The past week contained pretty much everything that one can and should imagine from such a tour.
From easy going ATV tracks, over overgrown and waterlogged swamps, snowfields and snowfall, blocked hiking trails, scree slopes to the highest point of Finland, countless river crossings with meltwater runoff including involuntary full bath, strong wind, calm, rain, sun, icy cold and midsummer heat, overnight stays in tent and huts, from vegetationless over dwarf birch and willow scrub down to light birch forests, then pine trees and finally floodplain forests, from reindeer, ptarmigan and arctic terns to frogs, mosquitoes and moose, from meager backpack rations to surprise fish feasts, endless expanses, narrow valleys, hilly mountains, complete solitude and midsummer hustle and bustle in Kilpisjärvi.
These changes of the most diverse aspects never make the hiking days boring. Actually, I only put one foot in front of the other the whole day. The salt in the soup are the encounters with people. A short question in Norwegian to the Thai manager of the store in Masi was enough that she offered me a place to deposit my backpack and then wanted to know from where and where I was going. Being a good saleswoman, she offered me some fine sweet pastries to go with my coffee. She also accepted my almost empty gas canister. She will still use it herself before giving it to the recycling.
The absolute highlight was the evening with two Sami in their hut in Mollejusgohpi. Exhausted, famished and soaked from the rain and the river crossings, they invited me for freshly caught arctic char. We talked about their culture, food preparation, reindeer herding and their enemies, and the relationship of the Sami to the Norwegian government. Much reminded me of the discussions in Switzerland between mountain people and townspeople. Well-intentioned in principle, but unable or unwilling to understand the concerns of the other party. The big issue at the moment is onshore wind farms. In contrast to Switzerland, the landscape protection is not an issue. The newly built access roads are essential. Once built, they are subsequently used by the population and thus disturb the shy reindeer.
This topic came up again not 24 hours later. In Reisadal I met two Austrian students who are conducting interviews and workshops with local organizations on climate change during their trek from the North Cape to Narvik. So I stayed a little longer and let myself interview.
In the descent from the Halti the encounters increased abruptly. Mostly my greeting was returned in typical Finnish manner. A couple from the Swedish speaking part of Finland was very talkative. I gave them information in Norwegian about the snow conditions up on the mountain, while they gave me tips on how to ford the flooded river in Swedish. The conversation then evolved further about our origins and equipment. Cool to be able to have conversations like that in Norwegian!
Another top equipped hiker I had greeted, also wanted to know immediately in English, how the conditions at Halti were. I answered him then immediately in French. His accent was very familiar to me. He lives with his wife in Helsinki. Currently unemployed, he is nevertheless very busy. He has signed up for the 2024 rowing race across the Atlantic. In addition to training and looking for sponsors, he also has to prepare himself mentally for loneliness, bad weather and pain here and there. Mountain tours are ideal for this purpose he says.
Now I recover from the first 600 km, give my body and mind some rest and repair the equipment. On Tuesday I move again for approx. 7-8 days into the wilderness. I am curious what I have to report then.