Saturday, June 25, 2005

And the trip has begun

After a slow breakfast and testing the spare tire (it is good), we were off at 9.15 am, with me behind the wheel. Because of a wedding the day before, we were already a day behind our original schedule. Therefore, our stop in Finland has been reduced to one night in Kajaani, which in turn means that our first leg of the trip is the longest one.

Driving down Finland is typically quite eventless, and at 13.25 Finnish time, this boredom prompted us to stop, stretch our legs and switch driver at Pello, only 298 km from the start of the trip.

Nothing to report on the way, except Klemet's sudden exclemation "Babe alert!" at 15.35. Two minutes later, we drive by what looks like a burnt building where the fire has been picking up again. Dark smoke was coming out of the entire roof. Then we realize that it is a gas station.

We arrive at Muhos at 17.07, where we stop at the first place it is possible to buy food. It's a small place called Grilli Pizzeria. The owner speaks very little English, and Klemet speaks very little Finnish. In his own words, it is strange to have a language so similar to Sami, and it is still impossible to understand a word. Somehow, we managed to order bacon burgers, although we found this out only after he was done making them. So here's the review for Grilli Pizzeria in Muhos, Finland: The burger was fairly flat, bread too crusty, too little salad, but tasted good.

We push on, and at 18.08 and 623 km, the tiring nature of Finland makes Klemet drowsy, and I take over the driving again. After looking at the map, we decide to drive on the south side of Oulojarvi (Lake Oulo) instead of the north side, so that we didn't have to drive on the same road twice during this trip. This turned out to be more difficult than expected, as all the signs were designed to trick you back to the main road on the north side.

After a bit of trial and error, we eventually found the right way, which gave us an arrival in Kajaani at 19.50 and 762 km of driving, only to find the youth hostel closed because of the summer solstice. This can happen only in Finland.

After driving by Hotel Valjas three times, we finally see it at 20.04. It is cheap, has excellent quality, indoor parking and is situated dead in downtown. And I would like to emphasize the word "dead".

The dead centre of town - literally

After walking around for a while, passing 3 or 4 ATMs, we finally see one at 20.58. We were wondering how there could be so many stores and restaurants and no ATMs. Turns out, we diidn't know they were supposed to look like yellow phone booths.

We still havn't found out how there could be so many pubs and restaurants and so few people. The number of pubs and restaurants far exceed what is sustainable by the number of people we saw out (about 20, of which 8 were under age and therefore rolling around on skateboards). Our timing mght be a reason for experiencing Kajaani as a ghost town, however. It was the end of June after all, and everyone must have left town to celebrate summer solstice.

Trip so far: 764 km.

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