A Travellerspoint blog

Suomi 2009 - last day and road back.


View 2009 Suomi on Saioko's travel map.

Last day was the only day when I managed to get up early. Around 8 a.m., thinking that lifts turns on at 9 a.m. and I want to have a good riding before I have to return ski and pack my things. After that I was truly sorry that I choose to sleep in on previous days. It was amazing: freshly brushed snow, with absolutely no ice and very few people. On snow like that I even took a few rides down 'red' slopes and had great fun. An hour or so later more people came and on some parts ice patches formed, so I had to move back to 'blue'.

Around 1p.m. I returned equipment and went to shops to get some souvenirs and food for trip back - I wanted something better than instant noodles for 36 train trip. I planned to get some cheap small souvenirs - keychain, couple of magnets, pen (mine run out). But... I saw a stuffed husky dog with a puppy. I even walked away without buying it... But I met Anya on my way out and had to turn back, as the best shop was hiding behind a cafe and I found it only by accident. I couldn't walk away second time.

Leaving was pretty much a mirror from coming - check-out at 3 p.m., bus at 6 p.m. And nobody knew that it was 6 p.m. by Moscow time. Dima, Anya and I were lucky, noone was moving in our house, so we were able to stay in and watch TV. Then, already in bus, we were waiting for some irresponsible people who loaded their bags and then run for "one last ride", I saw a deficiency in my shopping - everyone were sitting with bags of candy and I didn't get any. It was too late though, so I just tried some from neighbors.

Finally everyone gathered and we left. And just in time, because all visas ended on that day, border closes at 9 p.m. and we still have to get there. We were barely on time - exit gates were closed right after our bus. I tried to take some photos on my phone, but they were all low-quality and in most cases not the ones I was aiming for.

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Arriving to Kandalaksha was grand. Imagine - midnight, quiet village station, train terminal is basically one room for local people, ticket window is in the same room. It is not much warmer inside than outside, but at least no wind. Two old women and a man are napping in metal seats. And suddenly there is a mob of 30+ people with road bags and skis/snowboards. Any free space was suddenly just gone. In one corner there was a snowboard bag shaped as classic vampire's coffin with pentagram. Train came at 1 a.m. and everyone loaded in fast, this time we all were closer, but still stretched over three or four cabs. After getting sheets and making my upper bunk without waking occupants of both lower ones, I finally fell asleep.
Next day I slept in and visited to copy photos ant talk a bit.

In Moscow all my plans crashed - once again I arrived in early morning and left at midnight. But I didn't find storage room in airport and so I called a friend of my friend, who invited me to come over and have a break in her flat. I spent day there, playing with her cat. In the evening I once again went to airport and spent last 4-5 hours there.

Posted by Saioko 06:56 Archived in Finland Tagged moscow finland year_2009 Comments (0)

Suomi 2009 - day three (and the rest).


View 2009 Suomi on Saioko's travel map.

Our plans for "bright and early" have completely failed - Anya and Dima came late and I was making up for the sleep I lost in the weeks before vacation. So by the time we got up, had breakfast and were set to go it was already midday. Then there was a bit of problem with a lift - platter lift is very comfortable when you are on skis, but as was demonstrated by Anya, beginner snowboarders fall when try riding it up.

Once we were on the top, Dima pointed us to the slope he wanted us to use to go down. I have been on that top the day before and I knew there were several blue slopes and one red one. After telling us "This slope is a bit red it the top part but it won't be a problem for you" he sent us down. I did my best to stay on my feet and not to go too fast but I failed in last part. So it was no surprise that I got down first (scared shitless) and had to wait for quite a bit for others to catch up. I was still giggling and stuttering when Dima caught up to me and we had to wait for Anya a bit. Then on the way up I pointed to Anya how to get to blue slopes and from there on I was riding only on them.

View down a 'black' slope

View down a 'black' slope


At the top

At the top


Biggest 'blue' slope, with 'red' top

Biggest 'blue' slope, with 'red' top

In the end we weren't riding long, at about half past three we decided to go home. And that was when I ran into a second surprise - that top had only one slope going down to Ruka, a red one and harder than the one in the morning. There was of course an option to go down and then up on another top, which did have a blue slope. But it would have taken a lot of time and I was cold. So I took a risk. but not before giving my photo camera to Dima as I was not sure it would survive a trip down with me. After a small photo session we went down - Dima first to take a couple more photos. At first it was overly cautious as this slope was harder than any other I rode down before (not that I have much experience). And of course the moment I started to think "It is not that scary after all" I turned a bit too hard and caught backs of my skis on the snow (at least that's what it felt like). And went tumbling down. It was a bit tricky to get down to the less steep part with only one ski strapped to my leg and not wanting to damage the slop more than necessary. And when I looked up, the slope was so deceptively easy.

And then I tumbled down

And then I tumbled down

Back at home while we were cooking Anya managed to find some sport channel that run biathlon championship. So instead of going back to slopes after eating we got lazy and went skiing only later, closer to evening and not for long. And on the next day I have killed my photo camera - on the way back from morning riding I was slammed into a bar by some girl. I wasn't bruised but I have camera in that pocket. So here is the last photo I took with it during the trip. The worst part was that it happened before the late evening riding on Friday - there was a lot of beautiful photos I wanted to take then.

Ruka's view - my very last photo

Ruka's view - my very last photo

The rest of the vacation went pretty much the in the same way. Only I've managed to catch a cold and had to spend one day completely off slopes. I slept in, took a ride to Kuusamo shopped and cooked a bit. I have nothing to tell about my trip to Kuusamo because I got off the bus way too early and didn't get to the actual town.

Posted by Saioko 05:49 Tagged finland year_2009 Comments (0)

Suomi 2009 - Fist skiing day


View 2009 Suomi on Saioko's travel map.

So, the second day have started with me dragging snowboard up to the rental to switch it to skis. Actually, with our apartment block being "ski in - ski out" we had a surface-lift right next to it, but I wasn't stupid enough to try going up on snowboard. Once I got there, I had no further problems. And another thing I've forgot to mention - the language problem. Or more preciously the lack of it. Everyone I've met spoke at least enough English to understand me and quite a number of people spoke a bit of Russian. Well, looking back there was almost half-and-half of Russian and all other people there so it was expected that staff at each place would learn Russian at least a bit.

After that I went to dump my boots at home - and I really should have taken a bag with me to put them in - riding down even the easiest slope with them in one hand really screwed my balance and included several falls and one almost-meeting with a tree. And from there on I was skiing. Only on the two easiest slopes and barely faster then crawling at first. I didn't even bother to go home for lunch deciding as I was on a vacation that justified a bit of overspend and a visit to a restaurant. As I rarely go to restaurants, prices were scary - I took soup, salad and tea and it was 12 euro. (When I go to a restaurant at home I usually spend about 4-5 euro, but I have to admit they are low-end ones) Also I was very glad that I've asked for a child-sized salad, which was half the size of the regular one, and still too big for me.

After eating I went back and tried slopes on the other side of the hill - it is not high enough to be called a mountain. Actually, all of the riding slopes are there and the ones on the village side are more to get back to village when you are going back. I did fall several times when I wend faster then I was comfortable with, but still I was having too much fun to go home when I got cold. So after checking a map - lucky me they were everywhere - I found a small cabin with an open-fire hearth. It was nice but being as cold-sensitive as I am I still had to go home soon after.

'Baby' slope

'Baby' slope


View from top

View from top


On the skiing hill

On the skiing hill

The rest of the evening I spent shopping, watching TV - even though there were few channels in English - and getting to know Anya and Dima - my housemates. They are both snowboarders with Dima being more experienced and Anya just starting. So Dima threatened promised to take us with him tomorrow to get us riding "for real". On that optimistic note we went to the local club Pista for the "opening of the Freecamp" party. On the way there we met most of the rest of the group, which resulted in quite a bit of disorder while we were waiting. Culminating in finding a sled and using it to try to perform some of the freestyle jib tricks. When we got to the club it was pretty much what I expected - loud music, no non-alcohol drinks and already a number of drunk people. Clubs are definitely not my thing, so I've escaped soon after.

Posted by Saioko 05:36 Archived in Finland Tagged finland year_2009 Comments (0)

Suomi 2009 - Journey to Ruka


View 2009 Suomi on Saioko's travel map.

(Most of this trip was written up back in 2009, and I am not going to re-write it much)

In year 2009 I had my good job for two years, my empty international passport expiring in about a year and enough money to spend on a good trip. But I had no idea where to go and just how someone arranges a trip. I was aimlessly thinking about it, when I run on LJ on a blog of some Moscow group, that was organizing for a trip to Ruka, Finland. They were going skiing and snowboarding, I had no experience with either. But they agreed to take me along and teach me once we are there.

Out of the whole group I had the second longest trip to make. And to top it of I also had a choice between arriving to Moscow at 7am or at 10pm on Friday 13th and nothing between them. As our train was leaving at 1am next day and I still had to collect all of the travel documents I could only choose 7am flight. Leaving me with a full day to spend in Moscow. It wasn't much of a problem - I like to walk and after I bought a map I was reasonably sure that I'd be able to find my way if I get too lost. There was also a little fact that I had to get to airport at around 5am, while my father who before always insisted on driving me when I needed it usually don't get up until 8am. I'm still not sure how I managed to win the right to take a taxi both on the way there and when I'll come back.

So I did the tourist thing - went to Red Square, watched the Change of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden, spent some time in GUM - mostly looking, as it is an overpriced tourist-trap. Then walked around just looking at the buildings and sometimes exploring side-streets shops. I didn't take many photos as I have over a thousand from last year (trip to aunt in the Ukraine). I didn't go into any museums despite that I wanted to initially - it was too nice to simply look around. I have to admit that having a map didn't save me from getting lost. Twice. But thanks to it I was able to get to some metro station and orient myself.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil's Cathedral


Change of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden

Change of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden


A break in GUM

A break in GUM

First meeting of our group was at midnight under the Lenin monument on the Leningradsky Train Terminal. I got there around 8pm and at first stayed on the first floor. That was something I have paid for later as I got my first brush with cold. I've also managed to find a pay-by-minute mobile phone recharger and for some unknown reason it was even working. By midnight I had a phone that was supposed to last at least two days and I was more then ready to drop on something horizontal and fall asleep - as long as it was warm. And I saw at least 5 other skiing/snowboarding groups gather under the Lenin monument and leave. Finally by 12:30am we all met, raided the shops for food and went to board the train - considering that everyone but me in our group (20 people) had skis or snowboard that was one hell of a task. Plus we were all in different cabs. So, as I do have a bad memory when it comes to names/faces, I did my best to remember three of the girls I would live with and then spent my time on train reading a guide to Finland, taking photos just to have something to do and catching up missed sleep. Oh, yea, and my phone battery died after only 24 hours when we hit a no-signal zone.

From train's window

From train's window

We arrived to Kandalaksha early in the morning. From there it was 6 to 8 hours on bus - depending on how long we would spend crossing the border - it was a valid concern as all had a lot of luggage. I was lucky to get one of the front seats and could listen to our guide as he was telling about Finland - it was just a (somewhat) private talk with his friend but it was very interesting. We crossed border with no problems - one bout of stupidity doesn't count, one of the girls didn't read warnings and went down the wrong way stating that she had to fill out the declaration (if this phrase doesn't make sense, wait till evening. I'm not sure how to say it in English and will recheck it from home with dictionary). After a stop at duty-free shop where I didn't buy much - there was few things there other than alcohol and chocolate - we were on our way. Most impressing was difference in the forests - you don't need a border to know that you are not in Russia any longer - all forests were clean, no sign of dead trees or overgrown shrubs. And the funniest things were side-roads with mailboxes on them and no houses nearby.

In Kandalaksha

In Kandalaksha

In Ruka we arrived at 2pm. There we found out that nobody knows just where were our houses. So we have pulled out our things from the bus as driver said that he won't be able to get us further, and started exploring. About an hour later they were located and we rushed in. Or tried to. Turned out there was a mistake in our papers and check in wasn't until 6pm. Fortunately for some reason one code worked and we put our things there. Then everyone went to the slopes not wanting to waste time. One of the girls stayed behind as she managed to catch a cold and I went to rental.

Unloaded in Ruka, no idea where to go next

Unloaded in Ruka, no idea where to go next

That was when I made a mistake. I decided to try a snowboard. After renting it some of the guys who didn't leave yet tried to show me but it was a fail - I couldn't catch my balance. And when I tried to get down a baby-slope that doesn't even count as a proper one I fell several times all hits unpleasantly echoing in my back. When I fell face-down, didn't get my hands to soften the fall and bounced my head of the ground hard enough to get one hell of a headache I decided not to tempt fate and switch to skis next morning.

When codes to other suits unblocked and people started to sort out who and where would move turned out that there were some changes and I was staying in other group where most were younger then me and much more rowdy. I think normally I would have been able to deal with it - by staying out as much as possible - but on that evening I had a minor breakdown when my first attempt to switch to another suit with only four people failed - turned out they have paid more to have only four people. It took me some time to calm down and I was resigned to be miserable for the whole vacation - we didn't have anything in common and I hated their music. But suddenly it all worked out - a brother and sister in that four-people apartment found out they had same taste as the company in mine. So they have agreed to switch with me.

On that evening while I didn't know if I would be able to move or not, I hid with the girls I was supposed to live with in the beginning. It was fun, even if I don't know what they thought of me - as usual I stayed quiet and mostly listened. They all are far more skilled then I am and all of them are in that sport where they jump, slide over rails and so on - I don't know even Russian terms for most of it, I'm not going to guess at English ones.

Main room of the apartment

Main room of the apartment

In the end I went to my suite - that immediately gained the term "home" from me - and crashed.

Posted by Saioko 04:59 Archived in Finland Tagged moscow finland year_2009 Comments (0)

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