The world’s greatest view over Torne Valley
It is a quiet morning and we eat our breakfast in Rantajärvi’s old school diner before continuing our trip down south. We make a stop at the Arctic Circle monument outside the village Juoksengi and jump across the abstract latitude. A globe-like statue of metal is surrounded by eight flagpoles with each land’s flag where the Arctic Circle passes and we snap a few photos.
Just south of Övertorneå is a sign that we follow up to the restaurant Utblick on the mountain Luppio. The winding road gets more and more narrow the higher we get. But we can see that the steep road is all worth it, even from the parking lot; an incredible vast view over Torne River, Finland and the woodlands. Utblick is right when they claim to have the world’s greatest view over Torne Valley – the lunch in the modern glass box that sits on the mountainside, above the treetops, gets even better with the view as a side. I choose a traditional “dip-in-a-cup” – pickled herring and fresh potatoes that are dipped together in melted butter, and Johan takes a tasty beef stew. We enjoy our coffee and a chocolate praline from Arctic Treats on the deck outside, still unable to look away from the view.
Rail bike and eco-living
With some help from Google Maps, we eventually find Vitvattnet after miles on a dirt road through quiet woodlands. The road there felt like no man’s land and it is far between the villages. We spot Vitvattnet Station immediately and a bundle of energy with fiery red hair stands in the doorway.
– Come on in! Come on in! says Ann-Charlotte Lundkvist and we enter the old station.
No trains have departed from Vitvattnet since 2012, but in 2015, Ann-Charlotte started her tourist business and is renting draisines – rail bikes. The total length of the abandoned railroad is 93 km, which makes it the longest railroad in Sweden that got no traffic. The station is used as a summer café aside from the rail bike rental and just a few days after our visit, a vernissage was held in the building. We are given a picnic basket and shown to the rail tracks behind the station. After the safety instructions (no feet on the track during the journey bc 70 kg of rail bike might crush them) we begin to pedal, me on the bench, Johan on the bike. We are a bit wary the first 100 meters and keep looking out for pebbles on the track that might cause the draisine to derail, but work up the courage and enjoy the tour. Johan who has bad knees has no issues with the rail bike and we take turn pedaling. A homemade vanilla bun and coffee is perfect to keep the energy going on the railway before we turn the draisine and roll back to the station.
Ann-Charlotte is also our hostess for the evening, so we follow her in our car for a couple of miles back on the dirt road that we came on earlier. The accommodation is RiipiBo, Ann-Charlotte’s eco-lodge in the forest, with views over the Riipi Lake. Atop a little hill we find the black cabin with red corners and solar panels on the wall.
– You can charge your phones, but no bigger electrical devices, and you have water in the cans, says Ann-Charlotte.
We settle in and walk down to Ann-Charlottes house across the road, next to the lake. The appetizer is handed to us in a basket and we get fishing rods and life vests and jump in the fishing boat that is ready for us at the lake. Johan rows with skill out on the lake and we throw our bobs into the water. It doesn’t take long before I get my first catch – a small minnow that is released back to its habitat. And the lake is filled with fish. We catch more minnows and bass, which we all release back into the water since they are so tiny. I serve the appetizer – a homemade anchovy hash that we spread on crackers and enjoy while the evening sun makes the lake sparkle.
When we get back to the Riipibo-cabin, Ann-Charlotte is preparing slices of reindeer meat that she cooks over an open fire.
– Tonight’s main course!
She smiles and hands us our plates. We sit down on the massive timber stubs around the fire and try her own red- and blackcurrant jelly, which goes perfectly with the reindeer meat, while she talks about the area, her job and passion as an entrepreneur. The dessert is a salty licorice ice cream with oat cookies, served in jars with snap-on lids.