That sinking feeling…

The pack ice fractured easily as the ferry bulldozed it’s way into the Port of Helsinki.  Still in the Eurozone, entering Finland was a formality, and we were soon heading north across an endless land of rolling forests and lakes, with just over 400 miles to go to the days goal of Oulu, a port and university town near the Northern end of the Bay of Bothnia, and home to one of Finland’s more famous ice roads.

The first 200 miles of the drive were fairly uneventful, despite the roads being an unconvincing mixture of grit, tarmac and ice, banked by snowdrifts and covered in veils of blown spindrift.  However, after dark, the spindrift worsened, and became so illuminated by headlights that it was impossible to see the road for worryingly long periods of time.  For 4 hours we pushed on through the grit and ice patches in various degrees of blindness until we reached our evenings destination, full of relief.  Once again, the Jaguar never missed a beat, purring through the days drive without so much of a hiccup.

Refreshed by a full nights sleep, the sun shone brightly as we approached the ice road this morning.  We stopped to attach video cameras to the Jag, and as we did a local car emerged after attempting the road, stopped, and wound down their window, advising us rather persuasively not to attempt to drive the 8km route.

But attempt it we did.

Everything went smoothly until we were a few kilometres from shore, when some patches of waterlogged ice appeared in the smooth ice of the road, signs that the ice had thinned to a point where it was unable to support the weight of a car.  Unable to stop and turn around, we were forced to swerve around the rotten ice, forcefully ramming the poor executive saloon through snowdrifts at the side of the road when there wasn’t room to drive round the bad ice cleanly, sending plumes of white powder high into the air.

After about 500m of this, our luck ran out, and we were forced onto one of the rotten sections of ice, which promptly gave way beneath the wheels on the right hand side of our hefty steed.  Fortunately, I was driving rather fast since the dangers began, and 40mph was just sufficient to skim the Jag’s right wheels over the disintegrating ice and onto more solid ground.  Keeping the foot down and swerving around further thin ice and ‘Baltic potholes’, we soon reached an area of bad ice crossing the entire ice road, fortunately preceded by an area of ice solid enough to turn around on.  Mustering Monty Python’s rallying call of ‘run away’, we spun the car around and headed back to shore, ramming into the snowdrifts at the side of the track to avoid the worst looking ice – including the bit we’d broken through, which now had two ocean-filled tire tracks clearly visible.

And even through this, the Jag never missed a beat.  Touch wooden dashboard, there can be fewer more satisfying things to spend £900 on than a 20 year old XJ6…

Ben.

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