08-Apr-2006 -- This confluence lies 19 km, as the crow flies, from the nearest road. The road follows the Teno (or Tana) river, which defines the border between Finland and Norway, and is world famous for its salmon. For more than one hundred kilometres the road has no crossroads and no real towns or villages. It was with great delight therefore that we discovered the lodge Levajok Fjellstue (N 69°54.504’ E 026°25.651’), only three kilometres from the best starting point, Leva river bridge. Here we could have dinner, breakfast, sauna and a hut to stay in. If you are lucky, you may get reindeer stock to drink with your dinner. To make the stock, you let the reindeer bits and pieces simmer for at least twelve hours, and it is seasoned with salt only. Delicious.
Things got even better when we learned that precisely on our planned route, at an ideal skiing distance of 16 km from the Leva river bridge there was a mountain hut where we could stay (Geinohyttan, N 70°00.500’ E 026°08.771’). We did have winter camping equipment, but nothing beats a warm hut after a day of skiing.
It had snowed 10-15 cm during the previous day when we started skiing on 3 April 2006, first from Teno river along Leva River, following a marked snowmobile track. Nobody had driven the track after the snowfall, making our progress slow. We were supposed to leave Leva river after a couple of kilometres to follow Gœi’dnu river, Leva river’s tributary. This river leads you above the tree line to the scenic pass between Rastigai’sa, the highest mountain in Eastern Finnmark (1067 m), and Gœi’dnugai’sa (1039 m), which is known for the german Blenheim plane that made an emergency landing on its top during the Second World War. The wreck attracts occasional visitors.
However, among all the snowmobile tracks, it was not obvious to find the Gœi’dnu river valley one, and we wasted a lot of time and energy in the deep snow until we found it. Soon it was four o’clock, and we were still less than half-way, when even this snow covered track disappeared altogether. We decided to turn back and give it a second try later.
On 5 April 2006 we started anew and this time we had fresh snowmobile tracks all the way. Thanks to our first attempt we did not waste time searching for the correct one. After a grey morning, the clouds disappeared and we enjoyed a truly magnificent spring day in ideal conditions. We saw many willow grouses and interesting animal footprints in the snow, including those of my good old friend wolverine (see 69°N 22°E, Day 4).
At Geinohyttan we were welcomed by Sture and Magne, who immediately showed us where we could sleep, lit up the stove on our side of the cabin and offered us some coffee and dried reindeer heart. What a welcome after a day of uphill skiing!
The next morning the wind was picking up. At the time we were more or less ready to go, it could almost be called a storm and the visibility was getting very poor. We decided to sit down and wait before heading off to the confluence, just six kilometres away. Sture and Magne left the same afternoon, but the storm stayed and intensified. Even going to the dry toilet only hundred metres away got a bit scary. The hut almost disappeared in the howling storm, not to mention your own footprints, many of which managed to vanish before returning to the hut.
Only the day after, in the afternoon, the storm started to subside, but then it was too late go. We had asked to be searched, in case we would not have been back the following day, and it started to look like we needed one extra day. Mobile phones don’t work here, so we could not call. Fortunately, there was a group of other Finns; Jarkko, Harri, Vesa and Jorma fishing on the lake, and staying in a tent. We approached them to ask them to inform the Levajok Fjellstue about our changed plans. They were leaving the next morning and promised to forward our message, but it was only after several sips of Tapio vodka and two filets of freshly caught arctic charrs (salvelinus alpinus) that we were allowed to depart. Thanks a lot guys! The salvelinus alpinus was delicious.
In the end we wanted to be back in Levajok the following day anyway. Not to have too much skiing for one day, Mari-Helena skipped going to the confluence, which I then visited for the first thing in the morning, again in a stunningly beautiful, if somewhat windy weather (see the GPS picture) . The skiing was easy although there was no snowmobile track. This is often the case above the tree line, the wind hardening the surface of the snow and blowing the soft snow to the dwarf birch (betula nana) forests and valleys.
The return to Levajok was also pleasant, mostly downhill. In the beginning the wind was very strong, but subsided soon to create a perfect tourist weather for the descent back to our car.