Early breakfast before checking out – seriously loved the huge tea cups. Also took my last antibiotic (yay!) so no more tablets through out the day – leg is looking way better! Packed up and checked out, saying goodbye to Helsinki. So far our favourite major city. The long drive to Joensuu (5 hours) was spent listening to the new Scar Symmetry album via Spotify (definitely buying the CD for the car when we get back!) and watching for elk/reindeer – an uneventful trip with lots of autumn trees and lakes
Went to Joensuu Bunker Museum – museum was closed, but we could still see all the fortifications and canons! Was very cool – photos to come!
Checked into hotel (Solos Vaakuna) – was a massive hotel, think it’s the biggest in Joensuu. Decided on a close meal and early(ish) night. Had dinner at Rosso’s, local Italian joint below the hotel, which was delicious – desert was the best part, some kind of apple strudel crossed with a calzone – totally amazing.
Tried to stay up late, but I only managed 8pm, Alex was a bit later at 9.
Up super early to start the drive to Rovaniemi. Check weather – shit, shit, shit – rain & snow, with temps below 0. Somewhat scary.
Packed up and head off for a quick hotel breakfast. As quick as I’m walking it off I’m probably putting it all back on with the breakfasts! Was an okay breakfast – not the best but certainly not the worst.
Into the car for 8:30am and off to Rovaniemi…the roads were surprisingly good (or maybe our car is just a really good one!) but raining all the way out of Joensuu – and then snow all the way to Rovaniemi. Really pretty but also really scary.
Pretty sure we ended up driving through a blizzard too – glad we didn’t know that at the time! Also saw reindeer – REINDEER!!! So fast, didn’t have time to take any photos. No, we didn’t hit any.
Called in at Ranua Zoo – owls and bears and foxes (photos soon)! Also, a zoo in 0°C is…interesting. Picked up new gloves at the zoo too – ones designed for dealing with below zero temps and snow. Mine are purple with reindeer on them! Left the zoo to start the last leg to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi.
Made it to Rovaniemi – seeing Santa Claus Village while it’s snowing is somewhat cool 🙂 It’s Christmas ALL THE TIME!!! ^_^ I seriously don’t know how the people who work here don’t go mad 😛
Checked in, dumped bags then went for food. First try of reindeer – very gamely, definitely not bland! After food, headed back to cabin for sauna (in our cabin), shower, tea then sleep 🙂
Woke up to snow covering everything…including the car. But at least we woke up at a normal time for the first time this holiday, around 7am. Off for breakfast here which was amazing – best breakfast we’ve had since we arrived. Also noticed (a tad too late) that there was a waffle iron and waffle batter ready for making…definitely know what I’m having tomorrow morning!
Finished breakfast, quick stop in the shop for supplies (Cavendish & Harvey sweets and tissues) and then time to head to the Amethyst Mine, which was about 1.5 hours away.
Drove up – nothing super exciting other than a red fox who thought he’d try and run across the road…then saw the cars and thought better of it. Was rather adorable 🙂
Made it to the parking lot of the mine…and then realised we’d have to hike it up the hill for 2.5km. I can say now that walking in the snow is far harder than just walking normally. It’s like walking in wet sand.
Finally made it up the hill – next mine tour was in 30 minutes, so time for a coffee, some weird Smurf branded soft drink, and a donut (or three). Had a quick chat to one of the tour drivers who was amused by our reaction to the snow.
Midday comes and its time for the tour. Another 500m or so of climbing and were finally there. Our guide is a lovely guy by the name of Tuomas, who’s English was amazing. He gave us a quick run through of amethysts in general – how they’re made, what elements are in them, different forms and uses; as well as amethyst s in the area and how the mine works, how much is mined and how the local people (Sami) use them and their symbolism. Was exceedingly cool. Really enjoyed.
Then it was time to mine our own – this was pretty cool, involved using mini picks me mining in an enclosed area, prefominanyly by digging through loose rock. I came away with a large beautiful piece of smokey quartz, which is black quartz. Alex was lucky and got a really small but gorgeous dark purple piece that Tuomas said was of gem quality!
Quick trip back, buy a few touristy things (t-shirt, postcards, small silver/amethyst pendant) then back down the mountain to the car.
We then decided to go to “the most northern McDonalds” – if only to say we had. Standard order (quarter pounder & nuggets) and also a request for a postcard…which we got! Yay!
Finished our late lunch then a quick stop at the service station to fill up before our trek tomorrow and to pick up some more milk for tea. Now chilling in the cabin waiting for the sauna to heat up.
Tomorrow will be a quick stop to Santa’s Post Office and then off to Saariselka – the glass igloos!