“Let the Chips Fall Where They May” Tour – Part II

Norway, Finland & Sweden – Part II – Nordkapp to Karasjok
Night drew to a close the end of another long gruelling day of traversing the roads of Scandinavia, and the four of us humans, along with Balthazar and Ed the Sock, found ourselves in the Sami town of Karasjok near the border crossing Finland. Originally, we had planned to make our way further east towards the border with Russia, because Jonathan and I had created a scale of points when it comes to photo taking, and high on our list of prized shots was to get a picture of either Ed or Balthy with a Russian border guard. Time was against us, though, and we had to make our way south instead. So far, neither of us have accrued the points for this photo, but life is still not over for us yet! Instead, we found another one of those cozy cabins for the night, which are wonderfully plentiful in Norway, to rest our heads, and after a quick nip of whisky from Tomek’s hip flask (strange to have a Pole carting around a flask full of whisky and not vodka), Jonathan and I decided to leave the married couple on their own so that they might enjoy some quality time together and hit the town, see if we could find a watering hole and indulge in an overly-priced beer or two before retiring for the night. We rationalised the cost of alcohol at a pub with the thought that, “Hey, we are heading out of Norway and into Finland tomorrow; we should celebrate!”. Yes, any reason to drink is a good one. We did find a fire blazing in a hearth and some liquid refreshment at a roadside establishment that, in all honesty, reminded me a bit of an old dive I used to frequent during my high school days.
There was a place called PJ’s Last Chance under the bridge that led across the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, MS into Louisiana that was a favourite haunt for all us teens to go and get drunk due to the fact that you only had to be 18 to drink in Louisiana while Mississippi was 21. It was on an old dirt road and had the look of one of those dingy shacks that people in the middle of nowhere drink at because there is nothing else around. Think redneck biker bar, but full of metal-heads and jocks (it was one of the only places where the two cultures mingled due to the lower drinking age). Later, in my last year of high school, there was also a place called Daiquiri World near by that sold cocktails via a drive-through window. Now there is the essence of intelligence there, don’t you think? “Hey, kids … don’t drink and drive! But come on by in your car to pick up a nice frosty Long Island Ice Tea in a Styrofoam cup to keep your thirst at bay as you drive back home across a bridge into another state where you are not even of legal age!” Well, both places were quite popular to say the least, and many memories were had, and lost, there.
Anyway, after shelling out a small fortune for a beer each, Jonathan and I quickly made ‘friends’ with some locals at the bar. I guess they could sniff out foreigners like us as soon as we walked into the room. Two gentlemen, clearly intoxicated, came by and had a seat at the booth with us, and the older of the two began rattling on in some unknown tongue. We were delighted to find that the younger gent spoke a smattering of English and proceeded to tell us that the older man was speaking in Sami and that he didn’t really understand him that well either. The elderly Sami man was constantly smiling, though, and we perceived this to be his jovial, kind nature … until … well, the younger of the two then decided to tell us that the we should be wary of the old man, because he was a bit of a dirty bugger and enjoyed the company of young boys just as much as the ladies … come to think of it, the younger one continued, he was even partial to some animals as well. With smiles on their faces, they continued this conversation well past the point of “ha ha … that’s quaint” to the level of “hey, Jonathan … I think we need to be going now before we wind up tied to a post in the middle of a small reindeer herd and have sweet nothings whispered in our ears by an old man wise in the ways of skinning Rudolph’s relatives. Yes, I do enjoy listening to this unique Sami dialect, and I’m sure there is so much history and culture we could learn here, but at the same time, I’m frightened to death and wish to cower under a bed with the lights out!” We politely made our excuses and left the establishment as quickly as we could.
The next morning saw the end of our journey with Tomek and Barbara, as they decided to stay in the area for a while longer and take in the northern regions more fully. To this day, I really wonder if it had more to do with us and the Robbie Williams CD.
“Kochana, I really think we should ditch these two freaks of nature,” I imagine Tomek saying to his wife whilst Jonathan and I were out conversing with the perverts at the bar. “I cannot believe we were so desperate as to have hitched a ride with these two … and to have continued with them this far as well!”
Barbara peers into her husband’s eyes, sees a true look of fear and despair there and replies, “Should we sneak out tonight while they are gone, or do we just hide in our room until dawn? I am too tired to run at this moment, and it is quite late. There are wolves in this region, so it may not be safe at night.”
“Wolves be damned!” Tomek shouts with his fist in the air. “I would take my chances and prefer the saliva drenched fangs of the beasts as they rip into my flesh, tearing the life essence from my body in strands of gore than to have to listen to their horrid puns and that cursed Rock DJ again!”
A tear comes to Barbara’s eye, but she is strong. She places a loving hand on Tomek’s cheek and whispers into his ear. “I would fight by your side even against the multitudes of Hell, but we must bear one more night. Tomorrow we shall slip away with grace and dignity and live to tell our children and our children’s children of the horrors they must face in this cruel world. We shall be a pillar of strength unto them, and they will revere us all the more and sings songs of the hardships we had to endure.”
Love for his wife and her words conquers the fear inside him, and Tomek kisses his wife full on the lips. “You are right, mój skarbie. I shall be resolute and brave. Forgive me my moment of weakness. But if those two return from the pub singing, I’ll lump them over the heads with a stick!”
We said our goodbyes and passed along our well-wishes to each other, promising that we would meet again after I had settled in Poland. Jonathan and I then set off for the Finnish border in our trusty Rent-a-Wreck. An amazing site was to be beheld as we drove the car through the centre of this sleepy Sami town that day – a lone, black haired wolf was traipsing through the early morning mist down the empty main street. It seems Tomek and Barbara had made the correct choice after all!