Finally, the day arrived that we had all been waiting for – the day of departure to magical Lapland! We had our backpacks ready with all our personal gear as we jumped on a night train that would take us to Kolari.
Patricia Gargour & Tiina Luhtala
“Where are you off to? – I’m going on an adventure!” – Bilbo Baggins, Lord of the Rings
The atmosphere in the train was full of excitement and joy, although we knew there would still be a lot to do before our hike in Ylläs-Pallas National Park. There were still many questions popping up: How do we form tent groups? Is there enough space for group gear in my backpack? And most importantly: what are we going to EAT on the hike?
From Kolari station we took a bus to Äkäslompolo where we stayed at Silver Fox Hostel during the first days of our two-week expedition. We were welcomed by Pekka, the friendly new owner of the Hostel. It was an absolute honor to be his first guests!
Our first four days in Äkäslompolo village included plenty of experiential learning. We got to experience Lapland’s nature and the beautiful autumn colors, known in Finnish as Ruska. On our daytrips we were also introduced to all the essentials of hiking: our gear, orienteering with a map and compass, and how to work as a team. We visited Kellokas, the nature center of Pallas-Ylläs, where we learned important facts about the national park and Metsähallitus (Finnish Forestry administration), and how to respect nature.
Fatbiking through beautiful Lapland (Photo: Ahmed Abdulkarim)
Taking a rest after the ride (Photo: Anne Felden)
The next day we set off for a tough ride up Tahkokuru fell on our fat bikes, meeting on the top to get to know our group gear! Alongside our hostel roommates, we planned a good meal to cook up on our Trangia camping stoves, learning how to cook with them, what to cook with them, and how to clean them while respecting our surroundings. With a good hot meal in our bellies, we then became acquainted with our tents and our tarps, learning how to tie a trucker’s hitch to put the tarps up, and of course how to tie a tight tent.
Dagmar lighting her trangia stove (Photo: Vilma Koskinen)
Armed with the knowledge we needed to survive on our hike, we were tasked with assigning our own tent groups. Through an organized discussion with a goal of making socially, mentally and physically safe groups, we successfully managed to put together five groups of three students and two groups of two students.
Learning to tie a trucker’s hitch knot to put up a tarp (Photo: Patricia Gargour)
Now that we knew how to respect nature, how to use our equipment, and we had our tent groups sorted, we still had one very important mission to undertake… the food! Since the very beginning, the question of food was a big one and everyone wanted to make sure that we were well fed. In our tent groups, we created meal plans for the week, mapping out breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day, including snacks! Together we went into Jounin Kauppa, raiding the K-Market for snacks and supplies that would keep us well-nourished during the hike. Throughout the store you could hear students chattering, calling out to each other, and laughing nonstop at the hauls we all gathered. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that food was priority number one!
The only problem came up the night before the hike, while we packed up our backpacks. Luckily, we had been given great information about how to pack a backpack well: put what you don’t need during the day at the bottom, the heavy stuff against your back, clothes in the front, and everything you need in a hurry right at the top.
This was very valuable information as we split our group gear between us and packed our backpacks up full. The average pack weighed around 18-20kg! Nonetheless, with careful packing and organization, everyone felt good to go.
Planning and packing food for the hike (Photo: Ahmed Abdulkarim)
Our bus came to pick us up the next morning at the Silver Fox hostel, and after loading our backpacks in, discussing a few last-minute safety procedures, and wishing Pekka goodbye, we were finally off on our very own adventure.