Monday, May 21, 2018

Replica Cave

While in France, I happened to get a number of brochures for tourist caves. One of these brochures was about the Chauvet Cave, the cave with earliest known paintings from 30 000+ years ago. But, that cave is off limits to visitors, so they built a replica of the cave nearby!

The replica is called Caverne Pont d'Arc and is the largest cave replicate to date. Would be interesting to visit... even if not the real thing.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko (of brochures by Caverne Pont d'Arc).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Baume Obscure Cave

I was on my way to Marseille for a conference. And on the way observing other interesting things... like caves.

I visited the Baume Obscure Cave, 50 km from Nice. A bumpy and surprisingly wet dirt road leads to this place, and you'll find a few shacks for ticket sales. But, if you buy a ticket you'll get to visit an interesting cave.

You'll get to walk on your own pace through the cave. If you want, you can stop at various spots to follow a (French speaking) introduction to that spot and light shows. These are worth your time, waterfalls light in lights, colour lights painting the cave walls, etc.

I was positively surprised by the length of the walk. This isn't a small room like most of the caves I've  been used to in Finland. It also wasn't too commercial either, not one of those we-will-guide-you-by-hand things.

The most interesting parts were the places where water was dripping, or pooling, and where light shows were set up.

This blog is also available on TGR. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. Video editing on and sounds licensed from Apple iMovie. See

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Grotte de Saint Cézaire

Wow, that was a nice tour. Another brief cave visit while driving to my conference, but this time with a specialist guide, Eric, who has been exploring the depths of this cave.

We also got plenty of remarkable shows, like music played on stalactites... or fluorescent water flowing over cave forms.

The cave only goes 200 meter further than the tourist tour, but dye experiments have shown that it might continue for 5 more kilometres and 300 meters down. I guess they continue the dye experiment just for the tourists...

Speaking of down, I also learned that in the French language, cave means a horizontal cave and that aven stands for pit caves, and that they are considered very different. Interesting!

Finally, here are some good links to go search for caves in Cote d'Azur and Provence: Nice caves, Marseille caves. Plenty to see, plus all the non-tourist caves... but I didn't have so much time. Would be wonderful to explore some more.

And here's a nice closet from my French hotel:

This blog is also available on TGR. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


45 minutes before I need to be at the airport. But I'm sweaty. Is there a sauna that I could visit? Yes there is. Santa's sauna.

I visited the Santasport facility on the Ounasvaara hill in Rovaniemi, right after hiking and skiing Ounasvaara ski hill.

Santasport is a sports university, community swimming pool, children's play facility, sports arena for many sports, and a hotel all turned into one. Nice concept!

Entrance fee for the swimming for 8.5€, quite affordable. There's one big and quite nice sauna, and a number of different pools:

  • Kiddie pool
  • Main 25 meter pool
  • Water jet pool
  • Warm pool (34C)
  • Cold pool (5C)
  • Jacuzzi (32C)


Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.


While in Rovaniemi, of course I needed to stop at Ounasvaara, the local and legendary ski hill. They were also equally obviously no longer open, but obviously I hiked up.

Nice. Soft snow, beautiful views over the lakes and rivers in front... not bad at all!

Ounasvaara consists of two separate ski areas, you can transfer to the other on skis, but they are apart from each other, have different parking lots, etc. Not exactly knowing where to go, I stopped at the first one, Ounashissit which has a vertical difference of 110 m. The other part, Tottohissit has a FIS-certified race run and 140 m vertical.

Either way, a nice ski area, definitely worth a day if you're in the neighbourhood. And what a wonderful thing to have right in the city, just a few kms from Rovaniemi city center.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


Coming back from Pyhä and Ruka, we had a day to spend in Rovaniemi. So we visited among other things the Arktikum museum. Complete with a northern lights simulator!

The building itself is also quite interesting, a long and partially underground (and under a road) hall.

The museum has a number of exhibitions. One of these had to do with the history of Petsamo. One of the displays told the story of Engineer Monk Parmen, who was able to repair anything... the guy kind of reminds me of some people I know :-)

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Ski software update

Will software update be enough or should I stop at the repair shop?

Photo (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Holy Vappu!

Reject spring. Ski in Pyhä! Party glasses on and champagne in backpack!

This article is also available on TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. Music by Silent Partner.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Petite Ceinture

I'm feeling a bit alone here. The tunnel ends are too far to see even that pinhole of light. I'm in a long railway tunnel on the Petite Ceinture, the "little belt", an abandoned (I think) rail system under Paris.

And it is officially off-limits, comes with a promise of a legion of rats, and us also the playground of the less fortunate in society. The tunnels on the track are lengthy; the one that I visited was 1.2 km long, and since the other side gate was not an easy climb out, I had to return back the same way. Long walk underground! There were a couple of ventilation shafts with ladders out, but they were locked.

This was a bit different than my experience a few days ago with Jeff on the Coulée Verte René Dumont; that was in sunlight and an officially sanctioned park. This one was ... unofficial or illegal, and I had to sneak in first through a garden to the tracks and then via a hole cut into a security gate to get to the tunnel. I run into either some youngsters or possibly the drug gang on the way in. But they turned out to be friendly.

Also, it is a good thing that flying drones is illegal in Paris. Otherwise I might have flown my drone into the tunnel and crashed to the wall and broken it hard enough that I need to send it to the repair shop. Good thing that didn't happen!

I started my visit through the old Charonne station around coordinates N 48.859273 E 2.403162 in the 20th arrondissement. This beautiful station is today a concert hall, the La Flèche d'or. The Petite Ceinture is a ring railroad around Paris, constructed for both passenger traffic and as a defence supply line. It was opened in 1850s, and passenger traffic continued on it until the 1930s, and goods transport until 1985. The definite guide to the railroad can be found from the official page, although that is perhaps not so practical for visiting it. Other articles that I read include the Atlas Obscura article and the World in Paris article. Read also this excellent Finnish wikipedia article on it.

WARNING: urban exploration, and underground or railway place explorations is extremely dangerous. Do NOT attempt to visit any of these places. You've been warned.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. Tämä blogiartikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Coulée verte René-Dumont

Jeff and I were taking a walk after our meeting in Paris, and happened to run into an "elevated linear park", the Coulée verte René-Dumont. Such a beautiful creation! Also with some old railway tunnels.

We run into this old railway line near the Bastille end in the west, and decided to walk to the east for as long as we had time. It turns out that the park is 4.7 kilometres long; the first park of this kind. The other well known example of this type of recommissioned infrastructure park is the High Line in New York, also a nice stroll.

A bit further to the west the line starts to run under the street level, in a space previously carved out for the railroad, and goes under several bridges and tunnels. The line also passes through an abandoned railway station at Jardin de la gare de Reuilly.

Nice find, and a very nice walk or bike ride. Much recommended.

Here are the tunnels:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Deadly bunker trap

Well, that was dangerous. We're very careful when we visit blown-up bunkers. But, we did not expect intentional traps, at least not recent ones. Next to a bunker in Siuntio, Jarmo almost fell into a 5-meter deep well that was covered with fresh tree branches. Would he have hurt himself if he fell in, or even if not, would he have been able to get out if he was alone? Who does this sort of thing?!

Otherwise, this location was quite a visit, a big 2-storey ZIF-25 bunker in Siuntio backcountry (is there other kind?). Blown up worse than we've seen elsewhere, but still possible to crawl to the main room through the hanging wreckage. And two functional exit tunnels.

We also saw the remains of another bunker nearby, a smaller one and we didn't even bother to go inside to this badly destroyed structured. However, what was interesting that at the back of the bunker there was a cliff wall, with pipes running to the bottom of the wall. With all the snow it was not possible to see if there was something at the bottom, so we'll have to return in the summer.

Here's the hidden hole and tree branches:

And the video:

Pictures from inside the bunker:

Approaching the bunker:

Here's the second bunker:

This blog is also available at TGR. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. All rights reserved. The song "Trap Unboxing" is by Jimmy Fontanez and Doug Maxwell, freely usable in YouTube audio library.

Replacement Poles. Cutting them...

Ski pole bouquet, five poles! Should be enough for redundancy, now.

I lost a ski pole in the Ylläs competition, just an hour or so into it. I had spare ones, although a bit short.

The staff had not received the pole anywhere, nor did we find the pole upon search later. Oh well.

But, this meant that I needed new poles. I use fixed length but lightweight poles unless I'm planning on skinning or packing skis in backpack.

So, I wondered if I could buy another pair from Ski Service, with exact same model and length? Unfortunately, they did not have the 130cm any more... but I got a great offer for 135cms for just 20€ pair. That's a very good price for this composite pole. However, I'd had to cut it by 5cm.

The first attempt at dislodging the glue on the handle did not work with just warm water. But as instructed, with boiling water the glue came off easily. Cut the poles, insert new glue, and now I have correct length poles!

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Salomon Driver Ski Helmet Review

To be honest, I did not expect much. My old helmet was broken in the back, I was flying to the Ylläs competition next day, and the Ski Service shop was closing. They had only helmet model that was even close to what I was looking for. I had to buy it.

What I got was the Salomon "Driver" ski helmet, one with an integrated visor.

I had grave suspicions that it wouldn't work... would collide with my eyeglasses in practice... would leak too much air at high speed... be too hot in slower speeds... and of course it has a weird name, like I was buying a motorcycle or car driver's helmet. Who comes up with these names at Salomon???

But, to my surprise this helmet was a perfect choice for the competition. It never had any issue with my eyeglasses, and it provided good protection in all situations, much easier to use than regular goggles, particularly when I can wear with glasses. It was also very comfortable, a very good fit to my head with or without additional warming layer, even if at first I thought it might have been a tad too small for my big head :-)

I'm very happy with the helmet now.

The only questions that remain are about bad weather, how protective will be in snow storm? And will the visor get easily scratched in travel? I guess we'll see. I suspect it will be perfect in weather, too, and I'm mostly worried that scratches will harm my new favourite ski toy :-) But for now, I can only warmly recommend this helmet!

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.