… continuation of my Lapland adventures (Snowmobile Safari)
If you’ve read my 3 Day Quote Challenge on Travel, then you know I love reading. One of my favorite childhood reads was Jack London‘s Call of the Wild. So just like going on a snowmobile safari was on my bucket list, being able to shout Mush ! Mush! and drive my own dog sled has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.
My trip to Lapland was the perfect opportunity to make this dream come true. We got up pretty early as we had to drive out to the husky farm a couple of miles away from Hetta village.
At 68 degrees North, we were 220km or 136 miles above the Arctic Circle – truly in the heart of the Arctic. Even today there is little permanent habitation above this latitude anywhere in the world. I felt as if I was right at the edge of civilization, in one of the last great wilderness areas in Europe. It’s a great feeling especially if you live in a huge city such as Paris. It felt just like I had stepped in the pages of Jack London‘s book!
Upon arrival, we were greeted and given a tour of the husky farm facility. The Husky farm was very interesting to me as I had no idea how such a place could be organized and how the dogs live behind the scenes. Each of the dogs have their own cute little dog house. They have their names on plate above them. However the thing I found sad was that they were all chained to a steel post near their dog house. The chain was pretty long, but still it meant the only time they are free to roam and run is when pulling a sled. I guess that is where they have the incentive and even need to run at full speed.
The husky puppies were kept in a separate area. They were not chained by their dog houses were surround by fences and had a smaller space around them.
The local guide asked if anyone wanted to take the puppies for a walk around the farm grounds. I was all up for that! But boy did I not realize what I had gotten myself into! The puppies are really cute and small but those wiry bodies are so STRONG! I was given a leash, but the husky puppy is not acquainted with the word Heel! I was the one who was taken on a walk or um… should I say run! The puppy was so eager to run that I just got dragged along! Running in snow is no piece of cake either. I was really winded by the time we got back to his little home.
There was an igloo on the farm grounds, that I had fun exploring. The entrance was really low and you had to basically crawl to get in. It really was warmer inside! But it didn’t have enough amenities for my taste, as in NONE!
Then we were given a crash course in sledding and how to give the dogs their orders. All the safety instructions as well.
I decided to be very brave and start out as a passenger sitting in the sled to get used to it and observe the other mushers. :). 4 to 6 dogs are all harnessed to a single sled. The sleds are very lightweight and basic. They are also very close to the ground. I had a nice warm fur dear skin blanket to protect me.
Man ! The huskies were so eager to get going and were constantly barking and yipping in excitement as soon as they were harnessed.
I was glad I had sat down at the beginning of the safari, because we started at a breakneck speed of 25kmph or 15,5mph ! During the course of the day the mushers tried maintaining a steady pace around 10kmph or 6,2mph. But the dogs were just too excited at the start of the safari to not take off as fast as they can get away with . Did I mention they were in a hurry? It made the ride quite fun because being so close to the ground increases the impression of speed. The trail we were following had a couple of bumps and small hills and sometimes it felt as if the sled was taking off and flying for a couple seconds! We also had some fun turns, you definitely get an adrenaline rush!
Some dogs even got into a fight and we had to stop and sort them out ! But generally it went pretty smoothly. We were told not the pet the dogs when they are harnessed and ready to work.
The day light has a dreamy quality to it, that I hope my pictures captured it a little. The air is some of the freshest and cleanest in the world. The landscapes were beautiful, but honestly we didn’t spend enough time admiring them most of our attention was on trying not to fall off! or just hanging on really tight!
We took a much needed break to picnic in a tent that reminded me of an Indian tepee. The guide got a fire going so we could have some warm soup and even coffee at the end of the meal!
I’ll state again that peeing out in the freezing cold is not the funnest experience ever.
After resting and getting our energy back up, we went back to our sleds. This time I wanted to drive. I definitely stopped feeling the cold! It’s pretty tiring after a while. You’d not think so by watching them, but first you need to hold on for dear life (and maybe you can relax after a bit, but I was too new to it so I know I held on tighter than necessary). Then you also have to use your body weight to slow the huskies down, (something they are NOT down with) and also in the turns, kind of like on a bike where you have to lean in to the side. I really loved it and enjoyed myself. It’s very entertaining and you feel like you are going really fast.
A friend of mine even managed to fall off! and her passenger got quite a ride before the guides were able to get the dogs to stop and come back to us!
I was pretty happy to see the farm on the way back. It was nice but I was ready to get warm and relaxed after a full day of fun. The only thing that surprised and maybe disappointed me a little about the dogs was that they are for sure on the wild side of tame. They aren’t domesticated like our dogs. I think this also has to do with the way they are raised in massive groups. They don’t have a single master that will spend a lot of time with them and build a loving relationship. They are work dogs, and even if the guides were nice with the dogs they weren’t cuddly and you could tell they weren’t used to petting all that much and even seemed to not enjoy it as much as pet dogs. Have you ever been mushing and if so have you had the same experience with the huskies? Please let me know in the comments.
All in all, I loved and would really like to experience it again, maybe in Canada next time. I think it’s a great way to discover the wilderness and do so in an environmentally friendly way with no motor noises or gas smell like you have with snow mobiles. It’s also quite fun to step into the shoes of our ancestors and experience a tiny bit of their way of life.
What childhood dream would you like to or had to opportunity to fulfill?
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