Storforsen & The Ride Home

The rain poured down hard the entire night. Not once did it relent and I had never seen rain come down like that, for that long. It was still raining when we packed up the tents. Somehow I was just laughing while packing up everything in the rain and the Finns must have thought the rain had gotten to me and I had lost the plot sometime during the night. Sometimes I find that the only thing to do when things go really bad is just to laugh.


The plan had been to paddle the Upper Upper Ranaelva but as we crossed over the bridge we could clearly see through our rain splatted windows that the river had increased in volume by about six times or more since the day before. Given the fact that the river was choked full off class four and five rapids there was not even a question about us not paddling the river at this level. There was only one thing do and that was to drive home.


The Ranaelva in full flood the following morning!


Another river in total flood too...


Roadside scenery in Northern Norway.


As we drove further north we stopped past a tourist spot to have a look at some place on the Artic Circle. The weather was truly miserable and we didn’t venture further than the warmth of the car. The rain kept coming down and we noticed that even the tiny little streams were already swollen with water. The river next to us grew in size until it was an absolute monster. Climbing onto something like that would mean almost certain death. It was quite impressive to witness so much water thundering down rapid after rapid as we caught glimpses of it next to the road.


A tourist spot on the Artic Circle.


Eventually we reached a point where we could travel east and into Sweden. At this point Sami and Mirkka decided to venture further north into Norway for a few more days’ holiday. We bid them farewell and left them with Tuomas and I in his car and Juho and Miku in Juho’s.


The journey continued on and on and on as we drove across Sweden. Eventually we came back to the Piteälven and stopped there for lunch. We were much further downstream from the Trollforsana now and this river seemed a little larger here. I guess the river is only one channel here whereas in the creeking delta it is split into several different channels. Just beyond this we drove through a restricted military area where stopping and the taking of photos or video footage was strictly prohibited. It seemed so weird to be driving through a training area of the Swedish army with no problems whatsoever. Near the end we drove right past the air force base where mean looking fighter jets were parked ready for action. Security seemed reasonably low given the nature of the area but I guess they don’t really have any threats there and are probably well aware of who is coming and going around the area.


The Piteälven near to the Storforsen.


Lunch break at the Piteälven. From left: Tuomas Vaarala, Juho Vaarala, Mikael Lantto (Miku).


Shortly after this area we arrived at the infamous Storforsen. This is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions and the impressive rapids drop a claimed 82m with some of the worst holes I’ve ever seen. The average flow rate is 186 cubic metres/sec and the highest recorded volume is 850. It truly is an impressive sight to go and see. The final hole at the bottom is exceptionally large and violent. The rapid has never been run. I’m not sure it ever will be. Perhaps some crazy will come along at some stage and attempt it. There is a legend that says a guy in a sea kayak went down by mistake. The boater and his kayak were never found. I’m not sure how true this is but it sounds like nonsense. I have no illusions about someone disappearing in there though. It really is super long and extremely vicious.


Walking towards the mighty rapid!


From the top, looking down to the Storforsen Hotel in the background.


A nice and confusing sign for the average South African!!!


The final hole - a severe keeper sucking back from many metres downstream!


This sign is truly a work of art.


An example of a tar pit.


A traditional roof made from wood chips.


This thing here is a, well it's a, ok, I'll let you figure it out!  :-)   Ok, ok, it's a trap in case you didn't know...


This rapid called Fällforsen, is just a few km's from the Storforsen. Tuomas and his mates did the first descent of this last year!


From there we carried on until we crossed the Tornio River into Finland and drove up to the town of Tornio to drop of Miku. We bid our farewells and Tuomas and I headed off to his place. We arrived back in Rovaniemi at around mid-night. It had been an incredibly long day. Three countries in a day, not bad.


Tuomas behind the wheel and only a few kilometres from home. Note how light it still is after 23:30!


Around midnight in Finland. Fantastic...


The following morning we took a drive to the Santa Claus Village at Napapiiri, exactly on the Artic Circle. There is webcam there that looks down onto you while you stand on the artic circle itself. You can phone your friends and tell them the address and have a look. A novel idea but one which we didn’t do. This is a lovely place to spend the last of your money on a trip and I hit it reasonably hard, buying a couple of typical ‘tourist’ things.


One item which appeared on another web site as a top item for tourists to buy visiting Rovaniemi was a knife. I had seen that Tuomas had a sweet looking knife and I asked about it early on in the trip. We managed to find the exact knife at one of the curio shops and it was too tempting for me. I just had to add another to my growing collection of knives at home. This particular knife is called a Finnish puukko. Within this family there are many different designs. The knives from Scandinavia are some of the oldest and most traditional of knives still being used today! They are practical, razor sharp, have good edge retention and are easy to sharpen. This knife is hand forged by Veikko Hakkarainen from carbon steel. The handle is made from slivers of artic birch bark and provides an exceptional grip, even when wet. It comes complete with a leather sheath too. Veikko lives in a small village near to Rovaniemi. There is no doubt that he is one of Finland’s finest knife makers and if knives are your sort of thing then get one from him. You won’t be disappointed. Click HERE to see one or order one right away.


There it is in all its beauty and splendour...


After parting with several more Euros on various other items we hit town. We bought some food and then headed back home. Then it was time to look at the photos and generally relax. I packed my bags and we still had a few drinks that night too.


The following morning Tuomas took me to the airport. I checked in my boat, paddles and bag all the way to Johannesburg and that was that. We sat down for a cool drink and then I was called over the intercom. All of a sudden this woman was telling me that I couldn’t take my boat and that she had made a mistake. Luckily Tuomas was there and could understand what she was saying on the radio and he explained to her the rules and what not. She looked up a few things on her computer and eventually just said, “Ok, no problem, you can take the boat.” And with that said I knew it would be easy heading home! What a relief.


I parted company with Tuomas who had been my companion for over three weeks now. Having gotten to ‘know’ Tuomas over the internet and now spending some time with him we had forged a good friendship. I watched as he casually walked out of the building with his hands in his pocket, not turning around. It was a little sad leaving Rovaniemi but I knew that one day I would return this way for yet another adventure.


The trip to Helsinki was pleasant and once there I took the bus into the city. The drive there was interesting and the city was really amazing. Super duper clean and a truly beautiful city. I personally hate cities but this place was quite impressive and I could have spent two or three days here. Without a map I wasn’t certain where to go and I had to lug around my hand luggage with me. I walked into a huge store that had over seven levels of everything single thing you can thing of. From Armani suits, to pot plants, fishing gear, soccer balls, a bakery, DVD’s, computer games, a restaurant, anything you can think of this place had it! A shopper’s paradise all in one single shop.




Helsinki again.


The woman walking the streets were of the finest quality I had ever laid eyes on. An ideal place to wonder around if you are single. There were many weirdly dressed people and also loads of a type of person I like to sarcastically name a ‘happiness child’. People dressed totally in black, with black hair, loads of tattoos and earings etc. Quite funny for me to see so many of them! I guess the world is full of weird and wonderful people and those people probably look at me and laugh! Hahaha.


After exploring a little I headed back to the airport and killed more time. I took the flight to London, made a change over and then the pain began. I had asked for aisle seats all the way but the woman at the counter had made a mistake and was unable to change it. I had a window seat with two dudes next to me! Absolute hell I can assure you. As per usual the plane was fiery hot inside and I don’t know what is wrong with British Airways. The flights with Finnair were nice and cool and better by a long shot! After many hours of agony and walking over my neighbours on the arm rests to get out and stretch I hit Johannesburg. Winter was still very much in the air and everything still looked dry and brown. Still, it felt great to be back home.


I made it back home with no problems. Everything was still there and not a single cent paid for taking so much with. In the meantime British Airways have changed their policy... What a shame. At least Finnair doesn't have a problem and they fly to many different destinations.


Tuomas and I had spent 21 nights out on the road and travelled about 6000 km all the time running various rivers with various different people. Even though my shoulder had put a damper on the trip for me it was still an awesome one! I look back at it with fond memories. The people I met were fantastic. A big thank you to all those people that welcomed me and shared a laugh during my time there. I will never forget the experiences and the good times. Thanks Tuomas for letting me tag along with you guys on a truly magical ride. I’m sure we will paddle again soon!


The long awaited videos!!!! For part 1 click HERE and for part 2 click HERE. Enjoy.






Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.



I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in Scandinavia. This is the final article of a collection of 19 articles. They have been fun to write but also a hell of a lot of work. The result is good though and that is the only thing that counts. The numerous encouraging e-mails from people all around the world have been great. I say thank you to you, the reader.


Thanks to Celliers Kruger of Fluid kayaks! The boat performed as promised and did not give a days’ hassle. I could not have asked for a better kayak. For a review on the large Fluid Solo, click HERE. If you haven’t tried one then do so. You will not be disappointed.


Thanks for John Hevesi and Steve Horvath from H20 paddles for sending the paddles to Finland. Absolutely fantastic guys.


Also, a big thank you to my mom and dad. Your support has been fantastic and has aided me in being able to do far more during the trip, after the trip and in also in being able to realistically plan more trips in the near future. Thank you!


Over and out,