Lapland. A land of fantasy far far to the north, inhabited by reindeers, covered in snow and lit by Nordic lights. Or a land of neverending days, when summer comes. Or none of this.
Our story starts on Facebook. I’m chatting with my friend Vincent, telling him I’m going to stay in Finland for the month of August. “Hey, I may pay you a visit”, he said. And me: “hey, from France, Helsinki is not so far north, what about we go hiking in Lapland?”. I knew he was keen on hiking in the wild, and I wanted to try something longer than what I was used to. I had high hopes for birds there, although I feared we would be too late in the season.
There started our quest: quest for information on the hike, the weather (tip: never trust the Finnish weather forecast), the facilities, transportation… Quest for equipment also, as I didn’t expect my sleeping bag optimized for 15-10ºC to be warm enough. We settled on the Hetta-Pallas trail, in the (repeat after me) Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park: 55km in the forest and atop the fells (tunturi in Finnish). The highest “summit” in the “mountain” range is 800m high (notice the quotation marks, that’s nothing scary for two people born in the Alps), and we would climb it on our last day.
Backpacks heavily loaded (I left at home the book I had bought especially for this occasion), we set sail on a long and expensive trip accross Finland, to reach Hetta (Enontekiö), our starting point. A lengthy journey that almost never happened: the first bus was late and slow, so we missed the connection that would lead us to the railway station. I am happy I know Helsinki, for I was able to improvise a plan C on the go and get another bus. We arrived on time to take our train… which itself was late, thanks to some work on the tracks. Our connection in Oulu was threatened, but an announcement stated that the train to Rovaniemi would wait for us (and I understood the announcement in Finnish! Yaay!). On the way, I had time to admire small flocks of Common cranes (Grus grus). In Rovaniemi, we visited a shopping center: for the sake of my back, I had got rid of everything unnecessary in my photo bag, and also of something that was much necessary, a spare memory card. Quand on a pas de tête…
The hike felt long, especially carrying so much on our backs. We saw vey few birds, as everything was silent most of the time. We saw very few humans too, which was great, and some reindeers!