Day 153/154 17th and 18th July 2017
We left Nellim early by taxi to go to the Kiilopää Trekking centre, which provides facilities to people wanting to trek the area in the adjacent National Park. It is a really terrific set up in that it provides several types of accommodation ranging from camping through hostel to hotel. There is a centre that provides cafeteria-style meals and a shop. There is also an outdoor sports centre that provides guides. mountain bikes, rents hiking equipment and of course during winter ski gear for cross country skiing which is huge in Finland.
As soon as we dropped our gear in the room we went and found our guide Hannah, a super fit, and as we found out super enthusiastic volunteer guide. That wasn’t apparent at first, as she seemed fairly serious as Finns can be but that changed as she talked about the environment that she works in. In fact I have rarely seen a group of people more devoted to the outdoors than the Finns. The centre itself is evidence of that and is run by the non-profit Suomen Latu which is a member run outdoor association.
Before we started I asked Hannah about the strange back-packs(see photo) that were hanging on a rack at the start of the walk. She explained that the previous winter’s snow had ruined the path at the top of Killopaa and the ‘backpacks’ were there for volunteers to take dirt up the top and deposit it to forma new path. A terrific community effort that I wondered would fly at home.
To start Hannah led us along the path that leads to the top of Kiilopää which attracts a lot of walkers. But she then took us off along the fells. The term fells is also used in the UK and can be defined xxxx. For the Finns the attraction is that it is very different terrain to that of the heavily forested parts of Lapland that we had just come from. What became apparent as Hannah led us off the established track was that instead of tress there were rocks, bald hills and widely spaced pine trees.
There was also an extraordinary tree specific to the area called the Kiilopää Birch which grew along the ground rather than up. They had gnarled trunks that gripped the rocks rather than escaping them. There were long ridges piled high with rocks that were evidence of glacial activity and were in fact moraines. As we walked higher, away from the forested areas we came across small lakes or tans.
Hannah chuckled and said, “I have a surprise”. She led us lower down a ridge and Mel said “you wont believe this’ and there stuck in a small gully was a great slab of snow!. Snow in the middle of summer go figure.
We then trekked along a ridge back to the main trail with a promise that we would summit Kiilopää tomorrow and that I would contribute to the community path building exercise. A promise I would later regret J.
We took it easy in the afternoon and walked one of the trails before dinner. Although we were in the hotel my thrifty wife had decided we would cook our own dinner, so we ended up in the hostel section. It turned out that we had a delightful conversation with a Finnish couple about local handicrafts and knives and life in general.
Next morning we decided to head for the summit of Kiilopää all of 336 metres.I decided that I would carry about 12 kilos of dirt up the mountain to contribute to the path building effort. As we headed up the hill the weather deteriorated and we ended up getting to the top in the rain and being soaked by the time we made it down again-but we made our contribution to the path.
We then got on a bus back to where our Lapland adventure had started-Rovameini. We walked into town and had a great meal at Café 21, which served Savoury waffles-sensational. The waitress was heading to Oz to work and was really excited-given the debate back home about the treatment that backpackers were getting I told her to read the Age and make sure that she didn’t get scammed.
Headed back to the train station and got on the train headed south to our kayak adventure. The first leg of three was in a sleeper complete with toilet and shower, very well set out. We set up our beds and slept with the alarm set for 0530 to transfer to the next train.