Taking the Journey Home: Kayaking in the Land of the Northern Lights

Nicola Didsbury
Thursday, 1st September 2011

One of our readers went wild camping and kayaking on Lake Inari in Lapland, Finland, and experienced an ancient, traditional way of life and a deep sense of community. As Nicola paddled and became absorbed in this beautiful landscape within the Arctic Circle, she also gained insights into how to live her life after the journey. We were moved by her story and asked her to share it with other Permaculture readers.

Our adventure starts at base camp, not far from Ivalo, at a campsite on the shore of Lake Inari, in Lapland, northern Finland.

The plan is to train how to kayak for 2 days then take off into the wilderness, deepening my shamanic practice and learning wilderness skills. That first evening we sit in circle and introduce ourselves, answering how we are feeling right at that moment. Excited and full of expectation! Two days later, after two days of training, we set off in our kayaks. There are 14 of us and three party leaders.

My initial days sees me splashing away in my kayak, I'm so relieved when we arrive at our first island camp. At times during the day I seriously wondered if I will be able to keep up, everyone seems so much more able and fitter than me. With every paddle I seem to lift a lake full of water, and the paddles feel so heavy. However I soon cheer up when we land on the first beautiful island. Our wilderness guides Petri and Mallu quickly show us how to build a fire designed for cooking. Very different from the mad oil barrel fires my partner makes in our back garden. They source dry wood, cut logs to a particular size, quarter the logs, then lay them in a square, leaving space in between for smaller wood. The design allows for the cooking pots and coffee kettle to be set into the fire. This first night we dine on sausages skewered onto sharpened silver birch sticks, which we cook over the flames. Delicious. One of us designs a pine skewer, this is not recommended! We each pitch our tents, and settle to sleep in the wild north of the arctic circle. Well some of us sleep, a lot are kept awake by lemmings scuttling around their fly sheets

Porridge cooked over the open fire starts the day, then we pack up the tents, stow everything back into the kayak and set off. Chris Luttichau is our Shamanic guide. When we paddle we attempt to keep a formation, and hold in mind an intention. Unfortunately I struggle to keep my place in the formation, and am so busy trying to keep up that I can't keep the intention in mind. Never mind, as our guides start to look for the next island to camp on, we come into a calm and sheltered bay. Its overcast, but the sun is not far away; in stillness I *will* the sun to come out, and am delighted when it does, how wonderful to float in silence, resting with the sun drying my wet clothes!

The island they find is very special, there is a very ancient Sami hut which is still kitted out to support winter ice fisher people. It feels like such a privilege to see this ancient way of being. Perti describes how it was built and how the people would have used this house.

The third night takes us to the most northerly point on our journey, well into the arctic circle. No meal this night, we're going on vision quest. And what a night, watching the sun slip just below the horizon. It never gets dark. It does get cold and I start to think I'm never going to be warm again. I have never felt so much joy seeing the sun rise at the amazing time of three in the morning. I'm kept company by a family of sandpipers who also sit quietly watching the sun rise.

Mallu and Petri have porridge waiting for us, and a homely camp fire. A day off kayaking today, Petri shows us wood and carving skills, Mallu takes us on a wild food forage, cloud berries are wonderful! Then a truly amazing shamanic walk with Chris.

Day five, we set off back to base, my kayaking skills have improved immensely, I can now hold the formation and the intention. Today the lake tells me a secret, in rhythm with the paddles, trust-glide-flow-slide, and amazingly the kayak does just glide over the water, and I understand that this applies to real life too. A lesson I can take home with me. It feels like we've slipped into a magic place of trust, as we land early on an island. We sit in circle relating our quest experiences, during one of which three Arctic Jays come over seeming to welcome us to their island. Later we discover the bare supports of a sauna. We decide to camp early, and pool all our tarps to have a midnight sauna.

Two more days of paddling through the most beautiful and peaceful landscape and we're back at base camp, relaxed, fitter and full of love and laughter. We've grown into a strong community, each looking at how to help, supporting each other, in our own individual ways. Each dreaming how nice it would be to live in real life in such supportive community, close to nature and the elements... 


Do you have a special place that inspires you? Have you undertaken a journey that has given you insights? Or would you like to share some beatiful landscape with us? If so, please email maddy [at] permaculture [dot] co [dot] uk and tell us about it, however simple. We would love to share your stories. 

Sue Watkins |
Sat, 30/06/2012 - 11:01
Would like to know who to contact with regard to booking this holiday. Thanks.
Nicola Didsbury |
Fri, 05/10/2012 - 22:11
The holiday was organised by Northern Drum. This is the URL for the 2013 trip. http://www.northerndrum.com/calendarframe.htm Nicola