I decided to rent a car as it turned out to be the most convenient way to travel around and to access some pretty remote places. My very good friend, Kamil Jagodzinski, Project manager for the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi and photographer, help me planning the trip so I could visit as many key locations as possible. And eventually he came along with me. It was indeed much nicer to be with a friend and having some good laughs than me driving through all these miles alone singing out of tune on Finnish songs.. (well..we actually did that anyway...)
Back to Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi/FI - 5 and 6 May
On Tuesday 5 May, here I am in Rovaniemi again, only three months after the race. It feels good to be back! And it all looks very different in spring. Very little snow left. Daylight most of the time. Mild temperature. After picking up the car - called Sweetie - at the airport, I drove downtown to meet Kamil at Arctic Centre. Nice to see him again! We got organised and packed our stuff, ready to hit the road on Wednesday afternoon. Some meetings are arranged for at the AC in the morning. In particular we met Florian Stammler, Anna Stammler-Gossman and Nuccio Mazzullo of the Anthropology Research team and had a very interesting and enthusiastic conversation on how my project can add visibility to some of their major research. We agreed on the practicalities of our collaboration and I left the AC my hands full of books and information brochures to bring back home. What a promising start!
Rovaniemi - Hettä/Enontekiö/FI - Kautokeino/NO - Kilpisjärvi/FI - 6 and 7 MayIn the afternoon we set of to Hetta, 317 km north from Rovaniemi.The real Lapland! as mentioned on the website, and our first stop on the track of the Nordkalottleden. In the morning we visited the Fell Lapland Visitor Centre, which held a surprisingly fine and comprehensive exhibition on Sámi and nomadic culture (post to follow). There we accidentally found out that the woman at the reception is actually the one who wrote the only available description in English of the Trail! She explained that some information are not up-to-date and it would be really appreciated if I could take note during my hike and let them know after my return. We agreed to keep in touch.
We then set of again and drove the 80km to Kautokeino, where the Trail starts. The landscape now looked completely different: kilometers of tundra and gentle hills still covered with snow stretching as far as the eye could see. I was very excited to see the town where I will start from! and it actually doesn't look anything special. But we made some great encounters there! Struggling to find the location of the Trail, we ended up at the Juhls Gallery (post to follow) and there met some amazing people who took
some 2 hours of their time for us, providing us with some brilliant information on the area and sections of the Nordkalottleden. So we finally found the very beginning of the Trail (!) at the very end of a tiny remote road. Not like the typical touristic track - sounds perfect to me! There is apparently a better indicated starting point 20k further up, but I want to start from here, the very very beginning.
Time to head back down and drive to our next stop, Kilpisjärvi, 253km further west.We got there by 8pm. Another long drive. A total different scenery. Mountainous. Stunning.
Kilpisjärvi - 8 MayAnother lucky hazard: for our comfort, as a party was going on in the building, we were given another "room": we ended up in an independent gite with mezzanine and sauna! Fine, we can handle it ;-).
Program for this non-driving day: working on the Outreach & Communication plan then going for a hike
in the footsteps of the Nordkalottleden. It's been a very funny and strenuous walk&run: soft snow, deep snow, no skis, joyful spirit. We didn't make it as far as planned but still had a good overview of the area and I can only look forward to coming back there in summer. Kilpisjärvi will be my first supply point, some 190km from Kautokeino.
Kilpisjärvi - Abisko/SE via Nordkjosbotn/NO and Narvik/NO - 9 May
mountains and fjords. Despite a cold and gloomy weather, the drive was beautiful and it was an incredible day. Again, we made an happy encounter on a road stop: three Finnish guys on their way to a mountain resort. It turned out that they knew about the Nordkalottleden and told us that a travel book in Finnish had been published very recently. One of them had rescued one of the author who injured himself out on the trail..!
We arrived in Abisko late afternoon. Off-season. Not much was opened at the mountain station. However we had an amazing time in town, spending the evening with some locals, among them a helicopter pilot, one of the local teacher and a lovely tourist-lodge tenant, listening to a local music band! I gathered more useful information there than in any visitor centers! More contacts made for this summer. And new friends I look forward to seeing again.
The journey back
Abisko - Kiruna/SE - Pello/SE - Rovaniemi - 10 May
On the way we stopped in Kiruna, the "moving city", home of the largest iron ore mine in Europe (post to
follow). Walk in town. Grabbed a coffee. Loaded Sweetie. And time to set off again. Last night was pretty short and I felt tired. We made plenty of stops, excuses for more pictures of reindeer and nice spots, and short walks, and finally got to Rovaniemi by 7pm.
A last night in town, a coffee the next morning with Alex and Julian who I met during the Rovaniemi 150 and time to fly back home. Thanks Sweetie! Thanks for all Kamil! Bye Ziss, Andreas and all the others! Back very soon with my hairy fury friends :)
I come back from this scouting trip my head filled with great memories and images, fully convinced about the feasibility of my expedition and highly motivated to finalise the preparation.