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Chasing wilderness

Heading east to Kola Peninsula

Story by Open Landscape by Cecilia Utas 23 de julio de 2017

After a brief stop in Luleå for yin yoga and to pick up a friend, we are heading east towards Kola Peninsula. At the top of the Bothnian Sea, close to Kemijoki, we are setting up camp for the night and seeing the last of the sun in Finland.

Instead the mosquitos await us. But with mosquito hats and Lonkero - Finnish version of long drink - as remedy, we are surviving the Finnish wilderness which is far more inhabited than we had imagined.

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Few days later, we are venturing into Russia through the Salla border, having had nightmares that the border inspection will tear the camper apart and steal our cheese and sausages. But after some polite smiles - and some patience - we are allowed to enter and the sun greets us as well.

The tundra-like landscape is at first intriguing but difficult to capture.

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As we are approachimg the White Sea at Kandalaksha, we are lured out to chase an ancient stone labyrinth which turn out to be far more challenging than an evening walk - but a beautiful hike.

Failing to actually find the labyrinth, we managed to obtain the help of some camping children - surely laughing at us - but that politely took us back the way we had come.

White Sea ouside Kandalaksha, Kola Peninsula
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Another goose chase are taking us to Umba the next day - an old picturesque fishing village with old-style wooden houses and fresh drunken fishermen and the newer town with real Soviet style architecture. Failing to find any food, we are lucky to run into a rowing festival, a regatta - learning later that Umba is known for their huge rowing boats called "Barkas".

Old Umba village, Kola Peninsula
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Finally, we are heading towards wilderness and our off-road adventure. We are instructed to camp at a lake surrounded by the Khibiny Mountains. Though early spring here, we managed to have an epic arctic beach day with barbeque and sun bathing.

Khibiny Mountains, Kirovsk, Kola Peninsula
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The next day, we are all geared up for our off-road adventure, meeting up with our guide Frank and our new German friends and their kooiker Nori before setting off on the roof of the army truck. Adventure!

Don't mistake the river for a river - it is our road.

However, the adventure got an abrupt stop as the valley, that we are supposed to pass, is still packed with snow.

Off-road in Khibiny Mountains, Kola Peninsula
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Instead, we are setting up camp and the next day we are continuing by foot.

Khibiny is a very compact mountain area, though beautiful - and even if difficult to reach our camp site - cars come and go all evening and night. Crazy Russians.

Khibiny Mountains, Kola Peninsula
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Despite efforts to get into Khibiny another way, the Russian administration effectively put a stop to that. Instead we are packing up and going to Monchegorsk. There we have a decent reindeer lunch, my kayak get to test the Lake Imandra and after sightseeing of town, we are hiking up the tundra at the hills with a view over Khibiny.

Hills outside Monchegorsk, Kola Peninsula
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We are leaving our new friends and head to Murmansk - where the road lead us through forests, tundra and crazy-mined areas.

The picture of Murmansk - presiding with Soviet style buildings above the beautiful lake - can symbolise the contrasts between pristine nature and environmental destruction that we encounter on Kola Peninsula.

Murmansk, Kola Peninsula

The following day, we are driving to Teriberka - an old and supposedly abandoned sami-village - and the vast far-reaching tundra accompanies us.

Tundra on the way to Teriberka, Barents Sea, Kola Peninsula
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Our hope to find wilderness are quickly ruined. We are passed by literally hundreds of cars going to the abandoned Teriberka. Once there, we are running into yet another festival that apparently is attracting everyone from Murmansk and the northern Russia to the Barents Sea.

We also realise that the Russians are truly into nature and are camping everywhere.

Camping in Teriberka area, Barents Sea, Kola Peninsula

However, the coastal area is magnificent and we enjoy a lengthy hike along the coast. A good final destination in Kola Peninsula.

Teriberka area, Barents Sea, Kola Peninsula
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After a last night in Murmansk, we are crossing the border to Norway and Kirkenes. This time, the Norwegians do steal our cheese and sausages.

It is a nice feeling to be back in Norway where the landscape never disappoints, though we had to go as far as to Tanamunningen - the Tana River delta - for me to feel at home.

Tanamunningen and Stangnestind, Norway
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Yet again, hitting snow disrupts my plans - but it is amazing to visit arctic spring and follow it into summer once again.

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Kola Peninsula, Murmanskaja, Ryssland