On July 24th at 8.50 am it was time to get on board of the Finnair flight AY557 which departed from Helsinki for a 1 hours and 20 minutes flight north to Ivalo – deep in Finnish Lapland. 1 week of hiking and packrafting in the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area was in front of me – including a visit to Siida, a museum which displays Saami art and culture. Having bought a museum card for Finland (59 EUR) I was able to visit most of the museums for 1 year. Since the entrance to a museum in Finland usually costs around 9-10 EUR it’s more than worth to buy it if you travel around in Finland.
Having been around Ivalo last year during the winter time with Konstantin, I decided to go on a hiking and packrafting trip with Caj who was also traveling with me earlier this year to the first Swedish Packrafting Round Up on the Voxnan river in Sweden.
On the plane to Ivalo
The Finnair flight was quite peaceful even so it was fully booked. I was sitting on the second last row of the plane. Usually, I prefer to sit more in the front of the plane since it’s faster to get out and there is no queue of people waiting to get into the toilet. Anyway, the cabin crew was friendly and served me free blueberry juice and tea which I was sipping slowly while watching out of the window – clouds passing by below me somewhere over Kajaani.
Next to me was an older German couple and I exchanged a few words with them. Having lived in Finland since 10 years it’s always interesting to meet other German-speaking people in Finland since there are not that many of them around here (personally, I just know 3 people who are living permanently here).
Checking the screen in the plane the outside temperature has dropped to -53C and our flight height was about 12 km. We just passed by Rovaniemi so we are officially flying over Lapland. Below me I can see a windmill park generating electricity – besides that only trees, a river and a street next to it. The area looks quite different compared to how it looks during the winter. The plane is about to land in 20 minutes.
Arriving in Ivalo
My plane was landing in Ivalo at 10.20 am. Once we left the plane in Ivalo I picked up my backpack and contacted Caj to ask him where he and his wife are, as we agreed that they would pick me up with their car. They preferred to drive all the way from Turku and to have a few stops in between to visit friends.
Caj said that it takes them still one more hour to reach Inari so I decided to buy a drink and charge my phone battery. It seems was quite warm here and hardly any clouds. The airport was almost empty after the passengers from. My flight has left. A few were queuing to get a rental car. It seems that there are probably only 2-3 flights to Inari every day.
The Siida museum was one of the main attractions I was interested in. It displays the history and culture of the Sami people and with my museum card which I purchased a few weeks ago I was able to get into every museum in Finland for free.
The Siida museum had a room which displayed a comparison of the history of the area compared to the global history over time. On the next floor, there was the main exhibition which displayed the nature and culture of the area during the seasons which I found quite interesting and there was a lot to read. Next, we went outside where we walked a trail which displayed different houses of the Sami.
There were also a couple of traps displayed on how the Sami caught animals in nature.
Lunch and Pancakes
After the Siida museum, we decided to have lunch in the nearby village. The food was delicious and not that expensive. A few foreigners were working in the restaurant as waiters. After we had lunch we went to the K-Market on the other side of the street to buy some food for the upcoming trip. Then we jumped into the car and drove 1 hour until we reached a place in Sevettijärvi which offered small cabins to tourists where we ate a pancake.
After we recharged with pancakes we went to the starting point of our packrafting trip and inflated our packrafts. There were many mosquitoes. Caj and Katja decided to use some mosquito spray.
After a few meters hiking, we saw already some cloudberries – those berries taste great and have a lot of Vitamin C. Once we reached the Ailijärvi lake we prepared our gear and started paddling.
The first view minutes were already fantastic and we finally we got rid of the mosquitoes once we were on the lake.
Snow mobile tracks, quad bike and a sunset
During our trip, we came across to many signs which marked the snowmobile path which goes over the lakes during the winter time. We had to step out once we crossed to Ailijärvi lake to walk a few hundred meters crossing a reindeer fence until we reached the Katriinajärvi lake.
After some paddling, it was time to hike again next to a swamp for another 1 km until we reached the Sundeejärvi lake. The Sundeejärvi lake was 3 km long and we enjoyed a great sunset while we were paddling there with our packrafts.
Suddenly, we heard a strange sound coming from the forest. A local person was driving with his quad bike transporting some sort of metal sheet behind him generating a horrible noise. Once we reached the end of the lake we stepped out and hiked another 500 meters until we found a good place to pitch our tents between the Sundeejärvi and the Opukasjärvi lakes.
At the camp
Once we pitched our tents we collected firewood and prepared our dinner. We had Pasta with hazenut tofu, tea and brasilian nuts.
Suddenly, we heard some voices and saw a group of 4 people hiking against our direction. They were probably hiking to a summer cottage. It was 12 pm when we finally fell asleep. It started to rain during the night but we stayed dry in our tents.
The next morning I woke up at 9 am. Caj and Katja were still sleeping until 10 am. We prepared porridge, tea and had some rye chips before we packed our gear and refilled our water bottles on the stream. I used a Sawyer water filter even so it would be probably possible to drink the water straight away from the stream and filled my Nalgene bottle.
I also discussed the use of ultralight gear on our trips and we both came to the conclusion that comfort is the most important aspect for us on our trips. I was using my new Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag on this trip and I never felt cold.
Hiking, climbing and swimming
We put our dry suites on and hiked 1 km to the Opukasjärvi lake. The sun was shining and the water was warm.
First, we paddled to a rapid and then to the Opukassokka Fjell on the opposite side of the lake. Then I was testing my new Astral Designs V-Eight PFD with my dry suit and we decided to climb a Fjell afterward. There were many blueberries.
On top of the Opukassokka Fjell, we found a few Koskenkorva bottles. Besides this, we had a stunning view of the whole area. An eagle was circling on top of us.
We walked down the Opukassokka Fjell and reached the Opukasjärvi lake where we left our Alpackaraft packrafts. I decided to go for a swim with my PFD but without a dry suit. I had plenty of time as Katja noticed that she forgot her hat on the top of the Fjell so she went up again to search for it.
Once Katja returned with her hat we paddled to a sandy beach on the Opukasjärvi, had a swim and then lunch. Tacos with beans and hazelnut tofu were on the menu. Patrick washed his clothes in the lake while Katja and Caj prepared our meal.
Rapids and a waterfall
After lunch we jumped into our packrafts and approached the Näätämöjoki.
We were paddling one of the most popular wilderness fishing rivers in Finland and a fishing permit is needed for those planning to fish here. And indeed, there were many fishermen along the river. At some point, we had to start walking in the river since the river became very shallow.
We pitched our tent at 10 pm, made fire and then it started to rain again. On the other side of the Näätämöjoki were we had our camp were fishermen and a dog which was chasing birds. Once it stopped raining I tried to dry some of my gear. My Thermarest XTherm was completely wet. After a cup of tea, it was time to go sleeping.
The next day it was still raining in the morning. I woke up at 9 am. Caj and Katja were still sleeping for another hour. I decided to sit in the tent and to wait that it finally stopped raining.
When Caj and Katja climbed out of their tent we prepared fire and breakfast and packed our gear. It was time to paddle again.
Fishermen and a hike
Patrick paddled the first 30 min and scouted the Näätämöjoki river while Katja and Caj were still packing their backpacks on their packrafts.
There were many fishermen, a few huts and smaller rapids along the river. At some point, we had to leave the Näätämöjoki, deflated the packrafts and hiked on a trail for about 3 km through an area with rocks and old pine trees until we reached the Syrjäjärvi lake.
The trail went up and down. Once we walked the wrong trail and decided to walk off the beaten path to get back to our trail. Someone left the root of a pine tree on a stone. They contain tar and are quite useful to prepare a fire when it’s wet.
Back to the water
We were paddling again for 1 km until we reached a spot where we had to change to the Rekkiluobâl lake. The two lakes were separated by a reindeer fence and a small piece of land. Fortunately, we found a door in the fence and were able to carry our packrafts from the Syrjäjärvi to the Rekkiluobâl lake.
Two rapids and an accident
There were 2 rapids which were running against us until we reached the Räkkijärvi. At the first rapid we were able to paddle up the stream. On the second rapid – the Täyttämakoski – we had to step out and walk around it.
Caj tried to pull his packraft with a rope up to the Täyttämakoski rapid but it did not work. The packraft flipped and Katja fell into the rapid while she was trying to help Caj. Caj was a bit disappointed after this event and wanted to set the camp but we decided to continue paddling until we found a better spot to camp.
Two big lakes
We reached the Räkkijärvi lake and there were 2 cottages on the shore. One person was sitting in front of a cottage and we also saw a lot of smoke coming out of his chimney. He also had a propeller plane which can land on lakes. We enjoyed the silence and were lucky with the wind which was blowing in our direction so we did not have to paddle that hard.
Then we had to paddle to the next section of the Jänisjärvi lake on a stream running against us and then for another hour on the lake while enjoying the scenery. There was a higher Fjell at the end of the lake with an antenna on it. This was more or less the place where we were planning to set up our camp and we pulled out our packrafts from the lake.
Pitching our tents
At the end of the lake we decided to pitch our tents. And it started to rain again. Pitching a tent in the rain is quite a good test on how fast you can set up a tent when you are in a hurry. On this trip, I was testing the Marmot Force UL 2P and had a bit of a trouble to place the outer tent into the right direction since I was not able to see the markings on the outer tent properly. However, the inner tent did not get that wet and I dried the inner tent with my towel.
Then we started to collect firewood and prepared our dinner. Fortunately, we were able to find the root of a pine tree – which contains tar – so we were able to lit a fire in the rain.
Mashed potatoes, vegetarian chorizo with onions and paprika in tomato sauce was our dinner. Katja dehydrated the vegetables herself and it tastes delicious. Much better than any ready-made camping food. At 12 pm straight after dinner we went into our tents and skipped the evening tea as we were so tired. It started to rain again.
I woke up at 8 am. The others were still sleeping. Again we had a lot of wind but it was not raining. I decided to walk around and to explore the area a bit with my Sony A7 / Zeiss Batis 25mm combo and took a few pictures until Caj and Katja woke up.
We prepared breakfast, packed our gear and crossed the nearby road to the last big lake – Sevettijärvi – a 10 km lake to paddle through. We were quite lucky with the wind as it was blowing in the right direction so we did not have to paddle against it. It was quiet and we enjoyed the view towards the fjälls.
Just now and then a car passed by on the road which was going next to the sea. The deepest point of the lake was 43 m but we paddled on the right-hand side and were able to see the ground of the lake as it was not that deep here. There were plenty of rocks on the ground of the lake and that’s probably also the reason why the water of the lake felt warmer than the air (15C).
At 4.30 pm Caj left us to get the Car and we transported his car to the next sand beach where we agreed to meet. As the wind came sidewards towards us it was a bit harder to paddle. Caj arrived at the sand beach before we were able to reach it. We carried our packrafts to the shore, deflated our packrafts and packed our gear into the car.
While I was wearing only sandals the last 4 days it was now time to wear my hiking boots – Lundhags Jaure Light hiking boots.
A night in a cabin
This night we decided to stay in a cabin as most of our gear was wet and we had plans to drive to Norway to see the Arctic Sea which is just a one-two hours drive away from Sevettijärvi. Once we arrived at the Peuralammen Camping in Sevettijärvi we had a pancake, booked a sauna and hanged our clothes to dry.
The cabin including pancakes, coffee, tea, and the sauna was 74 EUR which is reasonably priced and actually quite cheap for accommodation in Finland. At 10.30 we fell asleep with a few mosquitoes flying around in our cabin.
The next morning we woke up at 9 am, had some pancakes and packed our bags. On the way to the main road, we passed by an old Russian cemetery. Most of the names on the gravestones had similar last names.
There was also some sort of art hanging from the tree – a lot of postcards arranged in the shape of Finland, with postcards from different places in Finland.
Now it’s time to drive to Norway to visit the Arctic Sea… It’s going to be a one hour drive in our car to Kirkenes.