On the way: Enduro safari in Lapland

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On the way: Enduro safari in Lapland
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On the way: Enduro safari in Lapland

On the way: Enduro safari in Lapland
In the middle of nowhere

Endless nature, merciless solitude and no prohibition signs anywhere. Anyone who drives Enduro in Lapland comes very close to total freedom on two wheels. Author Anton Scholz experienced this dream on an enduro safari under the midnight sun.

Anton Scholz

08/28/2008

Ride enduro. Without restrictions, through seemingly endless expanses. A long-cherished dream that I am following across Finland to the far north of Lapland. It should start there. In a small group with a guide into the middle of the wilderness. The small village of Saariselka, which serves as the starting point for my off-road adventure, is more of a winter sports mecca and lives off the visitors who come here around Christmas time. Then you can perfectly discover the snow-covered winter landscapes in the polar twilight mood with reindeer sledges or snowmobiles.

Now in the summer there is little activity. Instead of polar cold, the temperatures are mild, and the sun never completely sets around 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. So theoretically I could drive through the whole night! Such ideas, however, quickly evaporate. After the first hours of training on the KTM 250 EXC, it is clear that I have as much knowledge of real Enduro riding as I do of nuclear physics, namely none. “Forget everything you know about driving on the road ?, the instructor demands. I’m slowly starting to learn: standing, sitting, braking, light drifts, shifting while standing.

During the breaks I start to think: Finland is a strange country. The landscape is rough and wild and the people are deeply shaped by it. Most Finns are extremely calm. Yes, you could say that Europe’s leading nation in telecommunications prefers to remain silent. Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen knows what we’re talking about … The Finns are said to have a tendency to melancholy and love solitude. The strenght is to be found in serenity ?? Perhaps that is precisely why the country with its only five million inhabitants produces so many outstanding racing and rally drivers in addition to the highest suicide rate in Europe?

After a hard training session, it goes into the pristine nature of Lapland. The first stretches can still be mastered quite well: coarse gravel and well-trodden hiking trails. “Ready for a little forest ??? asks Jysky, who started Enduro Safaris about five years ago. In response to an uncertain nod and before anyone can answer a word, he spurs his Enduro so that the dirt flies around your ears like a swarm of angry hornets. As Jysky “Forest” said he obviously meant it literally. It goes over hill and dale, in slalom between trees, through streams and deep mud pools, up and down rugged hills.

While the machine shakes me completely, I wonder whether this is really fun or rather masochism in its purest form. When it comes into contact with large stones, the front wheel bounces back and forth wildly. A feeling that for me as a road driver switches all warning lights to red. As soon as the coarse tires touch the ground again, however, they bite into it like hungry wolves and literally catapult the machine forward. Did you get used to this type of driving at some point and mastered the first long mud passages without falling? not without having given the man behind a mud pack ??, it is clear that it is more fun. A bit of masochism is certainly part of it, as with any extreme sport.

When we reach a hill, we take a short break. My legs, which are aching from long driving while standing, are finally able to rest. I let myself fall to the ground and for the first time I can enjoy the incredible panorama that unfolds in front of us. On a clear day like today, the view stretches for miles over the gently rolling hills that stretch like surging, green waves to the horizon. Compared to the flat south of Finland, Lapland is directly mountainous, and only here do I find the views that I have longed for several times on the drive north.

Rarely in my life have I felt so removed from civilization. If Jysky just ran away now, I could drive around with my KTM until the fuel ran out, with no real chance of hitting a street or a soul. Somehow, however, the feeling is more liberating than oppressive, and I enjoy this almost endless expanse of the country.

We return to Saariselka, past crystal-clear lakes from which you can drink without worry, and through dense forests that give off a peculiar resinous scent in the warm rays of the evening sun. Shortly before the village, Jysky suddenly stops his machine and signals to turn off the engines. At first I am a bit puzzled, until I spot a whole herd of reindeer that is barely a stone’s throw away through the forest. They pass peacefully and have finally disappeared back into the undergrowth.

My first day on a real Enduro ?? Without falling, but exhausted and with plenty of painful limbs, I am looking forward to the hot sauna that inevitably comes at the end of every day in Finland. In the sweaty heat, the muscles can relax again, and there is time to plan the tour for the next day with Jysky over a cold beer.

He says that the first gold was found in Lapland in 1865 and that a real gold rush broke out a little later. Even today there are still people who defy the weather and billions of mosquitoes in the remote wilderness without electricity or comfort in order to chase their dream: to find that one big gold nugget. The one who will bring them riches overnight. Here and there a few tents of the prospectors could already be seen in the forest, and in some places really small gold digging villages still exist.

The next morning Jysky takes us to one of these places, where a former gold prospector now shares his old dream with others “rented”: He leases small sections of his land to gold-hungry or adventurous tourists who can then dig for the precious metal on their own. The hospitality in the wilderness is great, the prospector invites us to a second breakfast. Black bread with fresh reindeer ham and the ubiquitous Finnish coffee that Finns love ?? but only the Finns. Perhaps it would be a little more bearable with milk, but milk is in short supply. A third of the Finnish population suffers from a lactose allergy anyway.

While eating, the bearded, sun-tanned man assures me that a week of hardworking prospecting can bring in enough gold for two rings. To prove it, he pulls a freshly forged gold bracelet out of his pocket. Some people who want to get married would certainly rethink their choice of partner after a hard week of digging together…

Well, enduro riding is the far more pleasant alternative. It goes on, but only a little later on a steep stretch downhill the ride suddenly becomes too fast for me and I put on the brakes for a long time. A mistake, because on the stones overgrown with moss and lichen, the blocking front wheel suddenly smears away, and bang, I sail over the handlebars into nowhere. Knock up, keep going, only the wrist hurts slightly. It doesn’t take long before I really accelerate again.

When I want to get back on the KTM after lunch, however, my wrist is so swollen that I can no longer hold the throttle properly. Now it hurts like hell. But out here: grit your teeth and through, there is no other choice.

Towards evening, shortly before Saariselka, another steep, boulder-strewn downhill section comes before our bikes. The experience of the morning taught me: sometimes attack is the best defense! Instead of braking, I accelerate this time and almost seem to fly over the rocks. Yeah, that’s it!

A little later we sit under the midnight sun covered in mud and enjoy a cold beer as a reward for the hard day. The thoughts revolve around the new experiences. It’s a completely different world, this enduro world. Harder, more strenuous and more sweaty than I know motorcycling on the road. But also more exciting. Mind and body are pushed to the limit.

When I finally got back to mine after four days of pure off-road adventure in Lapland “Travel enduro ?? get up and make my way to Helsinki, my motorcycle suddenly seems big, heavy and almost boring. Who knows, maybe at the next opportunity I should dismantle the cases, put on other tires and test how much Enduro it really is…

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Info

Lapland is often still untouched. The trip to the limitless off-road paradise should be made with a guide or book an enduro safari right away.

getting there
Although there is an airport in Kittila in Lapland, there are no direct flights in summer. Then we recommend arriving by axle. Saariselka is on the route to the North Cape, so you can spice up your trip there with an enduro safari. Ferries to Helsinki leave from Travemunde or Rostock.

Travel time
The best travel time for an enduro safari in Lapland is summer, when the sun doesn’t set even at night. That alone is worth the trip. However, it can get cold in spring or autumn.

Stay
Around Saariselka there is a wide range of overnight accommodations with around 13,000 beds, so there should be something for every taste and budget. Most hotels, including their English and German-language websites, can be contacted via the Saariselka municipality’s website. We recommend the Holiday Club Spa Hotel, where every room has a sauna, and the Hotel Kieppi with a cozy fireplace and exquisite roast reindeer. Alternatives: a classic wooden house or the bright day night in igloos made of glass in the Hotel Kakslauttanen (see internet addresses).

Enduro riding
Due to the vastness and wildness of the country, it is advisable to book a tour with a local provider (see Internet addresses) who also offers driving tips or enduro training. Motorcycles and complete equipment can be borrowed, your own motorcycle can of course also be used if it is an off-road enduro.

literature
Offers travel stories, but also tips for your own trips “Lapland again and again: a travel book ?? not just for motorcyclists” by Wulf Brinkmann (14.90 euros). the “Lonely Planet Finland” (17.95 euros) is only worth it if you also want to travel to the rest of the country. “Scandinavia, the north” from Verlag Reise Know-How (19.90 euros). From the same publisher: “Route book North Cape: practical advice” (8.90 euros) and “World Mapping Project Northern Finland” on a scale of 1: 675000 (8.90 euros). The Finland map on a scale of 1: 500,000 comes from Freytag and Berndt for 19.90 euros.

Internet
Saariselka webpage: www.saariselka.fi, enduro safaris in Lapland (English and German): www.motojysky.fi, Hotel Holiday Club Spa: www.holidayclubspahotels.com, Hotel Kieppi: www.hotellikieppi.fi, wooden houses: www. saariselka.fi/lapinlumo/indexsa.htm, Marjamajat apartments: www. saariselka.fi/marjamajat/eindex.html, Glasiglu-Hotel: www.kakslauttanen.fi.

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