We are in Gällivare. We are driving to bottom of the Grand Canyon of Aitik. Mounted on our car is a flag that from a distance looks like the antenna of a remote control toy car. All ordinary cars are equipped with these. There is one difference between having a car collision on the Midnight Sun Road and in the pit of Aitik. If you run over by a truck in Aitik you will not be hurt, you will vanish completely. No kidding!
The road is 25 meters wide, at its narrowest. We meet several monster trucks on our way down. If you like the feeling of handling horsepower this must be the dream job. There is some heavy machinery in these trucks. On a single day, the trucks consume just as much diesel as the average rural car driver does in a year. Thousands of liters of diesel are fueling each truck every day. You need a five meter deep lake of the area comparable to Guolehis Suolojávri (6 km²) between Kautokeino and Enontekiö for the trucks’ annual consumption of diesel.
Maybe they are getting quantity discounts on the fuel, who knows?
Down at the bottom we get close to the excavators. A whole 100 meters is close enough. The machinery in action, the noise, and the setting is almost like a future scene of a Terminator movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thank goodness, it is daytime. We are not so deep that the sun doesn’t get to us, which is of course the case in the real Grand Canyon. Every time the excavator has filled a truckload it blows the horn. It beats the noise level in a Deep Purple concert.
If you run over by a truck in Aitik you will not be hurt, you will vanish completely
We climb out of the pit and head for the workshop. This is where the Caterpillar personnel work in the engines, not with the engines. Angelo jumps into the engine and film a little bit. We talked with Mr. Allan McClelland from Scotland who is one of the mechanics. Caterpillar has just produced a new line of monsters, and Allan is making some modifications and implementing some fine tunings. They are doing required maintenance and are shifting parts as well as whole engines after their numbers of labor hours have reached a certain level.
Then we drove to a stack of tires. The size of these tires is ridiculous in more ways than catches you in the eye. The unmistaken rubber smell was in the air. The big caterpillar trucks wear out a set of tires in 6 000 – 7 000 hours, about a year. They are transported three to six wheels at a time in open 40 ft containers to Gällivare. These tires are not the kind you can change in a heartbeat.
They are brought straight from the factories in Spain, Japan and the US. Aitk New Boliden is using tires made of Bridgestone and Michelin. The average wheel weighs between 5 000 and 8 000 kg, and cost between Euro 45 000 and 55 000 each! And then you have the real big tires costing Euro 60 000 each!
Some toys you just have to experience.