This week saw us go to places we had read about but never had the opportunity before to visit.
We’re still above the Arctic Circle and while the majority of the UK is in a heatwave we are struggling to reach temperatures above 8°C – with a feels like of 4°C! The days are longer with the sun setting after 10:00pm and rising again between 01:45am and 03:00am.
Monday saw us on our way to Nordkapp. We drove to Alta and then over the wilds of Sennalandet, where we almost collided with a Reindeer (don’t tell the grandkids) while watching some others – its not a normal thing for us to see reindeer especially not in the numbers up here! We stayed at the Russenes Camping Butikk, in Russenes, with a wonderful view of the fjord and Russian neighbours!
On Tuesday, we headed even further north, its felt like we’ve been heading north for ever, but today would be the furthest we could go – Nordkapp. We followed the road up and into Honningsvag, and saw another cruise liner – the TUI Mein Schieff 3.
On the way to Nordkapp, we saw yet more reindeer and the views were amazing. We reached the car park and were told our entry fee included an overnight stop in the motorhome if we wanted to (luckily we hadn’t stopped at a campsite on the way up to check-in) and we could order breakfast. We didn’t have to make up our minds at that point as they were open until midnight!
We set off to look at the monuments and it was packed the Cruise Liner passengers had been bussed up and they were everywhere. We returned to Nortia and decided to stay. We had a perfect spot overlooking the bay with the horizon going on eternally around us. A wild camp night – it was cold but we have heating and there was use of the main building until 01:00 and after 06:00 so not a problem. Even better, once the tourists (we were now residents for the day) had left we had the place to ourselves – and the other motorhomers, caravanners and campers as well as a few hardy day guests. What had been a challenge to get to was now empty and photos could be taken. That said, when I took photos the following morning looking back at the car park the number of motorhomes reminded me of the scene from Independence Day, where they all flock to Area 51!
Nordkapp is the northernmost point of Europe and as such, is higher than the whole of the UK including Shetland and the Orkneys, Iceland, the USA – except Alaska and most of Canada. It sits 71°10’21” North.
The next day, we had to retrace our steps south in order to travel east to the Russian border. We had to be careful here – the main road followed the Finnish border and any diversions would send us over the border. We are not opposed to the Finns but as we’ve probably already mentioned, it would involve another vet visit and a 24 hour wait before continuing on in Norway. So we stuck to the lesser used Fv98 – its very scenic but very bumpy and potholed – it makes English roads look positively good! There were still more reindeer up here.
We stopped over at Ifjord, at a little campsite which was being done up – they don’t see a lot of English tourist in this part of the world I was informed!
Next step, Kirkenes and the Russian border. A few more reindeer and then a Military Zone – what? No photos or camping in the lay-bys – it is because of the threat of illegal immigration from Russia, who is not part of the Schengen Arrangement of European Free Travel.
Kirkenes, itself is a rather ordinary town, it was the second most bombed place in the Second World War- due to its iron ore production and proximity to Russia – the next closet town is Murmansk. In case you need it for a quiz, the most bombed place in WWII was Malta.
The Russian Border is at a place called Storskog – Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav didn’t recognise it as a town but Gloria Google Maps did, so with phone in hand we set off. Turn left at the roundabout then we read the next step…. cross the Russian Border and continue – WHAT? Quick turnaround! This might seem a bit extreme but there is a minimum of 5000 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) fine per person (£500) and the dog can get quarantined. Originally, we only wanted to get to Kirkenes so we’d done that.
With all our Norwegian places visited, we were set to travel to Finland, but first we found an ideal wild camping spot just off the 893 about 7 Kilometres from the Finnish Border. This was our first EVER proper wild camp. We’d researched what you do and how best and listened to stories and tales and put everything in place, park so you can get away if you have to, keep all belongings secure and we put everything away in case we needed to run. All this fuss for nothing – no-one else was around, no-one tried to break in and kill us in our sleep – it was fine. That said, always check your location before just parking up and never break laws to do it – know what you can and can’t do – lecture over!
We went over the border to Finland the next day. First you pass a Border Control building – this is for Russian Nationals we believe and we passed on a bit underwhelmed abut the lack of signage. Further down the road is the actual border crossing point and a few metres further on, the scenery changed. Finland is known as the land of lakes – there are loads, the area we entered – Lapland, has woods and lakes in abundance. There are so many areas to wild camp and its expected here!
We had entered Finland in Lapland – according to the Finland website, it is home to 190 000 reindeer, 749 fells and 1 Santa Claus. We’re off to see Santa later in the week. There were still more reindeer – reindeer are lovely and unusual for us but they are daft. They play chicken with cars, like to cross just as you approach and then run down the road in front of you!
There are a few things we need to share with you if you are planning a trip to Finland – we had always planned to come but we knew nothing before arriving! In Finland, they use the Euro – we haven’t used this since Germany! Their time is a different zone to Sweden and Norway, and the rest of Europe we had so far visited – they are another 1 hour ahead so when the phone automatically changed it was a bit of a shock! I’m sure they’ll be more things we find out and we’ll keep you posted!
Our first night in Finland was at a lovely campsite in Inari, still inside the Arctic Circle and on a lovely lake. The facilities were a bit rustic but warm and functional. We took a slow drive south towards Rovaniemi passing more reindeer – especially pleasing when they walked down the road in front of us outside the Santa’s Aurora Hotel and the Flying Reindeer Cabins – we really are in Santa Land.
Our stop for the night was a lovely free spot by a lake, with 3 other motorhomes. It was so peaceful and we were warm – the weather had improved and the temperature increased. After a relaxing nights sleep, we went to visit Santa at Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland. It was a little surreal listening to Jingle Bells in the sun in August! Santa was in and there was a big queue to meet him so I didn’t get to meet him – just don’t tell the grandkids, as we’ve told them we told Santa how good they’ve been. We crossed back over the Arctic Circle and headed south, doing a bit of sightseeing, meeting some more reindeer on the beach and looking for somewhere to stop overnight – we had been spoilt the night before, and nothing quite matched our requirements, so we went to a campsite in Ii. It was a lovely find, right on the river close to the sea.
After a long drive and a lovely meal it was time for bed. The weather forecast for next week isn’t great so some planning will be done in the morning – another week’s adventures to plan…
We’re not sure at this point whether we’ll stay longer in Finland or head north to Sweden and explore – we’ve only ever driven through Sweden to get to Norway – even earlier in the trip the aim was Norway, despite a few lovely nights on the west coast.
As always, thank you for reading. We hope you have a great week and will catch up again next week, Sx