Lapland is the area inhabited by the Sami people. There are more reindeer here than people. As you move north, the trees in the forest become smaller and finally the landscape becomes open fell land. In 1945 Hitler´s retreating army had a scorched earth policy, so nearly everything from Rovaniemi north is constructed post-war. A notable exception is Sodankyla´s small wooden church built in 1689. It is very plain inside, almost like a Quaker Meeting House, although there is a simple altar.
North of Sodankyla, the road crosses a divide between the Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean watersheds over a pass of about 350 m in open moorland.
Crossing this divide brings you into Northern Lapland.
2013/07/14: Train from Kajaani and 13 km to Santa´s gravel parking lot
We had a slow morning cleaning our apartment and arranging for our orienteering gear to be taken back to Canada. We took the train to Rovaniemi, where we had a supper of pizza. We then rode out of town on a bike path signed ¨Napapiri¨ (Arctic Circle) and camped in a gravel pit with some RVs.
The Arctic Circle is presently moving north at 15 metres per year, so there is no road marker for it Rather there is a Santa Claus resort, built just north of the present location of the Arctic Circle presumably so over time it will remain close to the circle.
2013/07/15: 75 km to Dairy Farm Hostel ¨Visatupa¨
In a short day with the wind at our backs, we made good time but stop early to stay at a dairy farm. Prior to stopping we saw our first reindeer and met a young Polish lad pulling a Polish-designed “extra wheel” and carrying six large panniers. He is doing Poland to NordKapp return living only on food he had dried himself in Poland –quite a challenge!
At the farm hostel we met friendly Danish and Swedish couples. Margo took a tour of the farm to see the herd of Ayrshires plus a few Holsteins being milked. The farmer was very friendly and informative. At breakfast the next morning we learned that because of the need to assert Finnish sovereignty in the post war era, there are today many more farms in Finnish Lapland than in Swedish Lapland. Entry into the EU has caused subsidies to decrease but improvements in farming practices have kept farms profitable.
2013/07/16: 100 km to Camp by lake
After a pleasant breakfast with the Danish couple we pedalled back to the road. We took a picnic lunch in Sodankyla, and visited the church. Bought spare links for our chains in local sports store, along with mozzie hats and a bright safety singlet for me. Camped in a pleasant site by a lake with reasonable protection from the wind because the weather was changing.
2013/07/17: 88 km to in Camp open forest
Strong winds in our faces greeted us when we return to the road in the morning. We started to see lots of reindeer, and reindeer products in stores. Bought reindeer salami from a store that also had bear and moose (elk) salami. Through the day the trees got smaller and further apart as we cycled north. Camped in picturesque site near stream. All signs had become bilingual (Local Sami dialect – Finnish)
2013/07/17: 79 km to Inari
Woke late. Over breakfast some reindeer passed by. One of them was white, it is said to be good luck by the Sami to see a white reindeer. This is the second white reindeer we have seen, but no good luck yet. Apparently the Sami make shoes from them.
Had large buffet lunch in Ivalo including game meat stew. Pleasant ride along south shore of Lake Inari. Stopped for a rest at a picnic stop by lake and had a long talk to a German motorcyclist who was on tour that took him to Kazahkstan and Russia. He reported no issues with police in Russia. Stopped in evening in Inari in a very small cabin. Did laundry and showered!