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Weekend kayaking

The days were already short, and growing shorter, colder. One of those weeks when it is no more autumn, but not quite yet winter proper. And then there was a message from Pekka, who was also studying Philosophy at the University, a bit more than 20 years ago. "Would you like to go kayaking with me, the coming spring as soon as the ice is gone?" he asked. I agreed. During the winter we met a couple of times, taking a look at maps, discussing timetables and equipment, making plans. The original plan was to first have an one day test run at local waters at Tampere (that is where Pekka lives), and then head for a full week of adventure in the Lapland wilderness.

An epic plan! Those who have been following my daily pictures might have noticed that a few times I've mentioned having a vague longing for adventuring the Finnish waters, which come in maze-like interconnected networks. Or, to head for a road-trip with no predefined destination, just drifting for a while. Some sort of escape, maybe? Or, my idea of holiday - temporarily letting go of the ordinary goals, tasks, responsibilities, and just living in the moment, on the move. So, this adventure plan felt like an answer to my inner call.

This must be something like left-overs of my long dark heavy years of depression; I often find it difficult to make clear plans for future more than a few weeks away - it feels like there are so many unknown variables, and so many things hard to control, making any planning a futile attempt. (As I might have mentioned, I' been delighted to see that despite those tendencies I've been able to consistently carry on with Ancient Savo development; but that is different - the indie development takes place in the moment, and just continues day after day, week after week, month after month. So it is a question of persistence, a question of maintaining the focus. And then I just have general vague plan that "there will be a Steam and Google Play release once the game is ready enough for that", and "hoping for iPhone release as well, but that will probably require having some mac devices and at the moment I have none but maybe there will eventually be a solution, like a few weeks of intensive co-operation with a friend with a mac" - so, the phenomenon is the same; I have an idea and a goal in my mind, but I find it hard to plan exactly how and when the goal will materialize, but that doesn't matter that much to me; I just keep on developing, knowing that things will clarify themselves as the process goes on.) Oh, well - so, but Pekka is lot more organized than I am, so I was happy to take some sort of "a crew member" position, knowing that Pekka has been hiking a lot over the years and he knows how to plan those trips, he will make things happen, and I can just be the additional crew member manning the second seat at a double kayak or a canoe.

Winter was cold and snowy, which is something I enjoy. I went skiing on the nearby lake, sometimes wandering around with no clear plan - oh how I love the long wide skis which allow one to go anywhere with no need to follow any ready-made ski-tracks. On my skiing trips I circled around small islands, some of them having just a single cabin, and some of them having no human constructions at all. And I was thinking of the coming spring and summer, hoping to continue the adventuring once the ice will be gone. And the days grew longer and longer, and eventually the sunshine made days so warm that all the snow turned to slush and it was no more comfortable to ski on the lake. Ancient Savo is still far from ready for a Steam release, I still feel strongly motivated and clearly focused on the project, so that a week away from coding started to feel actually a little bit uneasy for me. I had this feeling like "sure, a week of adventure would be great idea, but would I be able to fully enjoy it, if in the back of my mind I have this feeling that coding Ancient Savo is my main project which I really want to focus on". There had been no messages from Pekka, and I was starting to think that pretty soon we need to arrange the dates in our calendars if we are going to arrange a week of kayaking (plus a few extra days to drive to Lapland and back). And then Pekka sent a message, apologizing that because of his work schedules he was unable to arrange a free week at this time of the year. So, instead he suggested we go for a weekend trip at Päijänne National Park in Central Finland, less than two hours of driving from Tampere. Sure, I must admit that a weekend trip felt like a perfect solution for me!

Considering the equipment a weekend trip was easy to plan for me - how much food, what kind of basic equipment do I need to pack with me, all that felt like an easy routine for me based on earlier experience. Although the weather forecast said that the weather will be fine Pekka suggested I pack a raincoat and trousers with me. Well, I did, since I wanted to play fully to my "crew member" role, not questioning the wisdom of the person organizing the expedition. We arranged the details in a few messages. Until the last minute before leaving for Tampere I was coding Ancient Savo. Then, as I powered off the computer I switched my mind to a different mode - leaving all the coding and all the world news aside for a while. I left my smartphone at home, instead taking a waterproof Nokia Tough model with me (I think if mobile data is switched off, the phone battery lasts for a week or so. Perfect for a weekend trip, not allowing browsing the net, yet maintaining the basic connectivity by calls and SMS). I took a train to Tampere and walked to where Pekka lives. We enjoyed a tasty meal cooked by his wife, packed all the stuff to Pekka's car and left for an adventure.

First to Hiking Travel HIT, a local company which has a lot of outdoors equipment for rent. Guided by the professional advice of the Hiking Travel HIT personnel, Pekka had chosen a double seated lake touring kayak, with rudder, skeg and storages. The personnel helped us to load the kayak on top of Pekka's car, and gave us basic instructions of use, focused on safety. I found their service extremely great, they were kind, helpful, professional, effective yet not hurried. Since my childhood I've experience on various kinds of water vessels, so at first I was little bit like "oh, we just sit into the kayak and off we go, right?", but then when listening to their instructions I realized that everything they say is essential, so did my best to pay attention to details, to remember everything they instructed. After that it was last minute shopping, and then we went driving towards the national park.

It was something like 7 pm when we parked the car. We couldn't get right next to the water, so we unloaded the kayak at the parking place, and packed our stuff into waterproof bags. Some of the gear we could store inside the kayak storage spaces, and some bags we secured on the kayak deck. We carried the fully loaded kayak down a path - it was heavy, but doable. There was a stretch of sandy beach, a nice place to start. We took seats - it was "Cockpit style", meaning we sat with the legs and hips inside the kayak hull, wearing "spray skirts" which create a water-resistant seal around the waist. The weather was perfect - it was warm, the was sunshine, and no wind at all. Our first destination was a small island maybe some 3 km away. After a little bit of practicing the paddling felt easy and fun. A kayak sure offers an unique experience, as your waist is practically about or below the water level, so you see everything from the perspective of an aquatic bird. We made it safely to the island, cooked food by camp-fire and slept the night in a wooden lean-to shelter. And this time of the year is so good for camping; it is warm enough to comfortably sleep outdoors with just basic equipment, but there is not yet any blood-sucking insects disturbing the night's sleep.

In the morning we slept long, started a fire, cooked coffee and porridge. I could already feel the magic working; in a way I noticed that I didn't have a single thought of "how is the war going, has the third world war broke out, and what kind of data-structures do I need to simulate sheep wool growth in Ancient Savo?" - no, what was on my mind was just: Oh, this water is crystal clear, how beautiful the trees around here, this coffee is good, it is nice to talk with Pekka, and it is also nice he isn't too talkative, so that we also have this Finnish silent time. All the birds singing, wind humming in the trees. This porridge tastes good. If it was warmer it would be nice to go for a morning swim, but now I feel my body a little bit weak, and I don't want to risk developing a head-ache or flu symptoms, for camping is a lot more enjoyable when hale." Ah, yes - during the night a wind had woken up. So we took a look at the map, thinking about the wind direction, choosing our next destination, planning a route which wouldn't require us going transverse but more like straight towards the wind direction. It is easier to navigate the waves if your vessel meets them nose-first - waves coming from the side will make the vessel roll, and not having extensive experience with open lake kayaking, we preferred to go safety first.

This time I manned the rear seat, meaning that I was the one operating the rudder. Inside the kayak hull there are kind of a pedals to offer extra support for your feet. The pedals at the front seat are stationary, but the pedals at the back seat can be tilted to steer the rudder. Off we went, and I tried to figure out how to operate the rudder, but somehow it didn't feel quite right - I could make the kayak turn to the left, but not to the right. We paddled to the shore of a nearby island. When the kayak was on dry land we examined the system and learnt that there are strings running from the pedals to the rudder, and on the right side the string had somehow slipped off. We managed to fix it, so now the movement of the right pedal was properly translated to the corresponding movement of the rudder. We resumed the kayaking, and now I was able to fully steer the vessel. Yet, it still felt that there are lot of small details to learn. For example, as the kayak hull is rigid there isn't that much extra space, so to make it comfortable one has to find just the right posture for hips and legs and lower back. And if I got the position otherwise good, then it felt that there is not enough room for my toes, but the tips of my boots always hit the kayak hull, making it clumsy to operate the pedals. Well, it was not perfect, but manageable.

We were heading to a solitary island - otherwise most of the islands formed kind of a clusters, but that one island was alone in the middle of wide open lake. The wind was getting stronger, and it felt really impressive to sit at the water level, experiencing the incoming waves splash on the kayak nose, spraying water all over. And only then I realized why Pekka had advised me to pack a raincoat; as I was wearing just an ordinary wind-proof hoodie, it got all soaked, and the wet hoodie made the water go also below the spray skirt, so pretty soon my clothes were all wet. Luckily, it was not too cold, and the constant physical strain kept my body warm. And this was exactly what I had been longing for. Those moments when all of your mind if just present in the moment, focused on moving the paddle, navigating the wind, observing the details of immediate surroundings just to stay safe and to keep the course. And then the sense of accomplishment when the kayak hits the sandy beach of the island. That island also had a fire-place but there was a group of people sitting there. Also, the fireplace was on the shadowy side, so we chose to go onto the sunny side. There was a sandy beach there as well, the island had kind of a narrow long sandy cape. Pekka started to cook coffee on a portable stove, I put all of my clothes to dry in the sun and wind. The water tight bags were good to have, as all of my spare clothes were all dry.

After a welcome break we continued towards the next island, which is kind of a main island of the national park. This time I wore water-proof gear. Also, I went barefoot, and now the rudder was a lot more comfortable to operate as there was enough space to freely move my feet. During our break the wind had calmed down a little bit, so it was easier to paddle. We reached the main island and went along it's shore. And we could see that certainly we were not the only people to enjoy a beautiful weekend out in nature. Here and there we could spot smaller and bigger boats, groups of people sitting by camp-fires. At one place the island has kind of a protected lagoon, and in the lagoon we spotted a raft with a sauna built on top of it. Oh, one of the things I love in Finland; a floating sauna, because why not! Our plan was to go to the southern tip of the island, to have a break there. But when we got there the place was almost crowded, with two big boats size of a bus docked there. On our deeply Finnish "we prefer solitude and silence"-mood Pekka and I decided to paddle further. We were starting to feel tired after hours of paddling, but it was nice to go, just enjoying the scenery. And then the next spot with a sweet arching sandy beach only got a few people at the fire-place there. So, we picked a place at the other end of the beach, and again cooked a meal with the portable stove. Fresh air, tasty food, the beauty of the old curved pines growing on the island. So good!

On we went, following the eastern shore of the main island, to the North. The wind was manageable. I enjoyed the sound of the waves splashing against the rocks at the shoreline. And it was great to feel the physical strain in all of the body. It is not just the shoulders and arms, but somehow paddling makes you to use about every muscle of your body. Feeling present in the moment, physically here (instead of being lost in the internet. Or, I greatly enjoy it when I can fully focus on the abstractness of computer coding, it is also meditative in some sense. But, being meditatively present in the physical action of padding, breathing fresh air, observing nature - that sure feels so deeply grounding, healing, empowering.) Some of the islands seemed to have all sandy soil, while others were rocky, with occasional steep cliffs. Most of the islands are fully protected in the summer time, so moving on those islands is not allowed. Paddling next to such pristine islands it feels like a humble reminder that we humans, homo sapiens, are just one species living on this planet and we should respect the other species as well, leaving enough room for them to simply mind their business.

We didn't stop that the northernmost camping place of the main island, but instead continued on to the next cluster of island. Around 10 pm we reached a peaceful cove with a sandy beach. There were two big boats there, but the place seemed quiet and peaceful, and we were tired, so we decided to stop there. We started a fire, ate some food. Pekka set up a tent in a nice spot in a forest of pine trees. To finish the day we took a walk, following a path which went around the island. For a moment we stopped at the northernmost tip of this island, to enjoy the sunset scene - I think it was something like half an hour to midnight. When we returned back to the tent we noticed that a small fishing boat had arrived, there were two men cooking something by a fire, they had set up their own tent in another spot. We briefly greeted them by waving a hand, and then crawled into our tent to sleep for the night.

Sunday morning was warm, peaceful and sunny. Again we woke up late, and while we were preparing breakfast by a campfire the other boats left, one after another. We discussed our route plans for the day, and realized that both of us felt physically tired, so we decided to just take the shortest route to keep things nice and enjoyable. It was something like 5 km of paddling, the weather was nice, not too much wind. As we set out paddling, I felt all of my body aching. Yesterday we had paddled about 25 km, and I was thinking that if we were on a week-long journey, then it sure would make sense to have some kind of rhythm to the days, like having an easier day after one full day of paddling for a long distance. Well, but now we were on the last day of our weekend kayaking, heading back to the place where we left from. It was mostly quiet, not that many other vessels moving around, just another floating sauna heading towards North.

We had an A4 size paper map, in a transparent plastic container. I had been carrying the map, for I was the one steering our kayak. But water got into the container, and only half of the map was still readable. Well, but luckily enough Pekka had packed a GPS device, so we relied on it to navigate. And paddling started to feel easier after a short while, probably because of muscles warming up, boosting the blood circulation. The weather had been really favorable - I especially like to experience the differences. How smooth and easy it feels to paddle in calm winds when there are no waves , and how the physical strain of paddling against the wind makes all the other thoughts just fade away. And it was nice to have the most demanding part in the middle, and very easy weather in the start and end of the trip. Taking a look at the map in his navigator Pekka suggested we head to a beach which is not the same from where we left, but near it. As that seemed to be a spot where the road is closest to the lake, so it would be three times shorter distance to carry the kayak. I agreed to the plan.

When we got to the beach there was a canoe there, and a couple of people sat eating. We chatted a little bit with them - they were from Helsinki, and had been doing canoeing for 20 years. They packed their stuff, loaded the canoe on top of their car and left back to Helsinki. We did the same, just leaving back to Tampere. We were back at the Hiking Travel HIT before their closing time. Before we left they said that if we'd come later it would be okay, if we just send a message telling them so that they can arrange some of the workers to appear there after the closing time to collect our equipment. In other words; I think their service is really good. And they are located a walking distance away from Tampere railway station, next to the lake Näsijärvi. So, basically, you could use public transport, go to the Hiking Travel HIT, rent a kayak or a canoe and go paddling the local waters - Lake Näsijärvi is a part of one of those big network of waterways, one branch of that network extends right to my local waters, the ones where I was skiing and where I often go rowing in the summer.

Back at Pekka's place we again enjoyed a tasty meal and drank a symbolic home-coming coffee. It was still some time before my train would leave, so I visited Tampere centre to see a friend. And since Ice Hockey World Championship games were going on at Tampere, there were a lot of tourists - packs of slightly drunken Swedes wandering the streets wearing festive costumes, singing and shouting merrily. Hehe, such a different world compared to the tranquility of the small islands and wide open lakes! But in a way it was nice to see, the richness of our world; at the one hand there is still cheerful busy international city life, and then just a walking distance away from it an outdoor sports equipment rental shop which kind of opens a door to the another world; the lake networks where a couple of humans on a kayak are just so small tiny little creatures navigating the mighty elements of nature.

Thank you Pekka for organizing everything! Ten points to the Hiking Travel HIT! And somehow this also made me appreciate the fact that some of the friends from more than 20 years ago still want to keep contact with me, and we can find things to do together.

Paddling
Paddling
A coffee break
A coffee break
Sunset, some time after 11 pm
Sunset, some time after 11 pm
The moment before heading back home
The moment before heading back home
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Comments

Any badgers out there? There were lot's of them at The Kelvenne Island when we were camping there two years ago.

Yes, we saw one when we were walking around the Hietasaari island. It made me wonder if a badgers stays at the island they were born at, or if they sometimes swim to the mainland, or to other islands.

This was very uplifting to my spirit to read! I especially related to the story of your longing to adventure with no particular destination, I in my personal life have sought to have that genuine human experience of traversing the wilderness and found myself more at home "living in the moment" among nature than having access to all the comforts of the civilized world with access to all the miracles and woes of the world. It taught me that I can just stop and see that the world and the ability to exist in it perhaps overshadows any evil and darkness that exist as well. This post has left me smiling from ear to ear, I'm so happy you had a fantastic time and I wish you many more in the future!

❤️❤️❤️

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