A 2CV Raid to Murmansk? Ruut van Schie and his rally buddy Raymond van der Meij think it is an uncanning idea. They didn’t need any more encouraging to enlist.
Around Christmas 2016 I stumble upon a Facebook message stating: ‘In January 2018 we plan to drive to Murmansk. Who wants to come?’ An old fantasy pops up. Defying winter, snow and ice, looking for the Northern Light. And all of that behind the wheel of a Citroën 2CV, it doesn’t get any better. Together with Raymond and a yellow 2CV we call Rosie (although she never responds when we call her), we create Team Rosie. In the last few months Rosie has been (p)repaired for her task. Engine revision, insulation of doors, roof and floor, heating blowers, fog- and reverse light, two new batteries, oil temp gauge, oil pan protection plate and an extra protection skid plate fitted. Carburetor adjusted, new engine and gearbox mounts and an overhauled starter motor. The interior was fitted with boudoir red upholstery, a 27MC installation and a battery lock. Part two of our winter holiday!
January 27, 2018, Murmansk. Within two hours we have finished the scheduled tour of Murmansk. The city clearly doesn’t lead the ranks of citytrip destinations.
First we visit the monument for the unlucky crew of the nuclear submarine Koersk. Followed by a visit to the Russian Orthodox church. Us men need to take of our hats and caps, the women on the other hand, are supposed to cover their heads. Completely logical. Good thing none of us is wearing shorts. On to the monument commemorating the Second World War. A large statue on the hill flanking the bay. Murmansk has always played an import part in supplying the Russians. Its harbour situated on a warm gulf stream, thus remaining ice free at all times. The air is still freezing though, so we are glad we can get back on the bus.
At our hotel the local press has gotten air of our Raid. Interviews are being given, video’s taped, pictures taken. The parking lot is crowded with Murmanskians. Apparently there isn’t all that much to do here in Murmansk. Until late in the evening people will be posing with the cars in the parking lot.
In the afternoon we take Rosie on a trip to the harbour. We enjoy our lunch at the diner of a lady who’s English is just as non-existing as our Russian. We all smile politely and are of good will. She helps out by talking really slowly and articulating extremely clearly. Alas it doesn’t improve our comprehension of the Russian language. We eat a lasagne that consists of potato and mince meat. It tastes fine. The accompanying rolls appear to be filled with meat as well. Of course, didn’t she just explain that to us? We return to our hotel. Our schedule shows a visit to the Lenin, the first ever atomic ice breaker, and of course, dinner. It’s going to be a long night.
January 28, 2018, Murmansk – Kaamanen. We take the most northern route past Kirkenes to return to Finland today. A narrow and winding road, taking us from Russia, through Norway and eventually back into Finland. On the declaration forms I declared we would be returning to Finland directly. There are several ways to keep warm here in the extreme north, making mistakes on your custom declarations is clearly one of them.
The promised steep and twisty Highway to Hell appears to be completely renovated only two years ago. By lack of anything worse we have to make do with it. There are no roads north of this one, this is truly the end of the world. Because of the hills and peaks we experience multiple sunrises today. The view is breathtaking, the light mesmerizing. Meanwhile temperature drops way below minus 20 degrees. Our engine isn’t really warming up, failing to defrost our windscreen, which slowly freezes up.
We’re getting close to the border once more. First check by a lovely lady of the immigration services, accompanied by some soldiers.Her Norwegian counterpart at the next gate sure isn’t half as surly.Her interrogation techniques look a lot like sincere interest in what we are doing here. Outside, one of her colleagues is looking inside the car, stating that it is quite ‘full’. I promise to make enough room for her, thinking I might even leave Raymond behind just to accommodate her. She’s got work to do, Raymond doesn’t know how lucky he is.
The Norwegian landscape is once again a completely different one. The road takes us along a fjord and back into the woods. We are still enjoying ourselves, shooting heaps of pictures. As we are accustomed by now, we drive past our lodgings. Don’t forget, these are slippery conditions we have to face. Raymond suffers a blow to the head. We make up quite a few good stories about what happened, my favourite, the blunt end of a Kalashnikov, looses to a fight in the car and the hatstand in our bungalow. Tonight dinner serves reindeer. We get to go to bed early tonight.
January 29, 2018, Kaamanen – Posio. In front of our bungalow an engine is pre-heated using tea lights. Very cosy, yes, but the effectiveness is still under scrutiny of several men in white lab coats. Our key got lost. I neatly stored it in my coat pocket, but leave the others to discover it in the lock of our front door. That’s who I am. We leave the campsite and turn left. Our Reindeer-app assures us the chances of meeting a herd of reindeer is substantial. After a while we turn back on our trail. Fifteen minutes after our departure we once again pass the campsite. Making good progress, we are.
Looking for a nice little road. Our route is already fantastic, but here is always room for more. In front of us we discover four fellow 2CV’s. What a great sight, those wobbling cars on the winding Finnish roads. Our path of choice is to the left. The reindeer-app suggests we soldier on just a little bit longer. Nothing there. We return and choose the road we had planned at first. A beautiful snowy road in the direction of Kiitali. The chances of seeing reindeer here are large, according to Gert-Jan, our expedition leader. The app disagrees. No reindeer in sight, in the app we trust.
From Kiitali we take the direction of the Ice Hotel. Based on the app, we take an alternative route. Taking us along paths that wind through the forest in a most magnificent manner. Great! At some point we discover this is where the snow plough decided to turn back. We can’t but agree. In the end we do find the Ice Hotel. Not a reindeer in sight, but the hotel is superb. Overwhelmed by the sculptures and the grandeur, we wander through the place. Rooms haven’t gotten any doors nor bathrooms. Still one night in the Ice Hotel will set you back 500 euro’s. We decide to take a rain cheque.
Dusk sets in. Are we finally going to see some reindeer? Nope. WhatsApp is sending us pictures of other teams and the reindeer they encountered. We loose all what is left of our confidence in the app. It’s nine pm when we finally arrive in our hotel. We have a beer, receive instructions for tomorrow and might just have mentioned we were going back to our room to prepare some fastfood. Somehow some of our companions truly believe we’ve got a deep fat fryer tucked away somewhere in Rosie and follow us to our quarters. It is going to be a late one today.
tekst Ruut van Schie
foto’s Raymond van der Meij