2016. During the two brightest week of the summer there was enough light to paddle through the nights. I borrowed a friends kayak and packed all the essentials for a kayaking trip around Lake Saimaa. 21 days of paddling through the midsummer nights in Finland was a challenging experience. Quite often the lake was calm and quiet. Other times the winds and waves kept me on constant alert.
To explore and see the lake and to get strength from it.
To loose oneself into the nightless night and marvel it’s mornings
Why paddle through days if the nights are cooler, calmer and more quiet?
Few cameras and pens so I can remember the calm and the rush won’t take over.
Summer here is short but it’s not yet Juhannus (mid summer). There is time.
Yesterday I paddled for the first time with a kayak and already today I wanted to start heading north. I guess I should first find a map. Then again, it’s a lake so there are only dead ends. Every shore has an opposite so worries be gone.
Today I could practice falling with a wetsuit and tomorrow some more paddling. By the end of the weekend all preparations should be done. Then only the decision to go remains.
Decisions can be prolonged so it’s nicer to just go. Perfect moment does not exist.
Now I’ll go and try how long it takes to make coffee with a camp cooker.
15.6 Morning kayaking and eskimo turns
I woke up earlier than usually noticing the lake was mirror calm. I filled the thermos with strong dose of chaga mushroom tea and did a trip around Mustasaari. I tried not to strain my body too much. From past hobbies I remember not to push it too much at the start of something new.
The plan was still to paddle around Lake Saimaa. I had some friends in Kuopio who I hadn’t seen in ages. Say hi to them and come back. It should take at least few weeks.
This evening I practiced falling and getting back up while still sitting inside the kayak. It didn’t really work out. Luckily I had a wetsuit because the water was still cold and after several failed attempts I gave up.
As I was warming up I watched some youtube videos how to do the turn back up. Tomorrow I’ll try again.
16.6. Lists and practice
Writing down a shopping list for the trip felt repulsive. Perhaps a watertight bag for camera was worth the euros. Previous bags had lasted 7 years of traveling.
Strong wind from the east was creating foamy waves on the open lake. As soon as I had finished up cleaning I would test the kayak on stormy conditions. Perfect!
The storm held and the empty kayak didn’t flip. Next to the shore I practiced more falling. No way! Impossible? Have to ask people with more experience.
17.6 Seven year cycles
In radio man talkes about seven year cycles. Sometimes the cycles last longer and sometimes less. Seven years ago I started buying one way ticket that would unintentionally turn into a habit.
Mosquitos flying inside the house remind me of freedom to choose. Intentions turn into actions and the faith of the mosquito depended on the force that closed around it. Today that fist sees no path, occasionally closing into a trap without any hope for the mosquito to survive.
Soon this warm shelter would stay behind. Traveling through nature with a kayak and a hammock would turn killing mosquitos pointless.
4 days pass with more preparing.
22.6.2016 Camping close to Liittokivi
The night had been a new experience. A friend had borrowed his kayak. I had taken it for a cruise with midnight sun to Lake Saimaa. It´s the biggest lake in Finland and full on nature. It´s also filled with summer cottages, saunas, and silence.
Last nights scenery wasn’t anything new, yet. But the combination of birds, colors of the sky and water made it quite exciting.
I had flipped the kayak while practicing an eskimo turn. I never made it. Not even sure how to do it. The water is about 16 degrees celsius and all my camera gear is with me in the sitting space. I don’t really want to flip this silently sliding magic bullet.
My breakfast fire is only smoking. Need to act.
Gear for next trip:
+ Rubber boots
+ Thicker / warmer sleeping bag
– hiking shoes
Idyllic cafeteria at the harbor of Puumala has electricity. The coffee is good with a hint of cacao. The batteries are charging. It looks like it might rain.
It´s early midday, the town is full of people and the weather is still warm and sunny. It´s midsummer week and everyone seems to be preparing for the weekend. This weekend will be the liveliest, most hectic and all the other superlatives you want to cram into one long holiday weekend when everyone wants to relax. Most of Finland will head out of the cities, get drunk and burn huge bon fires. Or maybe that was in the past.
Last night I spend on a popular camping ground, Rokansaari, few hours south From Puumala. I arrived there late at night and met a young family at fireplace for cooking. They told me I could crash at their floating Sauna once I was in Savonlinna.’
24.6 Camping at Ruunasaari
From Puumala I started heading towards Savonlinna. The rain kept falling and few exciting moments were experienced during a crossing of an open face of the lake. Several kilometers of accumulated wind across the lake rocked the kayak.
I had to take a pee break next to a ferry called ’Nestori’.
Some kilometers later I arrived to a camping site. I cooked dinner in the misty rain and ate around 2 a.m. After 3 a.m I fell a sleep in the empty island. The symphony of mosquitos on the other side of the net was loud.
Today is Juhannus eve. It will probably be sunny, cloudy and rainy, a typical Finnish summer day. Time to pack up and start paddling.
26.6 North of Savonllina
Yesterday I spend the day in Savonlinna just walking around the city and getting burned by the sun. I had slept just outside the city arriving there when the sun was rising. Day before that I paddled for quite a few hours stopping only to eat on one campsite. The site was pretty but it wasn’t even midnight so I kept going. It was Juhannus eve after all and I wanted to find a big bonfire called ’kokko’.
I did see one Kokko in the distance on an island called ’Kokonsaari’, literally called Bonfire’s island. It looked great but I was sure there was more on my way. For three hours I was looking around, no fires. Slightly disappointment I was about to arrive to Savonlinna. It was time to pitch the hammock into the forrest and head to city the next day.
The goal in the city was to find a new map. The old one I had ended here. It was national holiday so I had no luck. I was left to navigate the remainder of the trip with my phone.
The next night I slept inside a floating sauna after taking a bath. After few cold nights of shivering it was nice to sleep in warmth.
Now it’s time to head north. The day ahead was going to be warm.
28.6 Taipale canal, Varkaus
Yesterday took me from Savonlinna to Pieni Virkasaari. it had been more or less smooth paddling apart from few ruff crossings. In the evening I came face to face with a wind that was too much. Feeling tired I didn’t want to push it. The risk of falling was real.
I wasn’t sure if you are allowed to camp inside a National park but I had no choice. By midnight I was already asleep. Untouched island with it´s forest was impressive. One could tell it was’t raised in straight lines with even spacing between trunks to optimize growth . It was also full of mosquitos.
At 5 a.m I woke up to coldness. The wind had turned and was now blowing through the thin hammock fabric. 6 o’clock I was ready to start the first of many ruff crossings. The lake had calmed down put I didn’t feel like waiting. I was cold and my body wanted to move.
The waves were waist high. Not a big problem when you go straight towards or away from them. I was going on a 45 degree angle toward and away for longer than I would have liked. Sometimes I had to go around capes. That meant turning 90 degrees while the waves were maxing out after traveling straight for several kilometers across the open face of the lake. They were hitting the shore cliffs and creating counter waves. All that made the reading of the waves a challenge. Falling down wasn’t an option since it would have meant crashing on the rocks. I could take a beating to my body and pride but the kayak was made of glass fiber.
Turns took a lot of concentration and careful timing. Eventually I got to calm bays. I set up my hammock and took a 5 hour siesta.
When I woke the wind had calmed a little. On the campsite I put my shorts to dry on a log which turned out to be a large bee hive. At the end of that day the horse flies and mosquitos were closest to tipping my balance.
Before midnight I had reached Taipale canal. Now I’m charging my phone on a peer and soon continuing up north.
30.6 Arriving to Kuopio
From Varkaus I continued to Leppävirta. I slept in a small patch of forrest I found next to the town, ate too much at a local buffet, did some shopping and continued towards Kuopio.
Leppävirta was a peaceful place. The approach through a narrow and long passage was very beautiful. It gave perfect shelter from the winds. As I left the narrow pathway the wind had died and the sky was red.
Due to almost perfect conditions I ended kayaking 11 hours all the way to Kuopio throughout the night. Around 3 a.m a dense mist surrounded me and rocky shores made me slow down even more. It looked like the ice age had really left it’s mark the shores of this part of the lake. I was approaching a ferry at Puutossalmi which I could hear through the mist.
6 a.m I was so tired I had to listen to music with my phone on an otherwise perfectly quiet lake. A bit of a shame really but luckily the beats were good.
Old friend provided me with a roof in Kuopio. Resting day 1.
3.6 Metsä-Rajo fireplace
Last night I left Kuopio. The sun was already setting and I was pushing against a strong wind. Waves rolled over the kayak as I crossed open water between islands. At Vehmersalmi I was too tired to continue. The local harbor was to be my campsite.
On the beach I exchanged some stories with a local young man who came to talk to me. He and he’s friends were drunk and spending the early summer hours next the the lake. He told me I would have to cross a big open face of the lake. It was created by two asteroids that had landed right next to each other. Unique place, he said, globally.
Today I hardly moved. The rain and thunder kept me moving cautiously until I was soaked. I found a great shelter. Fire is drying my clothes and smoke keeps of the mosquitos away. Looking back it was great to see so many old friends in Kuopio
7.6 Fireplace at Kolovesi National Park
From Metsä-Rajo I went to Valamo Monastery. Slept under a small picnic hut in the wind. In the morning I visited the monastery spending the day at the buffet. From Valamo I made my way to Heinävesi and slept on the beach. Both nights were freezing. The open lake crossing just before Heinävesi was anything but boring. The waves kept me on my toes.
Now I’m in a national park that is filled with these wooden shelters, Laavus’, with fireplace for cooking. A holy place for my liking. The weather has been quite ruff but luckily the wind has mostly blown from behind, North-West.
Body is feeling tired mostly due to lack of proper sleep.
Today I’ll probably explore the park and spend the day cruising and making a long loop.
10.7 Kolovesi to Sulkava
On the 7th of July I made a tour around Kolovesi and walked in the forest trail for 4km before going to sleep in Pitkäsaari. The whole day was bit of an exercise. I did meet an older couple who had kayak their whole lives in the ocean and gave me few new tips and ideas.
8th of July. From Kolovesi I paddled straight to Savonlinna. It was a long journey and the weather wasn’t too bad. I had to wait 4 hours at the porch next to a canal for the storm to pass by. Paddled around 14 hours that day.
9th of July. From Savonlinna I paddled through the night to Sulkava. On the way, just before ferry of Vekara, a police jet ski came to check that everything was OK. ”Do you speak English?”, were the first words out of his mouth.
Now it’s sunny Sunday afternoon. I missed the rowing competition and after party but the ice cream is always sweet and cold.
Next towards – Puumala – Anttola – Ristiina.
During nights shoulder muscles hurt.
12.7 Yövesi, end the the trip
From Sulkava I traveled through the night to Rokansaari, south of Puumala. The journey took about 12-14 hours. I stopped at Linnavuori to check the sight and cooked dinner at Kylmäsaari. In Puumala I refilled the water bottles and with the sound of ’Living is easy’ continued south.
Rokansaari – Anttola – Astuvansalmi – End. The last leg of the journey was 13 hours of flux. There were strong winds, broken steering line, painful tailbone, calm, mosquitos, dinner break, joy, conversation with the lake, mist, rain, rock paintings and the cessation of everything but the essentials.
At around 6 a.m I put a fire in the sauna, ate porridge and went to sleep.
The world of organized connections where you have an unlimited amount of choices to act does not exist in the nature. Nature being out in the open and exposed to the elements. There every move takes you somewhere concrete. There is only direct action. No interpretation or filters what the consequences to each decision will be. The present exists due to unchangeable choices made in the past. The future depends of the conscious choices made through experience and intuition.
There are no windows to reflect on and rest. The moments waiting for food to cook are the moments of reflections and assessing on where the world lies. Survival comes through respect for nature (and on this trip from quite a few supermarkets). As you flow through it you are always in the right place even when you are not. This meaning that you have to ground yourself to this spot on this particular time and now you can either accept it or fight and perish.
On calm waters one can practice staying calm. On stormy waters one must storm through it by staying calm. By matching the challenge there is no need for finding superiority over it, since that would be madness.
All this is much more obvious once you are out there. In the comfort of distractions awareness faints away into the background.
At the end the feeling you find is so fleeting that one can burst in tears not knowing what just happened. It is the feeling of a kayak effortlessly floating through the lake while the next moment a heavy swamp surrounds you where no force you apply seems to take you anywhere. It is all that and more and accepting it as it is.