I woke up to a day I had long been looking forward to. To clear the cobwebs of sleep, I took a quick dip in Kiantajärvi. Climbing out of the frigid waters, shivering, I realized that we had indeed left the south. Long gone were the gentle warm waters and sandy beaches of the south. The cold north was getting closer.
Kitting up, I decided to ditch the top bag and just cram everything into my side mounted soft luggage. I had hated the top bag from the get go and my dislike for it didn’t change during the day of having it there. The 690 was looking lean and mean again, but I made a mental note to recheck all the gear the next night. If there was anything that could be dumped, I’d mail it back home.
While I was messing about with my bike, Jarmo’s 990 got some new decoration. Looking pretty good to me!
We took off for fuel and lunch at the Suomussalmi Teboil, and finally took off to the road at around noon. We did not have to ride long.
We arrived at Raatteentie, or the Raate Road in the common language. I had long wished to ride though it. The Raate Road had played a significant role in the independence of Finland in the Second World War. I will not get into war history, so those who are interested can have a look here.
At the start of the road there is a museum with some tanks and guns and what not. The real point of interest however is the huge Winter War Monument. It is the “Wide Embrace”, designed by Erkki Pullinen. Standing in it’s presence was a humbling experience. Time stood still while I thought about what my grandparents had sacrificed to give me the freedom I enjoy today. I will not a post a picture of it as it’s something to feel, rather than see.
After the quiet moment we took back to the road. We were too stoked to stop at all the war memorials and museums dotted on both sides of the road. If you’re into that stuff, this is definitely the place to visit. The road snaked on through the forest before abruptly ending at the border control station. They had preserved the old gate.
By this time, we had had enough of war memories and morbid thoughts. It was time to hit the good stuff. We doubled back a little, before turning north to a smaller road.
This was awesome terrain and we kept close to the border zone most of the time. It was some excellent riding in perfect weather. The only traffic we saw was a border guard doing his rounds. We stopped to have a chat with him and he told us that this was bear country. We had noticed several tour operators offering bear viewings so apparently they were all here. Luckily the bear is a very shy animal and will keep a good distance to humans.
The roads were excellent but in the end we needed to get some coffee and a few liters of fuel for the bikes. We stopped at Juntusranta, where we found a really cool old Teboil petrol station. I think time had stood still there for a while as the fuel pumps were still in not in Euros.
From Juntusranta we had to stay on tarmac for a while before getting back on dirt roads. We were still close to the border.
We ended up in Salla and were the only guests at the local Hotel Takka-Valkea. They give a discount for return clients on the way back south from the north. Provided of course that you had stayed with them on the way north.
Anyhow, despite the slightly Bates Motel feel, the owners were fun and talkative. No complaints on the rooms. I was pretty beat but still decided to do a little laundry before turning in.