“Have you rafted before?” they asked…hmm, good question…I had and although I was sure it was more than once, I could only recall one occasion several years back when I was on holiday in Thailand. A hazy memory came back to me of a friend afraid of water asking for the raft not to be tipped over, the skipper’s disappointment at that, and the friend ending up in the water at some point anyway….hmm…I looked down at my clothes and took comfort from not being told to put a swimming costume on underneath…
From Basecamp Oulanka you can raft the ‘Wild Route’ which takes in three sets of rapids – Niskakoski (a grade 2), Myllykoski (a grade 3) and Aallokkokoski (a grade 4). Everyone then disembarks before the Jyrävä waterfall. From Jyrävä there is a route they call ‘National park’s most beautiful sceneries’….for ease I shall refer to it as the ‘Pretty Route’…this is a more gentle part of the river with a few rapids amounting to nothing more than a grade 2. You can do these routes individually or as a whole ‘Basecamp to Russia’ trip. Oh and there’s also a family rafting route from Käylä to Basecamp. www.basecampoulanka.fi for anyone interested.
Wild and Pretty sounded just my thing so I went for that and set myself for 5hours of rafting! 🙂
Kitted up with waterproofs, life jacket, helmet and armed with a paddle we set off down to the beach where the rafts were waiting. Numbers meant we were four to a raft plus a skipper and everyone looked a bit apprehensive about what lay ahead. We got in and moved out onto the water for a safety briefing and instructions – kindly done in English so I could understand!
After a short practice, including the ‘paddles up’ ritual for the start of each set of rapids, we were off! (the following photos are of other groups from Basecamp Oulanka..I was otherwise engaged whilst in the raft on this part of the route..)
I was wet from the first set of rapids at Niskakoski and soaked through by the end of the final set at Aallokkokoski! I’m sure i was totally engulfed at one point along Myllykoski! (much like the lady in the front right seat below)
It’s ok, even along the ‘wild’ part you still have calmer moments when you can stop spluttering and look around at the scenery..like the one below which follows Myllykoski
The rafts pull over and everyone gets off just before Jyrävä even if you’re going on to the Russian Border. It’s a small but quite fierce sounding waterfall so the rafts go over empty and are fished back on the other side..(these photos are from my time rafting now, much more leisurely).
If you’re only doing ‘wild’ then you walk back to Basecamp from there. Those doing ‘pretty’ too get back in the rafts, along with anyone just joining for that route, and set off again. As the rafts move away there is another safety briefing and instruction for the benefit of those who have joined the rafts at Jyrävä.
I changed sides for the second part of the trip to try and balance out the workload on the muscles…not sure whether it made any difference or whether I have a ‘stronger side’ when it comes to paddling!
The ‘pretty’ route goes along the river which the Little Bear Trail crosses in parts and on further through the Oulanka National Park.
It is indeed scenic and the paddling is at a much gentler pace with parts where we just drifted along from momentum and the current. Halfway along we broke out the provided rolls and thermos of hot juice while the skipper did all the work 🙂 The area has had a really nice and dry summer but that means the water level is lower than usual which brings rocks closer to the surface…the skipper had more work to do then, like getting out and pulling the raft off the rock…ok, rocks! But that’s all part of the fun 🙂
Sight of the Russian border (marked with the yellow rope across the river, you might be able to make it out in the photo) marks the end of a tiring and wet but great fun afternoon of rafting.
But there’s just enough time before we’re transfered back to Basecamp for the short walk to the border sign for the obligatory photo…and yes, I was tempted, but kept my feet safely in Finland!