© 2016 By Polaris Overland

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Nordic Highs, Catalan Lows

November 30, 2017

 

We arrived in Helsinki just after 4pm. Leaving the Ferry our route was straight through the busy roads in the city towards our campsite just on the out skirts of Helsinki called Rastila Campsite. A decent sized campsite with decent facilities but maybe not the nicest of areas to walk around. The metro was close by just outside the campsite so if you wanted to visit Helsinki it was a good location however we arrived a bit too late.

 

 In the evening we sat in the TV room, as it was warmer and the Wi-Fi was good so Dave caught up with the blog.

 

Next day we got up ready to head off and head towards Nordkapp. Dave noticed a small oil stain under the Landy which we hoped was just from the excess on the underbody protection rather than the gearbox leaking still. It was a Sunday and we couldn’t contact anyone so we decided to continue. This was a decision we would live to regret.

 

So we set off excited about getting moving again but Dave was worrying about the possible oil leak so after driving for 2 hours we stopped and Dave crawled under Wilson to take a good look at the gearbox. Not only was the Transfer Gearbox still leaking it was much worse than before we had put it in for repair. After a lot of trying Dave managed to get hold of the mechanic in Estonia who had completed the repair. He didn’t really have a good solution for us but said there was mechanics in Oulu who might be able to help. We decided to find a campsite and see if we could contact the mechanics in Oulu.

 

We found a campsite close by that was both closed and basic so as it had started raining we headed to another camp which also gave us the option of a wooden cabin for 5 euros more than camping. It was basic but it had a heater and it got us out of the rain. Later in the evening the rain stopped so we cooked a bbq and had a real fire to sit round. Neither of us was in a party mood it was nice sitting by the fire with views over the lake. Using the good wifi Dave managed to get hold of a few fellow overlanders for advice and then a mechanic in Oulu. They said if we could be there by 2pm they would sort the leak either that afternoon if not certainly Tuesday which was great news. Dave tossed and turned all night worrying about the leak but finally got some sleep.

 

Next morning as we got ready to leave early Dave topped up the Transfer Gearbox oil. ½ a litre after only 1 days driving!!

 

We got ready and drove the 4 ½ hours to the garage in Oulu arriving almost bang on time at 2pm. They were expecting us and a young lad of about 18 asked us to take a seat without introducing himself. We thought he was a trainee going to get the mechanic but no this was the mechanic. Another guy asked for the keys and struggled to even start the Landy and put it on a hydraulic lift. Angela could see from Dave’s face he was not impressed.

 

Once on the lift the “mechanic” in his suit and tie looked at the gearbox with his torch and confidently announced we needed a new gearbox. At this point Dave lost all confidence and didn’t really want them doing any work on Wilson. The mechanic then proceeded to tell us they couldn’t do the work on Wilson for at least a week. What happened to the “we will do it when you arrive or the next day” comment they had said in the e-mail?

 

So we had driven 200 miles for no reason spending money on fuel, our hopes shattered and to say we were pissed off is an under statement.

We bought 5 litres of Transfer Box oil off them and left. With no options heading north and not wanting to risk destroying the gearbox we decided to head back to Estonia and get the original mechanic who “repaired” the leak to do a proper job.

 

Dave spoke to Veiko the mechanic and arranged to get Wilson back in on the Friday. So we had 4 days to drive back to Helsinki, catch the ferry to Tallin and drop off the Landy. This would mean we had lost over a week, spent money on fuel and another ferry but without the leak being fixed Nordkapp was a none starter.

The only plus about the whole trip to Oulu were we found a gorgeous campsite on the edge of a lake and we had an Elk jump out in the road in front of us running a short distance then back into the forest. In our current mood we considered a cabin again but the cabins were more a shed with 2 beds and nothing else so we stayed in our tent. The views were spectacular and we sat around a roaring fire, enjoying a beautiful sunset that did manage to lift our spirits somewhat.

 

It was a cold night by the lake but we had a long drive to Helsinki today. In different circumstances we would have liked to stay longer at this beautiful site but we needed to get back to catch a ferry and just incase the gearbox leak got worse we wanted to be close to a mechanic if needed.

 

We arrived later that afternoon at Rastila Campsite for the second time. We got ourselves organised and then headed off to visit a large shopping mall about 30 mins walk away.  We had a walk around and got a bite to eat before we headed back to the campsite for an early night and watched a movie.

 

As we didn’t have to be at the garage in Tallin until Friday we decided to stay in Helsinki an extra day and see some of the city. So we caught the Metro just outside the campsite and spent the day wandering around the city admiring some of the beautiful building and architecture.

 

Dave not really being into window shopping Angela headed off for a wander around the shops and Dave went for a pint of Guinness at a British Pub. At €8.20 a pint it was a bit steep but it was also a nice pint. Afterwards  we headed down towards the harbour area and local markets selling furs, Elk products and wooden crafts.

 

Helsinki is a nice city to visit, very busy but with a mix of cultures. We enjoyed dinner in Helsinki then caught the Metro back to the campsite. It was getting cold so we headed up into the warmth of the tent and watched some TV on the laptop.

 

Another day and it’s another ferry so we head off to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Tallin. This ferry was very busy and we struggled to find a seat. Once off the ferry at Tallin we headed back to Vanamoisa Camping where we decided to stay in a cabin rather than the tent as we had no idea how long we were going to be here or how long the gearbox leak would take to repair. At least this way we would be warm and dry and it gave us a chance to get everything washed, dried and organised including taking the fridge out of Wilson just in case he was gone longer than expected.

 

As the wifi was good we downloaded some more movies and TV Series and chilled for the evening.

 

Day 151 and Dave had to be at the garage by lunchtime so headed off once washed and dressed. He was worrying about what the outcome with the gearbox might be and just wanted to get the Landy in and everything resolved. Angela stayed back at camp and caught up with washing and cleaning as planned.

 

Dave spent the time at the garage watching the work being done and passing on the information he had got from the gearbox experts in the UK over the last few days to help with the problem.

Dave returned with Wilson early evening and it looked like the gearbox was fixed but this time we would not be heading straight off on a ferry. Instead we would spend the weekend putting miles on the repair to see if it would start leaking again. We had learnt our lesson on that score now.

 

That evening we had a few drinks feeling like a huge cloud had lifted but here we were with a gearbox leak that had put us over 2 weeks behind our schedule.

 

Next day we decided to head to the Estonia Mining Museum which Veiko the mechanic had suggested was a good place to visit and it was over 100 mile and a good few hours drive away. We weren’t really sure what to expect at the museum but on arrival we joined a tour and taken down the mine, taking the original miners train and being shown the equipment and conditions the miners had to work under. Noisy, dirty, dangerous, damp and certainly not pleasant.

 

 After the tour we walked around outside looking at the big earth moving equipment and some of the other equipment on show. Strangely we both thoroughly enjoyed the visit and would recommend it if you are close by.

 

After the mine visit we decided to head towards Lake Peipus that borders with Russia.

 This is a huge lake but max depth is only about 15m. Sadly the weather turned for the worse and after taking a couple of pictures we headed back to Tallin.

The whole journey was about 310 miles and Dave had a big smile and sigh of relief when he saw the gearbox was not leaking.

On the way back we stopped for a Macdonald’s for dinner and headed back to the camp site for a few drinks and read our books.

We woke to a very windy and drizzly day. Dave got on with wiring up an external connection for mains power into Wilson so we didn’t have to trap the cable through the rear door and Angela got on with organizing the back of Wilson and Lara. Later we headed out to do some food shopping.

 

We discussed options for where to go next. Losing 2 weeks put a strain on making Nordkapp before it got too cold so we considered a few options before eventually deciding we wanted to make a dash for Nordkapp. So we booked ferry tickets back to Helsinki for the next day (Monday).

 

 Up and organised we headed for the ferry at 12.30pm. We stopped in to see Veiko on the way. Arriving at the ferry terminal we were surprised to be one of the first on. Normally we are last so this was great.

 

The transit on the ferry was a bit too choppy for some of the travellers with some making a mad dash to the toilets. We were fine and when we arrived around 4pm we decided to get moving on the trip north so drove until 7pm  and found a nice little campsite. We had  quick dinner then headed to bed to read our books.

 

Another long driving day today with a 9 hour drive up to Rovaniemi famous for being in Lapland and its Santa Claus village. Napasirin Saarituvat Campsite was our location and we found a spot right by the river. We got ourselves set up, enjoyed a curry for dinner and a gorgeous sunset before an early bed after the long drive and it was getting colder.  We were being doubly hit with it getting further away from summer and closer to winter plus we were driving north.

Next day we decided to visit Santa Claus. It would be rude not too as here we are in Lapland and at Santa Claus village plus we wanted to get pictures and a letter from Santa Claus to send back to the grandkids. We wandered around the village visiting the shops and getting he proverbial Santa Claus pictures but also the Arctic circle runs right through the village so we got pictures taken there also.

 

For lunch we ate reindeer pie and then headed to visit the huskies. This was great, watching the huskies go mad as a sledge was set up with just about every husky going crazy to be part of the team. Some even climbing to the top of their cages to get a better view. Dave would have been happy to take a few of them home.

 

Later we headed to the Artic Museum in town, a science centre that lets you experience northern nature, culture and history and life for the people and animals that live within the Artic Circle. It was all very interesting. Following the museum we had a short walk around the shops in town and then back to the campsite.

 

Back at camp we met a lovely Belgian couple whom were also heading north to Nordkapp. We chatted to them for a while about our travels and their travels and they offered us a spot on their land in Belgium if we need somewhere to camp that was really nice of them. Once again throughout this trip the kindness of strangers has been phenomenal.

 It was another cold night so headed to bed to stay warm.

 

Next morning we woke to a thick spooky fog and a long day of driving to head up to Nordkapp. Driving for almost 10 hours we bumped into Celeste and Martin the Belgium couple from the previous night a couple of times and we stopped off on route for fuel and food arriving at our planned campsite in Olderfjord around 6pm. We had to wait for the camping guy for ½ an hour as he was away getting his tea.

 

The campsite was in a little bay with nice views. Here you had to pay for showers but other than that it wasn’t a bad site about €14.50 a night with free washing machines and tumble dryers.

 

We got set up cooked a BBQ for dinner and Angela made a Chilli to see us over the next few days. We met a nice German couple set up next to us but sadly our language skills were not great. It was another cold night but we managed a small fire to keep off the chill for a while before we headed to bed.

 

Dave got up for the toilet through the night and got his first views of the Aurora Borealis. He woke Angela so she could see it too, who once seen did not complain at being woke up and dragged out into the cold night.

 

Day 158 and today we get to Nordkapp. It was only a couple of hours to get there. At this time of year it is only open from 11am until 3pm. We arrived just after it opened. You have to buy a day pass (€54.00 for two of us) that lasts 24 hours and you can camp in the car park if you wish although there is no shelter from the wild bitterly cold wind and no toilet or shower facilities.

 

 Driving up to Nordkapp reminded us of Scotland and the Islands, very bleak, small houses dotted around and little fishing areas.  As we drove we had Reindeer trotting along the road beside us. Initially you are excited to see reindeer but as you drive north the herds get bigger and bigger until the point a reindeer is registered in much the same way as a cow or sheep in the UK. We also saw a pair sea eagles that Dave was gutted not to be able to photograph.

 

 Once we arrived at the Nordkapp Centre and parked up we headed to the famous globe to get our pictures taken. Dave being a member of the Overland Bound Society wore his club t-shirt for his pictures. With a bitterly cold wind he wasn’t standing around long in just his t-shirt though. We also took pictures for Overland Anatolia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silly photos completed we enjoyed taking in the scenery and then headed inside to view the exhibits. To be honest we found the centre a bit disappointing with many areas closed we’re guessing as the main season was over and the exhibits not exactly inspiring. It is a shame as a lot of money has been spent to build the centre but it does not seem they are getting the best out of it. We were glad we had made the effort to visit but it is a long way for “a picture” if that is your only reason for going.

 

As we walked around we bumped into Martin and Celeste the Belgian couple again so we all headed off for a coffee and some cake. Later we left the centre to try and find a campsite with a bit more protection from the wind and weather.

 

 Later we headed south and found a campsite at Skarsvag. We set up camp and had a hot chocolate.  Seeing reindeer up in the hills above us we decided to head up to the summit and try and get some pictures. We put some comments in the visitor book and headed back down to camp.

 

Back at the campsite we found Martin and Celeste were camping beside us also on the other side the German couple we had met a couple of nights earlier. We cooked and ate dinner in the campsite kitchen that was warm and got us out of the wind and prepared us for heading out into the cold in the hope of seeing the northern lights. Martin and Celeste built a big fire to sit by as they waited hopefully for the lights to appear. We decided to head back up to the car Park at Nordkapp and wait there. This paid off as the light show started, slow at first almost like a green rain shower before building in thicker swirling shapes. Absolutely amazing!

 

 

We were in contact with Martin and Celeste who told us the show was also visible back at the campsite. We stayed a while mesmerized before finally the cold got the better of us and we headed back to camp. Seeing the Northern Lights at Nordkapp having travelled in our Land Rover was a bucket list tick and had been in the trip planning right from the start so we were both very happy.

 

 Next day it was time for us to start heading south again as we had the trip to Morocco we were hoping to make. Driving all day taking in some breathtaking views of the Norwegian Fjords we are arrived at our camp for the night nears Skarsvag. Fosselve Camping is right on the fjord shoreline. The facilities were pretty good and we used the warm kitchen to cook and eat our dinner. Early night watching a movie and keeping warm.

 

Continuing to head south we set off around 9am. Pretty soon we realised if we wanted to make the rendezvous in Spain to make the Morocco Raid trip driving down the Norwegian coast road was going to take too long. The scenery is absolutely stunning but the roads are slow and meander in and out of each fjord. So the decision was made to head inland to Finland and then a quick run down through Sweden to Oslo.

 

 Once again the time lost getting the transfer gearbox repaired was affecting our trip forcing us to miss out or rush through areas that we would otherwise been happy to spend weeks, Finland and Norway being two of them!

 

As we travelled the weather was miserable, wet cloudy and cold. Heading from Norway as we crossed over the top into Finland the mountains looked great, snow capped and with low cloud. Once in Finland we stopped and had some lunch before crossing another border this time into Sweden. Being such a miserable day probably didn’t give the best impression of Sweden but in comparison to Finland and Norway we found it all a bit boring with long straight roads, sparce of trees or forests.

 

Being such a miserable day when we arrived at Arctic Camp in Jokkmokk we decided to spend a little more (€44.00) and get a cabin. This was not much more than camping and gave us a nice warm cabin with our own toilet and showers.

 

We spent the evening trying to decide on the best route to get moving south. Dave wants to do the Oresund Bridge but again we are fighting time and weather and now trying to meet up with Dave’s brother in France on the way south. Timing wise the bridge wouldn’t work and even financially looking at the bridge tolls plus camping and fuel it was cheaper just to get a ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen.

 

Up bright and early and with not having a wet tent to put away we were soon on the road. More Wilson issues today! Low airflow fault on the nanocom. Dave tried cleaning the air filter to no avail so it looks like the mass airflow sensor itself is Kaput! Dave disconnected as its not critical and we can keep on going indefinitely.

 

 We arrived at Ostersund Stugby and Camping around 6pm. We found a place to pitch and got set up. Beside us was a big old ex military truck converted for overlanding. Very large but Angela was very impressed with its facilities. It was a very nice Swiss couple travelling in it who we sat in the kitchen later chatting with exchanging information and stories into the evening whilst enjoying a nice single malt and staying in the warmth.

 

Another morning and more rain. Both of us are starting to get fed up with the rain. Cold we can deal with but cold and rain has a way of seeping into your bones so you never feel really warmed up.

 

We packed up a damp tent and headed for Oslo. The miserable weather continued and it was a long days driving but the scenery in the south of Sweden improved before we headed back into Norway and arrived in Oslo.

 

The campsite we had chosen was quite large but not very busy. Another sign we are running late at the end of the season. Most campers were in Campervans and motor homes, clearly the weather was too wet for tents. We pitched on a hard standing as the grassy areas were sodden and waterlogged. We also pitched the Oztent as we would be in Oslo a few days and to give us an area to sit and get out of the worst of the weather.

 

Next day Dave headed off to see if he could get a new MAF Sensor at the Land Rover garage. They didn’t have one in stock but could get one for next day. The price would be £289.00 !!!! You get them in the UK for £80 so Dave decided to leave it and get one brought out with the guys we would be meeting to go to Morocco.