When my friend Federico Buldrini told me he was going to Finland to visit Pasi Hurttila I asked him if he would take some photos and write something for Nordiska Knivar. Here is his report. Thank you Federico and also to his brother, Fabrizio Buldrini for taking the photos.
We’re going to hike in the Hammastunturi wilderness area. This area, spreading within parts of the three provinces of Inari, Kittilä and Sodankylä, was declared protected in 1991, after having been for centuries a wintering ground for reindeers bred by Inari Sámi and having being the scene of one of Lapland’s gold rushes, in this case from 1868 until the 1920s, with a few gold diggers still present today.
Pasi parks the van, we take our backpacks, he puts Pyry on the leash, makes Kumu wear a radio collar with GPS and we hit the trail. Actually there are no trails in this part of the reserve, so we proceed in a straight line on peaty soil, dotted with moss and streams and surrounded by pine trees.
Moist, clean air, cloudy sky. Kumu runs away and after a while we hear him barking and yelping. When we reach him, he’s frantically digging and biting into the ground, where we find the remains of a lemming. Kumu has a bloody lip: the rodent hasn’t reached Valhalla without a fight.
Bogs, mosses, lichens, streams, pines, birches.
While we continue the ascent we reach a clearing. A rusty saw hanging on a branch, a plastic sheet on the ground, strainers, pans, blankets and thermal trunks scattered. It’s a local gold digger that has made his camp here.
We skirt a small river, we continue to ascend, and after half an hour we find a good place to make camp in a small clearing, a few meters from the stream. We are on top of a fell and within a circle of pines.
Feathersticks and the fire flares up.
While we eat it starts to rain softly and the wind rises, but the softshell and the raincoat are more than enough; the rain also doesn’t last more than fifteen minutes. Again on the trail while the sky clears and the sun rays fall.
After half an hour we reach the summit, and we dominate a solitary and majestic landscape, sprinkled with birch trees and glacial erratics, kissed by the grazing light of the approaching autumn.
The temperature rises slightly as we begin the descent. Bogs, streams, birch and pine. We are now in a slightly marshy valley, surrounded by forest and tunturit.
After a woad we walk again among the trees, but the soil is still peaty and kind of elastic.
We continue to go down, each one absorbed in his own thoughts…
and around 6 p.m. we reach the road and the Toyota parked nearby. While we are loading the van with backpacks, collars and so on, with perfect timing, it starts to rain again.
As decided yesterday, today’s program includes a visit to the Sámi Siida in Inari and a second hike.
Upon entering in the museum you are greeted by the ticket office and the gift shop: books, plush, silver jewelry, knives etc. We walk along a ramp and reach a room with a chronological table that tells the prehistory and history of the Sámi, next to known major events of the rest of the world.
The main room is divided in two and the themes are addressed through large explanatory panels, artifacts and some simple dioramas. On the outside it explores clearly and in detail the geology, flora, fauna and climate of Lapland, also illustrating the variations in hours of light, temperature and landscape throughout the year. In the inner part it explains crafts, hunting and fishing – conducted separately and exclusively by distinct Siidas (or tribes) the different costumes between a geographical area and another, the transition from nomadic to sedentary life. All this is achieved in a simple but very accurate way and, above all, without ever falling into the false “touristic” romanticism that the topic could easily inspire.
Outside there is the original museum, composed of both originals and reconstructed buildings, which tell the life changes after the resignation from the nomadic life. Houses, farms, a court, a food storage cabin lifted off the ground, which was also the first installment of the museum at the time of its foundation, in the 50s. A little afar there are also few medieval looking traps for fur animals.
After the visit we go back to Pasi’s cottage, we take our backpacks and step into the woods. The weather is grayer and more thoughtful than yesterday. Again we walk on a path covered with sphagnum, moss and peat areas. The forest here is a bit more disordered than on the Hammastunturi and on a couple of points the march is hampered by fallen pine trunks. The terrain itself is frequently wavy.
After about an hour and a half, we pass yet another ripple and arrive on the shores of Lake Saarijärvi. Long lake, with jagged shores covered with sphagnum and dotted with small islands in the distance, hence the name. Everything is wrapped in a light mist. Autumn is breathebly in the air.
We collect a bit of wood, we light the fire and prepare some tea with strawberries, embraced by the sweet moist and silent air of the taiga.
Shortly before leaving, while the fire is dying out, we pick up a beer bottle that is already colonized by mosses, a clear sign that it has been abandoned there for several months
We keep up the ascent and get over the ridge of a hill.
Pasi plans to continue in the forest to the cottage, but shortly after Kumu starts to chase something, maybe a fox and ends on the road. We follow him, and when he makes the move to even chase a group of reindeers that roam the forest edge, Pasi calls him back and decides to stay on the road
We conclude the hike walking the last stretch on the road.