IWG Exped 05: Conservation Trip – Jungfruskär Island, Finnish Archipelago

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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.

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October Microadventure – A Visitor from Finland

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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.

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July Microadventure – Well kind of…

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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).

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June Microadventure – A Finnish Midsummer Island Adventure

DSC_0139My June Microadventure was spent with friends from the UK on an Island that from a bird’s eye view looked like a penis. It was actually a few days before midsummers in Finland, but the night was so beautiful, long and otherwordly that it felt like the true midsummers this year for me. (The actual midsummers was spent at a laavu in Seitseminen National Park with 2 random Finnish guys who were out-of-their-minds drunk).

Midsummer is exactly what it sounds like, the halfway point of the year, where the days are long and the nights are short. The further north you head the longer the days, and here the sun rose at roughly 03:42 and set at 23:09, meaning throughout the night it felt like twilight.

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19 Things About Finland You May Not Know

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After living in Finland for close to 5 months I am starting to become familiar with the ways of the land and their customs. Here is a list of things uniquely Finnish.

1. Saunas

The Finns love a sauna. It is said that there are 3.3 million saunas to its 5.3 million inhabitants. A beer in the sauna after work is a nightly ritual for many, for others it may be a weekly occasion. Location dependent, a trip to the sauna also means several refreshing skinny dips in the lake, even in winter. They also have sauna boats, which you can hire for the night and cruise around the lakes with your friends. Sauna competitions used to be held in Heinola, Finland. But after the death of one finalist and near-death of another during the 2010 championship, the organizers announced that they would not hold another event.

2. Coffee

The Finns are the biggest coffee drinkers per capita in the world! Drinking a whopping 12kg per person per year! One guy I have recently worked with drinks on average around 30 cups of coffee on a day. But, after working with him for 3 weeks I managed to get him to drink a couple of cups of tea as well.

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Week 6 – Getting Wet and Final Prep for Russia

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…

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Week 5 – Naked Cycling, Russian Trip Plans, and Sleeping on an Island

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.

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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.

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Week 4 – Food Preparation and Cooking with Turka

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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.

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Week 3 – Orienteering, Clearing Meadows and Thumbing Lifts

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Started the week with a walk in a nearby forest to observe birds and plants. Got introduced to some more mushrooms – some edible and some deadly. One that I will definitely remember was the destroying angel, the name says it all, eat this mushroom and you’re probably going to die. Symptoms do not appear for 5 to 24 hours, when the toxins may already be absorbed and the damage (destruction of liver and kidney tissues) irreversible. As little as half a mushroom cap can be fatal if the victim is not treated quickly enough! On a lighter note we the also found many brittle gill (pictured below) and gypsy mushrooms – which are both edible, and very tasty.

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Week 2 – Forest Trip

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We spent week 2 camping in the college forest, a short drive away. It was a great week and a good opportunity for the group to bond whilst still in our ‘Honey Moon’ period, as Mikko, our tutor put it. Throughout the week a range of skills we taught, including orienteering, fire making, whittling, fishing, proper use of an axe and also local plants and wildlife knowledge.

On Monday morning, the first thing we did was to organise all the equipment and pack it into the trailer of one of the vans. Again, much more to do than initially thought – we collecting the vans and trailers from the school garage, 2 of the guys collected the shopping lists from the others and did the food shop for everyone, only going 7 euros over for the whole group – their efficiency could be down to the fact that they were both German. Continue reading