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Finland

Finland

3 Mar 2020

Saturday 

Dennis the menace is on my tail!

As England recovers from one large front only to be followed by another, more powerful and reeking havoc. We catch our flight to Finland.

We had arranged to do this in July 2019, for Mike an opportunity to relax for me a chance to be out in the snow!

Flights were organised with Finnair - £370.00 return

Accommodation organised via at £500.00 including sauna, two bedrooms, a main room capable of holding 5 - 6 if you like it cosy. http://www.booking.com/Share-Z1AwBKY or on airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/33768149?s=67&shared_item_type=1&virality_entry_point=1&unique_share_id=2ef4a8cf-2e53-4918-a89c-d58f98e69a7b

Food I thought was expensive our initial shop at Lidl at £86.00 but hopefully that will last the week!

Our first escape was to get to Helsinki, considering it was just a plane, I had just enough room to be relatively comfortable. Helsinki airport is just that on our arrival it was throwing it down, much like our beloved Manchester. We had a 50 minute wait to catch out next flight to Oulu, our flight was also 50 minutes!

One landing we found that my luggage had been, misplaced. We hung onto the next flight and I filled in a form, general practice, I was not the only one! The form asked:-

Who I was

Where I lived

Where I was staying, and till when

Which flight I was on

What had been lost

And I posted this form - misplacing luggage seem to happen a lot in Helsinki, my first time!

Whilst I was looking desperately for my luggage Mike sorted the car, my luggage didn’t arrive so we decided to go!

We drove to Oulu found the residence of the person who holds the keys, also the owner Leif a Finn with a difference most of his life being spend in Salford, not Manchester there is a clear difference! We were given directions and go his amazement do you not have mobile phones? This is possibly the way forward!

So we had a three hour drive to Syöte after all we were driving on Snow, more than enough snow to bring England to a standstill.

We found our cabin, had a beer, watched American movies with Finn subtitles and relaxed!

 

Sunday 

It had snowed during my slumber adding about an inch to the already metre deep snow - I looked out of the window for my first real experience of Finland in the light, the snow was deep, very deep, the pine forest we were in, the bows were heavy with snow, wearing the one set of clothes I had I headed out! Yes it was cold but not uncomfortable I wandered around our home for the next six days, found everything without really having to look! It was organised enough wood, axe, knife, outdoor fire pit, buried under a metre of snow!

I came back in made some breakfast had some coffee, then decided that I would have a sauna! 

Mike had done all the driving the previous day and slept well!

The sauna was a wood burning one and although the heating had been on it was chilly sat waiting for the stones to heat! Note to self, set fire, disappear and do something else, return add water for steam!

Whilst I was sauna- ing, I heard Mike rise from his bed, when I came out he was breakfasted and listening to some music!

We decided that we couldn’t go to far today as my gear may - may not be delivered, and we needed to get out wits around the place, but first, nothing!

I lasted about a minute and a half, put my gloves on and grabbed a shovel and started the ten metre dig to the fire pit! After the two hour graft I got the fire going and suggested Mike came down to enjoy the fire!

The fire roared and the existing snow on the ground around the cast iron pit started to melt, my luggage was dropped off by a kind man in a van, all the Finns we met spoke perfect English!

After an hour we decided that we should actually look around! Our cabin is in the Pikku-Syöte area, and as such people were skiing past the cabin, heading down and across the lake (Kovalami), less than three minutes walk from our cabin. In the summer a perfect spot for canoeing I imagine.

We went to the hire centre at Pikku-Syöte priced skis and lifts, then drove to Iso-Syöte a larger complex! Did some more pricing, this time skidoo, fat bikes, and snow shoes! We came back to our cabin! I lit the sauna, and made a snack. After our sauna I relit the fire pit and sat outside enjoying the glow of the fire reflecting off the snow!

Monday 

Today I rose at 0800 made myself some breakfast coffee and set off the sauna!

At 0900 I had my sauna, as my ruck sack had been delivered I had soap, and a change of clothes, both came in handy after my very hot sauna!

Mike had sorted himself out by 1100 so we went to Pikku-Syöte.

We hired our skis, boots, poles, helmet and goggles - two days for 54.00. Euro. We drove onto Iso-Syöte less than four kilometres and booked out skidoo session, an evening trek in the dark! Hoping for clear night however that does not seem likely!

We drove back to Pikku-Syöte - eight different piste two different T bar pulls open, a further two were available but closed down all for 24.00. Euro. We were warned that it is school half term and it was expected to be busy, well no waiting on the lifts, at times we were the only people on the piste. So after three hours of constant skiing and skiing each of the piste. We called it a day with a coffee, and free refill!

We drove back to our accommodation and I set to work with the sauna, getting the fire going. Whilst that was heating I turned my attention to the fire pit and and soon had a roaring blaze! 

After an hour I had my sauna again, drying in the chill of the wind. I set off the pasta, and rejoined the fire pit, the heat has left a myriad of shapes in the melted snow and the tar from birch smoke tarnishing the white snow! After dinner the fire kept both Mike and myself outside! Merrily chatting over the day and putting to rights the leadership of the Labour Party, and the predicament of Borris Johnson.

 

Tuesday

My routine is now set, up at 0730 put the fire on for the sauna, make breakfast and coffee. Make enough noise that Mike wakes, after an hour the sauna is ready, so in the sauna for half an hour. 

Dress for the day and off by 0930, this enables us to get to the slope for 1000, at which time everything opens!

We went to Iso-Syöte, possibly Finland’s largest resort, the day started with rain, reminiscent of the Scottish resort without it being horizontal, or the Scottish wind!

The resort has two main tows and eight different slopes, the majority here are red, steep, icy, a few blues and 4 blacks, the blacks are either play areas for freestyle or steep ground with deep powder snow, on my descent it was wet clingy snow, heavy underfoot and collecting on my skis and boots, my only black of the day! The reds are well bashed, ice and snow, in places narrow and steep, up to my adventurous nature!

We spent three hours going from slope to slope, repeating the better ones, as 1300 came round Mike and I had lost one another, no longer the empty slopes of yesterday but a thriving resort! I found a place to sit and lookout for Mike! Ironically it was him who found me! We had lunch and a few drinks 54.00 Euro, for the two of us! Our afternoon not as strenuous as our morning. We Wound up and drove back to Pikku-Syöte and handed back our downhill skis.

Once back I set off the fire in the sauna and the fire outside, I made tea once again and we ate a hearty meal, the fire outside now going well I went out and enjoyed the evening in the snow

 

Wednesday

The day started cold, colder than the last few days anyway.  Our routine set I made breakfast. At 0930 we headed back to Pikku - Syöte and hired our cross country skis, 40 Euro for two days. We headed out it was disconcerting seeing the Finns ski past us with the greatest of ease, my skis slid when they should grip, and grip when they should have slid! After an hour and a half I was exhausted and wondered if cross country skiing was for me. We headed back to the cabin and had an early lunch! 

Determined not to let it get the better of us we headed out from our cabin to try a blue (easy) route. Well I don’t know what changed but my skiing improved a 100%, and I found my rhythm the skis glided over the compact snow, when I pushed the skis gripped and my shoulders provided additional effort propelling me forward. All was right with the world! Then came the slight descent I let the skis glide, and I picked up speed, faster and faster, the skis in the channels created by I don’t know how many Finns, I became aware that I was going faster than I wished, and attempted to slow down unsuccessfully eventually losing control and falling to the side in deep snow.  I rolled off the pathway as to not get in the way of other skiers only to see Mike do the same thing! 

All in all our afternoon was much more productive than the morning!

On returning to our cabin I set the fire going for the sauna, waited an hour then enjoyed! Whilst Mike was in I made tea! 

We headed out again this time to do our skidoo session, well wrapped up as the temperature was -15, the sky’s clear and the Milky Way running behind the constellation of Orion. There were six of us in total on our mini expedition, and after a brief acclimatisation to the skidoo off we went in single file! Stopping twice, I admired the stars, I have seen clear dark skis before but for the life of me I can’t remember one better, I was hoping that the northern lights might just put on a display but alas no!

Eventually we arrived at a hut, the dry wood had a lovely pine smell about it and it was dry, seasoned and ready to burn! Our leader, a Finn in his mid twenties started to feather some smaller sticks, I asked if I could and continued until there was enough to set a fire, the fire started easily and drinks were passed around served in wooden cups, hand crafted a work of art! A kuksa.

Once the trip was over we finished our day in a bar, with a couple of beers and Finnish sprit.

 

Thursday 

After a fitful night I woke at 0600, the sky was still bright with stars, and very cold. I relaxed for a couple of hours until Mike got up, he said he didn’t sleep well either, we had breakfast and Mike promptly went back to bed.

I slipped on my down gear and enjoyed the outside cold with a cup of coffee!

Whatever I had the previous evening did not agree with me!

 

Friday 

Leif made the two hour trip for him to the cabin, we chatted a while before heading out to hire snow shoes, Leif brings his family to the cabin when not hired out and knows the area really well. It was snowing heavily and we made our way to hire our snow shoes, 20.00 Euro including poles! We then drove another five minutes or so to an information centre, and had a look around at the history of the area. Snow shoes and fat bikes can also be hired here!

We attached the shoes and started out, we crossed a flat plateau before we started the two km gentle climb, the snow was still heavy, and it was perfect, the pine trees were laden with snow, the boughs bent with the weight, I found the snow shoes hard going, but can only imagine how much harder it would have been without them. After about an hour and a half we arrived at a cabin, like the cabin on our skidoo trip it was stocked with wood, and we lit a fire, another family joined us and started cooking on the fire!

After about 45 minutes we started off on our descent, only to find that we had a very steep climb, the route was well marked I noted on the trees there were yellow paint stripes approx six inches by two. Interspersed with red poles sunk into the ground, the snow was about a metre and a half deep, with a fresh covering as we went. 

Again after about an hour and three quarters we arrived back at the information centre, the whole walk as four and a half kilometres which under normal circumstances I can do in just over an hour! 

We returned our snow shoes, the Finns very trusting as the hirer was out on a skidoo trip, we left them under a tarp!

Food and drink was bought, and that was the end our our activities!

i noted that the snow shoes were still where we left them.

On returning to our cabin we stuck the TV on found a station that had English speaking programs on, as it happened Forrest Gump.

 

Saturday 

We packed up and left after our breakfast at about 0930, the roads were pure ice. Very few other vehicles on the road, as we approached Oulu the roads cleared and the snow dissipated, the traffic increased, arriving at the airport at 1145, the first time I have ever checked in baggage without any assistance, we went through customs, an easy affair. 

We made our way upstairs and spent the last of our cash on lunch and coffee, our flight left ten minutes late adding a little pressure for us to race through Helsinki airport. That flight also left late. On arrival in Manchester we found that once again my luggage had been mislaid. As I type this I get updates from the courier on when my ruck sack will be delivered!

Car hire through Avis at £268.00 for seven days

Additional car insurance through Opodo £62.00

Petrol used, and we drove every day was 42 Euro