Hitchhiking Through Finnish Nightless Nights: Day Three

If you missed either of the earlier posts, you may want to start from: Day One or Day Two.

DAY THREE – 315km from Kajaani to Kalajoki

First night in a hammock was a great lesson in physics. It became evident that when you lie down, you are pressed so firmly on the fabric that it doesn’t insulate any air at all. The surprising coldness kept me awake in my thin sleeping bag throughout the night. Do get yourself proper equipment or a ton of clothes if you ever consider spending a night in a hammock.

On the other hand, several hours of direct sun from the earlier day had turned to physical sickness this morning. Few hours of sleep and nausea was the unfortunate reality for the otherwise stunning camp setting beside a lake.

Later Joona told me about his similar, terrible feelings and the first thoughts of doubt. We did have a great challenge and a mission to complete, so we were determined to hype up our spirits and get back on the road. After not making our way to last night’s goal, we knew we had a long day ahead to make it to Rovaniemi in Lapland.

We went to Kajaani marketplace for some absolutely comforting bagel and coffee breakfast. Afterwards our friends drove us out of the city to charge our phones and ourselves at a gas station before hitting the road. It took us a while in an air conditioned room to gain spirit for the following.

The temperature had risen somewhere above +30 degrees to be more brutal than ever. All soaked in sunscreen, we went to a bus stop full of hope. The hitchhiking spot right next to a crossroad seemed as good as it gets.

Couldn’t hope for anything better than a bus stop right next to a crossroad.

We had a couple of offers for a ride to the next town. In such a good spot, we decided to wait for a jackpot – a direct ride to our destination, Rovaniemi. After we had had no better results in an hour, we got on a ride to the town of Paltamo nearby. This driver, a local girl in her early twenties, was a nice and confident person working in property maintenance.

Paltamo seemed like a charming little town. There was a nice strip of river crossing right next to the town center. The old wooden houses around seemed as picturesque and traditional as it gets and reminded me of old Finnish movies. Even the church next to our new hitchhiking spot looked like a masterpiece. Little did we know that Paltamo would end up being the curse of our trip.

We were stuck there for a mind-breaking five hours.

No divine intervention was experienced on these holy grounds – unless it was Satan’s work.
I will return to Nälkämaa Paltamo either with a car and a proper camera – or with a fighter jet and a nuclear warhead.

After the first few hours, we knew we were in a hurry. If we wanted to make it all the way to Lapland, we’d need a direct ride. As we were sick from the burning sunlight, we decided to part and try on two roads. I was left at the original spot whereas Joona walked to the other main road to try and get a rescuing ride to Oulu instead.

Sun literally put me on my knees. Eventually I couldn’t even stand straight as hours in the heat got me lying on the asphalt. I can proudly claim to be a one dedicated and strong-spirited traveler on missions like this. This time, being on my knees and suffering from the fainting feeling, I noticed my mind and temper breaking probably worse than ever on the road. Even so, I’d much rather just wait all day and sleep in these cursed lands than give up on our trip. As I knew Joona was probably battling with even worse, I called us a lunch break to regain our spirits.

A picnic and some re-hyping by the river set our minds straight again.

We unfortunately decided to skip Rovaniemi from our plans and both get on the Oulu road. Even if there was more traffic now in the afternoon, we didn’t encounter just as much smiles and hype from drivers as usually. I have no idea what the hell is wrong with the Kainuu people and for how long we would’ve been stuck if a Russian truck driver didn’t rescue us. Hopping in the truck and lying down on the bed in the cockpit felt just unbelievable.

Our driver was an old, brown-haired guy with a very easy-going presence. That’s pretty much all I can say about him, since he didn’t speak English any better than we spoke Russian. At least hand signs and Google Translate helped us expressing how thankful we were after being stuck for so long. A silent ride was totally welcome now that we could take a short nap.

Show must go on.

On the way to Oulu, Joona and our driver tried to communicate by making simple map drawings with a piece of paper and a pen. Even if it seemed like the driver understood where we wanted to hop off, he drove by the planned bus stop. When we expressed that we wanted to get off as soon as possible, he took a glance at the mirrors and stopped the truck right away – at the side of a highway junction. I believe you’d never see two guys and bags fly so fast out of a truck.

It took us long enough to walk out of the highway to a gas station nearby. We both ate a massive set of burgers and then walked few kilometres to Prisma store to get some water, snacks and clothes for the night. Even if packing a jumper and tracksuit pants in my bag felt as a ridiculous precaution at home, I now bought a thick beanie. Joona got a whole set of clothes as he had promised himself not to freeze as much ever again.

Turns out Oulu ended up being our Northernmost city of the trip.

There were no breweries open in Oulu that late in the evening mid-week. Yet another setback to our trip. Fully dedicated to our mission, I bought a local beer and stuffed it in my backpack to wait for the final destination of the day. That would hopefully be the Kalajoki beach in a two hour-drive distance to South. We knew our last night’s driver had a DJ gig in one of the restaurants at the beach. I had also exchanged numbers with a couple of girls who had offered us a ride earlier that day. They had made their way to Kalajoki before we changed our plans. We knew they were heading to same direction as us next morning, so we had some catching up to do.

This is where our luck finally turned around.

We made our way to Kalajoki with four different rides without having to wait for more than 15 minutes at each stop. Our first driver was a super nice guy about our age who took us to a better spot few kilometres out of the city.

Still this bright at around 10:30pm

Then we got on a taxi for the first time ever. A GM of a company in construction industry was on his way home from the airport and took us a dozen kilometres forward. This young looking guy was quite a nice fella and told us how he always picks up hitchhikers whenever seeing any. It was some funny contrast to our day when this nice gentleman of a taxi driver loaded our backpacks in and out of the trunk with gloves and all.

From yet another sweet hitchhiking spot, we soon got on a car driven by a middle-aged man working in security industry. He had some interesting hitchhiking stories and other tales to tell from his youth and life in general. We were left around his small hometown where we got company from young fans – a teenage couple on a moped.

Last ride of the night was also the most interesting one. This younger looking guy was apparently in his forties and had so many tales and twists to tell about his life that we couldn’t even fully comprehend the whole picture. He was born and raised in Africa until his early teenage years. At some point he did IT studies in U.S.A, lived a couple of years in Java island in Indonesia and what else. Now he was on his way home after trekking far up North in Lapland. He was very open about his feelings, experiences and Christian values. It was really interesting to hear about his childhood and cultural identity.

We were taken all the way to the stunning Kalajoki beach and next to the restaurant where our previous DJ driver was working that night. We went in to say hi, tell about our suffering in Paltamo and drown it all with a pint of bulk beer from the tap. Then we walked down the beach to join these other friends made on the road.

Nothing more original than the good old sipping-beer-while-watching-sunset photo.
Just in time to see the last bits of our arch nemesis – sun – drown in the sea.

It didn’t take me more than a glance at the scenery to understand why Kalajoki is such a popular destination for domestic tourists. We arrived around midnight and hung out chatting for a few more hours at the beach. The landscape was spectacular even after the sun setting when sun rays still colored the horizon red for the rest of the night.

Last – but not least – we had at least a couple of craft beers to try out !

Moood Milk Stout 5,4% by Maistila – First picked up by the interesting label and jammed further into basked out of sheer curiousity. I had never heard of this microbrewery unlike the other one they have in Oulu. With no expectations whatsoever, I was very happily surprised. This was a one damn goood milk stout with a nice balance of rich, sweet, smooth taste of coffee with hints of cocoa and vanilla. Best served cold with a sweet taste of victory itself.

And as already mentioned about the take-away beers bought from HIISI brewery restaurant on day two:

Lempo White Grape Sour 3,5% – Light, tasty, refreshing and most of all – different. Tried it after a couple of days at a beach and it was spot on even at backpack warmth. Hoping to find this from my local store soon.”

Gosebump Rasperry & Passionfruit Gose 5,5% – The profile of the beer was lost in the limbo of ultimate travel coma and light heatstroke of the time. My taste buds delivered information about a refreshing and tasty drink anyway. Try it out and tell me what I had.”

That’s starting to be enough for the day already. To end another intense journey, we grabbed our bags and walked towards the forests to look for a quiet spot for our camp. We had no intentions of paying for a spot in the camping area on such a hobo voyage we were on. It took us until 4am to get deep enough in the woods to find and set up an isolated camping spot considering the amount of summer cottages in the area.

No regretti.

That night we had a decent few hours of sleep with the warmth of extra clothes, beanies and well – sleep deprivation. The next day we would even have a glimpse of what our bum voyage can really be like when everything simply works out.

See what I mean over here.


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