29 January to 1 February 2011
Last year we decided it would be fun to have a short break to the
Lapland region of Finland, partly inspired by the
saw on a glacier in Switzerland in 2009, combining a bit of
husky-sledding with some other wintry activities.
Approaching Troms° airport. (We were invited by the pilot to continue to
take photos after the seatbelt sign was switched on.)
The dying rays of the setting sun at just after 2pm are a clear
indication that we are inside the Arctic Circle
Passing over Troms° - the airport runway can be seen in the centre
As we turn to come in to land, there is a wonderful view of the sunset
behind the mountains, and the Sandnessund Bridge which links the island
on which much of Troms° is located to the larger island to the west.
Safely landed, and it's a cold scene at the airport.
A cheerful Lucy as we queue outside to go through passport control.
We then had a four-hour coach ride south-east from Troms° (or that was
the net direction, the fjords and mountains making the actual route much
less direct), crossing into Finland where the mountains gave way to
fells. The road continued parallel to the river which forms the border
with Sweden, and we eventually arrived in the village of Karesuvanto
where our hotel for the next three nights was located. The village is
located in the municipality of Enonteki÷, which covers 8400 square
kilometres but has a total population of just 1865 people
We found our room, had a very acceptable dinner, and then followed the
red flags through the night to the "suits and boots room" where we were
kitted out with thermal suits and boots.
On Sunday morning at 8.30 we joined four others for the journey to the
"Call of the Wild" husky safari. What we hadn't appreciated was that it
was a 70-minute drive to the place where the huskies were located, but
it was an interesting journey watching the twilight gradually brighten,
and being far more aware than in the coach last night of driving on
snowy roads at up to 100 km/h. It also showed off the remarkable
emptiness of this part of Finland.
Lucy puts her mittens on ready for the off.
Stephen well wrapped up. It varied between minus 18 and minus 21░C this
Our six people from Karesuvanto had joined others here, and we had eight
sleds, each with six dogs. We ended up at the front, following the guide
on her snowmobile. Here some of our dogs wait to be put into their
At the half-way point, it was time to change driver, and Lucy takes a
...before taking up the standing position. As the dogs were following
the snowmobile, there was no need to steer - though trimming the sledge
as we went round corners was called for - but there was need for careful
watching of what was going on in front, and using the foot brake
accordingly. The person at the back was standing on the two narrow
runners, each covered in ice, often with only one foot as the other was
being used for braking. The person at the back did have the advantage of
being able to use bent knees (not totally dissimilar to waterskiing) to
absorb the impacts of the bumpy ground, but the person on the sledge got
the full force of what was at times a very bumpy ride.
Nevertheless, great fun, and as this had been the starting point for
thinking about coming on this holiday, things were off to a good start.
A couple of six-week-old husky puppies.
Some of the accommodation for the 450 or so huskies that live here -
many of them seeming to prefer to be outside rather than in their
houses, despite the cold temperatures.
Back at the hotel, the view from our bedroom window, past the snowdrift
and down into the valley.
We had a free afternoon so after lunch took a couple of the sledges that
were available for use and pulled them up the hill until we found a good
Lucy heading down
Steering round the corner
A wonderful view across the valley to Sweden
Stephen nears the bottom of one of his runs down the hill
In the evening we had a trek through the forest, in the hope of seeing
the Northern Lights. Last night the sky had been clear before we went to
bed, but there was nothing to be seen; tonight it was resolutely cloudy,
so we made do with a fire and some hot juice.
Next day we decided to try some cross-country skiing in the morning,
another thing that neither of us had done, though Lucy had done a bit of
downhill skiing when at school. Lucy is keeping a close eye on her feet.
Stephen had to remove his glasses as they steamed up and then the steam
froze. Much warmer today, though - only around minus 12.
At the end was a modest little hill by downhill skiing standards (it
looked more fearsome from the top), but enough to be a challenge on
crosscountry skis for someone who has no experience of downhill skiing.
Lucy made it most of the way down before tumbling; Stephen had three
goes but didn't manage to get to the bottom.
The afternoon saw a reindeer sleigh ride
It was much more sedate than the husky ride, and snugger too under the
rug and skin (whereas we were exposed to the elements on the husky
Most of the trip was along the frozen river: here we are turning round.
The reindeer from the sleigh behind, which kept coming to say hello, and
being worryingly friendly with its antlers.
Back at the farm, feeding our reindeer with lichen
Stephen cooks a sausage over the fire in the mock-Sami hut
The evening's highlight was a snowmobile drive, again with the
possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. It was a fifteen-mile round
trip, starting with a moderately technical bit among the trees and down
the hill, crossing the main road, then along the frozen river and then
continuing across the Arctic wastes. Half-way, we stopped for a cup of
hot juice. It was cloudy but this eight-second exposure shows a faint
yellow-green glow on the horizon (and a snowmobile bottom centre with a
person to its right). Not very satisfying as regards the aurorae, but
the night-time snowmobiling was a great end to our action-packed two
As we pause while our guides help with a broken-down snowmobile, time
for a quick photo of Lucy at the controls.
And as we park the snowmobiles, Stephen.
On the final morning, Lucy practices for her forthcoming concert
The view from the dining room
A shame this photo from the dining room was left until the last day as
on other days the sunshine and clear air had made for a better view, but
it's still a good outlook across the frozen river to Sweden.
And then the four-hour coach journey back to Troms°. Overnight snow had
made the roads rather whiter, but it didn't slow down the coach which
raced along at
90 km/h and took the corners at almost that speed. Here we are crossing
the border into Norway.
The roads in Norway were twistier and hillier, but still the coach
continued at a great pace. It is a remarkable contrast with the chaos in
Britain when there is snow - and notable that their method of coping
doesn't seem to involve any grit or salt at all, just snowploughs and
winter tyres - plus the good fortune to have a different type of snow!
And so ended a short but exciting and memorable holiday.