17th March 2017
During the planning phase of the #ArcticAdventure, the conversation was understandably dominated by the most northerly point on our expedition map – Ivalo, Finland. The journey through the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia was our caravanning version of scaling Mount Everest with Test World, Ivalo, being our summit.
The journey home, although a significant part of the trip, played second fiddle to the main event, much like the descent for the fortunate few who conquer the Mahalangur mountain range.
Rather than retracing each step, we’d head back towards the Oulu Ice Road before turning right and crossing the Swedish border. As is customary in this part of the world, the site in Kukkola was equipped with such luxuries as a kitchen and sauna. BBC’s Camper Van Cook, Martin Dorey, kindly agreed to cook a curry that evening and went to the block to get preparation underway. Ten minutes later he emerged from the building as white as a sheet. Visibly shaken, I thought he’d seen a ghost but instead of paranormal activity, he’d bumped into a naked lady who emerged from the sauna and engaged him in polite conversation. Us Brits just aren’t cut out for this sort of thing.
With snow, saunas and shaky hands behind us, our next stop was Sundsvall Camping which overlooks the Gulf of Bothnia. The sun was out, the sky was blue and the photo I posted of the Thetford cassette admiring the view was retweeted by the Swedish Tourist Board, god love ‘em. From Sundsvall, we headed for Gothenburg with it’s amazing tram system and abundance of American-inspired eateries before popping into Volvo’s Swedish HQ to see how our XC90 tow cars were born. The tour was in Swedish, no phones or cameras were allowed but it was amazing to see how an army of robots can produce vast quantities of vehicles with surprisingly few people at the controls.
Denmark followed via the imposing Oresund Bridge which leads to an artificial island 5-miles away. The island transforms the bridge into a tunnel and 2 ½ miles later, deposits you on the Danish island of Amager. We’d picked a blowy day with wind speeds making it difficult to walk, but with speed reduced accordingly, we took in the stunning view, crossed into Denmark and pitched at a site near Copenhagen.
The following day was the biggie - 533-miles with the added complication of catching two ferries, one of which would transport us overnight to the UK. The strong winds remained (of course they did) but Martin worked his lunchtime magic in a German layby, conjuring much from very little, dividing the journey into manageable chunks. Making good time across Denmark and Germany, the ridiculously heavy Rotterdam traffic changed an early arrival time into one that made us wonder if we’d make the Hook of Holland ferry at all. Luckily, and with more driver stops that we’d originally anticipated, we arrived in time to board, have dinner and get a great night’s sleep. By the way, if you’re thinking of visiting Holland or surrounding areas, the Stena Line crossing is a corker.
With thirteen hours of driving the day before, munching through 100 miles the following morning seemed like popping to the shops and with a feeling of déjà vu, we arrived back at Millbrook Proving Ground in disbelief. In just sixteen days we’d crossed twelve countries and two time zones with a motorhome and a pair of caravans. We’d travelled along mile-after-mile of ‘road’ that was simply hard-packed snow and crossed 6-miles of frozen sea - twice. Best of all, we’d caravanned 180-miles inside the Arctic Circle, put up an awning and drunk tea underneath it. Now, that’s something us Brits are comfortable with.