Thursday, 7 March 2013

A huskie sleigh ride through a winter wonderland

Although we were incredibly grateful for our wonderful experience with the Northern Lights, they were not the only excursion we participated in during our time in Lapland. On the second morning, bundled up in multiple layers as the temperature began to drop, we made our way to a nearby farm where we would have the opportunity to take part in a quintessential winter activity - a huskie sleigh ride.

Upon arrival at the farm, we were greeted by two adorable puppies before being taken to choose our already-harnessed dogs from a selection of teams. We opted for the group who immediately arched forward to greet us, and were soon hopelessly besotted, smothering them with cuddles. Smaller than I had imagined, the huskies were nevertheless keen to get going, and I settled into the sleigh as F volunteered to drive first.

We set off at speed, the dogs eager to run. Racing through the first few minutes, they then slowed to a more comfortable pace, allowing us to soak up the atmosphere and look around us as the landscape opened up. The perfect winter wonderland, we drove through pine forests and over lakes, powdery snow flicking up around us. Sitting inside the sleigh felt safe and relaxing, although the lack of movement allowed the cold to slowly creep up my body. F relished the driving, and we watched, amazed, as our dog team remembered every turn and bend, even when we'd lost sight of the few other sleighs accompanying us. Although our team were not the fastest, what they lacked in speed they certainly made up for in spirit, grabbing mouthfuls of snow and rolling around playfully every time we stopped.

Just as my fingers began to lose all feeling, we paused for lunch. Leaving the dogs resting outside, we bundled into a tepee as our guide cooked the most delicious salmon soup over a much-appreciated open fire. I thawed through watching tender lumps of fresh fish plop into fragrant stock, and thoroughly enjoyed every spoonful.

After lunch we had the opportunity to swap drivers, so F wrapped up in the reindeer furs whilst I jumped on the back and took control of the brake. Initially I was a anxious - the huskies were incredibly strong and I was concerned that little 'ol me wouldn't have the power to slow them down. But I needn't have worried - the sharp brake cut into the ice with ease and the dogs were used to responding quickly. Plus, it was a great feeling - the icy wind brushed against me as we glided along the soft snow, swerving to avoid trees. Every now and then we hit a small hill, and I jumped off the skis, pushing the sleigh to assist the dogs before leaping back on as we picked up speed bumping down again.

By the time we neared the end of the ride, I was feeling confident. Everything had gone smoothly, the dogs seemed happy and I was much more relaxed, and dare I say it, even a little cocky. I was clearly a natural at this huskie driving lark. Well, they do say that pride comes before a fall...

We were rounding the corner back at base when a young boy (one of the children living on the farm) jumped onto our sleigh from the side. losing his balance, he toppled off, but not before pulling the sleigh to the left. The dogs, completely confused, continued on their path, picking up speed as the sleigh tipped further and further. The only thing I could do to right it was yank to the opposite side, although I got a little carried away and ended up throwing myself off the back. Luckily one of the guides was nearby and managed to catch the escaping sleigh before the dogs made off too far with poor F, who could do absolutely nothing from inside!

I, meanwhile, picked myself up and sheepishly jumped back on. Note for the future: never think that you are have any control whatsoever over a hoard of strong dogs and an extremely heavy sleigh. Lesson learnt...

Despite the rocky finish, I had an absolute blast on the huskie sleigh ride. Borne along over frozen lakes and through thick forests by the sheer strength of these gorgeous animals, it was a unique and memorable day.

Catch up on the rest of our adventures in Finnish Lapland here:

Arriving in Lapland...
Dancing colours in the sky: The beautiful Northern Lights in Lapland
How to photograph the Northern Lights

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