We spent last week learning traditional wilderness skills with Turkka. Who I am told, is the older, Finnish equivalent of Ray Mears. He’s like a walking, talking Encyclopedia of all things outdoors. Everyone was awaiting the week eagerly, as the last time we spent with him – Week 4 – Food Preparation and Cooking – was so enjoyable.
We started the week by celebrating his 70th birthday. Several people asked him why he hadn’t retired. Rather than saying it was because he loved his job, he said it was because his pension was too low, and he needed the money. Smiles all round. He’s an eccentric and loveable character who, in between teaching us, would have the group sniggering with laughter, as he told tales of times gone by.
A year ago today, on the 24th October 2013, I was just over 2 weeks into a run from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. I had crossed the border into England, with 16 marathon distance runs/hobbles under my belt, 14 more than I had ever done in my lifetime. Two weeks prior to that day I was stood anxiously in front of the famous sign post at John O Groats, tired from a restless nights sleep, questioning my own sanity as I was about to embark on a 900 mile self-supported run to Land’s End. The plan was to run 35 marathons in 40 days – pushing all my kit in a baby jogger named Helga, looking quite ridiculous.
The trip to Russia was a whirlwind of temperatures, laughs, some dubious cooking, beautiful views and a smattering of wildlife. We spent 9 days trekking through the old growth taiga forests just outside of Paanajärvi National Park. Old growth means the woodland has not undergone any major unnatural changes (such as logging) for more than 100 to 150 years, contains young, mature, standing dead trees and provides a home for a diversity of flora and fauna. A taiga/boreal forest is made up of mostly pine, spruce, birch and aspens (as well as many others). It’s the largest biome in the world and can be found in the northern latitudes between roughly 50°N to 70°N.