Friday 25/06/1993, at half past three in the morning.
The phone rings.
But I didn't know that for a while, I thought I was dreaming.
I pushed Ajla out of bed, When I realize that I'm not dreaming, and I dream further.
Suddenly a Huron screeam:
"you forgotten the clock to wind up!"
I opened my eyes in a blink.
I really notice a fatal flaw in the corner of the pupil.
I got up.
There was nothing else to do?
I did wind the watch, as they call it these days, although you actually just press the buttons, but I forgot to turn on the alarm.
May be, it's fate.
But the French do not agree with this.
Apparently, Levi Hlod* ..., said it quite differently. I asked if he had a right brother, but of course they couldn't understand. Be as it may, the ringing of the phone was provoked by Cristina, who hadn't closed her ear, pardon et moi, her eye, all night, and it seemed strange to her that if Ajla had been awake for half an hour, they hadn't heard on the phone.
Very local joke. Untranslatable, If you are not in the middle of an language.
Otherwise: Claude Lévi (-Strauss). Direct local joke: Levi Hlod = Left log
The last week was spent preparing for the big polar expedition. What we didn't want to take with us. Even the blankets were taken off the beds, despite the sleeping bags. It's true that on mine, on the user manual, if I'm more precise, it says that it should be used between +5 and +20. So it should be more for summer and for lower geographical altitudes. I took it that way, the price was of course a factor, because those for -30 to -5 are a little more expensive, so and so I didn't like the color. Anyway, it turned out that I was hot in this too, because the house was heated, even though it was not necessarily.
But that was a little further down the line (story).
Namely, the fact that I threw a toothbrush and pajama with blue dots into Ajla's bag, and we waved her up Kapiteninkatu.
Not at all.
There was really a lot of equipment. If we had a bigger car, it would be more. Regardless of the size of the car, I would probably sit on the blanket because that was the only place it could squeeze in. Then I hit the roof with my head when we found a hole.
Well, there weren't many of them, luckily.
I claimed that Swedish and Norwegian houses are much better equipped than Finnish ones. I hit a little and missed a little, about that later, and others claimed that this is Lapland and that there is no more civilization there, they almost didn't claim that they eat children. Since I was in the minority, the prevailing belief was that we had to take everything with us. But really everything. If Ajla hadn't forgotten the iron, we would have had one. Including plenty of food. Unfortunately, most of them had macaroni, so due to the force of the situation, I waited a whole week for adulterous fries.
We were agreed to be picked up us at 3 in the morning in front of our house, and to continue towards Norway at the same time. However, since Cristina and Damjan are typical French people, and being late is one of them, of course they reacted bluntly. So we spent the last 15 minutes at the corner of our house. Which was quite romantic, because at that time the sun is already shining happily, and you don't even think you got up in the middle of the night. Unless, of course, I count that funny feeling when you have a little trouble with your balance, you're still breathing a little slower, your whole body tingles, and your knees are shaking.
Well, we passed. We lived to see them.
After a week of intensive preparations, we finally set sail.
Well, not exactly smoothly. Damjan was driving, and as a newcomer in town, and a born complicator, we chose the complicated version. It's like going from Trnovo via Šiška to Škofljica*. Having a night - morning tour of Friday's Helsinki is not just like that either, there are certainly not many who experience something like this.
*Another local joke.
Parts of Ljubljana, but not in a direct line.
The route between Hki and Vaasa, which lies on the north-western coast of the gulf between Finland and Sweden, we mainly dozed off, except for the driver of course, despite the romantic colors of the rising sun, mists over the fields and incredibly long shadows. At this time, the sun shines for a very long time, and it does not hide above the polar circle at all, and so at midnight you have west, north and east at the same point.
Gamla Vasa, as it is called in Swedish, lies a few kilometers from the sea and is fairly deserted. They built the city by the sea, but it moved away from them, so today's modern Vaasa has no historical center. It is just like all Finnish cities.
So a bit boring.
We arrived an hour before the ship's departure, and filled the time by finding a Shell gas station. Gasoline in Finland is the cheapest in Scandinavia, and Damjan had a Shell card, which allows him to buy gasoline at a third of the price. Well, the card wasn't quite his. It is the property of the French Embassy, but that is not so important, where he is serving the military.
Damjan slept on the ship to make up for what he had missed, and Kristina watched over him so that no one would take him away, although the Finns do not steal, but when they get happy, and they use this ship for the same purposes as the one between Hki and Stockholm, then they open up and become normal.
We spent the ride on the deck, in the sun.
It's really nice and warm.
When we left the ship, all packed in the car, Damjan hit the bumper on the ship, despite the guide. This is the guy who waves in front of the car because there is not enough space. But like any typical Italian, the ship was Italian, and all the sailors are small and black, and shout and wave their arms in an unfamiliar way. Well, one such person, after the collision, just shrugged his shoulders and waved to the next one. It was crowded, everyone was in a hurry, and that's why we didn't see the damage until after customs. The customs officer was probably arguing with his wife on the phone about what kind of salad to buy, and he didn't even look away when we drove by.
The car was brand new. It had a little over 1000km, and metallic dark green. After a collision, a yellow line appears on the bumper. We liked it, although we didn't know if the owner would agree with the new design. Because the car was rented.
What was, it was, and we sped off.
We found the E6 road, and it should lead us to Mo i Rana, in Norway. But soon after Umeå, when we were all so playful, we missed it, but I realized that after 200 km of driving and after one stop already in Lapland. There was a sign and it said: Lapland, and something else in Swedish, but we were driving quite fast and my knowledge of Swedish is also not perfect and I missed it. When we drove through a settlement called Fredrika, and I had already been looking for the same thing in our direction for several kilometers, I realized that we were driving on the wrong road in a direction that was about 30 degrees wrong. We unwound back to Fredrika and found the direction to Lycksela, thus completing the hypotenuse of a fairly large triangle. Without this mistake, we wouldn't have seen the real Lapland at all. Because this is not a tourist road like the other two, and they have special tourist names. One is a Vildmarkvagen and ours is a Blå wagon. This one was without a name and also without asphalt. Almost uninhabited and also without traffic. So you have to be very careful not to run over the animals, some of them just sit on the road, because they have never seen a car before. This is how one Lapland woman reacted. The Lapman was standing on the side of the road, but she only pulled away when we passed.
We reached the Blue Road in Lycksele, which will be mentioned many times, and Damjan tried to make up for the missed time. That's why we huried north. As the landscape varied more with each kilometer, I grew more and more impatient. The more mountains there were, the more I thought we had to stop. We did it, high in the mountains, sprinkled with new snow. All around us are streams and torrents, lakes and, most importantly, real hills.
It was already evening, and that's why the shadows and colors were very special, so that the others also cheered up and finally concluded that it's a complete scam to come to Norway on the same day, when it's already so beautiful here. We took some kitschy shots, and this slide shows Damjan's last smile, but more on that soon.
We stopped at the first camp, which was next to the small town of Tärnabi. The camp is run by the purebred Lapish family. They are rather small in stature, rather dark-skinned due to constant contact with nature, with blue eyes, black hair and infinitely kind people. As it turned out later, in the beginning they were friendly like all innkeepers when they see a new drinker.
The house was fully equipped, except for water. That's why we included a sauna in the house with bathrooms in the price, which was half as cheap as we calculated.
Damjan already complained at the previous stop that his stomach hurt, but we thought it was due to fatigue. In the camp, the ladies immediately went to the sauna, because they naturally can't stand the smell, and Damjan spun a little around his axis and announced that he was going to lie down. It was Juhanus. But this one is in Finnland, and here is MidSomer, and on this evening all northerners get stoned, I already wrote about the Finnish version of the same party. There were only tired tourists here and there was no sign of any major outages. The locals tried their best with campfires and salmon, but there was not much interest. When I put Damjan to bed, I wanted to give him some vodka to drink, as I started the cure for a cold myself, but he started to feel cold, so that he was shaking, and besides, he was completely exhausted. I didn't know what to do for a while, but luckily the girls came back and started panicking. There was little flying around, but they just decided to call the doctor. Since doctors in this country don't go to the patient, but Mohamed comes to the mountain, and the doctor made a diagnosis over the phone that it wasn't just the drink, like so many others this evening, which was just starting well, the owner of the camp packed up Damjan and Cristina and took them to the infirmary in Tärnabi.
So, we remained in the wild land in uncertainty. I didn't feel like partying anymore, even though I thought at the time, that he wouldn't be in bed for more than a couple of days, on pills. Around midnight, the owner of the camp and Cristina arrived, and Damjan was waiting in the ambulance with tubes in his veins, an ambulance car from Lycksele, where they have surgery. Kristina was crying, what should she do, the party failed, and the holidays didn't look very rosy either. At 2am they left so they could watch the polar sun and we slept.
In the morning, Ajla waited at the camp office for a phone call, while I went to see Tärnabi myself. It is a small town, it considers itself a village, and there is a fairly large settlement, which is a ski center in the winter, and not just any. They also have Kranjska gora in the brochure, because Ingemar won there. And Ingemar lived here and started his career. A native then, although I don't think he's a Lapi. However, nowadays is full of buildings with his name. Ski resort, hotel, house, school,.., Stenmark.
The town is scattered in a typical northern way. This means that the distance between the houses is between 50 and 100 m, and you have no impression of the city. But they have everything that belongs to a city, including a tourist office, and I was carried away there. The city lies at the end of a huge lake. Under a rather high hill where there are ski slopes. At the other end of the hill, the next lake begins.
And we walked there, when I returned, and found out that in the evening we were returning 200 km to the south. It's a very wild country, otherwise I've never been to Alaska, but from movies and books, it must be exactly like that. The dimensions are enormous, and therefore the walk to the next lake, which looks quite close on the map, took 2 hours. But it was very nice. We walked along the wild river, with huge rapids, almost to the next lake. There, two rivers merge and a tourist suspension bridge is built over the confluence. Only for pedestrians and skiers. But because it sways, not up and down, like any normal suspension bridge, but left and right around its axis, and it's only a meter wide, you have to walk at some ends by hanging on the railing, and Ajla resisted. It was to be expected, it was really exciting for me when you see wild rapids below you. So we pulled only to the shore of the next lake, crossed the old snowfield and turned around. Ahead of us was a long journey to the south, on which I was not in a hurry and I stopped at every slightly interesting stream that constantly crosses the road.
But under the bridge, make no mistake.
Lycksele is the southernmost and largest Lapland town. Those Lapis, who are always engaged in reindeer herding, come here in the winter months. In the spring, to the north. And so for some few 1000 years. When we were there, there weren't many of them, but that's why there are a lot of empty houses that the government built for them to raise their standard. Namely, the Lapps do not think much of civilizational achievements. When he has a snowmobile so he doesn't have to run on skis after deer, and a transistor radio so he can listen to reports from Bosnia, and they don't have their own word for the war, then he's quite happy, so and so he doesn't understand anything that isn't related anyway with deer. When they feel like it, they get into a taxi, which is paid for by the state, even though this story is from Finland, I don't think it can be much different in Swedish, they drive to the nearest clinic, which can be 400 km away, they cough a little, so that the doctor writes the recipe for them, and they go to get Koskenkorva.
You can imagine what they do with it.
It is too strong for wounds.
As we are speaking about wounds.
We arrived in Lycksele without problems, and also found the Lazaret, as it is called there. It is by far the largest house in the town. It was the day after Juhanus, and still Saturday, and the hospital was completely deserted. We wandered around the completely empty corridors for quite some time, and finally through one of the glass doors we noticed that something was moving. We were already in surgery, in intensive care, and this was the first sign of life. But the door led to the surgery ward, and it was the first door that wouldn't open. We headed towards the exit, all of a sudden, the elevator doors opened and an Arab woman jumped out. It turned out that he is a surgeon, and that she normally knows Damjan Frenchman, the biggest attraction among the nurses, this holiday season.
She took us 7 floors up, to the end of an incredibly long corridor, past rooms from which moaning can be heard, and it was already a bit strange. The attraction in the back room, however, looked lousy. All those bottles in the veins without vodka. The attraction was moaning and the escort had bright red eyes and large dark circles. The attraction still couldn't pee on its own, he later explained to us that it was a good thing that Kristina could stay with him, otherwise he would have buried himself in the ground in shame, in front of the Swedish nurses.
Such an attraction.
But that's fate, even if they didn't still agree.
After the evening visit, the doctors still didn't know what was wrong with him, the symptoms were wildly different, so we parted ways quite dejected. The two of us went to a camp near the city, and the two of them stayed in the hospital.
We were welcomed in the camp by a Pole, a very nice guy, but due to the circumstances we did not develop closer contacts. When Ajla was in the sauna, I had no better idea than to go also and enjoy it for the first time.
The room where the attraction and the escort slept was empty.
Well, what about now?
A friendly 2m tall Swedish nurse took us to the basement to the surgery department. There, the attraction looked like a dead man, I became a bit soft, he was completely pale, almost without color, he didn't moan at all, and all those computers around, which show the heart, and I don't know what else. Clouds were drawn on the ceiling, which was light blue, so that those who survive think that they are in heaven when they wake up. But it was only for a moment, because the face of the escort revealed that it was all over.
All the worst.
In the evening, a surgeon allegedly came and poked the attraction in the stomach, to which it let out a Tarzan-like exclamation of enthusiasm for life, and this was a good sign enough for the surgeon that the attraction was immediately put to sleep, sent 8 floors down, his stomach opened and pinched off appendix.
We almost happily drank coffee, without the attraction of course, he had other things to do, and said goodbye until the evening, when we should have more information about the future.
We headed to the northeast. Crossed the Silvervagen, and on one rather large road met a deer in the middle of the road. I normally stopped and took a picture. It doesn't happen every day that a deer wants to look at you through the window. It just rained a little, so the shots are a little underlit, but you can always see all the corners on the morel quite well.
In one small town, I should fill up the gasoline. The Shell card was in the name of one Patrick Z., and at some gasstations you have to sign the bill with the cashier, so before filling up I signed an A4 sheet with the signature of Patrick Z. It later turned out that the pump was automatic, so it wasn't I had to go to the cashier, but I forgot to close the lid on the tank properly, and then we lost it on the wild macadam.
The first half of the day was rainy, but we were just traveling on dirt roads cut into wild bush in the American style. 50 km straight, just up and down, then a bend and the same until the next one. Otherwise, a very nice car looked like a mass of mud at the rapids where we stopped. That's why we washed it when we left. As much as possible of course, because Ajla carried the water for me in a small bottle, and I cleaned with paper tissues.
But earlier we saw very wild rapids on a huge river, with huge hollowed out and very beautiful stones. Suspension bridges have been placed over the entire system, which move normally, up and down, and are limited to two people at a time. I took more pictures here than usual, because Norway was undreamt of and it seemed to be the last attraction on our trip.
In the evening, Cristina had a enough of Lazaret and we went to sleep in our camp. We weren't very playful, so the walk seemed more silent, despite the very beautiful nature. The camp is located on an island in the lake, over which the Blo wagon passes.
In the morning, the doctors said that Damjan is not recovering normally and will therefore be on intravenous antibiotics until Wednesday in the hospital. It was a bit painful, but fate is fate. Cristina took the usual position, and we headed north.
You already know Tärnabi, but from there it was new. The road narrows significantly after Tärnabi because Norwegians don't ski here, and there was never a rush from that direction. That's why there are a lot of Laps and more deer, but they don't use the roads, except for selling curiosity.
On the map it looked like the border was soon after Tärnabi. So Aila soon started doing the passport panic. She just wanted to show Finnish identity card, which we recently acquired, and with which you can travel around Scandinavia without a passport. I was also filled with skepticism. I drove a car registered in Finland, borrowed from a Frenchman, who is not present at the moment, and my driver's license was only valid in Finland for a year and a half, but I forgot to change it, and now I have to take another test. Maybe I should, but it's incredibly expensive there, so I prefer to drive illegally if the opportunity arises.
We drove to the border with such feelings. Well, not right away. The one on the map often turns out to be close, with 3 more valleys and three lakes in between and patches of snow right up to the road, because we were already 1000m above sea level. Well, I noticed the border at the last moment. There are only three stones. Two round and one upright in the middle, and a sign that says Sverige on one side and Norge on the other. Aila was very disappointed that she didn't have the chance to show identity card and I happily turned into the last slope to the pass which was already in Norway.
On the pass, which we explored in more detail on the way back, it was very windy, and at this height, everything was still full of snow. The nearby lake was also encased in ice, although it could be seen that it was melting intensively. But on a different day, it certainly didn't happen then and we only took pictures from the car. There is a land road on the pass, but it is carved from the winter months, in some parts, into deep snow, and you drive through such details and imagine what it is like to be here in the Laps mountains.
It was only 40 km to Mo i Rana, but we were at the highest point of the road trip. Somewhere a little over 1000m above sea level. I imagined that there would be killer bends, down to the fjord, but it was a bit uneven. So flat that you couldn't see the sea, there are only a few bends, but far from hard, so you fall into the city without noticing that you are 1000m lower. I had to look at the map to see if it's true, it is.
Mo and Rana. The name sounds very romantic to me. A settlement at the end of the blue road, which starts in Russian Karelia and ends in Mo i Rana. A very long fjord begins here, so you drive another 70 km to the open sea. Which is also full of islands. I imagined it must be a very old settlement, full of charm and history, including the Vikings. The location is truly fascinating. But this is a relatively new coal mine. The houses are built around the factories which form the center of a fairly large settlement.
That was a good enough reason for us not to stay in Mo. The young lady at the tourist office explained the way to the north and that was pretty much all we did in the city. Almost, because we stocked up on food and sped off.
The beginning was like in Switzerland. High mountain farms, set on very steep slopes, full of cows around, and in the background high snow-covered mountains, all standing only a few meters above the sea. Except for the mountains, of course. Even nearby islands reach heights of around 1,000 m or more above sea level. Very dramatic. Very dark clouds between the rays of the sun contributed to the drama.
We left the first fjord fairly quickly. The roads here are very narrow, in many places there is no room for two lanes, even though there are quite a lot of trucks and buses. But you can avoid them by waiting on the widened part of the road, there is no other way. The driving speed is also adjusted. The limit is 60 km/h, but it is not clear to me how it is possible to drive so fast on all those slopes and curves. I also drove very slowly, you can only see out by having your nose on the front window, because the hills are very high and escape your view, and turned into a tunnel. I missed the notice board and...
The road widens in the tunnel and the natives here drive about 120 km/h. And I drove and drove and drove, but it wasn't over. When I had been driving over 70 km/h for some time, I thought that we had missed the road and that we were in an abandoned mine converted into a secret missile base. Then a bend and the sun.
Ha, that was exciting, that's all.
Hills, sun, wild mountain river, crystal clear green sea, red houses on the coast. A really beautiful country. That would be something for me.
There were two more tunnels and 3 fjords. But the last one was tomorrow. Today we stopped in a settlement with a campsite. Rented a house and fell asleep all exhausted. Except it wasn't that easy. We were tired, it started to wind in the evening, it was increasingly cloudy, and the standard of living in Norwegian cottages is not the same as in Sweden. So I was a bit disappointed. The owner, a man with red hair and a red mustache, was just gigling. The price of the house was exactly as we calculated before leaving, one time more expensive than in Sweden, unfurnished, not smelly, but it had its own smell, and the colors were Vikings.
There were drunken young men and women sitting in the inn, looking like punks and looking ugly. Very mystical places. We started counting houses to find ours. 15, 14, 13, twelve is ours. Ajla couldn't unlock it, but she has problems at home, so I grabbed the key and broke it. The house had the number 11. So the numbers were 15, 14, 13, 11, 12, 10,... The owner was just kidding and gave us the key no. 11. This must be a joke for tourists, and the lock is already full of broken keys.
A short evening walk, a shot for good night, even if that's just what it's called, otherwise the evening sun between the clouds and into the house, even the waterfall behind the village didn't warm me up, it was too cold.
But that's why the morning was so much sunnier. Otherwise, still not cloudless, but much warmer and brighter. That's why in the morning I made up for what I missed and took pictures of everything that came in front of my lens. The owner of the camp had already said in the evening that he would sleep in the morning and that we should leave the key under the rug so that we could not see it again.
In the next fjord, where the road ends and you have to use a rusty ferry if you want to continue driving along the coastal road to the north, we reached the Arctic Circle. Well, we didn't particularly hold back. Except that I saw an otter, or something very similar, how it ran towards me and when it saw me let the fish out of its mouth and jump into the sea, nothing more exciting happened. I was just explaining to Ajla, oh, did you saw an otter, and she replied, what is that, its showed herself once more, she wanted her breakfast, but we were standing next to the fish, so she had to wait. Ajla said that the otter is beautiful, but the fish is disgusting. She only likes fillets in breadcrumbs and salmon, which looks like a pink square on her plate, not a living representative of its species.
On our Going back, we took pictures. But there is always a wire in the frame. They seem to have enough electricity. The huge antenna was also interesting. There was even an English explanation on the board. There is a double wire between the first island and the hill. The island and the hill were over 1000m, directly from the sea, and it looks very exciting. It is one of ten antennas in the world for ship navigation.
In the fjord n.3 we climbed along the wild mountain river for about half an hour walking along the stream. Very exciting but also just as wet. The coast is quite steep and grassy, but it is actually a marsh. Here too, there is very little soil layer and a few centimeters below the surface is granite, through which water seeps, which provides the conditions for a swamp. I couldn't even think of such a thing, but when you walk on that grass you hear a scrunching sound and the shoe just wants to stay there. So we didn't get very high. We had a picnic on a rock in the middle of the water and enjoyed the beautiful view of the fjord.
Before returning to Mo, we stopped in the fjord n.2. Such a beautiful light, the color of the sea, there is no such thing in Finland, and the feeling that we are leaving this beautiful country stopped us. I took some great shots and Aila collected shells and rocks from the shore. The sea smelled like old times and it was very romantic. But all good things come to an end, so we set off.
It was early, so we did not turn directly towards Mo, but continued along the same fjord towards the open sea. At the end there is a fishing village, but not as it appears in the prospectuses, and that is why we are heading back. It was terribly hot and Ajla was sleeping. At one point, the road rises 500m (almost (but it is high up)) above the sea, only to come close to one huge rock, and from there we took pictures along the fjord.
We bought ice cream in Mo and started up the hill. I had to constantly stop during the journey, because Ajla was constantly taking pictures of the croocked high-altitude polar birches, they look really interesting.
On the already mentioned pass, where it was so cold, we now took a walk in the warm evening sun. I suggested that we go to a nearby peak, about half an hour's walk away. The dimensions in this geographical height are really different and after an hour and a half, three crises, two fights, finaly reached a fairly high hill. It was windy at the top, so there are only three shots of the otherwise very interesting snowy landscape.
Quite tired but with the feeling that we had accomplished something great, we headed to Tärnabi. Slept there, explained to the Lapps that Damjan was fine, and went to Lycksele in the morning.
They were sitting in a restaurant, still in the hospital, eating pizza. Damjan no longer through a tube into a vein.
The drive to Umea was not exciting, except for Damjan, who said “hoo” at every major vibration. We beat everyone in line for the ship because the girls went to ask if we could change the reservation in 3 days to the current one. We can. And we went to the ship. We ate, bought vodka and looked at the sea, each of them pondering their version of the vacation that was just ending.
In Vaasa, the others had to go through customs on foot, and I told the customs officer that I don't know Finnish, even though I drive a Finnish car, than I (finally) showed him Finish identity card, he said okay and we drove off.
Damjan said that at least one person has to stay awake to keep me company, because he already knows what it's like to drive when everyone around you is sound asleep. He made a sincere effort until Tampere, but then I alone, finally, because I hadn't seen it all night before, watched the midnight sun in the rear mirror.