Sivu 50

next four days we rather leisurely trek westward cross-country through the wilderness zone. We only need to climb a few hundred metres up the rounded fells to reach the timberline and the expansive open views that stretch for many kilometres in every direction. Here we often see reindeer, including a couple of large bulls who are very skittish and bound effortlessly away as we approach. One day we see bear tracks, but we never have the pleasure of meeting one face-to-face even though the park is home to several brown bears as well as the elusive wolverine. Most days we spot golden eagles and rough-legged buzzards soaring overhead. Our constant companions are the curious and gregarious Siberian jays. Three or four often follow us on our hikes and watch us at camp while perched in nearby trees. These friendly and colourful birds require old-growth forests to nest in, so they are extremely rare outside of protected areas. While Lapland lacks spectacular natural wonders on the scale of the Grand Canyon or the Matterhorn, the sensation of being in such a secluded, untouched refuge permeates the soul. After a couple of days we are living in the moment. All thoughts of the urban bustle of our work-a-day world are long gone. We don't meet any other people until we leave the wilderness zone and return to the basic zone where we thoroughly enjoy the luxurious amenities of the established campsites. We are amazed at how wonderful something as simple as a picnic table is after living without one for a few days. At the same time, we are disappointed to hear the engine roar of heavy machinery. the sensation of being in such a secluded, untouched refuge permeates the soul. tHere'S gold in tHem tHere HillS The basic zone of the park is home to several gold miners. While some of the claims are very simple, rustic affairs run by parttime miners who hand shovel and wash the soil in search of gold flakes as a hobby, others are more professional and use large mechanical diggers and bulldozers to remove whole hillsides. Near Morgamoja, home to several miners during the gold rush of the late 1940s, we meet Veikko Mäenpää and his wife, Leila Kostiainen, who are working their sluice box. They live in a 60-year-old turf hut built by one of the old-time miners. "It's like winning the lottery having this place," says Mäenpää, even though he admits that they don't make much money from the gold they find. They bought the claim 15 years ago and spend much of their free time during the summers working it. "It was love at first sight," he says, doffing his large felt hat, a common accessory of local miners. Here the trail becomes a road, and it's quite usual to meet miners passing by driving all terrain vehicles. They often drive the 4.5 kilometres to and from Kultahamina, the Gold Harbour, on the Lemmenjoki River, which is our next destination as well. From here it's possible to take the regularly scheduled motorised riverboat 25 kilometres down river to the village of Njurgulahti, our starting point. old man river We've made arrangements with the riverboat operator to bring our inflatable canoe up to Kultahamina. For the next two days 50 BlUe WingS SEPTEMBER 2009 we leisurely float down river to Njurgulahti and spend our final night in Lemmenjoki at Ahkun Tupa, one of the two holiday resorts located there. The canoe lives up to its name "Straitedge." It tracks extremely well and is very stable even though we nearly surpass its weight limit. We're a bit cramped with our backpacks squished between us, but the canoe weighs only 20 kilograms and when deflated it fits into a bag about one metre long and half a metre tall. The riverboat operator had told us that anything bigger would have been difficult to fit in his boat. Before setting off, our canoeing experience was limited, but most of Lemmenjoki River is wide, deep and slow moving, which is ideal for beginners. The few rapids are more exciting than seriously challenging. Most of our two days on the river, we gently paddle downstream and take in the peaceful silence around us, broken only occasionally by the cries of ravens echoing off the riverside cliffs. The scenery and atmosphere are strikingly different from that on the fell tops. We stop over at the most popular site in the park, the Ravadasköngäs Falls, where the Ravadasjoki River tumbles several metres into the Lemmenjoki River. The riverboats (these and the park service boats are the only motorboats allowed on the river) make scheduled stops here. The nearby campsite and unlocked log cabin sit on one of the most beautiful spots on the river. It's an ideal destination for daytrippers and weekenders, and there's even an occasional wedding held in front of the falls. tHe Final leg According to a Sámi proverb, "It's better to be on a journey than to stay put at one place." Our last few kilometres on the river are filled not only with melancholic thoughts of ending our magical journey in Lemmenjoki, but also with thoughts of a delicious hot dinner and an ice-cold beer. We have reserved a guest cottage at Ahkun Tupa (the name is Sámi for "grandmother's hut"), the largest of the two holiday resorts in Njurgulahti. The business was started in 1946 by Juhani Jomppanen, a Sámi reindeer herder whose family had settled in the area at the turn of the century when the nomadic herders were no longer allowed to follow their reindeer across the Norwegian border. His three daughters and their families now run the business which

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