On Thursday the 30th of March, the 4 of us excitedly climbed into our taxi bound for Heathrow Terminal 3. We had packed everything from ski gear to soy sauce, and we were off to Finland for our Lappish adventure!
I had booked a beautiful riverside cabin in a town called Rovaniemi at the edge of the Arctic Circle, and in my mind, we were off for a week of snow, reindeer, and outdoor adventures. I envisioned the children spending hours outside, building snowmen and throwing snowballs, finally coming back in to sit by the roaring fire with a warm cup of fruit tea, while Husband and I just hung out together, reading and enjoying the natural peace and quiet.
And most of the time, that was exactly how it was. The cabin was indeed gorgeous. Small but almost perfectly formed, with it’s high ceilings, large wood stove and amazing picture windows looking out on to the frozen river Kemijoki. The ground was amply covered in snow to satisfy my 2 snow-deprived boys… and the owner of the cabin had thoughtfully provided 2 sleds that the boys dragged everywhere over the course of the 9 days. We even had reindeer wander into the garden on the first morning, calmly chewing on breakfast, while we wavered between trying to get close enough to capture a photo and not scaring them off with our non-Finnish presence.
Our first inkling of trouble began when Eldest wondered into our bedroom on Night #2 and announced that he felt sick. He then proceeded to throw up several times throughout the night. Ooh. Not quite what one hopes for on holiday. We were certain that our plans for skiing the next day (we had a private lesson booked for the boys at the local ski slope) were scuppered, but by 11 am, on an enforced diet of blueberry juice and dry crackers, he announced that he felt perfectly fine and was keen to go skiing! Ounasvaara is a dear little ski slope that would look like kindergarten class next to most Alpen ski resorts, but was perfect for teaching the boys the rudiments of skiing. Miraculously, nothing else happened on the illness front, and we figured that we had overcome the worst of it and were now back on track.
Now, the Finnish are very big on their saunas, advocating it as a health fix-it for just about everything. Our little cabin came equipped with one and we thought the evening after skiing was perfect to try it out. The recommendation is for several cycles of sweating it out at 80 deg C (10 mins), followed by immediately cooling off by rolling in the snow immediately after. We started off with a too-hot sauna (over the recommended temperature-but figured that it would be fine if we left the door open a little), followed by Husband learning that the snow outside was a little too hard and frozen over to roll about in, while I stood on the verandah, buck naked and laughing hysterically. All in all, a pretty successful first outing to the sauna.
We had a painfully early start on the morning of Day 3 (up by 7 and out the door by 8.10a.m.), but we didn’t care because we were going on a husky expedition! I had done some research beforehand and booked a 4.5hr sledding trip with a small family-run company called Bearhillhusky. We were picked up at an agreed meeting point by the company van and bussed to their kennels some 50mins from Rovaniemi. There, in a traditional kota (wooden teepee-like structure), we were kitted out with extra overalls and gloves and snow-shoes before being taken outside to be introduced to the dogs and given the safety briefing for our upcoming trip by our animated instructors. Finally, we were loaded into our sleds with 5 extremely excited Alaskan huskies and Husband as driver (he’d been given strict instruction to always have a foot or 2 on the brakes or else risk never seeing his family again) and off we went! 2 hours and 17 exhilarating kilometres of Lappish forest track later, through snow and ice patches, and up and down hills, we were back at the kennels.Cold and slightly numb at the extremities, but very happy, we were ushered back into the kota to change and refresh ourselves with hot juice and cookies. The grand finale… some cuddling time with the adorable husky puppies. I was very tempted to stow one away in my jacket, but was told that they count the puppies after. Never mind.
We ended Day 3 with a relaxing and educational few hours at Arktikum, Rovaniemi’s fantastic little museum and Arctic Science Centre with its beautiful glass gallery. The boys particularly enjoyed the Northern Ways exhibit, that looks at life within the Arctic Circle (Youngest was especially impressed by the stuffed brown bear and elk that they had there) as well as the Arctic in Change exhibition at the Science Centre, and the Northern Lights theatre got us all super-excited about our next planned excursion… a drive to hunt down the Aurora Borealis.
Come back soon for my next post to find out whether we manage to sight this magical natural phenomenon in all its blazing glory…