Spending nine days into the wild. Hiking through the dense forests that cover Finland and paddling back along one of its wilderness rivers. Being isolated from the outside world, we don’t expect to see any people. Or hardly. For once, this is a story about two adventurers and lots of bears, wolves, elchs and lynx
Into the wild — May 28th 2016
Our preparation took us as far as Uimaharju, a village where we are dropped of with a small-sized train. This is as close as we can get, despite the promised we ‘d found on the internet that there were good public transport connections in the remote regions of Finland. Still, we find ourselves at 40 kilometers of Patvinsuo NP, the starting point of the Karhunpolku, a 130k long-distance hike through the Finnish wilderness. Literally translated: Bear’s Path. They can’t make it any clearer, this is bear territory. And it’s not only bears that live with the few people that are settled in this remote and pristine region. No, the forests are home to as well bears, wolves, elchs and lynx. Secretly, we hope to catch a glimpse of one of these shy animals.
On the Bear’s Path — June 29-4th 2016
Our first night in Scandinavian nature was something we had been looking forward to a long time. That we were able to flare up a smoldering fire, made that evening perfect. Last year in the UK, we hadn’t been able to make a fire once (rain!). Our hunger for adventure only got bigger. At that time, we had no clue that this hunger would become quite real.
With a heavy-packed backpack and supplies for the next three days (after that we would be able to resupply in Ruuna) we hike around the large Lake Suomunjärvi, the main attraction of the national park. The impressive setting makes our expectations for the next few days rise.
Twenty-three kilometers of hiking every day, and we are able to complete the route in six days. Since there isn’t a lot of altitude to be gained and our experiences in the Scottish Highlands, we expect to fulfill this task easily. Only hours later, we found out this was an underestimation of our side. The paths of the Karhunpolku are smaller than during our last trips, and the marshy surface with three roots makes it hard to set a steady pace.
Sweating without a sauna
The hot weather caused a swarm of mosquitoes to bother us the whole time in the forests. ‘I still haven’t decided what I prefer.’, Linsay sighs. ‘Mosquitoes, but more shade or no mosquitoes and being exposed to the sun. I agreed. Never, did we had this much nuisance of mosquitoes as right now. And it still is only late May. The warm weather this last few days, might have something to do with it. Allthough we didn’t really expect to face temperatures around 30 degrees, this high up North. We are only 450 kilometers below the Arctic Circle. With this weather, we would be sweating the whole day. Never did it seem like clouds would give us some cooling. ‘We don’t need a sauna to sweat.’, I laugh.
After three days we would be able to resupply. This is how we were informed before we left for Patvinsuo National Park. It was the reason why we decided to pack only three days worth of supplies. Afterwards we would get some extra food in Ruuna Hiking Area, a park where we expected to see some tourists and hikers. This way, we wouldn’t need to carry a heavy backpack during the first days. To our surprise, on day three there is no one to be seen in the park. ‘Chances are slim that the restaurant will be open.’, Linsay says. ‘I think we’re lucky.’, I smile when I see people sitting on the terrace of the restaurant. Unfortunately our luck would turn. The restaurant may be open, the owner informed us that there were no shops around to resupply. One meal with salmon and potatoes later, we realize there is nothing left to do than to hope that the restaurant can miss some of their food. After some hesitating, they sell us some rice, soup and a few loafs of bread. Barely enough for two days. And this while we still are six days away from our final destination.
We leave Ruuna without saying anything to each other. Both Linsay and I are absorbed in thought. ‘How are we going to solve this problem?’, I think. We are in the middle of the wilderness with barely any food. Going back isn’t an option since the starting point isn’t inhabited as well. Only at our final destination, we’re certain to get some food. But it’s still six days from now. It makes us quite frugal with our meals. Our dinner is a single loaf of bread with cheese.
Let’s start fishing
During our first evening, just before starting our hike, I almost succeeded in catching a fish with a self-made fishing rod, made by Linsay. A yellow of string of rope, a piece of metal bended like a hook, a branch and some bread. It was more than enough to catch a fish. Reason, the fish managed to escape was the fact that I had been to surprised and the poor quality of the hook. Three days later, we are starting to think to try fishing again. As a necessity this time. With a rumbling stomach, we arrive at a place that seems perfect to pitch our tent. Linsay starts to adapt our fishing rod to make it more solid, while I pitch the tent. Half an hour later I’m finding myself at the shore of a nearby lake, waiting patiently for success. Unfortunately my patience runs out quickly when for the fifth time in the same number of minutes, another piece of bread has dropped. The swarm of mosquitos hovering around my head doesn’t help either offcourse.
Some luck… and some bad luck
I loved watching the episodes of Ultimate Survival Alaska on the Discovery Channel. How groups of adventurers succeeded to cross a distance through the wilderness and to survive was intriguing to see. That they miraculously found three sets of skies to find themselves skiing down the slopes was just something you had to deal with when watching American shows. Not even in our wildest dreams, we would find a bag of food that would solve our problems. Therefore we rubbed our eyes twice when we saw fishing rod left behind near the last cabin of the fishing area Anaikinen. In perfect condition.
Eventhough we considered ourselves lucky to find a fishing rod, five minutes later another misfortune struck us when our bottle of gas ran out. ‘Euhm, Linsay? No more warm meals I think.’ Not only do we have no more food left, but now even our gas stove is useless. Since we always used the autostarter, you won’t be surprised we didn’t had any matches with us. The lack of matches would bite us again in the end when that evening we weren’t able to make a campfire (before we used the gas stove and some paper). We were left with no fire, the only way to get rid of those damned mosquitos.
And some fortune once again
You remember what we wrote about coincidences during Ultimate Survival Alaska? For a while, it seemed like we were dropped into the programma. No food, but finding a fishing rod. Not being able to make a fire… and yes, on day six we find some matches left behind in one of the wilderness cabins. One problem solved. The other problem however…Fishing seemed like the perfect solution to get ourselves some food. But how do you catch fish when you got no bate? We suggested to use one of the dry loafs of bread as bate. No succes. Secretly, we hoped, when arriving at Teljo at the end of the Karhunpolku, to find some civilization. Vain hope, as it turned out that the trail ended at remote, traffic-less road.
Paddling the Jongunjoki — June 5th-7th 2016
‘Should we ask him?’
‘I don’t know.. but I’m very hungry. Maybe sent him a text and see what happens.’
Tomorrow we meet our canoe rental, dropping a canoe for us. Since he is our only contact with the outside world, we sent him a text to see if he could get some extra supplies as well. Unfortunately, no respone and we see him the next morning it turns out he never got the message. So no food.
The temperatures are lower than the past few days and the number of mosquitos around our head has dropped to a minimum. It made our journey on the Jongunjoki, a wilderness river with some rapids, a bit more comfortable. We planned to cover 50 kilometers over three days. A piece of cake since there were quite some rapids. Despite the lack of food, we opted not to arrive earlier. The same route we had hiked the last few days, we return by paddling over the river. Back to Nurmijärvi and… food!
Do you want to plan this route as well (with correct information), download our adventure e-guides Karhunpolku en Jongunjoki. A custom-made travel itinerary you can find in our blog post Finland – Into the Wild experience