And so I was scampering around lake Saimaa, Finland’s largest water basin. In a few days we got to appreciate this charming region, both for its beautiful landscapes and for the intriguing culture emanating from the local small towns and the community’s rural history. But we weren’t just hanging around with nothing to do. We happily dug into the many activities available, both in the water and on the land. The tragicomical results – no need to say – were just behind the corner.
ATV forest safari
The ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) in our hands were quads. The forest, the one surrounding Lappeenranta, one of the main small towns around lake Saimaa. After gaining a bit of confidence – a not before some embarrassing moments – we threw ourselves over slopes and turns, tearing apart the dignified quiet of nature. I can’t deny I enjoyed it like a child with a new toy – a large, noisy and fast new toy – but our abrupt appearance in the forest also caused some degree of guilt. The forest folk, I thought, wasn’t exactly waiting for us. But I relied on the good sense of my Finnish friends. After all, they should know about forest, being 70 per cent of Finland covered by it…
SUP boarding in lake Saimaa
Another intriguing acronym. This time it stands for stand-up paddle, or in other words the paddling over the lake standing on a board. The water wasn’t more than ten degrees, therefore I wisely turned down the dive skin in order to gain greater motivation and not fall in the lake. But I did jump in the water after a very satisfying sauna in the lodge hosting us, Houssukan Helmi.
Paddling at Harjun Portti
I guess this one doesn’t need any introduction. In a cove of lake Saimaa, close to Punkaharju, this little dock allows for entertaining trips on kayaks and other small vessels. From the shore, in a few minutes one can reach a land entirely covered by forest. The urban hustle seems far away, the dry air fills the lungs and empowers the paddles.
Biking to the cyder distillery
While hosted in the beautiful Anttolanhovi Wellness Village we gifted ourselves with a pleasant bike trip towards the nearby cyder distillery. The say the truth, our rides weren’t in top condition, the wheels were too smooth, the breaks weren’t very responsive, and moreover the paths fending through the thick vegetation were quite demanding. Or maybe we are just terrible sport people. In any case Mother Nature welcomed us in her warm hug and with some effort we got to the distillery. And we found out the shop also works as bar and restaurants. The way back was far more cheerful…
It wasn’t my first time on a rope in some adventure park, therefore I was emotionally prepared to the shameful performance I was about to offer in Adventure Park Atreenalin Saimma, Lappeenranta. The most audacious tracks – ‘Sport’ and ‘Adventure’ – include daring combinations from one tree to another up to 14 metres up in the air. We skipped them, of course. And moved well resolved to the one labelled ‘Atrophy’… sorry, I meant ‘Family’. Three to seven metres.
Parasailing! Awesome! Great! Luckily for me, at 70 metres in the sky no one could hear me screaming. Here is how it goes: you take off from the boat and finish in the same boat about 15 minutes later, during which time you float in the air fastened to a rope which you hope is steadier than your pulse. The sight of Saimaa from above, with the small green islands on the surface, is a wondrous experience and, if the wind doesn’t pull too many tricks, the adrenalin rush is all in all limited to thrilling pleasure.
Floating in the river Vuoksi
It is exactly as it sounds: floating. Our last Finnish exploit saw us fitting in these huge, waterproof, floating suits, making us look like a bunch of giant muffins catched by the stream.
Further information and contacts
Quad trip – Angry Birds Activity Park
Kayaking – Harjun Portti Tourist Centre
Adventure Park – Atreenalin Saimaa
Parasailing and floating – Water-SkiZoo
The press tour around lake Saimaa has been partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund.