Kuusamo ao PN Oulanka, Finland

Under the Arctic's Icy Spell

Inhabitant of Kuusamo exercises on the shores of Lake Kuusamo.
Beginning of a long winter
Pontoon invades the semi-icy lake Kuusamo, on the outskirts of the town with the same name.
Ala-Juumajarvi Mirror
Farmhouse buildings with typical Lapland architecture on the shore of Lake Ala-Juumajarvi.
Reindeer stands out from a herd that grazes on the snow.
Skiers descend a slope from the Rukka snow resort.
Free Fuel
Firewood available to hikers in a forest in the Oulanka National Park.
Barn facade of a farm by Lake Ala-Juumajarvi.
Kalakeidas Bar-Restaurant
A tipi-shaped bar-restaurant on the outskirts of Rukka, the region's main snow resort.
boreal exercise
Kuusamo resident practices cross-country skiing around the homonymous lake.
Polar circle
Sign identifying the Arctic Circle, Napapiiri, in the Suomi dialect.
white reindeer
Groomer feeds a white reindeer.
Mount of Winds
Typical Lapland country house on top of a windy elevation on the outskirts of Kuusamo.
Kino Kuusamo Talo
One of Kuusamo's few homely distractions, a not-so-Hollywood cinema.
winter forest
Semi-frozen forest of Oulanka National Park.
Cycling on ice
A swaddled resident walks down a street in Kuusamo.
cold, colder and colder
Frozen observation cabin perched on a hill on top of Ruuka Hill.
Lapland Twilight
Sun begins to set over Lake Ala-Juumajarvi.
frozen pasture
Reindeer graze in a frozen field in Lapland.
suspended crossing
Hikers cross the Oulanka River, which is still little or not frozen.
We are at 66º North and at the gates of Lapland. In these parts, the white landscape belongs to everyone and to no one like the snow-covered trees, the atrocious cold and the endless night.

It's midnight. It's been hours since anyone has been on the streets of Kuusamo.

cinema, kuusamo, kino, oulanka national park, finland

One of Kuusamo's few homely distractions, a not-so-Hollywood cinema.

Despite the city's lack of guests and clientele, the Sokos hotel's strange bar opens a new night of karaoke. A barista on duty encourages her, singing Finnish folk songs in the impenetrable Suomi dialect.

The lyrics of the songs follow one another on the screen, full of repeated consonants and umlauts. The melodies attract two or three lost souls in the rooms of the building.

They levitate themselves from the tables and move in slow motion, a technique developed over the years to mask the effects of alcohol. Gradually, they earn at will. They join the interpretation of the latest hit and choose what they will sing next.

In order to prepare for the theme in line, they chug out yet another vodka or the trendy alternative drink, Valkovenäläinen, a semi-sweet blend of Kahlua 228 with vodka and milk.

This dubious spectacle repeats itself. Middle-aged couples migrated from the adjoining Torero restaurant, where Hispanic imagery is served in industrial doses, enrich him.

Until bar hours force it to be postponed.

Towards the Frigid Vastness of Oulanka National Park

The next morning we moved to the Finnish countryside. We settled at the entrance to Oulanka National Park with plans to walk part of Finland's most famous forest trail, the Karhunkierros.

Clouds pass gray. Cools before our eyes and the snow that falls slowly reinforces the white of the scenery. The path winds through the conifers of the Finnish taiga. It follows the homonymous river that resists freezing due to the strength of the dark waters.

Oulanka River, Suspension Bridge, Visitors, Oulanka National Park, Finland.

Hikers cross the Oulanka River, which is still little or not frozen.

We crossed it, somewhat unsteadily, on suspension bridges. We walked back through the trees and found areas conquered by vast frozen swamps.

The Solitary Enchantment of Juuma

Juuma appears as a tenuous civilizational reward in the surrounding arctic immensity, with its core of wooden houses red on the shore of Lake Ala-Juumajarvi, next to a boarding ramp where a service boat rests on ice.

Lake Juumajarvi Wing Farm Mirror Oulanka National Park Finland

Farmhouse buildings with typical Lapland architecture on the shore of Lake Ala-Juumajarvi.

Four or five cars are parked nearby, but the village's Kavhila Cafe never seems to have opened and we only detect signs of life in one of the houses.

In prehistoric times, the territory of Finland was trampled and smoothed by waves of gigantic glaciers.

Contrary to what one might think, it turns out to be flat, pockmarked by countless lakes left behind by the thaw.

ala juumajarvi lake, sunset, oulanka national park, finland.

Sun begins to set over Lake Ala-Juumajarvi.

Ruka: Alisada Finland's Possible Snow Resort

A few dozen kilometers from our base, Ruka (Rukatunturi) is only 500 meters high but has become the main snow sports center in the region and one of the most important in the country.

rukka ski downhill oulanka national park finland

Skiers descend a slope from the Rukka snow resort.

As it had happened again the previous weekend, the resort frequently hosts competitions from the world championships in cross-country skiing, jumping, and other sports practiced on the snow.

It receives more than 65000 outsiders who flock there to participate in the competitions or support the competitors.

We investigated the village, explored its curious commercial area. We climbed to the highest point aiming to enjoy the view painted in white around.

rukka cabin observation oulanka national park finland

Frozen observation cabin perched on a hill on top of Ruuka Hill.

The Patches That Russia Brought and the Reindeer Finland

From there, we contemplate Russia and the Paanajarvi National Park – the extension of the oulanka – in the image of much of the territory suomi  taken by the Soviet Union to Finland because Finland aligned with the Axis forces during World War II.

This loss is, even today, the great national frustration. Finns of all ages speak of her, without any great complexes. It is even common to find establishments with maps of the original territory or photos of its emblematic places.

On the way back to Oulanka's camp, we pass more villages and frigid roadside fields where herds of reindeer graze.

reindeer grazing ice, oulanka national park, finland

Reindeer graze in a frozen field in Lapland.

A Finnish existence of these deer it has little to do with what is foisted by the Christmas imaginary. All specimens have owners and identify colored collars and plates.

As used to their owners, reindeer almost completely ignore the human presence. There have been no wild reindeer in Finland for decades.

bar restaurant, tipi, rukka, oulanka national park, finland

A tipi-shaped bar-restaurant on the outskirts of Rukka, the region's main snow resort.

Arrived at the comfort of the base, we dined on reindeer stew – on other days moose meat – a Lapland specialty little appreciated in southern Finland. “Some kids from the south come here and make tapes because they don't want to eat Rodolfo” vents Satto.

reindeer grazing ice, oulanka national park, finland.

Reindeer stands out from a herd that grazes on the snow.

Others make their parents miserable because they notice the difference in flavor compared to beef.”

PN Oulanka and Paanajarvi, in Also Finnish Times

New day, new incursion into the region's remote domains. The temperature plummets. The roads are once again covered with dangerous ice.

Sari Alatossava drives us at ease, but despite the special winter tyres, full of piercing spikes, she is surprised twice when the Land Cruiser skidded and nearly reversed direction on the road.

Scare is relative. We quickly recovered the dialogue in which the hostess explained her unlikely relationship with Portugal.

Now, as he tells us, in 2001, Sari did an Erasmus exchange at the Faculty of Arts in Porto because he wanted to do it in a small country and he liked Saramago's books a lot.

He ended up dating Portuguese with a Madeiran family spread by South AfricaBy Malta and by Finland.

semi frozen forest, oulanka national park, finland

Semi-frozen forest of Oulanka National Park.

Already on foot, with snow falling more abundantly than ever, Sari guides us along a new forest trail. The path is smooth and short. Even so, it reveals to us the wild and wild scenery of the Canyon of Oulanka that the River Oulankajoki continues to deepen.

Once again, we see the Russia from a distance. Sari complains that now the Finnish expeditions from Rafting they have to be careful with the position of the border so as not to cross the big bear's territory.

And that the Russians are like most people in large countries: "they always have to get what they want and, for that, they overlook everything and everyone."

Napapiiri, Arctic Circle Sign, Oulanka National Park, Finland.

Sign identifying the Arctic Circle, Napapiiri, in the Suomi dialect.

Back at the starting point, we head north and cross the Polar Circle arctic. Salla is waiting for us “In The Middle of Nowhere".

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It is No "Love Boat". Icebreaker since 1961

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In Search of the Fire Fox

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Fishing for Truly Fresh Fish

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The Babel Parliament of the Sami Nation

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A Frigid-Scholarly Via Crucis

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The Pagan Passover of Seurasaari

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The Delightful Arctic Heat

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A Slightly Lonesome Wolf

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Finland's once Swedish Fortress

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A Refuge in the Gulf of Bothnia

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Lion, Elephants, PN Hwange, Zimbabwe
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autumn in the caucasus

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Amboseli National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Normatior Hill
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