Do you need a guide…

…to hike in Laponia? Probably a good question this time of the year as many are working on vacation plans for this summer. And, when you think of the costs for guided tours as well as personal equipment and costs to get to Jokkmokk, it would be wise to think double hard about guide services.

tarrapath04.jpgPhoto: A small group of hikers crossing Palkat Stream in the Tarra Valley

The background to so-called “Laponia Guides” is that, after close to 10 years of doing nothing more than erecting a few signs, Jokkmokk and Gällivare municipalities had to market and advertise “Laponia” in order to sustain, or at best, create new income areas within tourism. Through EU project fundings, the Laponia Group was created to get the ball rolling. A few people were employed in this temporary project group. A website was created, and a course in “Laponia guiding” was started, where participants would receive an “official Laponia guide” diploma. (It should be added here that this project doesn’t exist anymore and people are grappling for new ways to make an income)

Participants in these courses were mostly motivated to attain diploma status, a status to prove a person’s knowledge of Laponia and give them a “legitimacy” with guiding, but the participants had very little, if any, experience in dealing with people or even quality time in Laponia to such a degree that locals would almost feel uncomfortable. I feel it was like start-a-business-and-hope-to-learn-on-the-way. One can ask, does a diploma make a person a guide and does this diploma signify quality?

But, everyone was happy. It was a win-win situation. Long-term unemployed people could start new businesses as tour guide operators and the Laponia project could show they actually did something other than warm chair seats.

The key thought with all this is that, since the end of the 19th century, people have been hiking in Laponia without needing a guide! So, Why need guides now? The answer is probably to satisfy the egos of community leaders, possibly create a new market saving communities from financial decline and to instill a belief that visitors are incapable to hike in Laponia without this…uh…guide person.

If you want to go hiking in Laponia, all you need is some equipment, a little knowledge with map reading, some experience with tenting, an eye on weather conditions, being out in the bush and… plain old common sense! Just follow the paths. Not hard, eh?

resize-of-churchcoffeestalo01.jpgPhoto: Laponia hikers at the yearly church services at Staloluokta. WHICH ONE IS THE GUIDE?

What people need is extra equipment. Like a kajak or canoe. What Laponia needs is an outfitter…they don’t need people portraying themselves as guides and who need a yearly income to be able to live in the area. If anything, beginner Laponia hikers need a few hours of common sense talking with an experienced Laponia hiker and…off they can go.

With a correct frame of mind, investigations and planning of a hiking trip and some risk management, most people don’t need to follow in the footsteps of a guide to enjoy Laponia. Most people shouldn’t want to shell-out between 12,500 SEK (£1,034)-16,500 SEK (£1,328) extra to follow after these guides and most people should need to use their savings for travel costs, basic equipment and food needed to get so far north. It’s all a bit of a scam, really, for people to fall for.

If people need anything, it is the confidence to not be so easily led to believe they need a guide to hike in Laponia! Think about this!

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