Day IX – 6th July 2017 – The end of Karhunkierros
During the night we woke up several times, but at 9 a.m. we had to finally get up. We had last 19 km to do, so we weren’t in a hurry. Unfortunately there were two bad informations when we woke up: the rain still hasn’t stopped (so it was raining constantly for 36 hours) and Max’s shoes and pants were still wet – Dominika’s shoes weren’t completely dry too.
Max had to put on his wet sweatpants (because he didn’t want to go in shorts) and his wet shoes (although he had one dry pair, but he needed them as soon as we will reach the city). It turned out it was a good decision, as 15 minutes after leaving the hut we were wet again.
After 4 km we’ve reached the next hut. We made a little break, ate something and went back on the trail. The rain hasn’t stopped even for a second. Half an hour later we’ve reached the biggest obstacle so far. Little stream became a 5 metres wide river and our path was now under the water. It took us half an hour to figure out which way to go and finally we found a solution. We could use a fallen tree as a footbridge and then jump into a dry ground. Our wet shoes weren’t a stable support on a wet wood, but with a help of a stick we managed to cross the river. Although Max’s foot slipped into the water, it didn’t really matter anymore – we were practically swimming in our shoes now.
It wasn’t pleasant. We were cold and wet (the temperature was lower than the day before) and the trail became one big puddle. The whole day we didn’t meet anyone going from the opposite direction – it should’ve worried us, but we didn’t pay attention to it back then.
We just crossed the river, when we’ve reached a climax point on the Karhunkierros. A little river that was ahead of us turned into a huge one, flooded it’s surroundings and the bridge that was beneath it. The bridge looked provisional – it had 12 metres and was basically just a couple of wooden boards. One of its fragments was completely under water, the rest of it just partially. Max decided to try if it was possible to cross the bridge. He took of his shoes and socks and stepped on to the slippery bridge. The first part went under water for about 5 to 10 cm. He still managed to go further, but as soon as his foot touched the next fragment it went under water, which was now reaching his knees. He couldn’t even secure himself, by holding on to something – there was no trees, so we were afraid that if he went forward the torrent would take him. If we tried to cross that bridge it probably wouldn’t be a risk – it would’ve been a suicide.
After 69 km, we had only 13 km to the end of the Karhunkierros Trail and it turned out we were defeated by the nature. We couldn’t continue, we had to give up. When we let that sink in, there was another question: what next? How to get to the civilization? How to get off the trail? We looked on the map and found out there were three options:
a) we could turn back to the Oulanka Visitors Centre (15 km) – there was an “exit” from the trail
b) we could turn back to the hut where we’ve spent the night (6 km) and choose a shorter trail and then after 9 km reach a parking lot
c) we could turn back 2 km, then go 1 km to a different parking lot – but from this point we had 11 km to the main road
After a short brainstorm, we chose the third option. Although all of the options were just as long, the third one meant we wouldn’t go the same route again and maybe (if we’re lucky) we can catch an occasion and someone will give us a lift to the town. After an hour we’ve reached the parking lot – there was about 4 cars. We left the trail tired, a little bit happy and yet losers. We were proud we’ve managed to do so many kilometers and we knew that if it weren’t for the flooded bridge, we would’ve made it to the end of the trail -but we weren’t fully satisfied.
The route from the parking to the main road lasted so long. It was an asphalt road and it was leading only to the parking lot, so it was no chance someone would be going this way by accident. Each car must’ve been going to or from the trail. It was so windy and the temperature was (as we thought) below 10 C degrees.
We tried to catch a car, but in the first hour only 3 cars passed us – mailman and 2 passenger cars. Each driver slowed down, but only to show us they didn’t have enough room in the car. After two hours finally someone stopped – a couple from Germany. They were going to Kuusamo, which was perfect for us, because while going back to the South we had to go through that town. But of course we were so tired and cold, that we didn’t care where they were going.
We drove for about an hour in silence. We were exhausted and the warmth in the car made us sleepy. In the car we noticed with fear that it was 7,5 degrees Celsius outside and it was only 4 p.m. It started raining again and the wind was terrible. How will we survive the night in a tent? Max sent a message to our parents in Bydgoszcz asking what temperature will be in Kuusamo at night. They responded: 6 degrees Celsius.
After reaching Kuusamo we went straight to the supermarket, but shopping wasn’t our priority. We went to the restrooms, changed in dry clothes, but we had no idea how to dry our wet clothes. We charged our phones, organized our stuff in backpacks and threw garbage away. The hour we’ve spent in the supermarket wasn’t enough to warm us up, so we crossed the road and went the get some burgers. We both try to eat healthy, but we decided that we deserved a little debauchery. Sitting in Hesburger (Finnish equivalent of McDonald’s) in warmth we ate onion rings and it simply made us happy!
After supper we went shopping and we felt lucky again. We found a cheap blanket on sale and bought it without hesitation, to increase our chances of surviving the night. We bought some sweets and something for a tomorrow breakfast too and we headed to find a place to sleep.
In the city centre we found a hotel by accident – it looked normal, not expensive, so we went in to ask for prices. The thought of sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed was tempting, but when we heard that a night in the cheapest room was 105 euro… a night spent in a tent didn’t seem so terrible anymore.
We found a perfect spot in a park near the hotel and by the lake. The grass was wet, but after two days of raining we knew we shouldn’t hope for a dry spot. It was getting colder, but the rain stopped and we hopped inside the tent with teas and Pringles to celebrate Dominika’s name day (a tradition in Poland – celebrated almost the same as birthday). With the blanket and after drinking the tea we were surprisingly warm! Going to sleep, we hoped the night won’t be that bad as they predicted.