Thursday, 2 December 2010

Lappi - Lapland!

After a 5am start we finally arrived in Rovaniemi- on the Arctic circle border, at around 1pm. We visited the Arktikum Science Museum where we learned about Sámi life and a little bit of the history of Rovaniemi. Getting back on the coach we headed to our final destination of Saariselkä, much further north east, near to the Norwegian border. After another 4 or so hours we finally arrived.  We were staying in a log cabin which slept 10, the only issue there being 2 double beds so me and Leigh opted to take one, apart from that the cottage was really cosy and everyone we shared with was friendly enough. As it was cloudy out we decided to ditch plans to look out for the Northern Lights in favour of a sauna (with snow rolls) and straight to bed.

The next day we were up early to get on a coach to Bugøynes, a small fishing town in the very North East of Norway, on the Arctic coast. This was another long coach journey, taking around 6 hrs. We had a brief stop at some grocery stores in I believe was a town called Nuorgam - the most northern point in Finland (and the EU), before passing over the border into Norway.  Shortly over the border we could see the landscapes already changing quite drastically, fewer forests and trees and much more plains and craggy mountains (Finland is a fairly flat country). We also had a short stop the Rovijokfossen(?) waterfall, before heading on to the coast. When we arrived at Bugøynes it was 1pm Norwegian time and already the sun was setting. The village itself was tiny and very picturesque, all the houses were cottage sized and brightly coloured! The main reason everyone had travelled here was to swim in the Arctic Ocean, so as soon as we got off the coach we all undressed and ran into the -8 water! It wasn't as bad as I'd expected because the water itself was much warmer than the air temperature, but getting out and back to the coach was a different story. After a little while in the village we headed back to Finland and were in Saariselkä by 8pm.

The sky was pretty cloudy that night and we didn't see anything, but we did have some fun sledging and playing in the snow until it got late and cold! We had another sauna to warm up (obviously) and headed to bed.

Sunday morning we were taken on a snow shoewalk through the Urho Kekkonen National Park, which is home to bears, wolves, reindeer, wolverines, and many other critters! Our guide Visa/Visä(?) showed us how to survive if we were lost in the park - what we could eat, how to create a shelter and start a fire etc. He also pointed out tracks of different animals and told us tales of his times trekking in the wilderness. We had a soup lunch at a cabin cafe and then headed back via cross country skiing. I've downhill skied in the past but this was a lot different and a lot more hard work! Finally getting home we decided to head out with our cabin mates to the local swimming pool (we'd been given a voucher by the tour leaders), this also involved a Turkish style steam room and a good old Finnish sauna. Yet again we were unlucky on the look out for Northern Lights so had an early night.


The next we had a husky ride on a 2 person sledge. This was pretty scary at first as we had full control of the dogs! The ride lasted around 45 minutes and I must say I felt pretty bad for the dogs, they seemed to be struggling at times but we didn't push them to go any faster.  Back at the cabin we had another sauna (might as well, as there was on in the cabin). Later that night our tour guides had arranged a farewell get together. While everyone was waiting around outside to be picked up we were lucky enough to see a band of green in the sky!!! Even though it wasn't too strong I'm still amazed I got to see some of the Northern Lights - something I've always wanted to do. We were taken to a wooden tee-pee like structure a little out of town, where there were sausages bbqing on an open fire and hot Glögi for everyone! We were taught a Finnish Christmas song which summoned Santa himself! Who dispensed gifts for everyone (I got a shot glass...) and we soon left as it was COLD! The walk home lead us to this very open piece of land which had almost no light, the view was amazing - I felt as though I'd never seen so much sky in my entire life! There was a 360' view of the stars (there were a lot!) and it blew my mind a little. If only we could have seen the lights there.

Our last day involved visiting a reindeer farm and learning a little bit about the Sámi's relationship with the animal. We also had a reindeer sleigh ride which was nice :) We then headed back to Rovaniemi to visit the Santa Claus Village. This was pretty fun, we got the meet the man himself, although we didn't get a photo as it was like 30€, rip off! We also sent some post cards and got our passports stamped form the Arctic Circle. When our time here was done we finally departed for home arriving in the early hours of Wednesday. Now to catch up on the uni work we missed!!!

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