Wednesday 12th July – Inari, Finland
Set the alarm again for 6am to try to beat the traffic. A bright sunny day with just a few clouds about.
We had heard from a German couple at Nordkapp that the front gates and pay station are not manned between 1am and 8am and that if you arrive before 8am you can drive straight in – without payment. They also said that no one checks your vehicles during the day. We were not asked for tickets when we went in to see the film (worth seeing) nor did anyone come checking our dashboard for our ticket.
On the way down, about 5kms down, there is a parking spot which took quite a few motorhomes and this was full. We found several other spots within a 20-40 kms. No doubt these travellers were all aware of the “come in before 8am scenario”.
First part of the journey of about 100kms was backtracking from the day before and then onto new territory.
We again saw Santa’s reindeer happily grazing in the hills and again on and close to the road. They did not appear to be scared of people and cars but I guess that would have to be a requirement of Santa to become one of his team. Hope to visit Santa at Santa Village in Finland over the next few days to put in orders and a letter for Setinne and Eli for Xmas.
Passed through the border into Finland without any hold up at all. Straight through – no one to be seen anywhere.
Countryside in the north was a little disappointing. We have been terribly spoiled for the last month in particular in Lofoten Islands and Nordkapp.
Roads are much wider than Norway making travelling longer distances much easier. Very marshy and muddy and after stopping at the border at an information board, where we were ravaged by mosquitos and marsh flies, decided not to stop anywhere some time soon until the terrain got a little drier.
We travelled around 375kms today so called it a day at around 3pm. The camping spot we found just outside Inari, was the best by far that we had seen, and no mosquitos.
Thursday 13th July – Santa’s Village, Rovaniemi, Finland
After two very long days, a well deserved sleep in was needed and we surfaced around 9.30 am and slowly headed off.
The countryside changed back to the most beautiful Xmas trees lined along the road forever. Though driving through light rain most of the time, we made good time. Found a Lidl and felt like I had found a long lost and much loved friend. Hadn’t realised how expensive Norway was until we checked out the prices here. Tomatoes were $6+ in Norway but in Lidl in Finland around $1.50 per kilo. Only disappointment was that Lidl in Finland is not permitted to sell wine or spirits but had beer. Alko is the only store that is licensed to sell wine and spirits. Again much cheaper than Norway.
Again saw reindeer ambling on and near the roadside. They seem to have no fear of cars.
Arrived in Santa’s Village just after 5pm. They provide free camping for motorhomes here. Most things except some of the restaurants were closed so after a quick walk around to check out the lie of the land, headed back. The car park is full of motorhomes so expect tomorrow morning will be busy.
Friday 14th July – Posio, Finland
The village is very unusual and seems a bit disjointed. There is no entry cost in the village itself but 2kms down the road Santa Park costs around €17.50 per person entry but for this you do get some rides etc.
The village is still under construction with lots not yet completed and what is there is mostly souvenir shops and restaurants and other shops that really have nothing to do with Santa. It does however have the official North Pole Post Office for Santa in Finland and this is where we happily paid €7.50 to have a personalised letter and postcard from Santa sent to our grandkids Setinne and Eli scheduled to arrive for Xmas.
Next we visited Santa in his house and sat with him for about 2 minutes and had photos taken. Have to say he was the best Santa we have ever met and he speaks so many languages it is incredible. Had a really enjoyable couple of minutes with him and then the elves led us back to front office where we could purchase photos A4 or 5 postcard size photos for €30 or a digital pack which includes all the photos plus the 2 minute video that you can download from the web for €40. Ouch but given that we wanted to send these to our kids by email we went the digital option. Only issue we have is that the photos are 11 mbs each so need some good internet to download them – not sure where we are going to find some! Not sure about size of video?
Next we thought we would leave Santa’s Village and head to Santa Park to take some more photos of the snow cave with ice princess and elves but it began to bucket down with rain (surprise, surprise) so decided to move on.
It rained the whole of today making travel slow but the roads are excellent with very few towns along the way. This part of Finland – Lapland hosts only a very small part of the population so traffic is light. Very few motorhomes seem to be in this part of the country and there are also very few places provided to camp along the way.
Another long day on the road. Finally we found a rare camping spot set amongst beautiful pine trees and leading onto a large lake about 13 klm south of Posio. Not a person in sight and nothing but nature around us (and the rain).
Had a fantastic and restful sleep (night before was extremely noisy with cars coming and going all night at Santa!s Village).
Saturday 15th July – Suomussalmi, Finland
Still finding it difficult to come to grips with the differences between the two countries. Norway is brimming with motorhomes and tourists everywhere and the scenery is just magic. Finland is quiet with very little traffic and tourists and the scenery so different with mostly lakes and trees and trees and trees and more trees.
We woke up to a bit of sunshine – lasted about an hour and then the drizzle started again. Everyone we have met cannot believe how wet the summer has been not just here but in most of Central Europe.
Broke up our trip today by visiting some of the small towns along the way. We have not had a fine day in Finland so really missing having some exercise. A little walking in drizzle has been the extent of it – not sure how long it has been since the bikes came off the bike rack but really itching to hit the road and get some of those muscles moving again.
We have again found a magic spot just outside of Suomussalmi . It is right on a lake with beautiful parkland all round. When we arrived, we discovered that this venue was hosting a free rock concert for the afternoon so we watched the cars pile in and then heard the bands start up just over the hill. If you can’t beat them – join them, I say, so we put on our rain jackets and armed also with an umbrella, joined the small but wet crowds and listened to the bands.
Left after about an hour and walked into town. The concert was still going strong when we got back but the security guards assured us they were finishing at 7pm.
It is now peaceful and quiet at 9pm. The sun has come out again for the second time today and there is blue sky everywhere. Still can’t get used to full sunshine and light for 24 hours – think we are really looking forward to a little darkness for part of the day.
Sunday 16th July – Nurmes, Finland
Woke up to one of those absolutely perfect days. Full sun, blue skies and not a cloud in sight and temp being a cool 16 degrees.
Straight after breakfast, took the bikes off the racks and headed to the bike trail only a few metres away. The path took us through the forest along gravel paths which was a little hard going, particularly up hill. I took the easy way out and used my power pack to get up the hills but Rob used his man power only. Stopped to take some unbelievable camera shots of lakes we passed by. So serene with no breeze at all, the lakes mirrored the tall trees and blue skies and colourful rock faces. Came back the same way and then biked into town.
So good to be able to exercise again and thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so before heading off again.
Decided to make today a small drive and take advantage of the beautiful day at the other end so drove to Nurmes and again found a great spot on a quiet little marina just outside if town.
Straight onto the bikes again and headed around the lake and then to town. Uphill all the way to town, but a good even track so decided to give the power pack a miss and push the muscles. Very quiet in town as most places are closed on Sunday. A joy coming back as it was pretty much downhill all the way.
The marina was very busy with cars coming and going all afternoon. Fishing boats and pleasure craft out enjoying this rare day. There was a small park and beach on the other side of the marina and families were enjoying picnics and some (very brave) people were actually swimming.
Took advantage of the sunlight and did some much needed washing as Rob gave Ziggy a much needed wash down. All chores done and dusted, settled down to a couple of drinks and watched the sun go over the hill and listened to some music before bed (still light all night).