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Where glaciers ended — Kayaking around Jurmo, Finland

The Finnish Archipelago numbers over 30,000 unique islands. A kayak a tent and some thirst for adventure is all you….

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Duleepa Wijayawardhana

August 1, 2019

Photo: The distinctive kayak of our companion Suzie against the morning sun off the island of Jurmo, Finland

A long time ago, in the misty reaches of an ice age, so far removed from our current rapidly-warming planet, walls of ice a kilometre or more high crept through the lands that now form Sweden and Finland. The sheer weight of that ice squashed the ground like a pancake. But those walls of ice had to have an end somewhere. Typically these would result in the moraines you see in glaciers around the world. One such ancient moraine can be seen nestled deep in the southwest corner of the Finnish archipelago.

Unless you happen to have a sailing boat, the island of Jurmo can be reached via a four-hour ferry a number of times a week (more often during summer) from near Nagu (Nauvo, Finland). At its centre the ferry (imported from Iceland) is mostly for cargo; a way for the islanders to get machines, supplies and fresh food but there is ample room for many passengers and an excellent restaurant.

Photo: Joakim Enckell of Nagu Sea Kayak, Finland

This trip we arranged with Joakim Enckell (Jocke) who runs Nagu Sea Kayak. In the evening sun we carried our laden kayaks on to the ferry and motored slowly through the archipelago. Islands topped with trees at this point, little harbours sheltering masts of boats, wooden docks scattered in thoughtful placement.

The stops in order are Berghamn, Nötö, Aspö and of course Jurmo. You can stay on to the absolute final destination Utö but that will have to be an adventure for another time. On this early July Friday we arrived on Jurmo as the sun was having its brief summerly dip on the northern horizon. Across from the harbour on Jurmo lies a small peninsula where one can set up camps and, if like us you are imitating water centaurs, drag up your kayaks. As the ferry approaches, you can see Jurmo from kilometres away. A long knife-like island strung across the horizon, glistening grey with its rocks in the fading sun. Like elsewhere in the archipelago, the islands here are rising every year. With the weight of glaciers now passed, the islands clamber up ever so slowly, past harbours become meadows, past mounds become hills.

Photo: Painted rocks in Jurmo, Finland

Over the next few days we explored the island of Jurmo, kayaking completely around it and visiting various islands using Jurmo as a base. The island is made up of various sizes of pebbles worn smooth and round by either glaciers or more likely water. Many of the beaches are simply filled with rocks. In other areas you can see the large boulders deposited by the wandering giant walls. While the islands are great to visit on kayak, we also explored the island. Some parts are closed to protect the birds while in other parts there roam highland cattle. We also heard tell of alpacas though they were hidden during our visit. There’s a great history on these wind-swept barren islands. Years of sea faring as well as the more risqué activities of smuggling and warfare have imprinted onto the very land itself.

Photo: Morning islands off Jurmo, Finland

Jocke had arranged each night to be ended with excellent food at the Jurmo Inn and a sauna to work our muscles out. If you have never experienced a Finnish sauna, then it is certainly one great reason to visit Finland and certainly a day of kayaking followed by a sauna is heavenly.

If you are ever in the region of the Finnish archipelago, I would highly encourage a kayaking trip deep into the islands. You will not regret it. I would also encourage you to check out the services of Nagu Sea Kayak. For one thing the equipment is excellent. Secondly, Jocke is an excellent teacher. One of our group was a fairly novice sea kayaker and by the end of it, not only was he confidently powering through the ocean, he even attempted surfing on some waves. We felt absolutely safe with Jocke and Åsa, another kayaking instructor who joined us on the trip, even when the weather turned on us. We ate far too well for camping -- I am sure I gained weight, had far too much sun (yes I got sun burned) and well the pictures speak for themselves.

So many islands to visit in the archipelago, while Jurmo was our destination this time, you can tailor a journey through the Baltic on sea kayaks. I hope you get a chance to visit!

Unless otherwise noted, everything you see here (words, photos, drawings, ideas) belong to Duleepa Wijayawardhana.
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