Sonntag, 29. Januar 2017

With 2 Feet: Finland 1

Part II: Finland

So there I was, after 14 hours on the bus, sitting on my bed in a hostel room in the middle of nowhere Finland. And somehow, I was not scared anymore. There was only this feeling of curiosity, wondering how this whole thing would turn out, where I would go, who I would meet, and which stories I would get to tell afterwards.

The next morning I (unsuccessfully) tried to buy a map of the area, but western Finland does not seem to be big in hiking. Fortunately they bike a lot, so I was able to follow the bike lane north in the direction of Haukipudas. And already on this first day, I was able to establish the first of The Rules of Hiking:

1. You never "just" get lost. As soon as you get lost, it will also start to rain. 

But fate took pity in me and made up for it. After I got back to the road and the rain had stopped, I met the guy again who was responsible for my getting lost (I didn't tell him) and he offered me to camp in his backyard. Yay, no pooping in the woods and maybe even a shower in the morning! But fate was not yet finished. Long story short, I spent the night on a proper mattress in their daughters' playroom because the weather forecast had a storm coming and the guy's wife had asked me if I'd rather want to come inside.
Let me tell you, Finnish people are officially the nicest in the world. 

After arriving in Haukipudas. Please note the packed lunch Signe gave me.

This meeting nice Finns continued on the next day,  when I was walking on the side of the road towards Ii. A random woman pulled up her car next to me and gave me a ride that I had not asked for. She even gave me tips on which bus stop in town was best for hitchhiking, completely ignoring (in a very nice, polite and motherly way) everything I said about wanting to walk and this being a hiking trip after all. I (nice and polite as I am) waited until she was out of sight, and marched on.

The second night I spent on a river island just north of Iin Hamina, where I could finally pitch the tent and have some real camping experiences.

Which leads me to the first of The Facts about Camping:

1. As soon as everything (yourself included) is inside the tent, it will start to rain.

So if you want to have a wee before bedtime, do that before entering the tent.
But fate was either still making up for things or it was really impressed with how well I was doing. On the next day it sent me another ride, this time a German. Jens from Zwickau was on his way to Norway and could have taken me all the way, but we decided that Merihelmi Camping was far enough. It was only 12:30 when we arrived and my day's work was already done. I could get used to that.

Not included in the picture: The pain my feet caused me when I tried to walk. Which is why I avoided walking for the rest of the day.

The sun was shining, I did some knitting, washed my clothes, ate, and was generally lazy. And in these two hours of quiet contemplation between 1 o'clock and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I discovered the next Rule of Hiking on the list:

2. When hiking, you will spend most of your time not hiking.

So the rest of the day consisted of napping, taking pictures of the campsite owner's dog, sorting my stuff, trying not to use my feet too much, admiring the beautiful sunset, and most importantly, being exactly where I wanted to be.

Sonntag, 15. Januar 2017

With 2 Feet

Over the past few months, I dropped some hints about some mysterious adventure. Well, here is the story behind:

One rainy Sunday in March 2016, I decided I wanted to go hiking. It could have been the über-flat landscape I was living in at that time, or the fact that I (not yet) married into a family of hikers and was never quite able to relate to their experiences and stories and the pictures of their adventures when we all got together around Christmas time and looked through old and not-so-old photographs and memories.
Of course I had gone hiking before. I had done day hikes. I had done overnight camping, going there one day and going back on the following. I did a multi-day-roadtrip in 2014, going from the south of Germany to the north of Norway by car. But I had never been on a proper, multiple-day, carry-it-yourself-or-leave-it-at-home hike. "Trekking" I think it's called nowadays. So on this rainy Sunday in March, a decision was made: I would go hiking in Summer.

And I did.

Part I: Before

I knew it would be easy to get carried away by the possibilities once I started researching, because when you don't know what you are looking for, everything could be the thing. So I came up with a list of things I wanted (and did not want) and then - don't laugh - opened Google Maps and randomly hacked in some placenames. Helsinki - Tromsø (way too far). Luleå - Bodø (omitting Finland). Tornio - Å i Lofoten (do those bridges have sidewalks?). Norge på langs? Nordkalotten? Kungsleden?

I guess this is not how you would normally approach such things, but remember that this was (and is!) all very new to me and you have to start somewhere, right?

Still without the slightest clue about what I was doing, my mind settled on Oulu - Narvik. I'll wait for you while you check the maps. This route went through Finland, Sweden and Norway, I would get to see the Bothnian Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and lots of different types of landscape. Both cities could be reached by bus or plane. Google said that the distance between the two is 666 km, which I considered to be a good omen. 

The following weeks and months I tried to learn some Finnish (I used the FunEasyLearn app), got myself a book on the topic, bought a shedload of new camping and hiking equipment and asked the hikers in my life a ton of practical and impractical questions. I spent more time than I would ever admit on a) the question which knitting project to bring and b) spiders.

I did all of this while still not being entirely sure about my decision and this uncertainty did not leave me until I had booked the bus ticket to Oulu and a room in the hostel. Which was about three days before the planned departure. I won't lie: All of this scared the shit out of me.

But I went.

And it was awesome.

Stay tuned for part II :D