Friday, August 28, 2015

Finland/Iceland trip diary - day 6

At around this point in the trip, one of us always remarks to the other that even if we were going home tomorrow, the vacation wouldn’t have been too short. This doesn’t mean we’ve had enough, only that the experiences are so dense and full and satisfying that you hardly feel entitled to more. By the time the trip actually ends, after this much experience again, we’ll feel so satiated that it’ll seem we must surely have been permanently changed. Whether this feeling lasts beyond that, of course, is quite another matter.
Again, we both woke up earlier than we needed to, but went back to sleep eventually. I keep thinking I hear the sound of a kettle boiling, but actually I believe it’s just the ceaseless rush of the river outside. Otherwise it’s very quiet around here. I mentioned that Finnish people aren’t the most convivial, and that seems even truer up here. It wouldn’t be such a surprise if “sour-faced old bat” was actually part of the job description at the hotel. Still, everything seems to run efficiently. This morning, as we’d requested, they had a packed lunch waiting for us, even though (referring back to yesterday) much of it seemed to consist of the same stuff as the buffet breakfast.

We walked today on the Otsamo trail, for which (out of post-walk exhaustion) I will copy the blurb from the local guide: “The trail leading to Otsamotunturi Fell lies on the northern side of the Juutanjoki River, alternating between a pine forest and the riverbank. The last three kilometres of the trail ascends the slope of Otsamo, passing the mountain birch zone and reaching the treeless fell top. The top of the fell provides a panoramic view of the entire area: from Lake Inarijarvi down to the Juutanjoki River valley, the Hammastunturi fells, the Lemmenjoki fells and the Muotkanturi fells. The same trail is taken on the way back, which makes the total trip 18.4 kilometres long.” And they mean long. The combination of the extra five or so kilometres or so compared to yesterday, and the tougher climb at the end, certainly took it out of us. It’s distinctly satisfying though to do such a walk and not to encounter a single person, there or back (all we saw at one point was a fisherman in the middle distance), so that you get to the top and have the whole sweeping view to yourselves. You also have the outhouse to yourself, but given that it’s secured to its precarious spot by two dodgy-looking wires, you may decide to steer clear of it.

We had our lunch up there, supplemented by a few wild blueberries – they’re as ubiquitous under your feet there as grass in a city park. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if the mountain had been teeming with creatures, gorging themselves on blueberries. Actually though it feels oddly quiet here too – I guess the red squirrels prefer the easy pickings around the hotel. But we got our big wish – we saw a reindeer! Just a single one, wandering among the trees. It saw us and gave us that quizzical/outraged look you get from wild animals all over the world, before concluding we didn’t pose much of a threat, and heading off at its own pace. Probably not a major wildlife sighting in the scheme of things, but a nice authentic local touch.

Did you know that the Lemmenjoki fells are named to commemorate Finland’s love for the immortal jokiness of Jack Lemmen? Anyway, it was fairly cool today, and we made good time, faster overall than yesterday (we only ever find this out at the end because we don’t have a watch and don’t bring our cellphones, thus existing in perfect abstraction). We were understandably worn out when we got back though. But this is one of the many fortunate things about us as a couple – we always have the same ideas about what to do, and much the same amount of energy to devote to them. The late afternoon/early evening rest period in the hotel is certainly a key part of the vacation formula for both of us. We both nap a bit, we check in on Ozu (looking good; hasn’t had to wear his cone for several days), I write this, we read the inspiring news from back home, like the guy who was lured into an alley last night, beaten unconscious and robbed. So it sounds like they already did to him what the Republicans are trying to do to America. (Drumroll!)
We had a choice between heading back to PaPaNa or back to the hotel restaurant, and decided on the latter, mainly because of the menu. Ally had pasta (with reindeer of course) and I had Lake Inari trout (maybe the same one that so recently was flaunting it on the fishcam). We had some wine and then switched to our by-now predictable Karhu, for which we moved to the hotel’s bar area. Two things I didn’t previously document about ordering Karhu: (1) it always comes in a distinctive and no-doubt brand-mandated bear-themed glass, and (2) Finnish servers always do what we would back home call an “underpour” i.e. they pour it 95% of the way to the top and then consider that good enough, whereas Canadian and I think British servers strain to pour you a full glass. So I guess they inherently have a glass-not-full mentality? We didn’t expect to shut down the place, but we were by ourselves for the last hour or so – the hotel seemed very quiet tonight (perhaps it’s at its peak in the winter). Even at 11 pm though, there were still two people fishing in the river nearby. On our (excluding the fishcam) ten channels (which I’ve been enjoying checking up here because it’s so much more fun when it's only ten), excluding  the one that always shows landscapes, every single one was showing subtitled English stuff (including yet another dating show, Hercule Poirot, Steve Martin’s L.A. Story, Grey’s Anatomy, and a Canadian documentary about marijuana). Surely Finnish culture, sour-faced or not, glass-not-full or not, depends better than this…?

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