The first week was a combination of classroom based work, trips to local camping spots and Seitseminen national park, with a bit of camping, foraging and wild swimming thrown in for good measure.
We were also split into our expedition planning groups – I am in the group planning the trip to Russia. So much more to do than I initially thought, from car route plans, to the walking route, sorting visas, daily timetables, food plans for the week, driver rotas, safety plan, risk assessment, summary of safety plan for local rescue stations, gear plan and budget. It’s going to be a busy month.
The Finnish love saunas, they are everywhere! There are at least 2 here at the college, and seem to be dotted around all over the place. On Wednesday after school, we enjoyed a a traditional smoke sauna. From the outside it looked just like a little log cabin, with a roaring fire inside – fire hazard much? The Finnish guys said that it is fairly safe, but then admitted that many do burn down… So, as you do, we all stripped off, hobbled up some stairs and squeezed onto a wooden bench in the eaves of the cabin. With only one small, knee height window, it was pretty dark inside, you could only see the flash of a sweaty thigh or the silhouette of a butt cheek every now and then. One of the Fins sang a traditional poem about saunas, combined with the gentle tap of dripping sweat on the floor and the hiss of the steam on the hot coals in the background, it was quite a meditative experience. Well, that was before we clambered down the stairs and all ran into the lake screaming like little school boys. That’s how it’s done in Finland!
Night in a Laavuu
Friday night, me and two of the others – Osma and Johannes – walked to a nearby Laavuu. A Laavuu is a small log hut you can camp in – it is open to the elements on one side, but provides cover from the rain. There is a supply of wood in a nearby hut and also a composting toilet – luxury! We made up a fire, had some dinner of roasted vegetables and rye bread and sat around chatting.
I thought this was a good opportunity to try and carve something out of wood – so set out to make a wooden spoon – a bit wonky, but not too shabby for a first try. Johannes played his guitar and Osma his flute whilst I whittled away in the flickering glow of the fire.
The next day on the walk back, we put on our mushroom glasses and went mushroom hunting. Thankfully the other two were already quite knowledgeable on mushrooms, and knew which ones were good to eat. We found loads of rough legged boletes, chanterelles, a couple of penny buns and some others I can’t remember. We boiled them up and made a huge mushroom medley with potatoes. Felt good to eat something that was picked just a few hours before.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a bit of an addict when it comes to swimming outside – not sure why, but if I see water I want to jump in it! The area surrounding Kuru is basically a dream come true for anyone who likes wild swimming. It is surrounded by lake systems – the lake below goes all the way down to Tampere and is about 50km long! The Finnish are proud of their lakes, and they are beautiful swimming spots, most with little wooden jettys and areas to relax around them – an odd lakeside sauna thrown in here and there too. My plan is to try and swim most days throughout my stay in Finland, even in the height of Winter!