My first ever overnight stop in my van was at the ABC Service Centre just outside the town of Orivesi. These larger service centres are great places to stay, particularly if you need to buy more supplies, grab a pizza, or drop a deuce. Not to mention, you can conveniently fill up on water and fuel before heading out the next day. Just make sure to ask the manager if it’s ok to stay there overnight. Depending on the place, it’ll be ok, or it’ll be ok for a small fee, something like 10€. Anyway, it ended up being a good first experience. Apart from some teens on their motorbikes popping in for a few midnight burnouts in the massive carpark, the place was super quiet and I got in a very restful night’s sleep.
Early the next morning, I headed off to Central Finland. I arrived at the beginning of my visit down memory lane when I reached Summassari, the location of a spa and rehabilitation centre where I’d worked for a while as a physiotherapist way back in 1991; and to say it felt super weird to now see it totally uninhabited after it had, I think, become bankrupt at some point, was an understatement. Seeing all the same places, the spa centre, the main building and restaurant area, and all the lakeside holiday cottages, now completely empty, I imagined being in Pripyat, the town outside of Chernobyl, which was completely evacuated after the nuclear disaster there. Being in this place again after some 30 years, especially in its current state, gave me a strong sense of melancholy, but it felt like it was very important for me to walk over this ground again once, as if I was getting the chance to put some old ghosts to rest.
Prior to moving on from Summassaari, I quickly popped into the Stone-age Village area. It wasn’t open yet for the day, but I could still see some of it. I could also see how it seemed to be existing on life support. It just felt worn out, but somehow still clinging on to making a few euros from the few tourists bothering to now visit there after the demise of the spa centre. It just felt kinda sad.
As I continued on to my main destination of the day, Pyhä-Häkki National Park, I dropped by the country town of Saarijärvi, where I’d lived while working at the spa centre. It was crazy the parts that I remembered with crystal clarity, such as the athletics field and adjacent churches, while other areas were barely a familiar, but hazy blur in my memories. Still, I think it was good, just like with Summassaari, to also tread over the same old turf here.
And then I arrived at Pyhä-Häkki National Park to walk the Kotajärvi circuit, a 6.5km walk through some of the most amazing flora in all of Finland. In my next blog and video, I’ll be sharing lots of that hike with you, so I guess I’ll catch you again in that one.