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Orienteering in The Netherlands

The true childhood sport of mine is orienteering. I was exactly one year old when my parents took me for the first time to the forest with a map. Of course, I was just in the carrier and mama did all the work, but anyway, you get the point. This is my true sport.

However, I have been living in The Netherlands now quite accurately 3 years and for my shame only today I did orienteering for the first time here.

And oh how good it felt. I made a lot of mistakes and the 4,5 km course took me almost an hour, but it is so good to be back with this sport.

When comparing the Dutch and the Nordic orienteering, there is not so much difference as I first thought. The terrain is more flat here, but the difficulty is quite at the same level as in the Nordics. In the Netherlands, we have much more paths, but it does not make it necessarily easier. The flat terrain does not offer the easy mountain and hill sides to follow, but you need to find the exact spot in a flat terrain.

In the Netherlands, we have only five orientering clubs. Today’s event was organized by Olvminor club (Na Zomerse Wedstrijd). They were so welcoming to me today and welcomed me to join their club if I wished 🙂 Very big thank you to Olvminor for the challenging and enjoyable courses today!

Training Coos the Cat, my future adventure cat

Coos the Cat is my 1 year and 2 months old Birman cat who loves good food and can be motivated with food to do almost anything.

We are going to travel on plane with Coos the Cat in a few weeks back to Finland to work and meet the family. Therefore, I try to take Coos on a daily basis to travel with me on car and explore new surroundings. The latest trip we made was just a few kilometers away from home: Natuurtuin de Veenmol.

We went there super early morning, around 7am, but still we saw the first people with their dogs that Coos would prefer never to see. I’m actually more scared of the wellbeing of the dogs than Coos the Cat when meeting them. Coos can be quite an aggressive small animal if a dog comes too close to make the acquaintance.

Coos got to see the first sheep in his life. The sheep was very interested in Coos, but after staring each other at less than 1 meter distance, Coos decided that this animal too is a bit scary and decided to continue the walk.

Day by day Coos is getting more comfortable with the new surroundings and the walking part is also improving. He even takes initiative to run and go forward instead of me trying to motivate him continuously to move forward 😉

Kilpisjärvi ski tour day 2 (part: 3)

First day of our tour can be found here and a general post of the trip here.

The track from Saarijärvi to Kuonjarjoki unmanned cottage is one big, gentle and never ending uphill. Whenever you decide to do this, in summer or winter, take a lots of patience with you and as much the favourite snacks as you can carry. During the day, you get comfort by reminding yourself that after this hill the summer body is about guaranteed.

To be honest, I slept the first night on the ski tour very bad. There was nothing wrong with the unmanned cottage. Instead, my body was overloaded with skiing. Sudden 8 hour physical demand to my office body was just a bit too much. I slept in total maybe 3 to 4 hours in small bits. Once, I even needed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. It was horrible. It was dark, windy, -24C and stepping out from the comfort of the sleeping back is not to describe with words. However, this was the last time during the trip that I woke in the middle of the night to go to the restroom. I think my subconscious realised it’s better not to excuse yourself here in the winter wilderness in the middles of the night.

Luckily, after hearty breakfast, packing all our stuff and skiing the first kilometer drawing the still from all the food heavy sledge, I did not feel at all bad after the the night slept horribly bad. The fresh air and delicious snacks kept me going even the leg was pretty much just uphill. Actually, the first 8,5 km where uphill followed by 1 km flat and then 0,5 km downhill.

The weather was pretty bad. This was propably the coldest day of the 7 day hike. During all day, we saw only one group of snowmobilists. No other skiers, no animals but just more or less wind and snow everywhere. It was snowing and the visibility was quite bad. At one moment, we could only see one track mark in front of us. Luckily we saw that, otherwise we should have followed our agreed procedure and put up the tent and wait that long that the visibility would become better. Next to getting frost bites, a real danger in this environment is to get lost. As there are almost zero other people at this time of the year, you are pretty much on your own to find the way and keep yourselves safe.

Directly as we arrived to the unmanned cottage, I took a good nap before making dinner in the candle light. I cannot easily find a more satisfying feeling than after a full day of exercise cook dinner and relax in a good company. We made some vegan indian curry accompanied with rise. As dessert, we enjoyed frozen cinnamon rolls that we bought from the local supermarket the day we departed.

Friday night climbing

We started to do some climbing after our hike to Pilatus in Switzerland last summer just for the safety reasons – to be prepared to those paths that are not anymore paths but rock formations or even cliffs.

Even this new hobby started purely as a precaution for the future hikes, we have gotten hooked. Last night I managed to do my first 5c course (hurrah!) and even I thought I did’t have any energy left, thanks to my inefficient moves and technique, I reached still after the 5c the top of an 5b course.

In the hall we go to, there are courses from 3 to 6c+. (For the beginners, and for me to remember as I always forget: a is easier than c; a is the first of the alphabets, 1 is the first of the numbers :D)

I find it still a bit scary to trust those ropes and rope connectors. I trust fully my own equipment as I know it is in a good condition, but as I do not know how often in a hall they change the ropes to new or check the connections, I find it a bit scary. So far all has gone well and propably I just should start trusting all the equipment, also the ones that are not under my control 😉 and focus purely challenging myself in the wall.

The first day of the ski tour in Kilpisjärvi, Finland (part: 2)

Our ski tour started in the Kilpisjärvi town, located next to the The three-country cairn in the very North of Finland. We arrived the day before the start of the ski, ate well and slept well in a cottage.

The next day around the noon, we had finally packet everything well in our sledges and managed to start the trip. Now afterwards I can say that the first day was the toughest of them all. The first part from Kilpisjärvi to Halti is to ski from Kilpisjärvi to Saarijärvi. In the beginning was the steepest incline of the trip. At this point, also our sledges were the fullest from all the food we had taken with us.

Picture by @uhotoinen

We got to ski the first part in daylight, but in February, it gets really early dark and at the first day, we did not manage to get to the destination before dark. It started to snow at the sunset. Headlights normally makes the visibility better, but combined with a totally white surroundings and falling snow, the torches did not help much. Visibility was approx 50 meters.

Finally, after 8,5 hours skiing, we saw the unmanned cottage in Saarijärvi. The feeling cannot be described with words. It was unbelievably comforting view – to see finally the place where we could stay out of the wind, eat and sleep in the warmth. We prepared dinner and enjoyed in peace the lovely moment after whole day skiing.

In Finland, and in the Nordics generally, there is a very good network of unmanned cottages which you can use without reservation. In Finland and Norway, these unmanned cottages are also free to use, in Sweden you normally need to pay a bit (approx 10 euros per night). You need to bring your own sleeping bag, but there is wood to heat to cottage up and in many of these cottages there is also gas that can be used for cooking 🙂

Hike to Pilatus mountain, Switzerland

Pilatus mountain (2128 m) is located in Lucerne in central Switzerland. You can take the easy way and travel with a mountain train to the top – or you can hike it. We chose the latter one.

However, we did not start at the sea level, but rode with our car to the end of one road close to the river Eistlibach. During the hike, we covered 16 km and climbed 1102 m.

We did this hike in mid August (2020) and had a pretty good luck with the weather. In the mountains, it was just a perfect warm weather meanwhile down in the town it was almost too hot.

This hike is not a one for the very beginners. This specific hike is actually the reason why we went to a climbing course and started actively doing some climbing.

The route we took begins with a wide path that can be ridden with a car. At the half way to the top, the forest road changes to a path. In the very last kilometers to the top this path is walkable but very steep. Good shoes are a must in this last kilometer due to loose stones.

At the top, there is a restaurant and the end point of the cog railway. The top was super crowded which felt very bizarre after hiking hours on an almost empty path, meeting only with the mountain cows.

The things got more complicated when we were declining. We took a route across the mountain area and ended up to a path that suddenly got smaller and smaller and finally there was just a cliff with a chain to keep your hands steady on when climbing. When holding my hands on the chain, I took a look down and it was just 2km free fall.

At this point I reconsidered all the trip we were making. My life literally on my hands. Upwards this is still possible, but downwards no. I was just hoping that on the other side of the mountain, there would be a path because I had no idea how to come down a cliff like this.

At this moment, we also promised ourselves never to go on this kind of trails without falling protection equipment and thence decided to take a climbing course and start to practise. (For understandable reasons, I have no pictures from this area 🙂 )

For this hike we spent a bit more than 7 hours, covered 16 km and elevated a bit more than 1 km. The worst area is the one on the top of the left side in the map below. After this point, the route just declined. It is quite a steep decline, especially for people with any issues with the knees.

Even the end of this hike was difficult, I would do it any day again – but just having harness and some rope with us for the worst part 🙂

Strawberry Moscow Mule

I have no idea if you are supposed to write to your outdoor/hiking/adventure blog some drink recipes, but because the second name of my blog is a life that looks like me, I am going to introduce here to anyone who is interested and for me to remember the recipe when I otherwise for sure would not anymore next summer.

This is an ultimate refreshing summer drink after a long day out in the mountains – or just doing whatever your are doing. And, this actually has quite some vitamins packed due to the amount of greens and fruit!

I have never been a drink person really, but this summer I started experimenting at home with some recipes. I bought different juices, spirits and fresh fruits and started experimenting.

This is definitely one of my favourites so far of all I have tested. So refreshing and the flavours of strawberry and basil round up nicely to gert her. Ginger beer adds some sparkles and the ice cubes the refreshing coldness.

Ski tour in Kilpisjärvi, Finland (part 1: general)

Right now is the perfect moment to start planning the ski tour for next winter.

I have been thinking for a long time to write about the ski tour we made in the end of February 2021. However, it has felt like an impossible task to describe in words those amazing 7 days we spent in the Arctic Lapland.

Therefore, I cannot just write one post that describes the trip. The preparations took weeks – finding the right equipment, drying our own food to take conveniently with, studying the maps, checking the corona measures (and testing)… However, I’ll try to summarise in this simple page, and in some following posts, I’ll try to write more details.

The weather menu is very diverse in the wilderness of the North West Finland.

Unnamed hiker in the logbook at an unmanned cottage in Kilpisjärvi wilderness

Our initial target was to climb to the highest point of Finland, Halti, but the weather was so tough – and luckily we at this age so wise – that we did not attempt to do it. However, we were lucky enough to see Halti in the end of our rest day during the relaxed moonlight ski – without all the equipment.

We started our trip next to the closest road, which is located in a mini town Kilpisjärvi where 86 persons permanently live. Despite the small size you’ll find in Kilpisjärvi a very well equipped supermarket, a sports store and Alko (the Finnish store for the alcohol more than 5%). In Kilpisjärvi there are also so many cottages to rent, and even a couple of restaurants.

Between Kilpisjärvi and Halti, there are unmanned cottages approximately every 10 km that you can use for free. You need to take everything you need with you, but there is wood, toilet and the a roof on top of you. Pretty amazing perfect Finland!

We made an important promise at the beginning of the trip: if we do not see the next track mark, we will stop and put our tent on and wait as long that we can see the next mark. In these surroundings in the deep winter, waiting in a tent to get more visibility could mean anything between hours to days. Luckily, we never needed to use this option as we saw all the time at least one track mark ahead of us.

In total, we spent 7 days skiing. In April-May, you can easily reach Halti (the highest point of Finland) in this time, but if you attempt to do it December-March, I would reserve more time than that to be prepared to deep snow and hard weather.

Regarding how you can reach this beautiful place on the Earth: I travelled from the Netherlands to Kilpisjärvi first with plane (Amsterdam-Helsinki-Rovaniemi) and after staying in corona quarantine in a hotel in Rovaniemi with a direct bus to Kilpisjärvi. My dear friend travelled with a trading to Rovaniemi, that starts form Helsinki.

Training my future adventure cat Coos

We have Coos the cat since a bit more than one year now. It was not the initial though to get a cat and take him to do some hikes with us. However, I decided to try if it was possible to train him to walk in a leash.

We started when he was really small, maybe 5-6 months old,1 to train him to wear a harness. He is now wearing already his third harness – so much he has grown.

In the beginning he wore the harness just for a few minutes inside, but really quickly he got used to the harness. As soon as he was comfortable wearing the harness (ie not walking like he was walking on a trampoline), we went to our backyard to explore.

I recommend to use in the beginning a soft leash (not a flexi type of leash) because if the cat gets scared and gets loose, the soft leash follows him softly when a flexi leash would make him even more scared.

When he was used to being in the backyard relaxed wearing the harness connected to a leash, we started training to travel with car. The car was a bit scary place in the beginning. The new sounds and the movement. We started training just getting to the car, starting the engine, sitting for a moment still him in my lap without moving the car and then stopping the engine and the exercise.

Quite soon we started to go for small rides, and I got him his own tiny seat belt. He prefers the seat belt ove the travel cage – it gives so much more freedom for him, but in case of quick stop or accident, he is safe anyway.

When he was used to travel with the car, we started exploring the parks nearby at the quiet times. I get nowadays quite early up and some weekend mornings we were already at 06:30 in the park before the dog owners woke up.

Step by step we went to more populated times to the park. He is still not used to dogs, he has not gotten enough exposure to them, I think. Or maybe he never will get to used to dogs.

I’m not an experienced cat trainer. Coos is my first cat. I used to be a dog person before and had two dogs at our home when I was a youngster. I am actually training the cat like I would train a dog. The only difference I have noticed so far is that a cat needs so much more time to get to used to the new environment.

Today we walked a new path next to our home where dogs are not allowed. We went a bit more than 1 km, spending approx an hour on that trip. Sometimes going forward, sometimes backward. Coos likes to go back and forth. I think he likes the movement, but is a bit scared of the new environment. When he has ones walked the path, he enjoys going a bit back because it is already safe environment.

Hiking to the highest point of Zakynthos, Greece

The mountains of Zakynthos are soft and relaxed. There are almost no steep hills, but easily walkable uphills that give you some of the most beautiful views the island has to offer. We did this hike in the beginning of August, and did not bring any long sleeved shirts with us. For me this is a very very rare situation not to bring any clothes to protect against a cold weather. But I am just not used to the hot weather hikes. My last big hike was in Kilpisjarvi in Finland in February (warmest -15C, coldest -36C), so my late referenser is pretty much that.

For this hike, our alarms went off at 05:00 am enabling us to – get to the start point before 06:00 am – but most importantly, being back before 10:00 am when the hot weather hits.

We drove to a town named Louha which is a remote small town in the middle of the Zakynthos island. Driving this early morning was magigal . There was almost no traffic. We saw a couple of cars and one scooter on our way up to Louha.

The beginning of the route to the highest point is just a normal forest road that can be driven also with a car. In the half way, the road transforms to a path that is easy to follow. But there are quite many paths up there, so a map is a must to not to get lost within all the paths. Sometimes the path became again the forest road, so maybe you can even get with the wheels up there if you are not so much into walking.

For me this hike felt like a meditation. We started in a complete darkness. Sun rose softly behind the hills, waking us to a new beautiful day. It was actually nicely cool up on the hill that is 700+ meters high. A really welcome feeling when spending summer in this sauna-like hot island.

The road to the top is easy, but of I could chooce now, I would take my hiking boots instead of my running shoes 🙂 The path is from time to time very rocky. For sure, you can do this with running shoes, but hiking boots would be so much more comfy.

At the very top, there is a stone marking the highest point and the majestetic view around the island.

Trip back was easy downhill, enjoying the sunrise and the coolnes of the morning.

Here am I, with my flower that my dearest picked for me at the top. And I manage to transport it on plane back home. It is now in a small vase decorating our living room and reminding us of our nice holiday and the moment at the top of this island 🙂 Good times!

After the hike, we took a 3 hour nap before heading to have a late Sunday lunch with the dear friend family. This was for me probably one of the kind ultimate best vacation day there could ever be 🙂