Last Saturday saw me and my friends getting up in the dead of the night to travel to the airport and pick up our rental cars. After deciding who goes with whom and stowing away all our luggage, the 15 of us headed of on the 1000 kilometre journey to Äkäslompolo on the border of the Ylläs national park. The journey there was quite uneventful and we had the chance to admire the finish landscape covered in snow and lakes and the sea frozen over. We stopped st one of the northernmost points of the Baltic Sea, where we had a beautiful view of the sunset. Even though the view from the car was monotonous: trees, lakes, roads and more trees and lakes it was a spectacular sight to behold especially the long frost covered roads that continues straight onwards for dozens of kilometres without a single bend.
After about 14 hours we arrived at our cottage, waited for everyone to arrive, cooked dinner and had a nice sauna. On Sunday we had a traditional Bavarian breakfast, as we in Finland, do it like the Germans. Anyway, we had beautiful sunshine and only -13 degrees so we went for a hike in the deep snow and got completely lost and stuck in the waist deep powdery snow. After getting back on track we found a nice hut where we had a rest and then scaled the top of the “mountain” (530 metres) from which we had a great view of our surroundings and the sun setting on the horizon. The way down was even more fun since the snow covered all the rocks so that we could jump and slide over them with our little sledges or just on our belly or rear. This made the descent a lot of fun, event though the last half hour was once again walking through deep snow.
After the strenuous hike on Monday we decided to have a relaxing day indoors playing games and trying some uphill sledging. Traditionally the people use long sledges as a means of transport. They stand on the skis and push of and propel themselves forward with one of their feet. You can see them moving around in this manner to go shopping or just to bring their kids to school. We modernised this get up by the means of a rope and a tow bar. Thus we reached speeds of 35 kilometres an hour whilst sledging uphill. In the evening we once again played games and enjoyed some time in the sauna. It is really amazing, one sits in the sauna at 80 degrees and then you go outside to -20 degrees. Immediately your hair freezes and when you move your arms you can hear all the frozen sweat on your arms cracking. Then after a quick lie in the snow it’s back inside to warm up again.
On Tuesday we had booked a husky and snowmobile trip which was very expensive but worth it. Having doned cold weather gear we got an introduction to the snow mobiles and then set of. Travelling along the track was noise but really fun since at 30 kilometres per hour you were jostled around quite a bit. After a half hour ride we could hear the dogs already barking over the noise off our engine as they were cooling down. Whilst waking towards the husky camp the noise got even louder and we were introduced to the huskys and the technique of sleigh riding. We then each got allocated a sleigh and we’re good to go. As soon as the dogs noticed that we were getting to start their yelps, barks and bowls grew to a deafening crescendo and I got scarred since I’m not really a fan of animals. The dogs all around us in their cages started barking and were trying to pull the sleigh away from it’s parking position. Luckily, as soon as the rope tethering the sledge was unfastened, the dogs went wild and started running at a leisurely pace without making any noise, this was really nice. I took a bit of getting used to how one brakes and steers the sleigh but after a short while one really got used to it. At the half way point we switched drivers and I got to actually sit in the sleigh. Here one was at eye level with their dogs and could also smell them… Once we got back to the camp we talked with the musher’s about the dogs and we’re soon back on our way with the snow mobiles. But this time, the speed limit was switched of so we got the machines to a staggering 75 kilometres and hour. Doing a kick start like this one could really have fun on the wide expanses of open like and straight tracks in the woods were it sometimes was even possible to jump over smaller hills. After having had this experience driving and drifting in the car was really boring in comparison.
Wednesday saw us practising a traditional finish sport: cross country skiing. After trying to help everyone else with their technique and how to move forward we decide to head into the hills to the hut we had already visited on Sunday. Heading upwards whilst skating was very strenuous but lots of fun. After having rested and warmed ourselves up in the hut and having eaten some cookies and roasted apples and bananas on the fire the fun downhill part started. Taking a slightly longer route back we arrived back at the lake and the town in time to witness a beautiful sunset with colours ranging from blue through to purpose orange and turquoise. During the evening chances were high of seeing the northern lights, so we headed about 25 kilometres northwards to a remote hut to try and see them, and see them we did. Already driving there everyone was really excited and ooming and aaing. After walking to the hut I also could behold this magnificent natural phenomena. Green lights chasing each other through the starry sky, each one with a different form, size and strength. The lights were intermittent so we stayed outside for about 1 1/2 hours whilst it was -28 degrees always hoping that the next lights would be better than the ones before. Once we then got back to our house e all warmed up in the sauna.
On Thursday we decided to travel faster through the nature and rented some fat bikes. These have got extra big tires do that you can cycle through the snow, but once you get to slow you mostly fall of and can’t start again. Also, because the tires are so big the resistance whilst cycling is big and thus using this means of transport is very strenuous. Once again we stopped in a hut, burnished ourselves and tried to defrost our beer and alcohol which had completely frozen. After a longer brake we headed of again abs got lost. We then followed an official oath which was completely covered in snow and whose only other followers had been some animals. The snow here was really deep, so pushing and carrying the bikes was tiresome but the descending sun made it bearable. After having rounded a corner we came to a bigger clearing where we saw around 100 free grazing reindeer, completely oblivious to our presence. We edged closer and closer to these creatures and they did not seem to care. Some of the braver ones even cane to take a closer look at us. We stayed with these animals for about 30 minutes before heading onwards following a really nice trail which meant that biking was quite technical, jumping over and ducking under trees and branches whilst trying not to loose the path. Once again we were rewarded with a mesmerising sunset on the lake. In the evening chances for northern lights once again were high. Since we didn’t fancy driving again we just headed of to the lake and were rewarded with even better lights than the night before. The colours weren’t just green but also red and purple and the lights were gigantic moving similar to transversal waves. Once again it was so cold that my beer froze barely minutes after going outside and my eyelashes and other hair in my face caught my freezing breath.
Friday was our last full day in Lapland, after having a lie in, some of us decided to go for a nice little hike. After going along the trail we cycled along yesterday we had a short brake in an interesting art gallery and cafe. We then headed back to our house but on the way followed signs to a reindeer fence. There we found about 50 reindeer grazing and munching some hay. Once again they were not interested in us and let us get quite close. What surprised me most though, was the the farmers had left their snowmobiled ungraded and with the key in the ignition. How trustworthy these people are! In the evening we once again played some games and went into the Sauna.
On Saturday we then got up early and made the 980 kilometre journey back to Helsinki. Whilst driving we saw a beautiful sunrise and driving along the long empty roads in Lapland was a lot of fun. Once in Helsinki we also caught glimpses of the sunset.
Summarising the trip I can say that it was the experience of a lifetime: seeing the northern lights and reindeer’s, taking a husky and snowmobile ride and spending time with a great bunch of funny and cool friends!