Dropped off at the nearest bus stop, I headed to the husky camp by foot.
It was just 3.30PM but, in Inari, it was already pitch black, especially because there were no streetlights in that part of the road.
Equipped with my massive backpack and phone/flashlight, I started my 2.5km walk. It was an interesting experience: walking in the middle of the forest, the path only dimly light, snow falling; it was thrilling. The darkness and the trees surrounded me in a chilling embrace, which is how I imagine it would have been before electricity.
While all these thoughts stormed through my head, one of the rare passing cars stopped by and a voice called my name.
It was Jussa, the owner of the sled dog camp, and his family, coming to rescue me.
We had a quick dinner and headed to the camp so that I could get settled.
The first day started quite early (by my night-owl standards) and it was full of excitement: meeting the dogs, the new guests and learning the inside-outs of dog sledging.
The usual program starts with the welcoming of guests and getting accustomed to the lively dogs. The dogs who will be participating to the run are left free to run around and greet the newcomers.
Next, Jussa explains how to (and how not to) drive the sledge, as well as showing the right way to sit in it and brake.
Then the dogs are slowly prepared for the tour: the guests are taught how to put on the harness that will connect the dogs to each of their sledges. Tanja and I help the guests with preparing the dogs and answering their questions. (I started from the second day.)
Jussa chooses the dogs: quicker, quieter, stronger or less excited, depending on the team they’re riding with.
Once their harness is on, the dogs first get all quiet and silent. But when almost all the dogs are ready, they start howling and getting excited: they know it’s almost time to go.
The teams form a line, with the leader (usually Jussa) being at the front, and they leave within short intervals to have some safe distance between each other (similar to what is taught in driving school), the distance is marked by a yellow rope trailing behind each sledge. It’s a very good indicator that you are getting too close to the sledge in front.
After being released, all the excitement the dogs have built up turns into explosive power which makes the sledge move very fast. If it wasn’t for Jussa and Tanja’s continuous reminders, many people would be surprised by it and fall flat on their back, while looking at the sledge moving forward without any intention of stopping.
After a good hour of riding, the teams come back to the camp. They are usually still excited but cold, so they rest in a tent around the fire before their transport home arrives to pick them up.
The dogs have time to rest and get some warm food before the second and final group arrives. They will do the same as the first team but in reverse.
For the first days, I just tried to help out and support the guests whenever I could but it was only on the day before my departure that I actually went for a ride. It was truly amazing!
I was on my own, no one else on the sledge, so I could accelerate, slow down, take crazy jumps whenever I wanted.
The day was clear and the sky was painted with blue and red pastel colours (which is because of kaamos, also known as Polar Night). Kaamos, usually known to people living or visiting Lapland, is when the sun doesn’t rise over the horizon and, because of that, the sky becomes full of blue and red shades which make the whole landscape surreal. Also, around 2PM every day, a so called “blue moment” takes place, when everything, including the sky and snow, turns blue for 15 minutes. This unique natural phenomenon occurs only here in the Arctic area and you cannot encounter it anywhere else in the world.”
It was a truly magical ride, freezing but relaxing and exciting at the same time. The beauty of that landscape and the serenity of it all are the little priceless gems that I am lucky enough to encounter during some of my trips and which drive my passion of travelling.