Cook – Harriniva

Awake at 4.40am, left at 5.40. Distant sound of gunfire accompanied me down the hill to Farnham station. I assume it came from Aldershot. Gotta feel sorry for soldiers shooting at each other at 5.30 in the morning. I think war was more civilised when only fought during the daylight hours!

As usual, problems with the coach driver to Heathrow from Woking. Thankfully, not me this time. A woman didn’t have a ticket and the driver told her “you’ve got to go to the station and get one”. The guy at the station told her “as long as you have the right money you’ll be able to get a ticket on the bus”. The driver was adamant! I am not going to miss this stuff…even a week is something.

Something occurs to me: why does the bus always play Radio 2? Is it the RailAir official station?

Check-in at Heathrow very smooth – about 2 minutes. Through security without a blip. Businessman in front of me not so lucky. He had to virtually strip before they’d let him through. That’ll teach him to keep his clothes on!

Sat in departure lounge for two hours. Read Redmond O’Hanlon’s In Trouble Again. It’s all about South America and the Amazon, so the heat and insects and strange violent natives giving me a taste of nothing like where I’m going. Makes me feel less intrepid.

After a lifetime of waiting and wandering and waiting some more, I FINALLY get a call to go to gate 48 where I settle down to wait some more.

1848km to Helsinki, 2:35 hours. Window seat 24F. Set my watch to local time and off we go. Is this where a holiday really starts? Or is it when I get somewhere new? Helsinki? Anyway, the captain speaks some Finnish and it sounds like so much nonsense. It is supposed to be a very hard language to learn. I can see why. How do you tell the difference between “Ingle bingle dingle” and “Gingle dingle bingle” when it’s spoken so fast?

Actually the plane is a BA jet that Finnair is using. It has a camera mounted underneath so you can watch the take off and the ground for a while. Never seen this before and it’s really cute. Be a bit awful if you could see a truck coming straight for the plane, I guess, or a rocket. No-one sitting next to me, which is excellent. It is a magnificently clear day as we bank and I can almost see home in the distance. It is so clear I can make out a group of kids playing football. A brilliant day for flying.

We flew out over Watford which looked surprisingly green from up here. A lovely lunch of chicken in basil sauce, new potatoes, carrots and beans. Had a Lapin Kulta, the Golden Beer of Lapland. Not bad, a weak pale yellow lager. I assume it’s Lapland’s version of Fosters. Lapin Kulta = Cult of the Rabbit?

The baby stopped screaming as soon as it was fed…finally.

Clouds over the water then a dramatic change in scenery. Large swathes of snow, river like between clumps of trees, woods. It is -1 in Helsinki but it looks way colder from up here. Tractor tracks in white ploughed fields look very odd.

Wow! What a hike! I had to transfer at Helsinki for my plane to Kittila. From the plane I had to board a bus, then walk all the way through customs and out into the main Arrivals area of the International Terminal. Then it’s a 50 mile walk along a connecting corridor – not moving. Then you have to find the gate, which is miles away again. Anyway, as usual, I got there with heaps of time to spare. Hopefully my luggage will fare as well.

My first taste of the Finnish is that they are quite rude and have no idea how to queue. They just seem to drift into spaces beside or in front of you. And without making any eye contact, as if you don’t exist. Incredible. Mind you, domestic flights do not have allocated seating so maybe it’s a rush for the best seats. All the staff are nice enough.

So I’m on the plane to Kittila and the first major hurdle passed. Connecting flights!

20 minutes to go and the captain announces that it is -14 at Kittila. That’s more like it!

Arrived 5:45. One runway. The plane lands, slows, does a u-ey, then drives back to the terminal. Snow everywhere except the runway. Everyone gets off the plane and takes a picture of it. I think odd until I climb down. It is beautiful. The sun is going down and everything is white. The plane is very simply painted and combined with the golden glow coming from the terminal lights, it’s just magical. I took a picture too.

Kittila

I have always wanted to be the person whose name is on the cards that are held up by drivers at airports. And now, my wish has come true! A little guy (with little, if any, English) was holding up a little piece of paper with ‘Cook – Harriniva’ on it.

There were 6 of us in the mini-bus and we took a huge detour to drop 4 of them off in the middle of nowhere. We all ooh’d and ahh’d at the night skiing runs dotted along the way. Mostly, however, it was just snow and trees as the sun set.

We arrived a little after 7:30pm and I dumped my stuff in my room and joined everyone else for dinner – a strange fish thing with a buffet of salads. Had a couple of beers.

The centre is 3km outside a place called Muonio on Santa’s Road. It is all pine and multiple beds, like a ski lodge.

It’s now 9pm and I’m totally whacked so I’m going to bed. Tomorrow is my own until 4pm when I meet the rest of my group. Who knows what tomorrow will bring…

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