11th February 2013 | Krystyna Chauncey, Finland
Last modified on October 21st, 2020
PlanetSKI is in the Arctic Circle in Finland to see the Nothern Lights. It is the best time to see them for decades, trouble is that it is overcast. No matter there is husky sledging, reindeer safaris, skiing and ice floating.
Today was going to be rather fun.
A reindeer safari, an activity called ice floating, rounded off with a snow mobile ride to an ice village for an icy banquet and a chilly night in an Ice Hotel.
We may even get to see the Northern Lights if the cloud ever clears.
If you have read the earlier blogs you will know I am here to see the Aurora Borealis. According to NASA they are the best for decades but so far it has remained stubborny cloudy.
No matter though as it has been fun – despite the aborted and rather scary first landing as we arrived in the Arctic Circle. See here for the account of Day 1 and Day 2.
As I woke up on the third day I saw it had continued snowing through the night and the snow lay heavily on the trees.
It looked pretty but wasn’t so good for star gazing.
Telephone cables hung low with the weight of heavy snow, and the roads remained covered in deep compressed snow. It was also cold. -13ºC
Without the assistance of snow chains our driver still hurtled along confidently at 80kmph.
We were heading to Venejarvi.
It translates as “the wooden boat on the lake” and sits along the Swedish-Finnish border.
It’s close to Kolari that is the last stop in Finland and home to the northernmost railway station in the country.
900km from Helsinki it can take up to 18 hours by night train, operating midweek and weekends only so not viable if you’re in a hurry.
As we sped past we could see much snow on the railway tracks.
I wondered if Finnish Rail made excuses like having the ‘wrong type of snow on the lines’.
As we approached Venejarvi our guide warned us not to ask how many reindeer the Sámi farmers owned as its rude.
It compares to asking someone in the UK how much cash they have in their bank account.
Each reindeer belongs to a Sámi farmer and is marked distinctively for each owner to identify his or her own animal.
During the summer they graze in the southern marshlands or Fells but are rounded up and corralled for the winter.
The reindeer are counted annually and currently number 120,000 in Finland. Each animal has its fur slashed to indicate they’ve been counted.
The males lose their antlers after mating in October, but the females retain them till their calves are born in April, at which point they lose them too.
They re-grow even larger the following year.
We arrived. Sami and Marjut took us straight into the corral to feed the reindeer with ‘magic moss’, which they absolutely adore.
It’s their special treat for visitors feeding time and they surround us expectantly.
There seemed to be around 200 reindeer.
Then we got into our sleighs for a ride through Narnia.
Without a thermometer it was difficult to tell just how cold it was but there was no doubt the temperature was way below zero possibly around -12ºC.
But that was going to be fine as we wrapped ourselves in blankets and cosy reindeer pelts and waited for Sami to hitch up our sleighs.
My reindeer was called Vekkuli loosly translated as Large Feet.
Behind me was Rocky, a majestic slow plodding beast surprisingly named after Sylvester Stallone.
And off we set in a train of sleighs.
The fresh snow on the trees made it especially magical, and we sat back and enjoyed the ride through the snowy forests of the Arctic Circle.
It really felt like a scene from Narnia.
The 8km ride was soon over. Whilst it wasn’t the most exhilarating activity it was one of the most beautiful and relaxing rides and certainly one for the whole family.
Next up on today’s agenda is ice floating.
I didn’t relish the idea of floating in the icy waters of the Arctic Circle, but I’m up for trying anything at least once.
I had to make sure I was going to be first in Lake Yllasjarvi or else I just wouldn’t go in at all.
We had to remove all ski pants, jackets, snoods, hats gloves etc before dressing in a rather odd red rubber suit.
These thick rubber survival suits have been designed for Arctic expeditions so they’re meant to keep you snug and dry, so I should have been more trusting.
The red suit comes complete with integrated rubber shoes, extra strong translucent orange rubber gloves and a tight fitting zipped-up cap.
This is where my thermals were going to be invaluable.
All I could think of was thank goodness I was wearing my Icebreaker underwear. Having removed all my outer clothing I was hoping they really would keep me warm.
I gingerly stepped into the red rubber Teletubby suit and was zipped up into a red life-sized ‘Po’.
It was hysterical.
We toddled over to the frozen lake where a large hole had been carved out in the ice and a wooden step-ladder dropped into the icy cold water.
The ambient temperature was around -12ºC but the water would naturally be warmer and couldn’t actually be colder than 0ºC. So we were told anyway.
I slowly descended the wooden steps and lowered myself into the icy water. I ooohd and aaahd loudly.
The sensation was surprising.
The air in the suit was displaced by the water pressure outside and rushed from my legs upwards.
It was such a strange feeling to feel so buoyant.
Once my feet touched the bottom of the lake, I slowly leaned backwards and floated away from the ladder.
My body felt light and weightless. I closed my eyes and just drifted away occasionally bumping my head against the ice shelf.
It was so quiet and was so relaxing.
This surreal experience was followed by a traditional Finnish sauna complete with scrubbing your body with snow or rolling in snow.
Anyone who knows me will laugh in disbelief but yes truly I did scrub my skin with snow and yes I did roll in the snow more to the point I have five fellow ‘Po’ witnesses to vouch for me.
And if this wasn’t enough we went on to the infamous Lainio Snow Village by snow mobile.
More of that later…. I wonder how the Northen Lights are looking above all that cloud……….
Krystyna is travelling with the ski tour operator, Inghams.
For a PlanetSKI feature on the Northern Lights and the holidays run by Inghams then see this earlier feature.
Inghams feature the resorts of Levi, Saariselkä and Ylläs in Lapland and offer a selection of 3* and 4* hotels, cabins, chalets and apartments.
In Ylläs stay at the 4* Äkäs Alp Apartments for 7 nights on a self catering basis from £509 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick to Kittilä and resort transfers. Regional flights are also available from Manchester and Birmingham (+£19)
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