Update: This post was meant to send last week, but the signal on my phone cut out. I actually ended up having no phone signal for the whole trip which meant my solo ski had to be altered slightly, but will explain all in an up coming post.
Starting this morning we embarked on the 930km drive to Hammastunturin wilderness area in the far north of Finland. We will drive through the night and should arrive in the early hours tomorrow. From here we will start an 8 day solo skiing trip – The Bear Ski.
Over the past 2 weeks we had our first identification test, learnt all about food hygiene, hosted the yearly IWG meeting, joined an elk hunt, learnt how to sharpen our knives and axes, learnt the basics of snowmobile maintenance, had our night orienteering test and learnt some new knots. OH, and had the first proper snowfall for the year! Ohhhh yeaaah.
On Wednesday we had an identification test on berries, mushrooms, polypore, mosses, lichens and tree species. Before the course started several months ago, other than a few tree species and several mushrooms, my fauna knowledge was patchy to say the least. Over the previous months we’ve gradually learnt a selection of species from discussions with teachers and classmates whilst out mushroom picking or on expeditions. That said, there were around 150 species that we needed to learn for the test, and the previous week was spent revising at every available opportunity to try to remember them.
This week we were introduced to the basics of Canoeing and Kayaking, calculated our walking pace over 100m (good for calculating distances when trekking), and made the final preparations for the trip to Russia.
I have spent the weekend mostly preparing and packing my food and gear for next week’s trip to Paanajärvi National Park in Russia. I wouldn’t say I am unorganised, but the truth is, I am consistently slightly late and when I’m packing I usually find myself in the depths of the night frantically chucking things into my pack. But as I sit here typing, my bag is behind me, packed and ready to go. It was a nice feeling actually being able to spend time packing, and being organised, rather than doing it last minute. But the blog on the other hand, has been left to the last minute…
This week we trained for our First Aid level 01, presented our Russian Trip plans to the rest of the group, went bird watching, did some orienteering, had a small toaster fire and went on a fishing trip to local island where we camped the night. Oh and there was also some hilarious nudity.
Tuesday night was one of the most memorable nights… We were having a nice relaxing sauna after a busy day training for our First Aid level 01 qualification. As usual we had a couple of swims during the sauna, hobbling back as quickly as possible on the sharp stones underfoot. We had wedged the door open with a broom to ensure we could get back in. On this particular trip back, I had a plan, so I picked up the pace (from a excruciatingly slow hobble to a slow amble) inching past the others at a snail pace, running in just before them and slamming the door behind me, locking them out – ‘Absolute classic trick’ I thought.
This week we were taught all about preparing and cooking food outside. Our tutor for the week, Turka, was a memorable guy, dressing in an army green jacket and trousers each day, with an old shirt below and worn-out smart shoes upon his feet – a smart casual look for sure. Each time he spoke, a long low rumbling voice would emerge past a thick bushy broom-like moustache, as if gurgling from the depths of a ancient cave.