Days 23, 24, 25, 26 - Helsinki to Ivalo (Lapland)

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Europe » Finland » Lapland » Ivalo
December 22nd 2017
Published: January 6th 2018
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Some of you may have realised that the Travel Blog is lagging real time. I'm sure that many of you will realise that being a tour organiser is a difficult and busy job. In order to catch up I've decided to combine Lapland into one blog post.

So today is the day we head to Ivalo and the Nellim Resort in Lapland. It's another early start for the Whittle crew and it is bloody dark and bloody cold in Helsinki when we get the taxi to the airport. Apparently Helsinki airport has never been closed due to snow, which I know is not correct because it was closed a couple of weeks ago! They have a special machine for de-icing the planes wings (which seems a limited market), but I am wondering why they didn't need to do it in Ivalo on the way back.

Arrival in Ivalo exceeds all expectations and as a friend of mine described it, it is like Narnia. All the trees are frosted with snow and it has a feeling of remoteness which is unusual. We arrive at the resort and are taken through our activities (Husky sledding, snow mobiling, reindeer visiting, snowshoeing, Northern Lights camp, snow mobiling) Gus and I decide to add an extra couple of hours of snow mobiling. We have nothing on in the afternoon so we decided to grab some cross country skis and head of along a marked trail for a few hours. It is a great feeling trekking through the snow in the dark. I don't really understand the night day thing. Basically it is light from about 10am and dark from about 4, but I think technically the sun only rises for an hour or so.

The next morning it's husky sledding. I haven't had much time to think about husky sledding but as the guide started going through how to brake etc. I started to realise that this may be a little more raw than I thought. Basically huskies are insane. While we were skiing the night before we could hear them howling (which was good because I was thinking rampaging wolf pack at the time) which is apparently what they do after they've been fed. I asked the guide whether the huskies knew what they were doing, kind of envisaging that you'd kick back on the sled and the huskies would gently guide you around Lapland. I drove first with Constance in the front. I quickly learnt that without a brake the huskies will run as quickly as they can without stopping. If the sled in front stops they will just race around it and keep going. As they run along they veer towards trees for a quick pee and pooh on the run. When you brake the lead husky turns around and glares at you. Driving the husky sled is a great experience. Sitting upfront is less so. While I've been away a lot of our friends have been skiing in the US and Canada, posting feeble reports on FaceBook about -4 degrees etc. Two words "harden up". You have no idea how cold it is when you are at the front a husky sled and the temperature is -23. In the afternoon we did some tobogganing around the camp site.

On the morning of Christmas Eve we do another snow mobile jaunt and then come back in time for Santa and Christmas Dinner. The kids were ecstatic to meet Santa in person, although he looked a little like the big, drunk, local Finnish guy Gus and I had been drinking with the night before. Dinner was pork with Turkey and a traditional Finnish dessert (I'd stick with ice cream).

Christmas Day we head off snowshoeing in the morning after walking up to the top of the ridge we light a big fire and Tip (something like that) our Dutch guide heats up some reindeer stew and warm berry juice. Tip has spent some time in Australia and has picked up a number of expressions like "she'll be right", shitloads (while discussing the number of holes required to successfully ice fish this time of year and he keeps dropping the "c" word. So this was Christmas Lunch. Reindeer stew and warm berry juice, but to be fair it was in the most amazing landscape I've ever seen. As soon as we get back we head off on the snow mobiles. When you are driving a snow mobile it is a lot of fun especially the heated grips and the warmth of the engine, when you are a passenger on a snow mobile it is a different story.

This is our last full day and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. It is not promising as it is very cloudy with a bit of snow. We head off on snow mobiles to a reindeer farm and on the way we see a few in the trees. The reindeer roam free for most of the year and the farmers round them up for a pat every so often. They burrow around in the snow looking for berries. At the farm we are told how they each have special notches cut into their ears which identify which farmer they belong to. They are very friendly animals but when you are feeding them you do have to watch out for the antlers. After the reindeer farm we have a crack at ice fishing. As you mall know I don't mind fishing, but it's like golf, if it's raining I'm out. So you drill a whole in a frozen lake (ice is about 3 foot thick) and poke a little lure down through the ice. I would rate the chances of catching anything as extremely low. After 5 minutes I give up. We then have a look at the Russian border, a log chute used to transport logs to the lake and a re-created church built after part of Lapland was given to the Russians after WW2.

We have dinner and head off to check out the Northern Lights. We are extremely fortunate and the lights go off. So much so that our guide is in tears and actually becomes quite emotional (French). Luckily before this emotional breakdown he adjusted the settings on my camera. He said it was very unusual for the lights to be moving so quickly.

We have to leave Lapland. At Helsinki airport we decide that 45 minutes is not enough time to change for our flight to Vienna (I had to change all flights as Air Berlin went bankrupt), so we change to a direct flight to Vienna. Austrian airlines are extremely understanding when I tell them the story and tell me that not only will they cancel the Duss/Vienna flight but all the others as well as that is their policy (Bastards!). Anyway without Austrian airways I manage to change our flights, although I burn some frequent flyer pints and some cash in the process.


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