White water rafting does not involve the most attractive outfit in the world. Over your normal clothes go thick rubber dungarees, a coat of the same shiny blue material, wellington boots a few sizes too big, a lifejacket so well padded you can perform sumo wrestler moves on friends worry free, and, finally, a helmet strapped under your chin that immediately makes your scalp sweat. As soon as you are dressed like this, all you can think about is how much to now need to pee.
The gang of us from FCP didn’t care, though, as we looked out over the Kuusamo river near Ruka in Lapland, our rafts ready and waiting for the twenty of us to embark on our final adventure before leaving Lapland. Before us stretched seven rapids for us to conquer, armed only with trendy neon coloured oars.
Our boat quickly decided that a team name was needed to rally us together into one body, rowing in harmony, and we became Team Reindeer. I’m not sure it worked, as our ever-patient guides Janne, Andri and Johannes kept up a constant shout of instructions “right side paddle! left side brake! paddle HARDER!” as we approached the rapids, which, I must admit, were less the swirling white waterfalls of death we had all imagined and more just places where the water flowed a bit faster over shallow rocks.
Still, the best was yet to come, as once over the gauntlet of the rapids we drifted down the rest of the river past the most beautiful scenery Finland can offer, and Finland does pretty amazingly in that respect. The endless vista of pine trees reflected in the still water was breathtaking, and the only sign of man’s hand on the landscape was the very occasional tiny log cottage or Sami laavu tipi peeking out from a clearing.
Our newfound peace didn’t last long, as the three rafts drew abreast and we got down to some serious war. Our humble vessels became Viking longboats as the three teams got completely soaked, splashing each other desperately, helpless with laughter. We were approaching the log cabin where coffee and lunch were waiting for us, and Team Reindeer didn’t need much support from Andri to end the rafting in style – we all stood up, held hands and jumped into the freezing river, and spluttering swam to the shore, wellingtons and all, to dry out by the fire.
Want to do it yourself? Check out Ruka Rafting. The gorgeous photos are by Karina Kold.