... to Norway and Finland

Saturday, July 08, 2006
Oh is as good to have water again! And whilst it looks like it may rain so far it is fine.

It's also good not to have to be checking the e-mails every day to see where we have to be to try to get the motorhome fixed, the only deadline is being in Estonia on the first of August.

So we packed up the motorhome, filled up with water, did all the washing of the clothes, dumped the wash water and the toilet and we were on our way. I'm not quite sure on what system the German and Norwegian washing machines work but the minimum cycle seems to be 90 minutes, something to remember if you think you'll be doing better with a continental washing machine.

We drove off into Tromso, parked up the motorhome, and went on a sightseeing tour around the city with one of those tractor pulled trains things! Not a very big city, but that we knew, it is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and has a population of about 50,000.

But in the sightseeing tour we did around the city we saw three large portrait studios, on the ground floor, with wonderful window display, when was of the Fame chain, when was the Portrait Art, the other large colour lab in Norway, and one was a local photographer, they were all of about equal size, and all had good quality work in their windows, they must be doing something right in Norway to have such a viable photographic business, or maybe they still have family values which could go along with my thing about outboard motors on boats!

After spending some time looking at these three photographers we set off to a shopping centre where Luda had an appointment for a haircut, haircut only at the cost of NZ$104, to me who spends $10-$15 a haircut that seemed expensive.

After that we set on our way back up Route 80 towards E6 and before we got to E6 as it had started raining at about 4 p.m. and it was almost torrential we pulled over into a car park for the night. We are at 69.22°N

We set off towards Alta in light rain driving through typical Norway scenery of fjord's, mountains, waterfalls, tunnels, a beaut photograph around every corner, and all of those other sort of boring things.

We started looking for a place to camp about 60 kilometres out of Alta, and found a large layby area within 10 kilometres placing us 50 kilometres out of Alta. By the time it should have been dark there were about seven motorhomes extra over the three that were there when we arrived. Sunset today was behind a large mountain So we have no idea as to whether the sun actually disappeared or not, it was certainly quite light around midnight, unfortunate that is no indication. It was also a nice almost clear night so it was the type weather we wish for at the North Cape.

It is interesting to observe the other day a group of Norwegians talking to each other and the amount of personal space the left around each other so they were quite spread out. It is often said where people have to be packed in tight light for example Japan on the metro, when they talk they stand in a tight group, where as people that live in Norway, or other countries with a large amount of space, they have a very loose group. So working on this theory, people in New York would talk together in a tight group where as people from Wyoming would stand about 4 to 5 feet away from each other. Interesting thoughts!
We were camped at 70.08°N with fine weather all night

Monday, July 10, 2006
This morning was a good morning, fine, a few clouds, but quite a lot of sunshine. Just the sort of day we ordered for North Cape.

We drove towards Alta, saw the Tripitz Museum so we decided to go in to see what they have there, watched a 20 minute film on the sinking of the Tripitz, caught up on a little bit of history, and then continued our way to Alta.

On arrival there we filled up with diesel, water, and food and then headed off towards North Cape about 250 kilometres away. Our Microsoft Auto Route looked like it had finished showing roads about 150 kilometres from North Cape but I had not gone down to a large magnification to see what they considered to be secondary roads to do the planning. So we did the old-fashioned way by following the road sign's.

They now have a tunnel seven kilometres long that runs under the sea to get from the mainland to the island, they treat the tunnel just like a ferry and so much as they charge you a fee for driving both ways, and for how many passengers you have in your vehicle. There was another four kilometre tunnel after that and then the other tunnels were not worth mentioning.

We drove straight to North Cape and put paid a fee of 195 kroner each to enter So we parked in a relatively level area amongst lots of other motorhomes.

They quote North Cape as being 71°10'21" however the area that we have parked in comes in at 71.16°N which I suppose is almost close enough!

As we were walking over to the visitors centre we counted all of the buses that we could see and we got up to 42 buses, the most distant ones we can identify were from Spain and Geneva, I presumably these were on 14 or 21 day tours from their point of origin with North Cape being on the itinerary. Doing a rough calculation we estimated there were at least 2000 people there at midnight, most nights, waiting to see the magical midnight sun.

Well it started raining, the clouds moved over the sky and come midnight no sun to be seen, talking to a German girl that had been working in the restaurant for 60 days she said we were luck that we could see something, she had seen the sky clear four times since she had been there, 4 times out of 60 that is 6.7% chance you have of seeing the midnight sun or to put it a different way you have a excess of 90% chance of seeing nothing.

We stayed the night in the car park with dozens of other motorhomes, with the wind genteelly rocking us to sleep, sometimes it was not too gentle……

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Now we know what the German girl meant when she said we were luck to see something, this morning it was raining, fog had come down and the wind was blowing with strong gusts, you can see for about 20 meters…..

I realised just how strong that the fog was when I went to leave the parking area and quite frankly I could not find the entrance, nor can I find the large visitors centre, I had barely the 20 metre visibility and it had not been for the GPS I would not have found their way out for some time (I could see where I had entered with the Blue line that was recorded on the map). It was then just a matter of driving slowly down the road until we lost a little bit of altitude and the way became slightly clearer, we pasted lot of vehicles heading towards the North Cape, and I'm not quite sure what they would do once they got there, you have no idea where you are parking, and once parked you have no idea where the visitors centre was, I guess you keep walking until you had found a fence and then start following that in one direction, if that does not work try going the other direction!

Well now on the downhill road towards Finland, I guess it will be downhill because that is the way it looks on the globe.

We drove back towards the mainland through the tunnel under the ocean, out of open land it was quite a job keeping the motorhomes on the road with strong wind gusting, once back on the mainland the wind slowly lost its velocity and the further we drove the better the weather became. At the last major town before the border we filled up with diesel and used the last of our Norwegians money on what you would call junk food.

It is interesting that there were three petrol stations in this town, two have closed down, very recently as the pumps are still there with the paper sign pasted over the dial, this is what you really call rationalisation.

We spent the night in quiet layby about 40 kilometres from the Finnish border 69.77°N, we parked there for the night, and as the evening wore on the sky became bluer and bluer over Finland which made us think were heading in the right direction, the night might even be an ideal evening to see the midnight sun if the mountains do not get in the way, if the weather is like this at North Cape 2000 people will get a wonderful viewing.

The Microsoft Auto Route has no streets in the top two thirds of Finland, and the Tom Tom navigator is not interested in that area either, so it looks like we're back to the good old paper maps, will be interesting using those again.

Midnight, with everything in daylight, we climbed a small hill that was on the other side of the road from the motorhome, and there was the sun well above the horizon, so we did many exposures and then escaped back inside the motorhome away from those dam mosquito's, and then we guessed it was time for bed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
This morning it was raining and carried on in that format for the rest of the day. We drove the 60 K. to the Finnish border, and then started driving down almost deserted road towards the first area that people are gathered together to form a town. I headed straight for an ATM machine, and discovered that Finland was on the Euro, this was interesting because the exchange calculator that I found on the Internet was very happy quote in Finnish marks. Euro is certainly makes it much simpler, then we headed for the Sami museum, that was part of the northern Lapland culture Centre.

Of course the northern part of Finland is called Lapland and these people that are related to the Eskimo, the American Indian, and all the others in this large group of people.

We moved on South, stopping at a petrol station to buy some water,  2 for a hundred litres, then we started looking for a layby to spend the night in, we found one at 68.51°N so we are camped in amongst some trees and are just this moment getting some sunshine.

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Another wet day, so we carried on driving south in varying degrees of rain, down mainly straight roads, with on either side, large forests, occasionally this would change in a large lake would appear, although looking at the map nothing like we will see in the South which has thousands of lakes.

The traffic is very light with a mere fraction of the motorhomes we pass travelling through Norway, I guess with the flat land which is Finland and the large forests that the fraction of what there is to see in Norway. We are still North of the Arctic Circle and is quite common to see reindeer grazing on the side of the road, after that first 20 or 30 reindeer you just shrug your shoulders and say it just another B.... Reindeer!

We are camped in another layby on the side of the road near Vuojärvi 67.08°N yes we will cross the Arctic Circle sometime tomorrow.

Our current position in Finland allows us to receive CNN on the satellite, but almost no other stations in English.

Friday, July 14, 2006
A beautiful fine day-to-day with plenty of sunshine so we carried on heading south through the never-ending forests of Finland, with yet to reach the lakes district but we are seeing a few lakes as we travel south.

We carried on South and reached the Artic Circle and the large commercial enterprise centred on Father Christmas, there were so many shops selling souvenirs I think the old bearded man would have been able to fill his Christmas sack to the top for all the children of the world.

Travelling on South we happened to see a sign pointing to the right and it was the Finnish word for museum, which fortunately looks almost the same in any language, so we decided to do a quick trip down to see what was in happened to be the "Pudasjärvi local history and culture Museum" which was as official name and what it actually was, was a collection of old houses re-erected on the one site from all over the district and then they were filled with objects that you see in the timeframes of the houses, it was an extremely interesting collection, irreplaceable at this point of time, and the writers mind very susceptible to fire because of the old wooden houses, which would make an irreplaceable loss.

On our way back to the main road we came across a delightful setting in the trees with many roads running through them on to the lake, so we camped in amongst the trees near Lake near Pudasjärvi at 65.39°N.

Another beautiful fine day and we carried on down through the forests travelling south, if anyone is allergic to trees, they will need to leave Finland out of their intenery. We're starting to see more evidence of civilisation than we did two days ago but still there is not a large density of population.

Finland is 1.27 times the area of New Zealand and has one person per square kilometre more in population. However if you compare Finland to Holland Finland has eight times the land and Holland has 24 times the density of population.

We camped on a layby on the side of Highway 6 near Vihtasuo at 63.32°N.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
A beautiful fine hot day, with a clear blue sky, just the day to sit in a nice location by lake watch the rest of the world go by, but it was not to be as we could not find such a location.

We did find our way, eventually, to a Russian Orthodox monastery that was way back in the boonies, it was very interesting to see all the other cars there from quite a few different countries.

From there we again looked for the ideal location beside a Lake, but gave up in the end and went to motor camp and did our washing. It was beside a Lake but of course there was no camping near the Lake. No they did not have Internet, and they have not heard of having a wireless server!

This morning I asked if there was a Internet cafe in the city, I was told to ask the information office, which I did, no they did not know of an Internet cafe, and when I asked if the Internet and reached Finland they said Oh you may find something in the library! It's interesting to note the various countries and their involvement in the Internet, Finland is one of those that is not up with the play.

So we filled up with diesel and were on our way towards a Castle on a Lake but we found this interesting layby beside a Lake, the sun was shining so we decided to spend the rest of the day there.

Luda pulled out the fishing rod and proceeded to start catching some small fish, she was storing them in a bucket of water and after there were about five in the bucket I noticed a seagull fly to the roof motorhome, sat on my satellite dish, and a few moments later I heard a splash in a lot of activity of the fish swimming about and I looked out at the bucket and found there were only four left swimming around, the seagull was a good fishermen. Those four made a good evening meal for Luda.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
We headed out a wet morning onto one Finlands deserted roads, a lot of the roads seem to have less traffic than the South Island, but I guess that will change the closer to Helsinki. The wet weather stayed with us all-day with the rain disappearing about five o'clock.

A first port of call today was Savonlinna and the largest castle in Scandinavia, they had tour guides and most of the major languages, I was with a group of English speakers, and was there about 12 in the group only four were from an English-speaking country.

Being finally in a town that was large enough to have bank, and being there during the week, I was able to try to change my Finnish marks into euro's, no they were not interested, they suggested a try again in Helsinki.

So was back on the road again to Kerimäki about 23 kilometres away, and the largest wooden church in the world! It was quite impressive but did need some major money being spent on the outside, the Finnish weather is not kind to old buildings like this once the paint is a little bit thin.

The camped again in a layby at 61.77°N near Punkaharju.

We carried on South without the Microsoft auto route working, the GPS receiver was not recognised by the software.

So we carried on through some cities going in some circles because we did not know where we were all where we were going to me and we travelled on South to Kouvola and checked into a campground, yes they had Internet, yes with the plug our laptops into their server, Luda was good with her e-mail from the Russian address, myself with the good old New Zealand address with Xtra was not so fortunate. I been holding onto my flash.photo address and putting up with some years receiving telecom accounts for hundreds of dollars for overseas connections, and not being able, in other cases, to even log on to Xtra, and I feel after October the Xtra has got to stop.

I can download all my spam mail from a Ukraine e-mail address, but I can get nothing from my Xtra address so when I get back to New Zealand will be time to find another e-mail server.

Finally I was able to get all my e-mail by going into the Internet connection, forwarding all of my letters to my Ukraine address, going into outlook express and downloading my Ukrainian mail, why does it have to be so complex.

Thursday, July 20, 2006
We carried on South with another fine day driving South to Kotka and after driving around in circles for about an hour getting nowhere we carried on South to Porvoo where we visited with a Finnish friend I first met in '72 when he was part of a Rotary study group that came to Pukekohe, we spent on enjoyable evening with them, they are just arrived back from northern Finland visiting friends, so we caught up on our lives since we last met.

We spent the night near a boat Marina a few yards from their house. Hopefully tomorrow we may get a replacement GPS receiver in Helsinki if my phone calls in the morning work.

Friday, July 21, 2006
We did not need an alarm clock this morning, a contractor decided today was the day to cut a fence with a motordriven chainsaw. Kari (who was also woken) told me that it was against the bylaws, that the neighbours were on holiday and ordered the wrok to be done whilst they were away.

Kari have some good news for me, he had found a GPS receiver and gave me the address, also told me that I could get my 340 Finnish marks converted into Euros at his bank.

We left Kari & Pirjo having breakfast and headed into Porvoo and receive  57 for my efforts. We then headed off for Helsinki and the address where we would get the GPS receiver.

We arrived at the address, found its was the distributor, with the office staff all on holiday, and of course the door was locked, and on notice in Finnish on the door. Just then a young guy came up the steps, yes he could speak English, told me everything was closed, asked what did I want, I told him, he has come in I will get it for you, evidently he was the guy that Kari had been talking to. That was all sorted out and about 30 minutes, the  80 was paid and again we are on our way.

It was good to have the Microsoft Auto Route working again, with its you have much broader picture has to where you were able to go and what landmarks etc were on the route.

We decided to drive to Turku (the old capital and a 13th century old city) and did so on the motorway, in rain, and arrived at Ruissalo motor camp very close to the city on an island that you accessed by a bridge. The camp site was large, unorganised in so much you could camp anywhere, there was no electricity available and the toilets etc were not up to normal standard.

With rain over night it turned out to be a fine morning when we drove into Turku and parked our van in a two hour parking area. We then went for a walk along the river front the area that the old city spread out from. We did not see the one house from the 13th century, but did have a look at the very large building they called a castle! Now, My castles have high walls, often on top of a hill and a moat around them with areas at the top to tip boiling water or pitch onto the invaders, and not just a very large building on the flat beside the river.

So after this with the Auto Route we planned our return to Helsinki via secondary roads to take us through a little bit of countryside. We stopped the night and another layby just passed the town of Perniö at 60.16°N.

We woke this morning to find we were out of gas in the refillable LPG cylinder, so we switched over to the German compressed gas cylinder and that I worked out that with wild camping in the large refrigerator we have a 20L bottle lasts 19 days, which is not very impressive at this point of time.

It was another fine day as we set off for Hanko on the most southerly tip of Finland, a lot of vehicles go from this southerly city to the German port of Rostock, had a beautiful beach on the Baltic Sea, a Sea that I am led to believe is a very cold Sea, but looked good with a golden sands and the people sunbathing today.

We then completed the journey on into Helsinki, went straight to the Ferry office, yes they had my reservation, but it was only for a small van, and I was on standby, I raised eyebrows at this, and perhaps my voice, tried to get an earlier sailing, but everything was full, so I was lucky that I had made the booking instead of my normal fronting up and hoping for the best. The fee for the motor home and two passengers was a  103 so without being able to go earlier we were not able to spend five days in Estonia, so we decided to head back up into central Finland.

All this time Luna has been photographing the churches of Finland so whenever we see a sign on the side of the road signifying there is a church close by we turn the corner and start looking for the next one for Luda to photograph. Today was a record day with seven churches, which is a sort of appropriate being a Sunday.

The first thing I want to do was fill up the empty gas cylinder if I could, and started going round garages asking about an LPG, this presented a problem has none of the sweet young girls in the service station had a clue as to what I was talking about. Finally I found one that decided to get on to the telephone and I came up with two addresses. We headed off to the most likely one and looked like they might be a possibility of some action there during normal business hours so we will try that tomorrow.

We then headed to another motor camp closer to the LPG centre and at least this one has electric hookups!

Monday, July 24, 2006
We were at the LPG centre of good and early, however they could not help us but sent us to a location 57 kilometres away to a place called "Presto Centre" PL40, Kuninkaantie 7, 08100 Lohja, Ph 358 (0)19 340 451. We got there using Microsoft Auto Route, and yes, they could fill my LPG tank, and started doing so, and they were clouds of LPG gas spreading all around the gas Cabinet and down onto the ground.

So I carefully opened the gas Cabinet and saw the LPG gas pouring out of the hose that was between the bottle and the charging valve.

Pekka said your hose is shot, the only thing that stops the gas escaping from the cylinder is the charging valve, This has a one-way valve and on the hose side of the valve the tank is completely open. Therefore with the hose being shot all of the gas that was in my bottle leaked out into the atmosphere, and as the gas is heavier than air would have collected underneath the Gas Cabinet and possibly underneath the motor home.

As I discovered I had no gas Sunday morning I presumably hose gave out when I closed the gas Cabinet after turning the bottle on, on Saturday evening.

This Gaslow system was purchased in England at the PeterBorough motorhome show, and the guy fitting it from a company called C. M. R. Ltd. He told me every time I closed the gas Cabinet make sure I tucked the hose up and did not get kinked, which I have been doing faithfully for the last three months.

The system of course with either badly designed or badly installed as the hose was an accident waiting to happen and I am just lucky that I was not on a Ferry or in a crowded motor camp when the hose decided to let the 10 litres of gas escape.
What does it take to cause a explosion? A cigarette butt, a match, starting the motorhome?
I hope the others who have had the same type of installation done, are as lucky.

It's interesting to note that their advertising slogan is "Be sure…… Be Safe ….. fit a Gaslow"

Then it was a matter of chasing around trying to get something as an alternative to the hose, which I had no intention of fitting again, so I went back towards Helsinki 15 kilometres and spent 90 minutes with a company that specialised in gas fittings and hydraulic fittings. They tried everything in finally came up with three fittings to take the place of the hose so the valve was " hardwired" to the tank.

Then it was back to the Presto Centre to get the tank filled, and to tighten up the fittings so that there was no gas leaks, I'm not sure I got the full 20 litres that I paid for, because their filling gear was so old, I'm just thankful that I got the thing fixed and some gas in the tank in a system by which I can travel safely, and have the tank filled safely.

Well after all that excitement was over, we headed up the centre of Finland winding our way through back roads, which without GPS we would have never seen. We stopped for the night on a dead end road, that was in the middle of a wheat field, which will eventually turned into, I guess, a housing development. We are about 35 kilometres from Tampere, were heard thunder for the last 30 minutes, and now we are getting very large drops of rain so I hope it gets tired of rain by the morning.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Has been a beautiful fine day all day-to-day as we drove towards Kuopio, on the way we stopped off to photograph a few churches, and in the first church that had a variety of large wooden crosses placed at all different angles, and about two metres off the ground there were about 30 photographs of faces from around the world, the purpose of which we were unable to ascertain. We also found a directory, that was available for visitors, that listed every church of every denomination in Finland. In this directory is about 1030 churches and Luda is disappointed as she only has 120 photographs of churches, is rather fortunate that we have to go to Estonia on the 30th otherwise we would be wandering all over Finland to get the other 900.

We arrived at Kuopio and as this is part of the Finnish map that is not on the Auto Route we got promptly lost, but managed to fudge our way to the wharf where we checked up on the launch trips and found were on the wrong day for most of them. So we went out for a one half hour cruise round the Kallavesi Lake, I noticed Luda did not take very many photographs and for me the boat trip was not quite as exciting as a game of cricket.

With no other launch trips in the offering the decided to head south to Mikkeli and tonight we have camped in a layby that has a wrecked restaurant in a diesel truck refilling station. We are at 62..49°N near Leppävirta and we drove as far north as 62.91°N

Today was another beautiful by day, we found a delightful road that wound its way through the lakes of Finland, this part of the country has thousands of lakes, the only unfortunate thing was that whilst the lakes looked like they were right on the edge of the road, when you drove the road because of the scale of the map often they were 50 or more metres from the road with heavy forestation hiding the lakes, so what you ended up doing was driving down a long corridor of trees occasionally seeing a Lake when a bridge had been built over the centre of it. Nevertheless it was a beautiful part of the country.

This lower part of Finland is very heavily populated, (if that is the correct word) with speed cameras, every three to 10 kilometres you have another speed camera, every time you enter and 80 kilometre per hour speed zone a hundred metres later you have speed camera. Just how many of the speed cameras mountings actually have a camera and behind them is another point that I was not prepared to consciously find out which once were loaded.

We to drove through Varkaus and then on to Juva utilising Ludas Church directory for her to update their collection of churches. We eventually arrived at Mikkeli were visited the Fiat agent to see if I could get a 20,000 kilometre service but like ever Fiat garage I've called on they need two weeks notice.

We spent the evening in a layby near Joutsa

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Our objective today was to reach Helsinki 286 K away with the Route we had planned past seven churches. It was a nice fine day for this drive and we reach Helsinki and 5 p.m. and the motor camp about 20 minutes later. This camp was slightly closer to the city than the last one we visited a few days ago, slightly better organised, but quite surprising in so much as they don't have a public telephone, they do have wireless Internet but only available for an area about 20 metres around the registration area and the maximum time you can buy is 30 minutes. It is however close to the Metro station which takes you into the centre of the city.

So we went on line to download our e-mails, and this is another situation where you can download e-mails that you, for some reason, cannot send them.

Luda received some distressing news in so much that one of her twin daughters had been in intensive care for last five days. Now with no telephones at the camp we had to walk to the local shopping centre to use the one telephone that was there and Luda rang Rostov and found out that the doctors could not diagnose what Olga's problem was. This, naturally, did not leave Luda very happy so we decided that she would go home to Rostov tomorrow to watch over her daughter.

Friday, July 28, 2006
We were up reasonably early and caught a taxi to the airport and started checking up on the ways in which Luda could get to Rostov today. Finally we found a SAS flight that flew to Stockholm and then an hour later a flight to Moscow and finally three hours later a Aeroflot flight to Rostov. She left about 12 o'clock midday and arrives home 12 hours later!

I took a lonely the bus ride back into the city, visited a bookstore and bought three computer books, and then the Metro back to the camping ground.

A will catch up on some reading until Sunday morning when I catch the Ferry to Estonia and meet up with the German tour of Russia on the 1st August.

This ends the European -- Scandinavian part of this tour in the next part will be the tour through Russia and the Ukraine, unfortunately without my copilot and photographer sitting beside me for most of the trip.

In the last 109 days we have travelled 18,300 kilometres used 1841 litres of diesel costing NZ$4680. The most expensive country for fuel was England NZ$2.99. per litre, and the cheapest was Finland at NZ$2.11. per litre.