After some brainstorming the plan was clear: circumnavigating the whole Inari Lake by canoe, and taking the necessary time for exploration and day hikes. We counted on a journey of 19 days.
Way back in June I wrote a story about two Belgian adventurers named Bert Poffé and Dirk Michiels who were preparing to circumnavigate the largest lake in Lapland by canoe. At the time I saluted them for organizing their own great grass roots adventure, saying that their expedition was well in-tune with the spirit of exploration from our past.
When I wrote about them, Bert and Dirk were still in the planning and logistics phases, tackling sponsorship possibilities, logistical and route planning, as well as getting as physically fit as possible. The trip would be a 20-day, 350 km (217 mile) adventure that would take them into one of the true remaining wildernesses in Finland.
Earlier today I received a nice email from Bert in which he shared a debrief about their expedition. I've included the full story, just as he sent it, below. It is a bit of a lengthy read, but well worth it. I think you'll come to respect the two men more and even inspired to chase your own adventures. Enjoy!
And big thanks to Bert for sharing this!
Somewhere at the end of January 2012, after a skype conversation with a Spanish adventurer and friend, Finnish Lapland and the Inari Lake. A few days later during a day hike in the Hautes Fagnes, I decided to talk to my good friend Dirk about a possible upcoming challenge, this time above the Arctic Circle.
Dirk, always ready for an adventurous challenge was quickly convinced and we immediately began to organize our new project: the "Inari canoeing and hiking expedition 2012".
On Sunday morning, after picking up our gear and materials ((Ally canoe, tent, sleeping bags, food, etc ...) which we had sent to Ivalo a couple of weeks before, and buying some more fresh food, we headed for Inari village, at the shore of the immense Inari lake.
Once arrived at the lake it all became very real. We assembled the Ally canoe, arranged our materials and spoke to a journalist from Lapin Kansa, a Lappish newspaper about the upcoming adventure.
The friendly man took the opportunity to recall the fact that the Autumn was approaching now very quickly and that even the first snow would be there soon.
Nevertheless, we decided not to test our luck for too long. Whereas during the first few days we had been crossing large distances in the middle of the lake, we now became a bit more careful, paddling closer to the shoreline and when necessary we even went ashore to wait for less wind before going out there again.
Every day we received the RMI specific weather update. It helped us enormously; to plan the routes for the following days and to change plans depending on the wind direction and wind speeds.
Weather in Arctic Lapland is highly variable. Every now and then the fall starts to become way to gray, but then there is suddenly a piercing ray of sunshine through the clouds that brings color into the peat, mosses and berries, so typical for this Scandinavian landscape.
One day we had been very close to hypothermia. We had paddled all day in the cold and constant rain and were soaked to the bone. We were lucky to find a Lavo (a Lappish shelter and fireplace) where we could warm up and where we decided to spend the night.
On day 13, after 220 km, we reached the Russian border, again an important moment for us.
After one more loop around a group of islands in the middle of the Inari Lake, we headed Southward in the direction of Inari, village, where after 19 days the journey would end.
Thanks to the experience we had gained with the ever-present wind, we felt quite confident we would manage this without too much trouble.
But as always, the devil is in the detail. On paper, the planne 14km from the 'penultimate' camp would not be any problem.
But despite the beautiful sunshine it became a long hard battle with the icy wind and aggressive waves. The constant zigzagging to avoid the waves smashing into the canoe from the side made that the planned 14 km towards our final destination, the Inari village, 21 hard-earned kilometers.. Undoubtedly this was one of the worst days of the expedition.
At one stage, 15 km paddle from our final destination a new storm hit on us and made us stay put in the tent, waiting for better weather. Eventually, 24 hours later than planned and after staying in the tent for 36 hours, our last stage could begin. It seemed like the Inari lake wanted to show its teeth once more and make us understand who rules on Inari.
On day 20, one day later than planned and less than 24 hours before our scheduled flight to Belgium, we were able to reach Inari village .
Satu and Walli welcomed us and emotional high fives and intense hugs were shared.
Hot coffee and dry clean clothes were the best reward for a 350 km long unforgettable canoe expedition on the largest lake in Lapland.
Dirk and ALLY, I never could have imagined better partners than you both to bring this challenge to a good end. Many thanks for your efforts, friendship and adventurous spirit,