On a smaller island there is a wooden chruch named Ilinskij Pogosta, which was built more than 200 years ago. The church is behind those very high spruce trees, which grow in the graveyard. This church is a wonderful piece of history. It is from the time when people lived on the islands of Vodlozero, also in other places than Kuganavolok. We visited a "museum", which was just an old building full of old tools and things needed in agriculture. Some horses had been released to the bigger island where we had our camp.
After this sightseeing we jumped once again to the boat and continued north. On the lake we met a catamaran with a group of Russians, who were coming down from the mouth of Ileksa river. The river. Is the main waterway through the Vodlozero park. There is also an ancient road, that follows the side of the river, and is even marked on some maps, but nowadays it's just a path.
We arrived to the Novkuda hut, which is also marked on an information table. Novkuda river runs from east and joins Ileksa river just a few hundred meters north from the hut. Note that the area the sign shows is almost 200 km from North to South. Even though we had some language problems, all the rangers were friendly and helpful.
The next day we started our hike and went 25 kilometers along the riverside to the north by foot. There has been small villages in a few places along the rivers and lakes, but now trees or high grass grow on the fields. On the first hiking day we got into old growth forest which had a lot of fallen trees on the forest floor. We saw a huge gnarl from far and went closer. None of us had ever seen such a spectacular sight although we have been to many places in the northern taiga, and visited nearly all Finnish National Parks.
In the evening we finally got to lake Luzkoje, which is about 1-3 km wide and 15 km long from east to West. Close to the southern side of the lake, there are the ruins of an old village but some of the houses are repaired for the needs of the Park rangers and the visitors. All around the buildings and especially on the helicopter landing platform there were enormous amounts of raspberries. We slept well, but were still a bit tired in the morning from the hike of the previous day so we decided just to row to the other side of lake Luzkoje with the boat we found on the beach. On the other side of Luzkoje there were just bogs and small forest islets between them. I climbed to one of the highest trees and got a very nice view from there. The tree, which I climbed, was as high as the other one in this picture, in which you can also see the Eastern end of lake Luzkoje. In the afternoon we planned our route for the next day. It was a bit difficult to communicate with Volodja, our guide, (on the right) but we enjoyed his company.
In the morning we continued our hike with Volodja, who was our guide for the next tree days. Not far from the village of lake Luzkoje we went by a little decayed cabin in the forest. That was not so special, but if you look carefully at the picture, on the left in the picture, right at the front of the cabin, you can see a little dark pole, which looks like a stub. But it is not a stub, it is a little memorial monument in the forest. Probably it is someones who used to live in the cabin or nearby. Along the upper parts of Novkuda river there is a paradise for canoeists, at least a very challenging one... In fact, I have never before seen a river in such a natural state. For instance In south of Finland, every little river is cleaned so that logs could be floated to the nearest sawmill. Nowadays trucks are used for driving logs but the rivers remain cleared.
It was easier to hike along the wetlands, a bit further from the river as the grass was not high there. But when we got back to the forest from the relatively open bogs, it was like walking into something. In these forests, surrounded by wetlands, the trees seemed enormous. Compared to the usual tree size in Scandinavian forests, these were really quite big. Further down, Novkuda the river became wide, so that the fallen trees are flushed away during the spring floods. Our guide made a fire and slept close to it, we slept in our tents. It was amazing how peaceful and quiet there was in the taiga the night.
We spent two nights at the same camp and went to explore the forest with light day packs. In some areas there were huge aspens, half decayed or alive, here and there. Just everywhere that we looked, we could see aspens. But there were also larch (tamarack) trees, which do not grow naturally in Finland. This place is the most western place where larch grows naturally in Europe, at least this north. In one place there were so many of them that I got 13 larch trees into the same picture.
This group of aspens became immediately my favorite place. I had visited this place already in the winter. We did not see many animals but at least here had a bird been some time ago. Some shelfs were big and easy to look closer at. Generally, this part of Vodlozero park was one of the most interesting areas.
Some bogs are very large. Sometimes it looked like the doomsday has arrived. But, fortunately, these trees had died due to the changes in the water level. It was time to go. Next morning the boat arrived from Kuganavolok. On the way there, we picked up a group of Russian students from Moscow, who were coming down the river Ileksa by canoes. Horses enjoyed their lives lying on the beach in the harbor of Kuganavolok, and children had fun with cats and us.