Monday 26th June
This morning, last night’s mosquitoes were still out in full force, not yet sobered up after a night of drinking, and loitering around for another chance to get at us, regardless of how much deet we were wearing. We were planing to spend the day hiking, so of course it started raining heavily as soon as we’d finished breakfast. Sitting in the car with the rain thundering down, we wondered, yet again if this level of rain was normal for Scandinavia or if the notoriously British weather was intentionally following us around.
Not to be deterred, we started driving to the other side of the national park we’d slept in, to reach the starting point of the circular hike we’d chosen. Google maps was routing us, and it quickly became clear that it was feeling particularly mischievous today. The roads we were being directed down were definitely not designed with a regular car in mind. Perhaps a motocross bike, or a 4×4, or a tractor, but not a big old Volvo – they were bumpy and steep, and more sand than road.
We didn’t take any photos while driving these roads, but some of it looked worrying like this, but with more sand, and forests either side of the ramps:
“We’re going to get stuck!” I cried to Morgan, as he gunned it to the stop of a very dubious sandy track, swerving and bumping over tree roots on the way. “Volvo’s aren’t designed for off-roading!”
The bottom of the car scrapped ominously against the dirt track, as we weaved our way through the forest.
“It’s okay,” said Morgan confidently, as he navigated around a particularly large tree root. “I learnt how to drive on these roads from Pet.”
(Pet was our Botswanan safari guide, driver and all-round legend.)
“He always said, just give it loads of gas, and don’t lose your nerve.”
Morgan then accelerated hard up the rugged hill ahead, to prove his point. I gripped my seat.
To his credit at least, we somehow never got stuck. After what felt like ages, we made it to the so-called “parking area”, and stopped the car. It was only after we started walking that we realised we had parked on the wrong side of a “no cars beyond this point” sign. We blame Google. And ourselves, for blindly following Google.
Still, once we started hiking we realised Rokua was a pretty awesome national park. Most of the ground is totally covered with lichen, making it look strangely frosty.
Rokua is also known as a “geopark”, as a lot of its topography was formed during the last ice age. Part of our hiking route took us past some “kettles” – a bunch of deep holes in the land formed by melting ice. We reached a viewpoint marked on the map, where we’d apparently see the largest kettle, and excitedly scanned the area. On closer inspection, we came to realise that this rare geological feature was actually a huge, midge-filled bog. We suspect true geologists would be VERY excited about this bog, but to us it reminded us of “terrible things that we accidentally walk into, and get our shoes very wet”. Lex loved the smell of it, at least.
After our enjoyable hike through Rokua, we started driving south-east, towards the region of Finland known as “lakeland”. In another Google fail, the route we were directed through was actually closed off. We then tried using Google translate to understand the text on the no-entry sign. “They who come from the mountains” Google told us, confidently, while being nowhere near any mountains. Either Finnish construction workers are kind of ominously poetic, or that’s strike 3 for Google today.
We spent the night in a pretty basic rest stop – unlike Norway and Sweden, Finland doesn’t tend to have frequent public toilets and drinking water available next to roads. Instead, Finland just has many, many bus stops (yet no visible buses).
Basic as our rest stop was however, it was still very pretty.
As was Lex.
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