In the Lapland everything is a little different, the sounds, the smells and certainly the modes of travel. Almost everyone has a snowmobile here, so of course we had to try it out. We went on two different snowmobile treks, one night ride to look for the Northern Lights and one day ride (day is relative since it gets dark at 1pm). My first time driving a snowmobile went well, most of the time. Riding one of these things is like riding a super wide motorcycle across ice. You really feel the terrain as the front skis glide over just about anything. It is really cool zipping across a frozen lake at a high speed.
I learned the hard way that you want to be careful on sloped terrain because these guys tip over easily. Of course with your wife on the back that doesn’t go over so well but it happened to me twice. Lou was not pleased. The second snowmobile was the size of a small Mac Truck and when it went over there was no way I was going to tip it back up. It took three people to lift the thing as I sat pinned under the monster.
On our second trek we headed out of town with Andreas, our guide, to his family summer retreat on the lake. Andreas is a Sami native. The Sami people are indigenous to the area and have special privileges. They are the only people allowed to own and farm reindeer. Reindeer in the Lapland are like cattle in America, every one of them are owned by a Sami. A Sami’s wealth is determined by the number of reindeer he owns. They are herded and tracked using GPS collars and helicopters. So on the way out to his family farm we saw lots of reindeer and moose.
We headed out on our snowmobiles towards the summer retreat which sits on a lake. They have several cabins and a small restaurant. In the summer the place is packed with Swedes. In the winter they take tourists on snowmobile treks.
When we arrived at the lake, Andreas pulled out the ice fishing gear. A large auger that we used to drill an eight inch round hole through the ice. I figured by the size of the hole we were not fishing for anything large. Once the hole is drilled you take a small strainer and remove the slush from the hole. The fishing poles were about a foot long, we figured they must be for kids but they were what they use for ice fishing.
Andreas baited our hooks and we dropped the line down through the hole. Then he suggested that we stick our faces down in the hole and he would cover us up with a tarp. I thought immediately he was playing the “stupid tourist” trick on us but sure enough when you put your face down in the hole and covered yourself with a tarp you could see your bait and the fish as they came to nibble on the line. We didn’t catch anything but the experience was worth the effort.
The other new form of transportation we tried was dog sledding. This was a bucket list item for me, I have always wanted to try mushing. As we arrived the long sleds were sitting there waiting to hook up the dogs. You can hook up anywhere from 4 to 12 dogs to a sled depending on the weight you are pulling. After showing us how, we started hooking up our dogs.
When mushing you put your feet on the rungs of the sleigh and hang on. On the back of the sled there are three types of brakes. One is just a small black mat that you step on to slow the dogs down when going too fast. The second one is a steel bar with two spikes on it that you step on and it digs into the ground for fast stops. Then there is a form of emergency break, a long rope with a hook on it, so when you are stopped you dig that hook into the snow and tip your sled over so the dogs don’t take off with the sled when you aren’t on it.
I thought dog sledding was going to be difficult but I found it really relaxing. Lou and I took turns driving and when you weren’t driving you were sitting on the sled enjoying the ride. It is such a quiet and peaceful ride as you glide through the snow, with just the sound of the padded paws hitting the snow.
During the introduction our guides told us that they arranged the team with the smartest dogs as the lead dogs and the strongest dogs in the back. These dogs seemed to love to run and loved the snow. They would do almost everything at a full run, including grabbing a bite of snow and going to the bathroom. I’m not sure what our dogs had for lunch but they had terrible gas and when they farted it added to the artic experience, snow falling, sled gliding and the aroma. What an adventure!
On each of these treks we were hoping to see the Northern Lights. You never get a full sun in the winter even in the morning, in the summer it is light almost 24 hours. After four nights searching for the elusive Northern Lights we never found them. We still loved the adventure of traveling Lapland style.