For day one I joined Rob & Mathias for our first nature walk through the forests of Finland. We rented a white Volkswagen Up and drove up to Nuuksio national park for a 7 kilometer hike. We did not have a built-in satnav so Mathias had to hold Rob’s iPhone and tell him how to drive. Of course this ended up with the two of them bickering over missed turns much like a married couple. How appropriate thinking we were here for a wedding and all.
Ps: to all VW Up owners: how do you put groceries in the trunk? We could hardly cram our daypacks in there!
We got there and the 7 kilometer Korpinkierros walk was just what we needed. Even though we missed the period in which trees turn to a beautiful golden color by a few weeks, the landscape and vegetation still make for an unforgettable experience. Lakes and ponds are scattered throughout the pinewoods and whenever there is some wind blowing, the only thing you hear are the pines slowly croaking. A welcome switch from my daily commute by train to Brussels. I also got the feeling that the air in Finnish woods was the cleanest I have ever… Tasted. Yes, tasted is the good word here. Breathing here feels more like drinking cool spring water.
It was cold though and as I tend to get chilled to the bone pretty quickly I’m happy I came fully prepared this time. Remember my motto: “over-prepare, then go with the flow”.
No matter how much I would like to travel light, I cannot bring myself to do it. I end up prepared for every possible scenario. I’m the kind of guy who, when you start to worry about your smartphone battery, pulls out a powerbank (with both an Android as Apple cable). When walking on chilly tracks, I’ll be sporting walking shoes, thermal underwear and walking trousers called “Chilly tracks”. I’m not particularly proud of this, sometimes it makes me feel like some kind of Swiss Army Man (not the movie) or worse: Inspector Gadget.
I’m fully aware that having all the gadgets and gear, doesn’t keep you from missing a turn 🙂 So let’s hope that doesn’t happen when I’m hiking by myself.
Outdoor Photography workshop
One thing you have to know though is that Rob and Mathias are photo enthusiasts too. So our stroll through nature quickly became an outdoor photography workshop, with us exchanging tips and tricks. Mathias of Lumicino.be gave me some valuable advice on lighting and exposure, which I will keep in mind for the rest of the trip. I also learned that Rob actually takes the time to organize and edit his holiday photos AND turns them into high quality printed books. Something I urgently need to start doing as well. Our extensive photographing made the hike last about twice as long, but it was worth it.
An amazing time
After eating sandwiches perched on some rocks, it hit me. What an amazing time to be alive. In this day and age, if you have a job and choose to travel, you can get anywhere on the planet within a few hours. It’s all there: beautiful, preserved nature and bustling cities, waiting to be discovered by you. I hope this lasts for the coming generations. If you don’t already, I cannot encourage you enough to leave their hometown and start discovering other countries, culture and landscapes.
Middle Earth and the lady in the woods
“We’re getting closer to Mordor,” Rob remarked at one point. He was right. Some areas did indeed look like the woods or desolated areas of Middle Earth. Hiking in places like this makes you “get” the vast landscapes Tolkien described in his Lord of the Rings novels. Those that director Peter Jackson so perfectly captured on film in his homeland of New Zealand.
Near the end of our trip we met a little old lady and her dog in an almost equally old car (which smelled terribly like gasoline by the way). She was eager to share a story about how people manage to get lost in the park. You have to know that the coloured markings for the walks were excellent. It was very hard to miss them and get lost. Even for me! But apparently it happens.
She told us the story a guy that shouted out to her after dark. He didn’t have any means of communication on him (battery died probably), no water or food anymore and his torch didn’t work. He didn’t have a compass or map with him either, but still considered himself an experienced walker. He was Belgian by the way. Most Europeans are helpless in the wilderness… we lack the knowledge and skills that are considered pretty basic among Finns like using a compass, protecting yourself from the cold and knowing which berries to pick in nature. I have a feeling they are more in line with the nature that surrounds them than we are. Of course that’s still only my first impression.
A gathering of friends
Anyway, we made it back to the hotel safely and enjoyed a shower. In the meantime other old friends were arriving and joined us for dinner. No beaver sausages this time, although chicken tastes just as good here.
When the restaurant started transforming into a dance club we decided it was time to go. Especially as the local pop-music can best be compared to an opening song of any Japanese anime from the eighties or nineties. We then headed to a local bar and catched up, chatting over a beer until midnight.
As I write this, it’s Saturday and in an hour or two it’s time for the wedding. The ceremony will be held in a special location: Helsinki’s Rock Church! Looking forward to it.