Im happy to release the trailer of my upcoming short film, “Finnish Lapland: Bumi Misteri” (The Land of Mystery). Its a short film reflecting my thoughts and my experiences while I was on my short journey in Finnish Lapland. I was travelling through the woods in northern Finland on a forest ski with 2 other Finnish adventurers for a few weeks admiring the beauty of the landscape on winter time. Finnish Lapland is truly beautiful and with no sun at all far above the Arctic Circle in the winter time, it was lit by the full moon and the dancing northern lights which make the landscape so special and mysterious…
After a few days experiencing so many activities in Rovaniemi area, we finally drove up north near the Russian and Norwegian border. Cant remember whats the place called since the town (in Sami language) is hard to pronounce with my Malay tongue. But Finland map looks like a woman raising her hand, we actually went to almost the top of the woman’s head. We visited a Sami school, looks like an ordinary school but when we came inside, its very quiet, probably only around 20 students or less in the whole school combined. The facilities are awesome… it really looks like a university! Each students were holding iPad and the teachers are using computers to teach these kids. Besides, they have other complete facilities with musical instruments, climbing gym, a hall with indoor basketball court and all. I felt lucky to be able to witness it firsthand and able to film it. The students also performed some modern and traditional Sami song and dance for my camera lenses and we had fun playing football on iceskate. After some 2 hours of the visit, I gave each of the students and teachers some small souvenirs from Kyrgyzstan, just some small keychains with the shape of a bozui, the Kyrgyz yurta. Here in Finland, I wasnt only representing the Malaysians, but also the Kyrgyz people. So I shared both the Malaysian and the Kyrgyz cultures to them.
After the visit we then drove back down towards the south, passing by Ivalo and Inari, looking for a nice place in the forest for us to practice skiing. This is the main reason why Im here in Finland, to learn forest skiing. The Finns are great skiers, well, perhaps every Finnish people can ski well. To them, skiing is just like walking. Skiing in the forest is probably just a little harder than walking in a shopping mall for the Finns. And here Im travelling with Heidi and Petri, they have years of experience skiing in the Finnish forest and Im gonna learn from the best people.
So after a few hours of drive, we finally found a nice cabin in the middle of the forest to leave the car and as our base. Its a bit tricky to travel at this time of the year… we reached the place in the morning when the sun rose but once we were ready and just started skiing, it was already sunset. We were far above the Arctic Circle and at this time of the year, the daytime is only about 30 minutes. So we just moved through the forest with our skis in the dark. It doesnt really make much difference between the day and night anyway, since the sunlight is so pale due to the sun is just below the horizon. We even joked that we are not so sure whether its actually sunrise or sunset. Night time can even be brighter than the daytime, especially when the sky is clear… when the clouds were giving ways to both the fullmoon and the northern lights to shine in the nightsky. And with the thick white snow all over covering the ground, it really looks bright at night, like in a fantasy world.
After years of travelling the world on a bicycle alone, this is actually the first time Im traveling in a group. It feels much easier and instead of cooking and eating dinner alone outside my tent normally, this time I found myself talking and laughing with Heidi and Petri while waiting for our food and having our dinner. It feels great. We have been travelling only for a few days but since we always travel and camp together, I feel so closed with them. And maybe too because I always spend my time alone in the wild and so used to not seeing humans for days… so I really appreciate having a companion. I sometimes joked with Heidi when she shouted “Harizzz… come here! Your food is readyyy!!” and I simply answered back “Yes mom Im cominggg!!”… and we burst into a laugh. Heidi has a characteristic of a good mother. She cares for everything and very detail. Shes a good planner. Petri on the other hand is a bit like me… we dont care much about anything. I guess if theres a blizzard going on we might just sit comfortably on our sledges in the middle of the blizzard discussing about cameras and quadcopters. And to change my travel mode from cycling to skiing is something very challenging. Skiing is something totally different and it uses totally different muscle system and my body wasnt used to it.
I was so happy that I picked up the skill of skiing quite easily. A big thanks to OAC company in Finland that provided me with the forest ski. Its a really good ski and float well in the soft snow powder in the forest. At first it was quite tough and I got tired faster because I was struggling. But after a few days of training and practicing with them, I found that its really fun to slide on the snow and pulling a heavy load on a sledge doesnt seem to bother me much. At some point, I was thinking that skiing maybe even easier than cycling. The memory 2 winters ago while I was struggling on my bicycle in this same terrain on the Swedish side is still fresh on my mind. I still remember it was very tough to move with my bicycle and my 60kg load through the thick snow in the forest of Sweden and the mountains of Norway where the snow sometimes can reach my hip. But it is still very difficult especially when I have to go through thick forest between trees where my sledge or my skis sometimes get stucked on a tree roots or branches. And this is just a training, the real challenge will come soon when Im back in Kyrgyzstan, where I plan to travel on this same ski in the big and wild mountains of the Kyrgyz, from where the Khan Tengri dwell in the east near the Chinese border all the way south, as far as I can get… towards the border of Tajikistan. I hope that I can do at least 20km a day in Kyrgyzstan, since the day is much longer there compared to here in Lapland.
We had to come back to our base, back to the car once in a while since I have problems with my camera batteries. I dont usually have problems with electricity since I have a solar panel and charger given to me by Goal Zero Malaysia all these while but this time, the solar charger is totally useless, since there is no sun at all here in the Arctic on dark winter. I carried 4 batteries for my camera and it would be sufficient if I only take photos. But shooting videos in subzero condition without any solar charger, I think I need at least 12 batteries to last for 3-4 days. A battery can last me only a few minutes shooting videos in subzero condition. And since Im filming on raw mode, I have to keep transferring the file from my CF card to my laptop and the laptop battery is also another issue. Good thing I faced the problem here so that I know what to do once Im back filming my journey in the Kyrgyz mountains. We also had the chance to visit a group of Sami reindeer herders in the nearby forest, not so far from Ivalo. There we had the chance to experience reindeer sledding, which is totally a different experience compared to dog sledding. We were lucky too when one of the Sami reindeer herder offered to sing a traditional folk Sami song in front of my camera lenses.
After a few days of training and practicing skiing in the forest with them, we finally split temporarily as Petri need to get back to Tampere, Heidi to Rovaniemi and I wanna stay in the forest in Lapland region to keep practicing skiing and hunting more northern lights with my camera. I then spent rest of the days in a nice, quiet and peaceful hostel in a small town of Akaslompolo called 7Fell Hostel… located in a nice location. Its actually in the middle of the forest! It was there where I met a Malaysian girl who are studying in Moscow and now in Finland for a short break. It was great to see someone from the same country after for so long and she cooked me nasi lemak… my favourite Malay dish! I ate everything and almost ate the plate as well since it has the sambal smell on it. I spent a few hours a day skiing and snowshoeing in the forest near the hostel on the “Finnish winter daytime” and hunting the Aurora Borealis for the rest of the days when the sky is dark. I spent the last few days traveling back to Rovaniemi to catch up with Heidi again and had the chance to give a short one hour talk sharing my experience living my nomadic life to the students in SantaSport in Rovaniemi. I also had enough time to show some of the short trailers of my film to them. I hope to keep in touch with these people since theyre great people and I learned an important Finnish word from them, SISU which means stamina+endurance+bravery combined. This was the thing that has been taught to the Finnish army and I need it to cross the big mountains of Asia. After the short talk, both Heidi and me drove back to Tampere, leaving the Lapland, crossing back the Arctic circle to the normal world…
I stayed 2 days in Tampere, not much time to explore the town since I was busy preparing all the travel and filming equipments for the skiing trip in Finnish Lapland together with Heidi and Petri. It was very easy for me to get along with both of them. They are very friendly couple and our conversation always filled with laughs and smiles. Only in a few days, I feel like they’re my own family, my own brother and sister. The days are shorter here compared to Kyrgyzstan. It is so easy to breath here. I feel that it is much easier for me to fill my lungs with oxygen here in Finland since it’s just a little higher than the sea level and I was living for months in the high altitude, about 4000m in the Kyrgyz mountains, where the air is much thinner.
After everything was prepared, we then went for a long hours drive through the desolated Finnish forest towards the Arctic world… towards the Finnish Lapland. It was amazing to see the huge changes from a normal world where everything is dry and warm to a cold place, covered with thick snow once we crossed into the Arctic circle. The sun was slowly leaving us behind the further north we travelled. The auroras started to dance in the night sky once we crossed into the Arctic world. It was dark… and mysterious… It seems that the Arctic circle is not only an invisible imaginery line, but something that really separate the normal world and the Arctic region itself. The world above the Arctic circle looks like a different planet… a planet which doesn’t received much sunlight and always cold, covered with thick snow powder…
We started our journey in the Arctic by visiting the Arctic zoo in Ranua. We were invited to film the zoo and it was great to learn a lot of new information about the fauna life of the Arctic as well as filming it. The real fun started in Santasport Ski Resort in Rovaniemi, when I get the chance to learn cross country skiing from a professional ski coach. It seems that I was doing quite well and picked up the skills quite easy. I was struggling for the first few minutes but after a few falls, I found myself skiing! Maybe its because I learned that my ski coach is actually used to be the second best ski coach in the world (or maybe he still is)… so that fact boost my confidence, I really listened to each of his tips since this is once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
We really did a lot of activities, seen and tried many things for the first time. We visited Artikum museum in Rovaniemi to get some information about the life of the Sami people, the aborigins that live widely in Lapland region, mostly in the north of Finland, Sweden, Norway and some parts of eastern Russia. We also had the chance to stay a night in an Igloo hotel, Ice hotel and tried both the traditional and ice sauna! I really wanted to get inside the ice hotel when I was cycling in the Arctic on the Swedish side 2 years ago but I couldn’t afford it back then. Now I got the chance not only to visit the ice hotel in Lainio but they actually allowed us to choose any room we wanted for the night. It was amazing to see everything is made out of ice, even the tables and chairs down to the drinking glass. They even built a cinema inside hotel… everything made out of ice!
Another interesting activity we experience was the dog sledding… which is also something that I really wanted to do 2 years ago when I was in Swedish Lapland. Of course, I could only watch from far back then since I was travelling at a very tight budget and a few hours of husky ride costs more than a few weeks travelling in Asia. But this time I was given the opportunity from the owner himself, a very nice and friendly Dutch guy who owns more than 60 huskies. It seems that he is really enjoying his life here in the quiet and peaceful forest of Finnish Lapland with his dogs. He even used to do a mutiday trip with his huskies once from near Rovaniemi all the way to Kiruna in Northern Sweden! It was a very interesting experience riding with the dogs through the forest for a few hours, though it was very cold and windy…. Each sled is pulled by about 6 dogs here. They are fast and always running, probably one way to keep them warm in this very cold weather in the Arctic. They travelled about 15-20km/hour, so it can be freezing especially when its windy. I definitely prefer riding with these dogs in the forest rather than driving a car in KL or Bishkek. The only problem was it was dark and I didn’t managed to shoot a good film due to bad lighting and all my camera lens were so foggy. They received daylight only about 2 hours here near Rovaniemi… and there is no strong sunlight anyway. The sun is just right above the horizon for 2 hours making it hard for me to film at this time of the year.
Living in the countryside of Kyrgyzstan gives me some kind of special energy. Being able to stare at the sun on every sunrise and sunset and breath the cold fresh air in the high mountains makes me stronger… both the mind and body. The nature somehow nourishes the soul and the physical body, just like how the sun nourishes the trees with its magical light. After months enjoying the colours of autumn here, the first snow finally fell on earth and covered the land in white on early November. The winter is finally here again. Temperature dropped quickly…freezes everything in only few days. Its scary to look at the thermometer especially at night, sometimes temperature dropped even at -26c especially early morning on the eastern side of the Tien Shan. My normal 3 season hiking shoes doesn’t work anymore in the mountainside. I tried to climb even some small mountains but failed. Everytime I climb a step… I will fall 3 steps down. Its time to get my mountain boot and crampons to work… and to protect my feet from being frozen.
I tried to keep exploring the mountains on my bicycle but at some point, I realized that it was a bad idea. I looked like a clown riding my fully loaded bicycle trying to get higher in the mountains that are fully covered with thick soft snow powder… except that I was on my winter clothes instead of a clown costume. After days of thinking on how do I pursue my journey during the winter season, I finally came out with the idea of using cross country ski and snowshoe to explore deeper in the Kyrgyz mountains. After I did some research on the Internet, I was confident that its a good idea to combine cross country skiing and snowshoeing to explore the high mountains on the winter season. Only problem is, I never done cross country skiing before. I tried alpine skiing twice before but its something totally different. Skiing while pulling heavy luggage is something even more difficult, especially when you are not used to even normal skiing. So my first step was to prepare my body for it. I keep my bicycle in the balcony and start running in the mountains everyday to keep myself fit… well… at least.
While travelling on the southern part of Issykul Lake, I stayed a while in a small village called Bokunbaeva, to meet a Kyrgyz hunter who hunts wolves and foxes using his eagle. Its a tradition in Central Asia that people hunts using eagles especially in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Here in Kyrgyzstan, it seems that this man is a star and well known among the Kyrgyz eagle hunters due to his experience. Upon reaching his house near the mountains, I was being stared by 2 fierce looking eagles once I walked through the front door. I was introduced to both eagles and the most deadliest is surprising the smaller one, named Tumara, weight just about 12kg and when she spread her wings, its about 2 meters wide, just like those NBA basketball players. The other eagle is bigger and weight about 16kg, but slower and less aggressive. Tumara is slightly smaller but very deadly, she bites much faster than a cobra, she can dive from the sky towards her prey as fast as 240km/hour, she can carry a small sheep on flight and can kill a big size wolf in only a single attack… making her the most deadliest creature in the Tien Shan mountains! It was a good visit and I plan to come again on deep winter to travel together with the hunter for a few days in the mountains and film the hunter and the eagle in action.
A week later I came back to the civilization, walking in the street of Bishkek surrounded by almost a million of people. I then felt relief when I discovered that the flight is so cheap to Europe… another advantage for me to have a base here in Kyrgyzstan. Taking a one way flight from Bishkek to Istanbul is cheaper than taking the bus from Xian to Urumqi when I was in China few months ago. I then made some research on the Internet, contacting a few people in Europe trying to get more information about cross country skiing. At first I plan to get to the Swiss mountain to learn skiing from the Swiss mountaineers until I came across a good documentary on youtube about the winter war between Finland and Russia during the World War. I was amazed to see how the small number of Finnish soldiers defended their soil against the massive Russian army, coming to Finland with their huge tanks and other heavy artillery. The Finns were outnumbered but they destroyed the whole Russian army and its heavy artillery by moving fast through the forest just by using their skis. They must be really good at skiing in the forest then. I then decided to go to Finland and started to contact a few people in Finland. I finally crossed path with a Finnish couple (Heidi & Petri) who are adventurers and just about to form a company doing travel and adventure guide around the Lapland region (www.adventureapes.fi). After some long conversation over Facebook and a few email exchange, I then booked my ticket and on the end of November, I flew to Sweden from Kyrgyzstan.
As usual, I dont plan when doing any kind of journey or expedition. I will just go and surprise myself everyday. Well, thats how I live my life anyway. So its the same case with this journey. Once I reached Arlanda airport, I have no clue how to get Finland. I just walked calmly to the information counter in the airport trying my best to look like a lost dumb tourist. And the journey begins right after I walked away from the information counter with all the information I need. I got into a bus, then found myself walking carrying my heavy bags in the busy street of Stockholm, got into the wrong train, then another train, then a long walk through the coast at night, found myself in front of a ticket counter in a ferry terminal and finally in a small room inside an overnight ferry from Stockholm, Sweden to Turku, Finland. After a good 8 hours of deep sleep inside the small cabin, I woke up fresh, had a nice warm shower, a good breakfast and waited another hour before the ferry landed in Turku, my first point in Finland. I took another few hours of bus ride before I finally arrived in Tampere, where I finally met my Finnish wilderness guide, Heidi and Petri.
I would like to share the Behind The Scene video on the second season of my travelogue documentary, Dengan Basikal Aku Menjelajah that will be shown again on TV Alhijrah soon with full 13 episodes this time. This is the short version of the BTS explaining how I filmed the journey while traveling alone on a bicycle, how I power my device etc. Its narrated in Malay but with English subtitles. More videos like this to come. Enjoy! :)