Our campground was still under a full mosquito occupation when we woke up this morning. Apparently they never sleep, and with that it mind we rushed the take-down of camp, madly swatting at the army of insects as we went. We didn’t even stop to roll up the tent, instead opting to shove it into the back of the clown car so that we could deal with it later.
We were a full 9 hours away from Helsinki, and by the time we pulled out onto the gravel road we had less than 24 hours until our flight departed. The obvious and responsible choice would have been to head straight into Helsinki and find a place to stay for the night, and then pack and get some rest. Instead, we went to the zoo.
After a leisurely breakfast, taken in order to kill time before the Ranua Zoo opened, we bought our tickets and went in. We pretty had the whole place to ourselves, only seeing a handful of people during our entire visit.
The zoo is very unique in that instead of collecting animals from all over the world, they only house species that currently live in Lapland or nearby ecosystems (i.e. Svalbard and the southern forests). All of the enclosures were massive and extremely well designed with plenty of trees for the birds and other animals that live predominantly in the forest, wetland for those that live among the northern fells, and even steep, rocky hillsides as appropriate. Because all of the creatures are native to the area and as such aren’t stressed by the climate, they seemed very at home in their enclosures.
We passed several species of owl and eagle at the beginning of the loop. They were all pretty active, with a Gray Owl splashing around in his water bowl. We dawdled slowly along, noting that we frequently had a difficult time spotting the animals in their large enclosures, even with a sign in front of us to tell us what we were looking for. No wonder we have a hard time in the wild!
* We came face to face with this boar in the light and were amazed at how BIG they are. Bree still doesn’t like them.
Several of the animals we actually weren’t able to spot – whether because they were hidden in some tree sleeping or on holiday we don’t know. Several of the other animals we weren’t able to get a good look at due to the distance and size of their enclosure as well, but the fact that they have so much space made me extremely pleased with how the zoo is run.
The star of the show was definitely the polar bears. One fairly small bear had a lot of pent up energy, and we watched as he would pace up and down his enclosure, swimming, or scratching his back on one of the walls. The bear next door, however, was sound asleep.
It was noon before we left the zoo and began our drive toward Helsinki. We were, of course, sidetracked by a cloudberry stand. (Bree’s note: Cloudberry season is only a couple of weeks long here and I was pretty sure we’d missed it. The cloudberry festivals all took place nearly ten days ago and we hadn’t seen any for sale anywhere. When we spotted roadside stands decorated with huge statues of the yellow berries, we were pretty excited!) We grabbed a few for the road. They were pretty tart, but they made an excellent ice cream topping.
After all of that, we finally began to make progress toward Helsinki, reindeer dotting the green pastures along the way.
The weather had turned quite sour with very consistent, heavy rain clouding our vision and destroying any hopes we had for camping in our tent for a few hours. Around 12:30 am we finally pulled into a rest stop where we pretended to sleep in our cold tin can of a car for a few hours before waking up and tiredly making our way the last 30 km to the airport.