Finland Holiday

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 dogs Stephen 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 morning.

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 harnesses.

At the half-way point, it was time to change driver, and Lucy takes a quick photo...

...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 downhill run.

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 sledge)

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 days.

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.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson