18th July 2016. Journey to Lappeasuando.

Our plan today is to get as far North as we can in the hopes we will see the midnight sun.  We’re aiming for a ställplats on the Swedish/Finnish border.  We went to that area five years ago to see the Northern Lights.  We were very lucky and saw them on two of the three days we were there, we were also lucky to make some good friends on the trip, Carole and Dave.  We stayed on the Finnish side and walked through the snow to the Swedish village on the other side of the bridge.

Our journey had started off very well, we drove down a very long road which said ‘Roadworks In Progress’ and we both groaned assuming it was going to be a re-run of yesterday’s bumpy journey but in fact they were about to start painting the white lines in the middle of a beautifully smooth newly tarmac’d road which was a pleasure to drive along.  To make this journey even more perfect, an hour into the journey we saw a sign for a coffee shop and we pulled in.

The coffee shop was a big log cabin with lots of pretty items for sale, we could smell the pine when we went inside, it was lovely.  The lady told us that she’d been to Whitby three times to learn English and it was the first time she’d heard a real English accent up here.  She said a lot of people who spoke ‘English’ came in but they weren’t from England.

The view from her restaurant was stunning, it overlooked a river which was racing over rocks.  Unfortunately my photos don’t do it justice.

Around midday we crossed into Lapland, the landscape along the roads we’ve been travelling on today has changed quite rapidly from pine forests to a mix of deciduous and pine, then flat grassy plains to huge lakes with water lilies dotted around the edges and white frothy flowers, followed by hills covered in pine trees with large boulders on the slopes.  Eventually the rock became angular sheets instead of smooth boulders.  Further up North the terrain became very sandy.  About 200 km from Karesuando there were a few dams, we went over a bridge on one of the dams where someone had painted huge, bright pictures on the walls, I tried taking a photo but I only got a tiny bit of it.

Darren suggested I took a photo of the beautiful blue lake in front of us at the end of the road then as I was doing it I heard him exclaim, “OOH!  There were some reindeer at the side of the road, I thought they were wooden ones, then they moved!”  I was cheesed off because I had missed them, they were very tiny dots in my photo.

I’d just put the camera down and Darren told me to look at the road and there was a herd of reindeer walking across the road so I got lots of photos of them, even the baby which crossed the road then jumped round to face his mum.  There was another reindeer which must have pheasant blood in it somewhere down the line because he wandered across to the middle of the road then dithered about turning backwards and forwards in front of us and the car on the other side of the road before he finally carried on across the road.

We stopped off in a town called Jokkmokk in the Arctic Circle and had food, there’s a lovely tradition here where they give you a small bowl of pickled white cabbage to eat while you’re waiting for your main meal.  I had a vegetarian pizza and although the menu was written in Swedish, Dutch and English there was one thing that we couldn’t understand so Darren ordered that, the man serving us appeared a bit surprised and when it turned up it was a fried egg on top of diced fried potatoes mixed with fried onions and small chunks of gammon with salad, basically it was egg and chips.  I suppose when the rest of the menu consisted of various types of steak and other meats that might have seemed a bit strange.  When we were in Hawaii a few years ago I received the same look from the waitress as we ordered drinks and I asked for the papaya and lemon, it turned out it was literally a papaya sliced in half with a wedge of lemon to squeeze on it, it was very tasty even if it wasn’t a drink as I’d expected and it gave her a good laugh at my expense when I told her why I’d ordered it.

After our meal we did some shopping in Coop then carried on to our next rastplats.  Darren had some programmed in but we drove up to a rastplats about 40 minutes later and I suggested we stopped there with the two other motorhomes.  It was beside another dam.

There was an interesting piece of art work there and we’d passed a building with a golden crown on the roof so we went for a walk to have a look.

The stone and metal art installation was HUGE.  I hadn’t appreciated the size as we drove along the road but when Darren stood next to it he looked minuscule.

Although the building housing the machinery for the dam wasn’t very pretty the rest of the buildings looked very traditional and the landscaping was pretty.

We walked along a little road with sparkling water running down through moss on the rock face beside us and into a ditch covered with grass and wildflowers.  We were intending climbing back up to the van via the wooden staircase we’d seen at the top however when we got to it we were on a level lower than the staircase extended to.  We deliberated about whether to walk back the way we came (it was feeling rather chilly even though the sun was out) or climb over the boulders to the staircase.  We chose the second option and clambered to the next path.

The staircase had been put in to take people down to see two log huts from the 1800’s which were used by some of the people who helped build the dam.  They must have been frozen in the winter, each hut only had a tiny stove to keep them warm.

We climbed the stairs back up to the van and were just settling down with a cup of coffee and a book in the peaceful rastplats when groups of people started walking past and we realised they must be the ‘night’ shift for the dam.  We pondered on how strange it must be to do a night shift when it’s daylight all night and vice versa in the winter when the day shift are working in the dark.  A short while later a train trundled through and sounded his horn very loudly for the whole time it was passing through so we decided that if we wanted to sleep at all we’d move on to find another rastplats.

The next one Darren had in the GPS was two hours away.  It’s strange to think that if we were at home it’s highly unlikely we would ever consider driving for another two hours after we’d been driving most of the day but with so many hours of  daylight in the day we felt full of energy and wide awake.

We found some more road works on the way to the next stop, again long stretches of road with the top scraped off ready to re-surface, it was so bumpy the SAT NAV kept wobbling around to face me.

We had to stop at the next ställplats because the sun was so low in the sky that it was blinding and Darren could only see a couple of metres in front of the van.   We wouldn’t have chosen to stop here, it was full of motorhomes and caravans dotted all over the place but it was beside a very wide river, apparently one of only five free flowing rivers in the country.

We parked up and went for a walk to the big bridge (running the mossie gauntlet to get to it, there were no mossies on the bridge at all, maybe it’s because it was VERY windy out there) and looked out over a beautiful vista.

It was so strange to be standing in broad daylight when it was 10 o’clock at night.  We watched a man fishing from the shore beneath us, it was surprising how far he was able to cast his hook, he managed to get it into the middle of the river, he didn’t catch anything while we were watching, I wonder whether he had better luck later.

Although it was warm in the sun the air was icy cold and our noses were really cold by the time we got back to the van.  It became so chilly that we put the heating on for a short while before we finally went to bed just after midnight.  People had been sitting outside until just before that, they are obviously far hardier than us braving the mossies and the cold!

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