Early in December 2014 Antero got his new Volkswagen Caravelle complete with lift. Within a few days of the van arriving in Finland, we tested it on our first road trip and took it back to Germany on the Finnlines ferry for a long weekend visiting the Christmas market in Lübeck and the sands at Travemunde. Actually this wasn’t much of a road trip as we didn’t cover any great driving distance and stayed in a hotel in Lübeck but it was great being out and about in a brand new vehicle.
The longest road trip we’ve done with the van so far was in mid July 2015, from Helsinki to Posio in south Lapland. We planned to fit the van out so if necessary we could sleep in it. We had “slept” in the Skoda once or twice before when we’d really had to, so this could only be better. Jokingly Louise was calling the van the “hippy mobile”. We had a folding plywood shelf fitted which would fold out to become the base of a bed for an air mattress. We planned to store our bags under this. Louise dug out several colourful African and Thai wraps for curtains for the windows. We bought a few road trip essentials such as a water container and were good to go. We didn’t have a practice night before we set off.
Cold July night with mosquitoes
Day 1 was a 12 hour drive with a lunch break in Kuopio and dinner in Kajaani. It was getting late and we were tired. We tried to find somewhere to camp and eventually pulled off the road by a lake near Puolanka. We had not practised putting up our bed system before so this was not the best of times to test it out. Luckily it is still daylight at 10pm at night in north Finland. Clouds of hungry mosquitoes pinged around us when we got out of the van and of course several managed to get inside. We blew up the air bed and unrolled the sleeping bags. We hadn’t really thought about how we really would go about hanging the cloths and where we’d put the chair… We were cramped but once inside our sleeping bags we were ready to sleep. This was mid-July and we had not counted on temperatures dropping to 2 degrees during the night. We woke in the night freezing, the air in the mattress below us was of course very cold. The mosquitoes pinged annoyingly around our ears. Not a happy night!
We got up early and had breakfast camping style using the Trangia stove we’d packed to brew tea. Day 2 ahead was not going to be such a long drive and we’d have beds in a warm lakeside cottage with sauna to greet us at the end. We’d survived our first rather rough night in the van and knew we’d laugh about it later.
A night on an island
After some enjoyable days in Posio, it was time to head home back to Helsinki but not the way we came. We wanted to drive down the west coast of Finland as neither of us had done this before. So we drove across Finland and headed for Hailuoto, a small island in the Northern Gulf of Bothnia. Spending a night on the island was the plan. We drove to the far end of the island by the lighthouse and discovered we could pay a small fee to park with the real camper vans and use the shower and kitchen facilities of the guest harbour for sailing boats. This was great – it meant we could cook and take showers. There was also a ramp to the toilet block for Antero.
For the night we left the wheelchair outside the van and so had a bit more room inside. We weren’t bothered by mosquitoes so slept better. Waking up by the sea in the morning was invigorating and we could have a good breakfast in the harbour kitchen. We spent the next day exploring the island. More information about Hailuoto island
2 nights in Rauma
In August we drove to Rauma for the close of the 2.4 mR World Championships. As Antero still has good connections although no longer actively sailing, we were able to park in the competitor’s car park for 2 nights. This time we replaced the punctured air mattress for light soft foam mattresses. These proved to be a bit hard on the base but we managed ok. Our hippy curtains must have looked funny amongst all the sailing crews but who cares. As the weather was good, we were able to leave the wheelchair and other things outside the van. We could also use the harbour showers. A highlight was going out on the boat on the Saturday to see the final race day. Antero and sailing buddy Jussi in the car park.
Rauma old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with really beautiful wooden buildings, well worth a visit.
Have van will camp again
So our nights in the van in 2015 may not have been the most comfortable but they were fun and gave us a touch of the camping experience. They also saved us some hotel expenses. Maybe we will do this again this year, even abroad, who knows!