Russia and 4x4.Landcruiser-Club trip Augustus 21st until September 6, 2005.
A travel report in diary-format.Sunday August 21st.
One could say that this is the first day of our off-road trip.
We are on a camp-site in Docksta, approximately in the middle of Sweden, but at the East coast. We are on a journey that will last about six weeks. Within this journey and during the next two weeks we will take part in this off-road trip.
Today, on this camp-site, we will meet our travel companions with whom we will enjoy our Russia-adventure.
What went in advance?
Within the Dutch Landcruiser-Club there are lots of activities going on.
One of them is organizing travels.
This year (2005) one could choose to take part in a travel to Mauritania and/or Russia. With quite some experience about traveling in Tunisia we went to the information-day concerning these travels, with the intention to register for Mauritania.
Then, at the end of the afternoon we had been registered for Russia, thanks to Neil Hopkinson.
We will have to make some alterations to our Landcruiser. Things like a snorkel and rocksliders won't be a superfluous luxury. Furthermore an in-depth check-up on everything because the ANWB (the Dutch Automobile Association) road-assistance will not be available in case of a break down
Ladders are a must. Four of them, each about 1.25 meter (four feet) long and 30 cm (one foot) wide, made of aluminium angle line.
Water in itself is no problem, but a good filtration installation will be needed. Gps is also a necessity, but this we are using for years in combination with the navigation program Oziexplorer and OziCe on the PDA, a Mio 168 with build-in GPS-receiver, which satisfies very well.
Well, Russia is quite large. We will be visiting just a tiny part of it. The Kola-peninsula. In the north-west, South of Murmansk and next to Finland. Road-maps of that area with considerable detail are not readily available, but I was succesfull in finding some on the Internet.
By the way if you left click on an image, a better quality will show up, except the image below. There the detail is low, especially in between Vernitochomkeije and Monchegorsk. This as not to reveal in great detail the trip as we drove it.
From the Finnish city Ivalo we will travel in the direction of but not as far as Murmansk. Approximately 80 km from this city, at Vernetochomskije, we will turn southbound, traveling to Monchechorsk, and that is cross-country. That is approximately 200 km. Here we follow the remainders of a track which was used many years ago for developing the forest, but has now nearly disappeared.
Whatever bridges (mainly wooden) there have been, they are gone. Rotten or set to fire in the past years. Rivercrossings are necessary, but we will pass also through rocky and swampy area.
For this first part six, up to nine, days will be needed, dependent on the conditions. From Monchegorsk normal roads to Kandalaksha, the second large city.
Here we turn to the east for our second part of the trip and follow the White Sea coastline to a small village, called Kuzomo.
Since there is only one road available we will follow that one also returning, passing Kandalaksha to the west where we enter Finland near Salla. By then two weeks have passed.
The weather conditions can be diverse. Rain,snow, sunny, cold and hot. It can change by the hour and probably rain every day. (Luckily we will find out it can be totally different from what Neil told us.)
The trip will be guided by Neil Hopkinson's Impala Adventures in the U.K.
Because we, Ron and Yvonne, will implement this Russia trip in a longer holiday by caravan, we will meet the rest of the group in Sweden, leaving the caravan there. During a meeting in the Netherlands we met our Dutch travel-companions, Netty and Folkert with their LC80-series and Alex with Bobby, his dog. Just like we he owns a HZJ73. Unfortunately there a no more members of the LandCruiser Club to participate.
To make this trip profitable for Neil's Impala Adventure, more participants are needed. Therefore British travelers will join the party.
Being from the U.K. they drive, just like Neil as a matter of fact, Landrover products. Vaughn and Lisa a green Discovery and Mark with daughter Jade and son Adam drives a white Defender.
Neil, who during this trip is assisted by Alec, is driving an approx. 20 years old, considerably modified, Range Rover. And those travelers will arrive today, at this camp-site, selected by Neil.
To wait until the crowd will invade. That's today's mission. Fortunately the weather is nice. We must be patient until late in the afternoon.
First to arrive are Netty and Folkert, then Neil and the two other English equips, Vaughn and Lisa, Mark with Jade and Adam.
At last Alex arrives. He's in a bad mood. Back home he ordered a hydraulic winch to be installed and had all kinds of problems with that although the installation was carried out by a well-known company. Everything seemed solved. Until on his way here he saw hydraulic oil leaking from the system. At first glance it looks as if there is a lot of air in the system. Bleeding it doesn't solve the problem. Possibly an air-leak. Well, en route tomorrow we will obtain some stuff and try to solve it . For now let's get acquainted with each other.
Monday August 22nd.
Quite a distance to cover today. A more than 600 km (almost 400 miles)trip along the coast to the north, but all goes well. We spend the night on a nature camp-site 'Wild Lapland' or 'Lapin Elämislomat' in Finnish, a bit beyond Haparanda in Finland. At night in the camp we bleed the hydraulic system of Alex by driving the car with the two left wheels in a ditch. Late last night I got a brainwave about trapped air in a certain, strangely engineered, part of the system. We are able to remove a lot of air and tighten a nut. This seems to solve the problem.
Tuesday August 23rd.
We don't have to drive a lot. Not quite four hundred kilometers in the direction of Ivalo, in the north. North of Rouvaniemi we pass the Polar-circle. Our aim is a 'golddiggers camp'. Believe it or not but in the northern part of Finland there is a large area where they find gold. Neil had offered to pass by at a friend of him who is a 'gold-digger'. It takes a bit of effort to find the camp but eventually we get there. We get acquainted with Mr. Vasantila and rig our camp for the night.
Wednesday August 24th.
Mr. Vasantila has told us everything concerning the technique of gold digging. One thing's for sure: It's not all gold that shines. He hopes to save a bit out of this claim for his pension. But certainly that is still five years of hard work. So far he has only kept daily living and the investments to his golddiggers activities.
He shows us the technique of panning. That looks misleadingly easy, but he told that his first pan took almost 8 hours. Later we can try it as well. We are a lot faster than he at his first pan, but that is possibly also the reason that we find nothing. Although, it looks as if Adam has a couple of dust particles in his pan. Therefore, no jackpot for us. As a compensation for the disappointing result he hands out to everyone of us a little tube with gold-flakes. A nice souvenir.
Finally he shows how competition-panning is done. He puts 7 gold flakes in a bucket full of dirt. From the moment he empties the bucket in his pan till the moment he has all 7 flakes collected again takes him slightly over 2 minutes.
Once he won the competition. In a bit more than a minute he found all the flakes. These are put in the bucket by the jury, and therefore the panner doesn't know the amount he has to find. At the moment the panner thinks he has found all the flakes put in there, he has to call. That time is recorded. In case a flake is missing he is disqualified.
Around noon we leave to drive to the Lodge in Lapinleukoo passing Ivalo to our following night spot. Here we really are at the end of the road.
Splendid spot near a lake in the woods. The lodge has been entirely built from tree-stems by its owner, Timo. We get a room where 8 persons can easily sleep in two enormous beds, each four and half meters long. Two by two, feet towards each other. That the Finns do not like cold is proven here. Is very warm in the room. Soon we are in order. It's nice taking a shower and then touring the lake in a boat, driven by Timo. We sail a tour of approximately half an hour around an island.
At half past eight we get a delicious meal served. Mushroom soup to start with. Main course is reindeer meat served with mashed potatoes and a cranberry sauce. Dessert?: delicious ice. After this, with some hesitation, we visit the ' nightclub '. More or less a round building. Half-way submerged in the ground with walls a meter thick. Within a firm fire is burning. According to Timo the bar is open. Mark invites us for a drink. There is a lot to chat about and eventually we have to get to bed.
Thursday August 25th.
Breakfast at eight. Around nine we leave for the Russian border. There we run up against two problems. Appears that we cannot buy a car insurance (a Russian one, which is obligatorily) at the border. That used to be possible but that service ceased about two weeks ago. That means that somehow we must find another place we can buy it. And it exists. Salla. The border crossing 385 km in the South where we eventually will leave Russia at the end of the trip. This implies that Neil must drive to Salla with all data of all vehicles. There he buys the insurances and returns to where we are now. A round-tour of almost 800 km (500 miles)!. And obviously that will take some time. This means we are stuck here for the time being. For Alex it is an advantage. He bought his insurance in the Netherlands. He now can go en-route at its ease. Why? That is problem number two. He has his dog (Bobby) with him and here passing the border into Russia is not allowed with an animal. For this reason he must travel to Kirkenes in Norway and there he can cross the Norwegian-Russian border. That means a detour of 450 km. I provided him maps in advance because we took this into account. On those maps I have indicated way-points we now enter in his GPS. On that basis he must be able to find his way.
Thus half an hour later two cars set off. Alex to the north and Neil with Alec to the south. Around four o'clock we get SMS-messages saying that Alex is in Russia and that Neil got the insurances. Meanwhile we went back in the direction of Ivalo for about 10 kilometer to camp near a parking place. Soon there is a fire and we spend the day enjoying the fine weather, exploring the area a bit.