Finland – Last Days of & The Great Escape

Finland – Last Days of & The Great Escape

 

Monday 9th February

9am pick up for Seb and Stefi (SS) and 11am for me and Daz.  Daz needs to drive the bus and pick up clients because Erkki and Boss Satu are off to Ivalo to buy more stuff for the cabin because from Tuesday we’re going to be using it.

Whilst the SS mob are busy putting the dog teams together, we go to pick up the two clients from hotel Inari, they are from Taiwan.  Inari seems very popular with the Taiwanese maybe its the draw of the snow as most have never seen it!  The lady is very giggly and has big sunglasses and reminds Daz of his time in Thailand… Best not go there!

 

We’re expecting an early finish for Seb and Stefi but then we get a phone call about another 7 clients. Daz has to pick these up too and finally gets to drive the snowmobile on a proper run as Erkki is still in Ivalo. Another 7 Taiwanese, they are all young and we wonder if they are all well paid or on daddy’s expense account.  One of them falls off the back of their sled twice and Lukas has to do an Indiana Jones dive from the snowmobile to catch the runaway sled… Good going!   By the time these clients have gone there’s no chance of an early finish for the SS. Lukas however does get a lift back into town for his weekly shower!  The snow is belting down now and has made it very difficult picking up the horse poop again and generally getting around!   We finally all head back home and Daz sets about cooking a lovely nasi goreng, I assist as ‘sous’ chef and don’t tell anyone I chopped 2 chillies into it!  We meet the new workawayer at dinner, Aude, from France, a young 21 year old who will be working in the Villa Lanca to start. Shame she doesn’t like hot food as the nasi goreng blows everyone’s socks off with the chilli heat! Seb is very funny in his accented Flemish shouting how ‘you English are crazy with your hot food!’

 

Tuesday 10th February

A day off and another (our second) attempt to scale the summit of Otsamo!  So I’ve insisted on an early start to give us the best chance of success and we’re up and breakfasting with the SS who are off to the farm at 9am and will be the first to spend a night in our new farm cabin.

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We’re skiing by 9.30am and feeling confident about our chances of success but once again it’s not to be.  We’re just over half way and our skis start to stick to the snow.  Finally we look at the bottom of our skis and the waist of the ski (the middle section) which has a glue applied (to help go uphill) has loads of snow snuck to it.  So the skis won’t slide.  We clean it off with a knife but it just keeps happening.  We think it’s too warm and the snow too wet.  We continue and a skidoo passes us heading back to Inari. Daz thinks he’s clearing the trails.  About 1km after passing the skidoo we start crossing a lake.  Firstly we try skiing in the skidoo tracks but we keep sinking into slush and water.  We try moving away from the skidoo tracks but we’re still sinking over 6″ and we can feel the water seeping into our boots.  This combined with the sticky snow makes us reconsider.  We’ve made such little progress in the last 30 minutes that we decide to head home.  We’re on our way back when the snow stops, the skies clear and the sun shines across the landscape and we can truly appreciate the beauty of this place.  I’m glad we’re heading back early and not having to worry about getting home in the daylight.  Otsamo will have to wait for another day!! And on our way back we see some reindeer.  We stand silently in the snow as they stand watching us from the forest before they get back to foraging and we move on, the spell broken.  Awesome!

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Back home and Seb turns up.  He was supposed to be spending the night on the farm but because of his epilepsy Erkki and Satu have decided he can’t stay on the farm.  There seems to be an issue because they only found out about his epilepsy from Lukas.  Then there’s some sort of discussion; Seb, Erkki and Boss Satu and they ask if he’s enjoying the farm and when he says “not really, the hours are long and he’d rather work with the horses than the dogs”, it seems their response is unsympathetic.  He must work in conjunction with Stefi and since there are 37 dogs and only 5 horses, the emphasis on dog work will continue.  The long hours are glossed over in much the same way as when Rob mentioned them.  Seb isn’t happy here and would leave early, but he’s booked his return flight for the end of March and it’s non-flexible so he’d need to buy a new flight which he can’t afford!

 

Wednesday 11th February

Today we told Erkki we’re leaving on Saturday.  He said we should have discussed this with him earlier but we know volunteers who have talked to him about the working hours and nothing has changed.  So on Saturday we will head to north Norway.  We are very excited and really looking forward to our travelling adventures.  We hope our next workaway hosts adhere more closely to the premise of workaway, which is generally 25 hours a week work ( 5 hours a day, 5 days a week)whilst being embraced by your hosts and given a flavour of the country and culture.  So a pretty typical day although trying to get Daz to relinquish control to ensure Stefi knows the process inside out is almost impossible.  He can’t help himself.  He keeps taking over.  We have 6 clients so 3 dog teams to prepare.  Lukas decides we should try Ripa, Hila and Kid but leave Bang.  I know from past experience that taking pups from this cage can be difficult.  But we’re all in the cage with a dog each.  And the 3 that are needed leave the cage and I’m holding Bang.  Then disaster – firstly Hila escapes and Stefi has to recapture her.  Then once the 3 pups are away from the cage, I let Bang go and leave the cage.  Unfortunately, he goes ballistic running around the cage trying to escape until he finally managed to scale a fence and he’s away to join the his 3 mates.  Then Hila escapes again and the both run down to the lake where the 3 teams are set up.  2 young pups running free amongst 3 teams soon causes mayhem and there’s fighting and all sorts.  Lukas captures Bang and takes him back to the cage and Hila follows – still running free.  Bang escapes another 2 times before he’s finally chained.  It’s been chaos and everyone’s sweaty having chased at least one dog through deep snow (except Seb, who merely gives a Gaelic shrug ‘Mon dieu!’ and ignores it all!)

Erkki drops me and Daz at the apartment, Stefi is still at the farm and Seb is taken away for another ‘chat’!   He’s back in 10 minutes.  He’s been told he’s being replaced and he needs to leave on 19th February.  This seems pretty harsh treatment and poor Seb feels he can’t say anything in case they throw him out immediately!

We take Aude and Seb to the Kultahovi.  We have good news from ‘couchsurfers’, we have an offer of a couch for Kirkenes, north Norway so all we have to do is make it there!

Thursday 12th February

Penultimate day at the farm.  Another 9am pickup and once again (for no discernible reason), we all have to be there.  We asked about Seb’s day off, which should be today, but for whatever reason Erkki said ‘no’ and Stefi lost her day off Wednesday!  Seb is really down in the dumps these days so he’s proving less fun than usual but I’d be upset if I’d been treated like he has!  Nothing much happening today although a reindeer herd comes onto the lake during the dog sled tour and the dogs go crazy and one of the clients can’t control her dog team so Daz has to come to the rescue.  My hero!

Seb manages to leave the farm early but no such luck for Stefi, there’s horse sled clients at 5.  Lukas leaves the farm for a ‘business’ meeting with Erkki and Boss Satu.  We help prepare the horses and then Daz and I do the evening feed. Then we make sure the Lavuu is ready for the horse clients.  When all is done we all leave the farm with Horse Satu leaving the farm uninhabited!!!

About an hour later we’re all at the dinner table eating a salmon pasta creation from Seb ( yummy) when we think we see Erkki’s truck pull up.  ‘Shit!’ – crimes committed:

Daz and me leaving farm when Erkki expected us to stay in new cabin.

Horse Satu – being overfamiliar with the unpaid filth (yes she has been told not to be too friendly) and eating dinner with us ( and her food isn’t included in her contract)

Seb – just for being Seb really.  Unwanted by the bosses!

Stefi for being excruciatingly red having had her 1st shower for 4 days ( she’s had to stay at farm).

The only innocent is Aude – but that won’t last!!!

Daz tries to dive into the shower to avoid Erkki and I’m surprised Horse Satu isn’t hiding under the table!

Erkki comes in and asks us about his maths skills.  There are only 4 beds in the apartment but 5 of us need to sleep in it. We explain that we only use one bed and it’ll be fine because it’s only for 2 nights.  He leaves and we all heave a huge sigh of relief!

 

Friday 13th February

Our last day.  The day is a little ominous, Friday the 13th, but hopefully all will be well.  It’s a 8.30 start and it’s soon clear that our last day won’t be a good one.  I ask Erkki if I can drive the skidoo but apparently we’ll be too busy (with 6 clients) and he wouldn’t allow me to drive it anyway!! Apparently it’s a man toy!  At the farm Lukas isn’t too forthcoming either and we have to work out that we’re no longer welcome in the house.  Then Daz nearly pokes his eye out on a tree branch, burns his hand picking up the kettle from the gas cooker without a glove and then Saki drags him around the area and so he’s pissed off and soon we’re arguing!  And the final straw – Daz tries to drive Lobo’s team up the hill but can’t undo the knot and when he finally manages it he has lost control of the sled but considers hanging on to the trailing rope ( I’m watching all this – well I’m on my way to assist but as usual Daz waits for no man) and expect to see him being dragged through the snow like a comedy excerpt from Road Runner.  But he realises the danger and let’s go.  I toy with the idea of trying to stop the team but remember Lukas saying never to stand in front of a ‘runaway sled’ so I get out of the way but should have tried to jump on it as it passed.  They go straight up the hill into the other dog sled team and start scrapping.  Fortunately Lukas is there and soon gets the dog and sled under control before any harm is done.   I tell Darren not to touch or do anything else.  It’s clearly not safe! Friday the Thirteenth has struck!

 

Onward travels.

Saturday 14th February

The plan is to hitch from Inari to either Karasjok or Kirkenes.  Or if we make good time get the bus from Karasjok to Kirkenes.  We have a cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen booked for 16th and we have an offer of a bed in Kirkenes for Saturday and Sunday from a couch surfer.  We will update you about this if we get there!

 

Saturday 14th February

Route choice Inari to Kirkenes via hitchhiking. (More pics to come)

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The hitching isn’t a huge success.  We stand on the road side for an hour 20 before the cold and toilet needs drive us to the petrol station.  Then back out for another hour. There really isn’t much traffic and it seems to be mostly families.  Hitching on a Saturday was probably a mistake. We know if all else fails we can get the 16.55 bus to Karasjok but we text Horse Satu and ask her if she would like to drive us north for a fee.  Bizarrely she actually has time off and agrees.  Hurrah! So we wait for her in the petrol station.  She calls back and says she can’t take Rocky over the border but she’ll take us to the border town Naatamo.  It has 3 shops and a motel.  It’s a lovely drive.   At the border town we all have coffee and cake.  There are loads of cars here with Norwegian plates and we ask the guy at the till – he confirms most of his customers are Norwegian.  It’s cheaper here than in Norway.  Satu takes Rocky for a walk.  And we start hitching.  It’s 4pm and if we want a room in the motel we need to book in before the receptionist leaves at 6pm.  Finally at 5pm, 2 men originally from Sudan, stop and give us a lift to Kirkenes.  Result.  By 6.20 (7.20 Finnish time) we’re booking into a hotel.  A big ‘Thank you’ to Horse Satu for driving us north – without you we’d have been stuffed.  Yes we were supposed to be couchsurfing but I’m ill.  My hands hurt, my throat hurts and I’m feeling really cold.  By 8pm I’m fast asleep.  Happy Valentines Daz!

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Sunday 15th February

Kirkenes

A lovely breakfast followed by a walk down to the port.

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There really isn’t much here and most of its closed because it’s a Sunday.  We toy with the idea of the King Crab safari (£140 pp) for 3 hours: skidoo ride, fish for king crab then cook and eat it.  Then consider the snow hotel visit with dinner.  But in the end we decide just to enjoy the comfort of the hotel.  I’m still feeling poorly and the thought of being out in the cold isn’t attractive!

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