We wanted to stay longer in Karasjok so when John Arne Mathiesen, the manager at the Rica Hotel, invited us to move into room #115 for a couple of nights it was perfect timing. This solid base made it easier to visit the Sami Parliament and Sàpmi Park, a Sami cultural theme park. Starting the day with a breakfast buffet—yes, break-fast bu-ffet—and ending it in the sauna, were added luxuries we deeply appreciated.

Through our roaming around the small town we meet Margaret, an employee at the Sami National Museum, and she agrees to answer our million questions regarding her family’s migrations with the reindeer herd to and from Nordkapp from time immemorial. “Although my brother is the main herder of the family now, I take my holidays from my ordinary job at critical moments of the year. The reindeer business runs in my blood”, she says in a sharp accent sometimes reminiscent of the Icelandic singer Bjork. Margaret is not afraid for the future: the next generation, her own daughter, is at Sami College in Kautokeino to learn the art and trade of reindeer husbandry and shall inherit the herd in due time.

Porte d'entrée de l'Assemblée du Parlement Sami de Norvège. Finnmark.
Entrance door to Norway’s Sami Parliament Assembly Hall. Finnmark.
Rivière Karasjok. Finnmark.
Karasjok River. Finnmark.

At the tourist information centre, Pierre asks the usual, “is it o.k. if I speak English?” and receives “yes, better than Norwegian” from the petite dark haired woman standing behind the counter. She is from Finland and drives across the border daily to get to her “ordinary job”. She is a Sami herder and her animals are at the summer pastures, getting fat on 250 types of leaves, fruits and mushrooms. Finnish Lapland does not have a coast, nor an agreement with Norway to move the herds North—actually the border is a big fence to prevent four-legged trespassing—so the animals are kept in huge corrals. There are no more nomadic herders in Finland. We are on a “nomads vacation”.

It’s time to leave Norway and we make a last stop at Rema 1000, our favourite supermarket, to stock up on tuna fish and jam, items that are inexplicably cheap in an otherwise expensive country. We also get 3 tubes of cod roe kaviar and a kilogram of brunost—a caramel-coloured sweet whey cheese—beloved food we know will not be available from now on. As we walk around the aisles, there is some nostalgia at leaving the beautiful jet-stream-blessed nation, but a lot of excitement for what is ahead. Eighteen kilometres down the road, we move our clocks forward one hour and ride through the “nothing to declare” lane: we are in Finland!

What do we know about Finland? Well, let’s see. We know Finns are not Scandinavian and that their language is totally unrelated to Danish, Swedish or Norwegian. We know they make vodka (Finlandia), cell phones (Nokia) and the best sport watches (Suunto). Sauna is a Finnish word. Finland is the birthplace of great hockey players, Esa Tikkanen, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, to name a few. Former F1 driver Mika Hakkinen is from here, so is the tiresome heavy metal string quartet Apocalyptica. We have heard they have the best education system in the West and one of the highest suicide rate. That’s about the extent of our knowledge…

Sur la 92, en direction d'Inari. Lappi.
Heading towards Inari on Route 92. Lappi.

One hundred kilometres of forest later, we roll into Inari, the cultural and administrative Sami capital of Finland. Kaisu, at Hotel Kultahovi, hands us the key to a second-floor room, “you’ve come a long way”. We have, but we need to get real about our authorization to stay in the Schengen Area expiring soon. We align all the possibilities and buy two train tickets for Sunday night to Helsinki, from Oulu 500 kilometres away.

KM 3825d
Roadside blueberry break. Lappi.
Compagne de route sur la 92. Avons convergé vers le même poste d'accueil de terrain de camping pour siroter un café et se gaver de tartines. Lappi.
Some company on Route 92. Lappi.
"La 92 file tout droit et oscille allègrement parmi les arpents de taïga qui l'engouffrent. Les feuilles des p'tits bouleaux jaunissent..." Lappi.
Route 92 on the way to Inari. Lappi.

After another delicious breakfast buffet—we could get use to this!—included in our accommodation, Highway E75 awaits, our track towards the Gulf of Bothnia. We become two long-haul truckers: we ride, we eat, we sleep. Most nights we camp in blueberry patches and wake up under heavy dew. By lunch time, the sun has burned through the fog and we can wear shorts and dry the camping equipment on the roadside. It is like waking up in the Ganges plain but 20 degrees colder. We appreciate being out of Norway’s economy and not feeling anxious—or depressed—in supermarkets. We get apples by the kilo, zucchinis and fresh tomatoes come back on the menu, and beer is not a luxury item anymore. Cheers! On our polkupyörä, we flow over an old, highly eroded landscape, vestige of mountains formed two billion years ago: the fells of Saariselkä.

KM 3825f
Anti-snowdrift fences on the fells ridges near Saariselkä.. Lappi.
Pédaler les doigts croisés sur la E75. Lappi.
Long-haul trucking on E75. Lappi.
La route E75 dans les parages de Vuotso. Lappi.
E75 near Vuotso, southernmost reindeder community in Finland. Lappi.

One evening after watching a movie—Camping 2.0—the night is the darkest we have seen since leaving Canada but a large white plume is dancing in the sky towards the East. It looks surreal, like a hologram: northern lights season has begun! On another day, Janick’s rear rim folds in two. We buy a new wheel and keep going. Just before Rovaniemi we cross the Polar Circle. Santa has his office here—for real—but we have no time for a visit. Our guess is there will be no presents under the tree for J+P this upcoming Christmas!

Kitinen river campsite. Lappi.
Kitinen river campsite. Lappi.
A northern pike for dinner? Lappi.
A northern pike for dinner? Lappi.
Tourbière en marge de la E75. Lappi.
Roadside mire. Lappi.
Pit stop en route vers Sodankylä. Lappi.
Pit stop en route towards Sodankylä. Lappi.
Premiers nomades de l'odyssée vélocipédique tels qu'immortalisés à Sodankylä. Lappi.
Our first nomads as immortalized in Sodankylä. Lappi.

Unfortunately, we have not learned a lot more about Finland as we raced through. We do know the language, from the Uralic family of languages, is indecipherable and have come to rely on the other official language, Swedish, to decipher product labels. Also, Angry Birds was created here. OK. Let’s go catch that train….

À Rovaniemi, au cercle arctique polaire, c'est aussi le bureau du Père Noël! Lappi.
In Rovaniemi, crossing the Arctic Polar Circle for the second time of the ride and not stopping over at Santa Claus office…ho, ho, ho! Lappi.
Ça commençait à être rigolo rouler en Finlande! ;-) Lappi.
We were starting to have fun riding in Finland! 😉 Lappi.

2 minutes to midnight in Schengen! ( Lviv, Ukraine - KM 4,060)
At a continent's end... (Karasjok/Kárášjohka, Norway – KM 3,110)

One Comment

  1. Lynndie

    Thanks for AMAZING photos! Wish I was you! Happy trails – Love from Lynndie

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