65-years old pensioner Pekka Liljavirta started in august 2015 a ten days motorcycle tour nearly alone from Salo’s Mathildedal along the eastern border to the North Cape and back. The journey counted more than 3.800 km. There was much to see and experience, and the weather was kind to him all trip long.
First leg at Imatra’s Riviera
I left for Imatra around noon on 5th of August and arrived at Hostel Ukonlinna on Imatra’s ”Riviera” in good time before the evening, washing off the dust of the trip on the beach next to the hostel. The driven distance reached little over 400 km and it took me less than six hours.
On the beach was still quite a bustle of late afternoon and the thermometer showed +23 C. It was as abroad would have been listening to foreign languages on the beach, travellers playing in the water and beach ball.
Anyway Imatra offered a lot to see. One of the city’s most famous attractions is the Vuoksi river with his heavily foaming rapids when the floodgates open at 18 o’clock.
In Ukonlinna was a functional kitchen for cooking and a kiosk had got some snacks in the daytime like coffee and more. The room and other sanitary facilities were very clean and behind the hostel located was a good parking lot.
On the next morning the staff had not yet arrived at the scene, when I continued my journey to Kuopio. After a good night’s sleep it was nice to head the nose again towards the north. Next target had been to visit relatives in Kuopio’s municipality Vehmersalmi, have a sauna and stay for the night. The ride took less than 300 km and on the way I stopped at café Jari-Pekka Joroinen.
Following the journey of other bikers
On 7th of August I continued to Rovaniemi. In Siilinjärvi I was joined by three other bikers on their way to a Triumph motorcycle event, which took place in Pohtimolampi about 25 km north of Rovaniemi. The distance was nearly 600 km and the time it took to reach the stop took about eight hours. I spend two nights there and a day in good company before I carried on the ride towards Lapland.
Getting introduced to the reindeers of Lemmenjoki
Sunday morning on August 9th I headed to Lapland and the Hostel Lemmenjoen Lumo. I drove about 320 km, through Kittilä and Pokka and I got to try with my Trump underneath on Lapland’s gravel roads to navigate a shorter route from there. The reindeer did well to make you want stay within the speed limits and preferably a little more. Once there was a near-miss situation and the rear tire drew a little black line on the asphalt, as a reindeer’s nose came close enough to touch.
I arrived at Hostel Lemmenjoen Lumo in the afternoon and received my own small cottage in the proximity of the main building. The cottages were equipped with a fridge and a hot plate and the basic cabins with two beds and quite worthy to sleep. In the main building were separate rooms, toilet facilities and a small shared kitchen. The couple in the neighbour cottage spent already its third day in Lemmenjoki, enjoying canoeing, fishing, riverboat travelling and rambling in the nature reserve.
The National Park can be reached in walking distance, but also boats stops there. Professional gold diggers are located about 30 km away, but whoever wants to can also shake the pan on the hostel’s beach. In the afternoon I ate a delicious salmon soup at the bar of the hostel even if there was also reindeer available. Also burgers and other small dishes were offered and the opening hours were extensible, according to customers. Together with the bar located has been also a souvenir shop.
Campers and caravanners were also in large numbers in the area. Together with the locals it was a nice evening for a tourist and I told that the lady next door was for gold prospecting around here. As I said the lady’s name the Lappish men recognized Ulla immediately and told that she sometimes leaves her car in the Lemmenjoen Lumo hostel’s yard.
Norway’s fjords and crayfish
On the morning of August 10th my journey continued to the Arctic Ocean. I crossed the border in Karigasniemi and there had not been at all any border formalities. The landscape did not become directly a major change, but the homes became a little more colourful. When I had driven less than 100 kilometres the Norwegian fjords began to appear.
Behind Lakselv must have been almost hundred kilometres of beaches reflecting the pattern of the fjords. Last I visited the North Cape about 25 years ago and lots of streets and directions have been improved. In the past one had to go by ferry from the mainland to the North Cape, but now it can be reached from the opposite beach via a 6,8 km long tunnel, which runs about 200 metres below sea level.
In Honningsvåg I had booked a hostel room with my Hostelling International card. I brought my exported goods to the room and continued to the North Cape.
After the mandatory North Cape picture and enjoying some coffees I returned to the hostel and went to explore the city. For lunch, of course, I had to taste the king crabs, but yes the credit card whined with regret about the decline of almost 50 euro when paying at the front desk.
On 11th of August I turned the bow toward the south and drove through Alta and a number of fjords and after about 440 km I found myself on the Birtavarre camping site. Birtavarre was almost dark and cloudy at night and a few raindrops would fall in the morning, but luckily it did not rain during the day.
In Norway I paid almost all payments via credit card, but just in case I had changed 90 euro to kroner. During the year the course has deteriorated by about 20% against the euro, so Norway is today a quite expensive country for Finns.
From Kilpisjärvi via Pallastunturi to Kalajoki
The ride continued in the morning of August 12th via the Finnish Kilpisjärvi and a night in the Pallastunturi Nature reserve area. The driven distance that day was about 330 km and reindeer were both in Norway and in Finland quite photogenic. In Pallastunturi I went for a change for a sauna and a swim in a small pond, which had a water flow. The water felt cold and I heard later on, that the water’s temperature was in winter almost the same as in summer. Again after morning routines on Sunday 13th tyres were facing south and driving via Tornio I accidentally passed the border to the Swedish side.
The next place to stay was Hostel Tapion Tupa in Kalajoki, the day’s drive amounted to nearly 600 km. I got a room in the house named Pytinki and it was like an old-fashioned farmhouse equipped with a big cottage kitchen and comfortable rooms. My own room with a toilet, shower and two beds felt quite luxurious too. I went to eat in the bar-souvenir shop and there was good as service like the cosy terrace and enjoying the late lunch.
After a while I went to the sandbanks for a walk and there was the home country. There is no place like that.
On August 14th after breakfast I had to say goodbye to Tapion Tupa. Good mood came from that place, service and staff, and the journey home began with good weather conditions. As an intermediate stop I went to the Finnish Jaeger Museum. This year they celebrate 100 years of the time, when 2.000 Finnish Youngsters went to Germany for the Jaeger education.
Hostels are suitable for a pensioner’s wallet
The trip was excellent and a huge thanks to the Finnish Hostel Association since I got such an opportunity as a fellowship traveller. I got a positive and price competitive idea of the Finnish hostels and will definitely use similar services in the future in Finland as well as abroad. Last year I travelled 33.500 km by motorcycle and if I had already known of the hostel network back then, I would have changed many hotels into hostel nights. For a pensioner, when revenues are limited, determines the price/value for money the accommodation and in that age I only go camping when necessary.
Text and pictures: Pekka Liljavirta, 02/2016
Article’s main picture: Tapion Tupa Kalajoki
Translation: Susanne Schick