Thursday, August 09, 2007

Oh Yeah, There's More

The summer cottage. Amenities not shown: extra cabin, two saunas, playhouse, and not one but two outhouses

Day 7: July 18th

Today was a big day—Temo heated up the smoke sauna. M. and I were kind of keen of stopping in Kuoppio to visit “the world’s largest smoke sauna” but Temo dismissed this as nonsense, and said it’s only partly real, and mostly they use electricity to heat it. Temo has many disagreements with our Lonely Planet Finland guide. I told him if he writes to them to point out the errors, he may get a free copy of the new edition when it’s published, but he didn’t seem that interested.

Today Boo discovered wild blueberries. She not only loves to eat them, she loves to pick them, as she sits right on the bushes. Grandma told me at the end of the day that Boo’s diapers were quite technicolour, but evidently, my daughter’s got nothing on what the ducks can do after a blueberry feast. I’ll say no more.

The smoke sauna was OK, but the kids weren’t in bed yet and it was impossible to take care of them and do the sauna. They don’t like going in the sauna, so they have to be entertained just outside of it. Inside the smoke sauna it smells smoky and the humidity intensifies the heat, so I didn’t last as long as I would in the other sauna. I ran out in the middle of multiple conversations.
“So,” Temo would say, throwing ladles of water on the hot rocks, one after the other, “what do you think about when you will leave tomorrow?”
“Well, I think. . .” then I’d stop, unable to speak due to the scorching heat upon my face, and bolt for the door.

I am sorry this is our last day at the cottage, but I’m excited to push on farther north.

Day 8: First day on the road, July 19th

We were hoping to get as far as Rovaniemi today (Arctic Circle, more or less) but we got as far as Ranua, which is pretty close. Ranua has a zoo which has nothing but indigenous Finnish wildlife.

The campground we stayed at was quite nice and the facilities were new. It is cold though. Only (high of) 14-15C. There were lots of children playing at the playground where we stayed and they wore toques and mittens. I keep finding myself thinking, “Oh, wouldn’t such-and-such be great in the summer” and then I remember this is the summer.

Day 9: July 20th

Little did we know at the time, but the wolverine we saw today at the Ranua zoo would make Geister’s top five highlights of the trip. They are fun creatures to watch: looping around a circle they run.
Ranua is also home to a cloudberry festival. So naturally, when I saw a giant cloudberry statue at the entrance to the zoo, I told my husband and everyone to stand next to it so I could take a picture. He didn’t respond, and I was exasperated. Like, what about the sentence “Stand next to the giant cloudberry” don’t you understand?

Off to Rovaniemi after the zoo. It took an hour and a half or so to get there, but the Arctic Circle is just slightly north of it so that’s where we went first before finding a campground. LP warns that Santa’s Village, which is at the Arctic Circle marker, is a tourist trap full of kitsch. Say no more—I’m SO there!

Really, it was fantastic. I got the kids Lapland hats, which have reindeer on them. We took lots of pictures at the marker, and best of all we got to meet Santa Claus. We sat around him and he asked all about where we’re from. He pulled out an atlas for us to show him our town (in “Kanada”) and them we signed the atlas. He was nostalgic: he said he hadn’t been to our town in a while, but he thought he might have some time in December for a visit.

I also went to the official post office and sent my niece a post card. It was all very convenient—they had a Canadian postal code book there.

Finding a campground was no problem. They told us to go park wherever there was space. We are right near the river. It’s really beautiful, and I love how light it stays. One of those big European camper-buses pulled in late while I was checking e-mail at the registration office. I find those buses so odd, and I can’t imagine traveling in one. I think everyone tents, in some kind of contraption that attaches to the bus. And they all cook their food at the camp kitchen. It seems awfully crowded to me, but who am I to say? So far, we haven’t rented a cabin so it’s been all of us in the RV every night. It’s cozy. Last night Geister fell out of his bed, so I went to help him, and then fell asleep on his bed. I woke up about half an hour later when Boo started banging on my forehead with her fingers. Hmmm, good to know that without my body being a physical barricade, she can get out of bed quite easily. Should we test to see if she can unlatch the door to the camper as well?

Tomorrow, we plan to put lots more miles on the road. We’ll see how that goes.

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