2013/07/19: Resting and touristing in Inari
2013/07/20: 101 km to 50 km South of Norwegian Border
2013/07/21: 76 km to about 30 km west of Kirkenes, Norway
We had a tiny campground cabin here on the outskirts for two nights. It had a hotplate, and the campground had WiFi –of sorts. Inari is the Sami capital, with a Sami cultural centre cum parliament building, as well as a museum called Siida that documents the history of the Sami people. We visited both of these. The cultural centre was a striking piece of architecture that blended with the stark landscape; it had conference rooms and an auditorium was abuzz with women doing crafts, and had a well-appointed library with most books in Finnish, but also with some in each of the three local Sami dialects: Inari Sami, North Sami and Skolt Sami. At the Siida museum we had coffee with Antje, the solo German cyclist we’d met the evening before.
The Final Stretch North
About an hour out of Inari we reached a junction; if we’d stayed on the main road we could have spent a night in a hostel a few kilometres further along. We opted to turn off northeastward towards Kirkenes, the easternmost town in Norway. We are ahead of schedule for our meeting with friends at Nordkapp, but were looking forward to dabbling in new landscapes. We also met a Swiss woman -a little older than us–travelling south on her own. This adventure that had taken quite some planning as she was not prepared to camp on her own, and not wanting to cover long daily distances. She was pleased when we bequeathed her our cycling map of Lapland.
We must have seen hundreds by now, and are getting quite casual about sightings. They usually trot off into the forest, glancing backward disdainfully at us as they go. As a result of tightening northern border controls after WW2, herding in Northern Finland was organized into several large co-operatives, There is miles of fencing along the roadside, but where fences cross the road, there is no cattle guard (except at the international border) to prevent a creature from skipping across. Instead, there are flapping plastic bags and bits of flagging hung from the wire strands at either side. We expect the idea is to frighten the reindeer so they wont even try to scamper along the road through the fence gap. Chris had noticed an electronic device mounted on a post as we crossed one of the fence lines, but I hadn’t seen it. A very loud siren suddenly went off, nearly frightening me off my bike! It was no doubt a very effective reindeer scaring device.
We’d polished off our reindeer salami, but as we entered the Skolt Sami village of Sevettijarvi, we saw a sign that informed us bluntly how most reindeer end; there was a meat outlet here, and I think the building behind it was an abattoir. In the café, we had the squares of a reindeer mincemeat pie for lunch. A little further up the road was a fenced structure for loading reindeer into trucks.
In Sevettijarvi we saw a display about the Skolt Sami people who resettled here when Finland lost part of its territory to Russia at the end of WW2. Their dialect, which they are working very hard to preserve and to revive, borrows words from Russian, and we could see a Russian flair to their costumes that the other Sami groups do not have. At a craft display at the school, we met Hannah. a Skolt Sami woman who had spent her teenage years in Toronto. We were impressed with her plans to develop local tourism, and especially with her idea to organize ski touring outings with support by reindeer for hauling heavier gear.
After endless stretches of managed forest, the trees were getting smaller. Pines grew gnarled from wind exposure, and birches grew as low sprawling multi-stemmed shrubs rather than as upright trees. In addition to huge Lake Inari to our right, there were many smaller lakes that looked like sprawling alpine tarns in a landscape that is now rocky, divided by eskers and moraines, and dotted with huge erratic boulders. Our final campsite in Finland was an idyllic lakeside, where we sat quietly to watch the sun dip low without setting. The next day, we crossed into Norway in the early afternoon, after spending our remaining euro coins on chocolate bars at the last Finnish shop. Our first Norwegian campsite was on a small point of land that reached into Munkfkord, an arm of the Arctic Ocean. M