Scandinavia 2007 – Introduction


Welcome to the first of many stories that will be written about the little adventure I’ll be embarking on in less than 6 weeks. In a series of articles I’m going to attempt to share with you my experiences in Finland, Sweden and Norway. The first one should be on by around the last week of July.


But let me first start on how this trip came to life. As most people know I’m a little obsessed with kayaking. Ok, so maybe more than a little. J And I spend a fair amount of time on the internet looking at all the kayaking pictures I can get my hands on. One of my favourites is Playak. This huge kayaking site and the information available on it, is almost limitless. Try it, you’ll be impressed.


On Playak is also the chat and this is where I ‘met’ Tuomas, I think. It sounds a little dodgy doesn’t it? Talking to someone else from a country as unknown as Finland was pretty interesting for me. It shouldn’t be so unknown though. The next time you see Mika Hakkinen or Kimi Räikkönen cruising around in a formula one car, you should now know they are Finnish chaps. How many people use Nokia cell phones? I guess most people, including myself, didn’t know that one. Through Playak chat, MSN messenger and Skype one can actually get to know someone reasonably well. Again, it sounds pretty weird. Tuomas and I have been chatting for hundreds of hours now, mainly about kayaking ironically enough, and making preparations for the upcoming trip.


The boys...


Tuomas Vaarala was born in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, at the confluence of the River Ounasjoki and River Kemijoki about 10 km south of the Artic Circle. (5.0170 N, 25.4670 E) A small city of about 36 000 inhabitants with less than 500 people being foreigners, Rovaniemi is still an important trading centre in the north of Finland. Finland does not have that many people and the total population stands at some 5.23 million people. Tuomas, like most Fins, is an educated person and the level of English he speaks with is far higher than one would expect from someone that does not speak it as a first language. In fact he’d cream a lot of other people I know, just don’t tell them… At least there will be no language barrier to contend with.


My flight, on June 20th, will consist of flying from Johannesburg to Helsinki, via Heathrow, London and then from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, a total time of just more than 24 hours. From Finland we will more than likely drive to the Voss area through Sweden, then back to Sweden, then back to northern Norway and then to northern Sweden then back to Finland. Lot’s of driving around and we don’t have very concrete plans as of yet, very dependant on levels and who we meet up with along the way. We expect to drive around 3000 to 5000 km in those 20 odd days. We will be most certainly at least be driving to Sjoa and probably to Voss as well, but not 100% sure yet.


Tuomas Vaarala.


During my time I’ll hopefully be attending the Ekstremsportveko in Voss, Norway and more than likely the Trollforsarna Whitewater Challenge on the Pite River in Northern Sweden. Not sure about the Ekstremsportveko, even if we drive that far we might want to hit some rivers on our way in Sweden and Norway which would mean we probably won't make it in time to Voss Ekstremsportveko. But we’ll see...


As most people know, Norway is chock a block with scary rapids, massive slides, spectacular waterfalls, amazing scenery, cheap jam and expensive beer. What most people don’t know are the rivers in Sweden. Not as steep as Norway but far more volume. There is one river there that can get to 24 times the volume of the Zambezi. Most of the rivers and spots are unknown to the outside world and I guess most people have never even heard of the Lappis Wave. There are loads of big volume runs (in excess of 1000 m^3/s) and some amazing holes and waves.


Mikael Lantto.


This year there have been average and above average snow deposits and a recent cold front has delayed the melting of the snow packs and glaciers. Good news for big volume runs and we’re guaranteed excellent conditions.


In preparation to the trip I was fortunate enough to be partly sponsored by Fluid Kayaks. My new large Fluid Solo (no hatch) arrived on Thursday the 26th of April at the office. We left for Mpumalanga the same night and the sleek green machine took to the waters of the Upper Sabie on the Friday and the Saturday and the Upper Blyde on Sunday with Chris Huddle, of Blyde Canyon Adventures. This gave me the opportunity to get the boat a little more set-up. It performed perfectly but I still managed to mess up the double drop on the U2 and do it upside down...


With some luck I have been able to organise two brand new H20 paddles that will be waiting for me in Finland upon my arrival. H20's customer service is really awesome and you have to experience it to believe it. Pretty rare in the business world in general these days. I really love the feel, control and power of the H20 paddles and the plastic blades are superb. Being plastic, they will last many years on the rocky rivers of South Africa. The new paddles are 20% stronger than the 2006 models. Pretty impressive stuff.


Tuomas Vaarala. 


Celliers told me he’ll import another batch just before our season starts again so keep your ears to the ground. They are great and you don’t want to miss out, again.


I’d like to specifically thank Jeroen (Mr Playak) of Switzerland for starting up and hosting my web site. It has been loads of work but also lots of fun and has thrown many more opportunities my way. If you have bothered to read this far, you more than likely have been following this sites progress and I hope you still like what you see. Thanks to Dave Rice for alerting me to the odd spelling mistake and any other errors. I know there are loads of grammar errors as my mom is an English teacher but hey, this is just for kayaking. J 


Thanks to Celliers Kruger (Mr Fluid) for the sweet deal and also to John Hevesi of H20 Paddles for the help.


Tuomas was telling me that holes are far stronger in cold water… No joke. Making me a little worried but also better for getting huge bounce on waves. Well, after being taken to the cleaners by the customs officials at the airport when I imported a dry top for myself and Scotty, I’m sure my top will perform for the price I paid. Let’s hope there aren’t too many holes and pourovers hungry for a measly South African.


Photo by Jori.










Talk soon.




Photographs courtesy Tuomas Vaarala and Jori. Thanks J