This is one of two trip reports that I did not get round to publishing from my time training in Finland. In May 2015, we spent a week on Jungfruskär Island, which is situated in the archipelagos to the south west of Finland. We were here to do some conservation work and study the local flora and fauna. The college has a deal with the Forest and Parks service that allows the class to stay on the island and use the facilities in return for doing some conservation work.
My December Microadventure was by far the least glamorous. It was nearing the end of the year, and rather than walking to a nearby field or wood, I, for some reason chose to sleep in the back garden of my family home. I guess all great adventures start with your friend’s in your garden when you’re a child, where you spend hours putting up your Dad’s mould encrusted tent, filling it with duvets and eventually falling asleep to ghost stories and gurgles from bellyfulls of sugary snacks you’d spent the previous week hording.
This time I had no tent, no friend and no sweets. I could have just stayed in my bed, but where is the fun in that? My mattress was replaced with a couple of patio furniture pillows on top of a roll mat, my duvet was replaced with a sleeping bag, my tent with a bivvy bag. But, even though slightly mad, I was looking forward to it.
“If You Know Where To Look You Can Go With A Penny Around The World”
I graduated as a Wilderness Guide in Finland around June 2015, and instead of getting a flight home, I decided to hitch-hike. Why? Not sure really, just fancied it. The thought scared me but also sounded like fun.
I felt a real sense of freedom and tranquillity during this trip, which I think was due to the simplicity of my routine. I got up, had breakfast, packed my things, stood by the side of the road, stuck my thumb out, got some lifts, admired the changing landscapes, the changing faces, conversed in English / broken English / extremely broken German / hand gestures / sat in silence, thanked people for their time, looked at my map, ate some food, stuck my thumb out, philosophised about my situation at that present moment, then repeated this until I felt like it was time to find somewhere to sleep.
My sister gave me a call and asked whether I was free the following Monday and Tuesday, and strangely I was. I was working the weekend so had the time off in lieu. We originally planned to drive up to Scotland and do some camping up there, but as we only had one night, we settled for Wales, and revisited an area we used to go as kids.
We were not exactly sure where we were driving, but once we spotted the Gower Inn we knew we were in the right area. The outdoor playground had gone, but the pub looked largely the same as far as I could tell – the last time we had been here was over 15 years ago. We parked in the car park and had a quick pint before getting our things together and setting off.
For the first time in 3 months I actually managed to sleep wild before the last day of the month. This time I was accompanied by my friend Joose, a course mate from our Wilderness Guide training in Finland. We spent the day walking a relaxed 13 miles in the Surrey hills near to me. We walked slowly and took long breaks, looking at the views and sipping on beers. The pace was a surprise to me, as the Joose was renowned for an almost super human speed – earning him the nickname T1000, as we were unsure whether he was even human!
A work colleague also joined us for the night, losing his wild camping virginity. It was great to be sleeping outdoors again, especially with some friends. We sat around the campfire chatting, the conversation periodically fading as our gazes were persuaded into the flickering embers of the campfire.
Following suit from the previous month’s night sleeping wild, I slept out on the last day of the month. I hastily stashed my things in my bag, grabbed some warm clothes and headed to the woods. I borrowed the infra-red camera from work – which we use for taking photos of wildlife – in the hope something might walk straight past me whilst I was sleeping – it didn’t. It was a clear night so I didn’t bother with a bivvi bag, and just took the sleeping bag, which I regret, as although calm, the slight breeze went straight through the side of the bag. Ignore the temperature it says on the photo, I am not sure what it was, but it certainly wasn’t 23 degrees!
After missing out on a July Microadventure, I almost did the same for August. Realising my mistake I took to the woods on the night of the 31st. Me and a couple of friends went for a walk, and after a while of chatting they retreated home. At this point I quickly got my sleeping bag and liner into my bivvy bag, as by now it was chucking it down. I have only got a summer sleeping bag at the moment, so knew it could potentially be a chilly one. To combat this I was wearing a lot of clothes, including thermals and a fleece or two.
In short, I somehow didn’t go on a microadventure in July. I feel like I did, but I cannot find any photo evidence of it, or have any memory of any kind of it. So, I conlcue that infact i didnt go on one. Dammit! Well I failed this yearly challenge somewhat. I have since been on ones in August and September… Both on the last day of the months.
In June and previous months I went on a couple of overnighters but didn’t post about them. So, shamelessly I will tell you about one of them on this post (to make me feel better about forgetting to go on one in July).
The Bear Ski was a 9 day solo skiing trip through the Hammastunturin Wilderness area in Finnish Lapland. It was the trip that had intrigued me the most before heading out to Finland. The thought of spending so much time completely alone, in the middle of nowhere and pulling all your gear and food was an exciting yet daunting prospect. It felt like it was going to be the true test of what I had learnt over the previous 7 months training as a wilderness guide. Whilst on the 930km drive up to Hammastunturin I wrote an Intro to the bear ski. The post didn’t actually upload as my signal suddenly cut out when we were nearing our destination. I thought nothing of this at the time. But later that day the trip was about to change quite dramatically for three of us in the group.
This was the second expedition undertaken as part of our wilderness guide training. A 5 day skiing trip through Eastern Finland, in an area known as Kylmäluoma. This trip allowed us to practice our guiding and leadership skills, our cooking skills, our organisation skills, our personal camp skills and our kit. It also served as direct practice for the Bear Ski – A 9 day solo skiing trip undertaken in the far North of Finland in April.
After a 690km drive from Kuru to Kylmäluoma we arrived later than planned. The final stretch of single track road had been specially ploughed for us. As the road unfurled before us, the 1m high walls of snow to our sides made it feel more like we were navigating a river – meandering its course into the snowy depths of an unknown forest. The vans’ headlights were the only light around, offering enchanting glimpses into the pallid monochrome landscapes that enveloped us. Tree branches hung low from the weight of snow and it felt like we had stepped into a magical wilderness.