Despite the fact two 80kg Sarplaninacs’ guarded their house fiercely, Colin and Merja’s home was warm in love and welcome as much as it was in temperature. After a catch up in front of the wood fire in the kitchen, over coffee and cakes we headed out into -12 and walked one of the rarely used tracks through the forest. Rarely used in the winter, however during the summer the rest of the cabins within this small area are inhabited… Colin and Merja’s home is one of the few cabins inhabited all throughout the winter as well!
After passing some beautifully maintained 100 year old cabins, we continued down a path, most previously used prior to the last few inches of snowfall. Trekking through knee deep power is hard work! I was ahead ‘navigating’ … really I was just dreaming about this pristine landscape and saving all the small trees from the weight of the ice on their branches. Anyway, we’d veered off course but, I didn’t mind. I stood under massive pine trees shaking the snow onto my head and laughing it off.
Merja found the track and we headed home for dinner. We had a feast of wood smoked salmon, potatoes and vegetables, followed by Merja’s homemade, handpicked berry cheesecake. My wine glass was never empty and Mac and Colin had the opportunity to catch up on the last 12 years of their lives.
Colin worked for Mac at his industrial laundry business for a number of years where their mutual friendship and respect for each other grew. In 2007, Colin moved to Finland after meeting Merja and began restoring an old, run down cabin in the forest they now call home, following extensive renovations. Even after all of the Finish customs, he still hadn’t lost a cent of his thick Yorkshire accent!
That night was a late one. We felt full, both in belly and heart to have spent such a wonderful evening with great people. The original plan was to leave Colin and Merja’s cabin the following day, but it didn’t take too much of a discussion between myself and Mac to discover we both wanted to stay longer. Over breakfast the following morning we asked if we could park outside of their cabin for another night, and spend more time with them. That afternoon, we took the quad bike out of the garage hanging on the back of the Mog and explored the tracks through the forest.
Mac took the 450cc Yamaha Grizzly for a spin first and beamed at how fun it was sliding about the road in 2 wheel drive… Immediately after I jumped on, 4 wheel drive was engaged! Mac can slip and slide if he likes, I’d rather not roll an almost 200kg ATV over myself, again. I know, I’m such a kill joy! Colin and I went for a spin checking out the neighbour cabins and following moose tracks! Sadly, no moose sightings today.
Mac and Merja went for a spin soon after, while I warmed up by the fire and packed my bag for the afternoon. Before sunset (which happens about 1600, here) we drove to a frozen lake and hiked around it to a small peninsular where there was a fire pit, benches and a store of wood. All provided by the Government for locals and travellers alike, to enjoy any season.
We sat on these little benches for hours, watching the world around us turn blue in the twilight. We cooked sausages and yes, the vegetarian ate a sausage… How could I have gone all the way out there and not cooked and eaten a sausage off a stick? Impossible. Anyway, sausages, beer and great company were enjoyed in a silent, stunning and almost untouched environment. So much of Scandinavia remains wild, but more importantly, the wild natural environments of Finland are looked after and respected by all who choose to visit; leave no trace practices are absolutely adhered to. As they should be.
We headed back to the car after dark and had another absolutely incredible feast of salmon, vegetable spaghetti and many more glasses of wine. We were taken care of like family, Merja clearly spent a great deal of time reading our Overland Africa posts from our winter 2017/18 trip to establish which kinds of foods we could all enjoy. Consequently, a huge effort was put into hosting us.
The memories we have of those two days, parked next to the cabin in the forest, and the wonderful people inside of it, will stay with us for a lifetime. To send an email after 12 years asking to visit an old friend, and to be welcomed with such enthusiasm was extremely moving.
Colin and Merja. We have had such a special time with you, how wonderful it is to see you both happy and well. Thankyou for such special memories.
So much love,
Connie and Mac
Oh, by the way, if you’ve read this far and you’re still wondering what an 80kg Sarplaninac looks like…