skimmed through some literature on the cleanliness of the water in hill brooks. In a study by Ari Hörman (2005), 41% of the samples taken from the surface waters in Finland contained at least one pathogen. Of course, the situation could be different for the brooks in Lapland compared to the rest of the country. Animal faeces and dead animals are important sources for microbes. Stomach problems can be caused e.g. by norovirus, campylobacteria and salmonella bacteria as well as protozoans. A stomach bug caused by the protozoans can last as long as two weeks. Heavy rain washes the pathogens from the ground to the bodies of water. During hot summers the quality of surface water is often worse than during other seasons. Metals, such as iron and manganese, that come separated from the soil do not pose a danger to health on a trek lasting a week or two. The safest way to clean the water is to boil it for a couple of minutes.
Translated by Anna-Kaisa Tolonen from the original travelogue.