I woke up at 0700 and relit the fire for heat and lighting. These classical wilderness habitats are very dark as there is only one small window on the door. It was getting light outside while I boiled some water with my MSR Pocket Rocket. That stove and the discontinued MSR Soloist pan set are probably one of the best pieces of equipment one can carry. Just remember to put the gas cartridge into your sleeping bag in cold bivouacs.
After sipping some instant coffee and packing my stuff, I was ready to take off to the Nuolusoiva circuit. I had read about this interesting trail on another forum and decided to have a look. I was a little concerned with fuel as I had gone to reserve ten kilometers before stopping for the night yesterday. I still had the extra seven liters of fuel that I poured into the main tank. If I wasn’t too heavy on the throttle, that would give me a range of 140 km plus another 50 km from the reserve. The 190 km would be enough to do the circuit and still make it to Salla to refuel. Additionally, there was still the odd chance that I could score some fuel with one of the local residents. I had unsuccessfully tried to make arrangements during the previous week.
The Nuolusoiva trail was beautiful. It had two or three river crossings which kept the riding interesting. Other than that there were no technical difficulties. Not that the crossings were difficult either. The both had shallow banks and a hard rocky bottom with low water levels. Essentially a nice gravel road in wonderful scenery. I was happy to have the five liter canister now empty. The bike felt a lot more balanced and predictable. All good thing come to an end and the circuit was done all too quickly. All in all I had expected the trails in Tuntsa to be more challenging. That was the impression I got from the Finnish forums. The trails were nice but, on a KTM 690, not exactly challenging. Good fun though.
Riding back towards Salla, I was met by the same group of hunters as on the previous evening. Lots of quads and 4×4:s. I decided to visit Naruskan Retkeilymaja, in case they had fuel. They have received rave reviews on the forums and I was eager to check the place out. Arriving there, the place was busy. A group of hunters had just finished breakfast and were ready to hit the trails. It almost felt like a cheerful guerrilla camp or something. I found the friendly owner, Kari “Ukka” Santala, and asked if he had coffee and/or fuel. He said he had both and immediately asked me to sit down and help myself to the breakfast buffet. In the meanwhile he went to make another pot of coffee. I was grateful for the warmth and the coffee as I had gotten a little chilly on the morning ride. I had a chat with Kari and was convinced that this would be a very nice place to stay, should I be here for a longer time. A nice enduro camp perhaps. The are has several options for other activities too and Kari can arrange transport. I was taken aback with the genuine friendliness that filled the house. Naruskan Retkeilymaja definitely has earned its’ place on the highly recommended list.
After refilling, armed with 18.5 liters of fuel, I paid up and thanked the owner. I now had the chance to have a look at Karhutunturi or Bear Fell in English. The ride up it was nice. A dirt track snaking up the eastern side getting progressively rockier. The views were great and I finally had some cell phone coverage. No one had missed me.
The views were magnificent and reluctantly I descended back to the river. I decided to take one more detour before my ride towards the south. I had devised a route that was not exactly bomb proof and was curious to see whether it would let me leave the clutches of the Tuntsa wilderness. In the end my route connected with a bigger road further south. Feeling a little melancholic I left the wilderness of the north behind and headed south. I was already very far behind in my schedule and needed to get a move on. I was headed for Kuusamo on dirt roads and I had never been on these.
The highlight of the trails to Kuusamo was a no access sign accompanied by another sign stating that the bridge was dismantled. True enough, only a few concrete blocks lay as evidence of a bridge ever having stood there. I got off the bike and had a look around. The section where the bridge had stood was impassable as the band were steep and the water deep. However, ten meters downstream I found some quad tracks and a shallow crossing. There were also some deep 4×4 tracks in evidence of someone getting properly stuck here. This was where I had to cross so I got on the bike and rode to the edge of the turf.
I took care with the throttle. The surface was soft and an wheel spin would have shredded it, burying the rear up to the swing arm in no time. I got over the marsh and powered over the stream. Keeping the throttle on, I was quickly over the soft stuff on the other side and cleared the bank up to the road.
I was in a good mood, riding awesome tracks in beautiful scenery. Unfortunately just before Kuusamo came the rain. I was also getting low on fuel and energy. I decided to take a faster route to Kuusamo and did the last leg on tarmac. For some reason I always feel guilty about riding on tarmac.
In Kuusamo I stopped to refuel and have a very late lunch. Apparently there weren’t a lot of bikes around at this time of the year because I got a lot of quizzical looks while I kitted up and went back out into the rain. I got out of Kuusamo and made my way to a southbound dirt road. It was getting dark and the rain was increasing. As much as I love the 690, I must say that the headlight is truly pathetic. Not only it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to but it also hit my eyes when standing on the pegs. I have to put some shader on it or something to cut the light from spilling upwards. My visor was fogged from the inside and wet on the outside which didn’t make the riding any more enjoyable than the headlight.
It just kept raining and after two hours or so in the darkness I decided to call it quits. I had a look at the map and located a wilderness hut maybe twenty kilometers away. I decided that it would be my home for the night. Finding the footpath leading to the hut wasn’t exactly easy in the dark wet forest but I did in the end. I found a dark and empty cabin in the middle of the forest. It was a little creepy but I parked for the night and took in my gear. Luckily there was plenty of dry firewood and candles, and the warm presence of fire always buoys spirits. I was feeling very toasty amidst the wet riding gear I hung to dry. I wasn’t too hungry either so I just had some nuts and crawled into my sleeping bag.