Our first nigh in the Finnish wilderness was quite comfy. The only problem is the late and slow start of the day. We got up quite late, because last night we went to sleep only after midnight, and the lack of structure in our morning activities caused a slow preparation for departure.
When we finally hit the snow, it’s almost midday. In a short while we realize that this stroll wont be an easy and fast one. As we push ourselves to the starting point of the real route near Russian/Finnish border, our pace is approx. 300 meters in 40 minutes. This is not the speed you’re looking for. The reason for this slow progression is a field ridged by ditches. Who knows if these ditches are some kind of old trenches, but one is certain - they are frickin annoying. The skis are sliding over the obstacles with no problems, but our sledge takes a dive in almost every ditch, and let me say - convincing the “pig” to come out is not an easy task. At this point we are convinced that our best friends are the frozen lakes and swamps, because they provide an even ground. Thin forest also is not half bad, if you don’t mind constantly looking back and navigating the sledge between trunks, stubs and other goodies. To make our life easier, we use the border patrol routes made by snowmobiles - of course if they follow our course.
For the first part of the day we are completely alone, till we spot some kind of an off-road vehicle coming our way. And there’s no doubt about the destination of this suspicious vehicle, because we are the only thing around here. When the snow cloud settles, it turns out that the vehicle actually are two border control officers on snowmobiles. For sure they thought that we are sneaking in form Russia in a search of better life or something. When I offer to present our passports, one of the officers distrustfully says, “Sure, if you have some.” After a passport check and some laughs we chat for a while and then go our separate ways. I’ve got a feeling that those guys didn’t take our plan very seriously.
As the light fades away we stop and make camp, because skiing through a dark forest is too much of a challenge. A trail or a frozen marsh would be ok, but in the forest you can’t see almost anything, the sledge keeps catching branches and bushes and the navigation becomes impossible. The plan is to make camp and go to sleep as soon as possible, so we could get an early start tomorrow morning. To make our morning activities a bit easier, we have even made a hole in the thick ice of a nearby lake thus eliminating the need to melt snow.
Today we have skied for approx. 6 hours, yet looking in the map it seams that we haven’t moved at all. And this notion is understandable, because our average speed was only 2.5 km/h. The cherry on top of our cake is the realization that we have gone off-course, but thanks to our incredible speed the deviance is not catastrophic. We’ll try better tomorrow.