Monday, 19 July 2010


Written 17th july

And Norweigish-ed and a little bit Swedish-ed :)

A little scandinavian, arctic circle tour yesterday, our last day in Finland.

We woke up in our finnish layby to find ourselves under attack from squadron after squadron of small bitey things - not as vicious or hungry as the ones at hippy central thankfully but irritating nonetheless - not sure where or how they were getting in but everytime we swatted one out of the air, two more locked on to the same trajectory.  A kiwi rasta hippy (honestly!) we met said the best thing to do about mozzies was sleep naked outdoors for two days and just let them bite.  You feel shit for two days then they leave you alone.  If you're not that  hardcore, a week of daytime biting, you feel shit-ish for a week then no more.  Hmmm not sure about that.  And the best way to stop bites itching is to sting yourself all over with nettles, go in a hot sauna and then jump in a cold lake... Yes well I can see why after that you might find the bites less irritating...  We just spayed some fly killer around and moved on - so our windscreen became a mozzie accident black spot - literally :)

And on into sweden as it happened, to try and find cheaper petrol.   Which we did although a bit confused to find the shop shut, until we remembered the time difference....  But they opened up for us anyway which was very nice of them. 

And we saw some swedish reindeer!

Obviously vastly different from the finnish ones...

The best finnish reindeer are sadly unphotographed due to woeful inattention of behalf of chief photographer and flat refusal by chief photographer's chauffeur to turn round and go back for a creature which has probably run off already...  

Big antlered stag silhouetted in middle of road ahead

Even bigger antlered stag which suddenly appeared out of nowhere to side of van and nearly became road kill - although I think it would have done more damage to Jules to be quite honest

And, bestest of all

A little light coloured one with a pink nose, all alone by the side of the road.  Clearly he wasn't allowed to join in all the reindeer games :(  but we loved him, unlike all those shallow other reindeer... ;)

And back into finland. down south it was all endless flat landscape, traversed by long straight roads, flanked by either tall forests or lakes or both, with occasional glimpses of deep red, grey-blue or olive green wooden houses with white window frames through the trees  (unaccountably unphotographed). Here, it is  endless flat landscape and long straight roads flanked by short scrubby trees and the occasional lake and glimpses of deep red, grey-blue or olive green wooden houses with white window frames through the trees .  But still quite dull.  Livened slightly by the unexpected sight of a roller skier - on superlong ski-like roller blades - gliding along the road like on crosscountry skis.

And into norway,

long straight roads flanked by short scrubby trees and the occasional lake with glimpses of deep red, grey-blue or olive green wooden houses with white window frames through the trees but this time with hills!

Oh the excitement ;)

Oh, but not before we were seduced into a roadside tat shop by a sign promising coffee and a donut for 50 eurocents.  Surely this cannot be??  We haven't had coffee since riga as it's too expensive.  But it was true!  And turned out to be a great loss leader as we came out with coffee, donut, knife sharpening block and a tin of braised reindeer for dinner (we decided against the grizzly, wolf or elk) - well you have to (and don't you go shouting poor ickle rudolph at me).

We stopped briefly in Kautokeino, a Sami (the indiginous nomadic lapland people) town and a break in the silversmith's, a fabulous aladdins cave of a shopbuilt to resemble drifting snow,

which showcases traditional Sami things, 

handemade silver jewelry, and other crafty things.  

And onwards once more towards Karasjok - seat of the Sami parliament - where we decided to stop en route  for the night in a pleasant carpark by a rushing river.  There were two other vans already there and I was just saying how funny it would be if one of them was english, when we got close enough to see that, against all the odds, it was!

And he had a fire going in the thoughtfully provided fire pit - excellent.

And so we met John and Sandy. Two ex-RAF, retired british motohomers who have been on the road since february.  And they're from colchester - practically neighbours!  They didn't even really know they wanted to come to Norway until Sandy chanced upon a book of aires with fabulous pictures at a recent caravan club meet and with that on board, somehow their tyre tracks wended northwards from france through germany, to denmark and beyond, right to Nordkapp and the easternmost point of Norway, right on the russian border where Sandy was telling us, she saw beluga whales surfacing against a backdrop of the midnight sun, their spouts glistening like diamonds in th light - sounds simply amazing.

They're on an open-ended trip with a probable return in september as they've just had a text from their son in colchester saying he has bought a concrete boat with a hole in it for a pound on ebay.  It's currently in dry dock in portsmouth and he'd like John to give him a hand fixing it up, if that's ok please dad.

A concrete boat??  Sounds a very unlikely thing to me!  John and Sandy have no idea either - hopefully they will send us a picture when they eventually see it... 

They had the fire and the bbq going and had their dinner ready just as we arrived - yummy looking pork chop, potato wedges and salad - and then we used the fire and the bbq to cook our reindeer stew (with added carrots) and mash.

Mmm mmm mmm 'licious

Just as we were ready to eat, the heavens opened but being british we just got our brollies out and carried on enjoying the great outdoors...   well, until we finished our dinner and a french van-dweller came over and asked if we had any paper with which they could get the fire in the hut started,

at which point we decamped indoors taking our burning logs with us and a very convivial international evening ensued with me managing to anslate between the two in my once more rusty french when language failed.

The french, whom I will call Celine and Thierry as we didn't get their actual names, pulled out two bottles of aperitif - ricard and gentiane - and a bottle of wine which they offered round the group, and Sandy produced a plate of cheese and biscuits.  Sadly, impoverished vandwellers don't have much to bring to the party - we finished our last wine weeks ago and the port - which would have been perfect - months ago and are even running out of beer already. On that subject though, I had forgotten (or never knew) that Norway is not in the EU and apparently has really strict customs controls about importing and exporting alcohol.  Apparently the limit is 1l of spirits or 2l of wine (but not both) and Sandy and John met some motorhomers who had had more than this in their van (not sure how much but you would stock up if you had the space, especially if you have recently come from france!) and had to pay a fine, and had it confiscated!  Bit harsh!

And whilst the fire crackled merrily away, John and Thierry spent an hour rustling through their maps and circling places on our atlas - many of which match the places already suggested by Brian, our yorkshire friend from all those months ago back in Ronda - as well as the good roads to use and some suggestions about ferries too - brilliant!

I have to confess to having had a bit of a mental block about norway as regards guidebook reading, I don't know why.  I had got as far as Nordkapp but trying to read any further in the lp just kept giving me a headache, especially trying to find places on the map - but now I have a route sorted and its much easier now!  And i'm really excited!

Celine and Thierry had just bid us adieu and bon voyage and headed off the bed when a finnish motorhome pulled up and disgorged two adults and four kids - no idea where they all slept! Maybe they didn't, it being gone midnight by this point - who joined us round the fire to heat their frankfurters on sticks in the flames and then offered coffee round.  Excellent.  They spoke almost no english, we speak absolutely no finnish but having grandkids of his own, John did a smashing job of keeping the kids in fits of giggles and got to play with their fluffy reindeer and jack in the box toys so it was smiles all round before they headed off into the white night.  By this point we were half expecting a a belgian van to pull up and offer us after dinner mints, but sadly not to be... :)

More chat, recommendations and coffee in the morning and then we bid them farewell. Them south down the swedish coast, us inexorably northward bound.

We had hoped for a tour round the sami parliament building - with its main assembly room built in the shape of a traditional teepee - but had forgotten it was saturday so sadly closed so again not to be :(

So, northwards once more.  V v excited now!  On the theme of traditional-means-of-winter-conveyance-in-the-summertime, in a recent town, we saw a husky pulling a woman along who was standing on the back of a trolley thing.  We have found our first fjord - the Porsangenfjorden - and our first norweigan reindeer - although as they are on the beach, they might be santa's reindeer on their holidays! We have just crossed the 70th parallel and we are finally on the same map page as Nordkapp!!  


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