20.07.2012 - Afternoon. Later in the morning the wind died down enough for us to consider our next move. There were not many choices left as we had somehow never seriously considered the possibility of covering such a small area. We were still about 15k away from where we had expected to start our journey several days ago and had never even crossed the border into Finland. At this rate our scheduled hike would have taken a month to complete - not a week at any stretch of the imagination - so what were we thinking back in the deep southern town of Riihimäki sipping cups of coffee and pouring over the map like it was a Sunday afternoon walk in the park?
Stuart had remembered the long range weather forecast he had heard at the hotel in Kilpisjärvi on Tuesday, which was to expect the weather to deteriorate towards the weekend. It was now the weekend, and if we hadn't already experienced surprises with the weather since we had arrived here, then what lay ahead of us was not good news.
In these situations one discards instantly, and with the discipline of a Mahayana Buddhist monk in deep meditation, any thought entering one's head that the situation couldn't get much worse than it already was, so as not to tempt fate. One also hopes that any god who has her ear trained in on the thoughts of hikers this far north didn't hear a peep. It was getting colder by the minute, and the thought of a possible snowfall wasn't out of the question.
The snow never melts completely on these valley slopes.
So we decided to head back in the general direction of our starting point - 2 days walk away in the hope that we would arrive before the prophecy came true. We packed our things once again, and started out up the valley. The weather stayed pretty stable, with patches of fog creeping down from the highlands and obscuring the view. It seemed at times that the macro world beneath our feet was the only thing to look at for now and I found no reason to remove my camera from the pack during most of the afternoon.
The Suntrica SolarStrap #4 continued to feed much needed power into my iPhone for yet another day of energy; the easiest device to pull from my jacket pocket at a moments notice and record the brief pauses in our slow but steady move north. In a few hours we had passed the point where just a few days earlier we had cut across and up into the hills of Norwegian Halti. We hunted for a while on the opposite bank of the river for a sheltered flat piece of land away from the driving wind that was cutting down the valley from the north cold and raw against the skin.
I noticed some bear feces - somehow jumped to the conclusion having never seen them before - and realized that if this really was what I thought it was then a powerful north wind and the rushing sound of water in the stream was probably the most unhelpful condition we could have. Bears are notoriously shy in Finland and are a very rare sight unless you hang animal carcases out on a tree to tempt them. Their sense of smell is phenomenal. Sakari, with more than 30 excursions to these parts under his belt over the years wasn't the slightest bit worried, but the idea of a bear captured both Stuart's and my imagination and somehow coloured our thoughts for the rest of the day.
We passed a waterfall about a kilometer from where we eventually decided to camp, and I promised myself I would come back later to take some shots. In the end I settled for something nearer, partly because of the bear, and partly because I was too tired to carry camera and tripod up over the hills again. I didn't have much energy left at this point and knew that by tomorrow afternoon this whole experience would start to fade into a memory. I was hungry to see more and went down into the river bed for a couple of hours once again in my element before heading back to the camp for something to eat and bed.
The valley looking north - our journey home.