Pre Hoff to Explore (thanks to my travel diary!) December 2013.
I hadn’t even heard of Lapland until a few months before the trip! Turns out it is in Finland and Lapland is where the REAL Santa lives! I’m in! My aussie travel buddy Robyn and I met up with her friend Chris in Copenhagen for a few days of sightseeing before jetting off to Lapland.
Monday 16 December – Off to freezing cold and dark Lapland!
Up at a ghastly hour (sometime around 3:30am), waiting in the cold for a taxi to the airport… but all for a good cause! Fast forward a few hours and we arrived in a dark Lapland with lots of wind and snow. Brrr! My first thought – I actually don’t think I will survive here.
Once we arrived at our accommodation, we realised why it was cheaper than other options but it was still comfortable enough. We had two single beds in the room and an extra rollout bed. Chris was a gentleman and allowed us to have the comfortable beds. He then sat on the rollout bed with too much force and broke the wooden slats! Was hilarious! Though I don’t think he found it as funny as Robyn and I did. We got that problem sorted and went for a walk to find the closest food. Robyn and I ordered a pizza each thinking we could manage but they were massive! Chris had to help us. We spent the evening drinking vodka and eating munchies whilst watching a movie in our room. Pretty keen for activities tomorrow!
Tuesday 17 December – Meeting the real Santa and hoping to see the northern lights!
We had booked the Arctic Delight tour with a company called Safartica which meant we were off to see Santa! Because it was so cold, our first stop was the Safartica office to change into their special rental clothing (basically a hardcore onesie) to keep the cold out! Plus, we were allowed to keep them for the next few days as we had other trips booked with them. You really do need this rental clothing even just to walk around outside at this time of year!
So, Santa lives in a lovely village at the Arctic Circle. The first thing we did was line up and wait to meet him! He was super jolly of course! We have video footage that you can see at the end of this blog. I snuggled up to his beard and had a few photos taken too before we went to explore the rest of the village.
We met a beautiful golden retriever who didn’t seem worried at all by the cold weather! Then weirdly at our buffet lunch, reindeer was on the menu! I tried a little bit and I suppose it was tasty but gee I felt a bit guilty! We then headed for the snowmobiles. It was fun (and cold) cruising along the snow in a line behind one another. Easier to follow the tracks in the snow! We were in pairs and our destination was a local reindeer farm to meet the reindeer and try a short reindeer sleigh ride. The sleigh ride was somewhat hilarious as it wasn’t always 100% predictable. There was no one leading the reindeer and a few people could go on at a time. But the reindeer had probably done the short circuit 3892743923 times or more so they knew what to do. They were fast too! Much too fast for photographic evidence without being blurry or missed completely. At the same spot we enjoyed a hot drink, and there was a natural slide that our tour guides pointed out that we spent the next 20 minutes sliding down with the provided plastic seat. The seat was in a shape similar to a shovel head and had a handle to hold at the front. We made our way back to the village on the snowmobiles and before it was time to leave, I wrote a postcard at the Santa Claus Post Office where they stamp all post by hand using their special postmark. We also went for a few quick slides down the slippery slide made from ice in the middle of the village!
That same evening, we were ready for tour number two with the same company. An Aurora Borealis picnic with showshoes. Could this day get any better?! Well it sure got a lot colder. We were driven out to a wintry dark forest and were shown how to put our snowshoes on. You know, the ones that look like tennis racquets! We hiked through the forest which was dark, peaceful and beautiful. After we had enough exploring it was time for a picnic around the campfire and hope like hell we would see some northern lights. We enjoyed some sausages that were cooked by holding them over the fire in what almost looked like an oven rack but enclosed so the sausages didn’t fall out. Sadly we didn’t get to see the northern lights. But we were still happy – such an unforgettable experience!
Wednesday 18 December – Husky safari!!!
Today, amazingly, we were going on a husky safari! We arrived at the local farm and could hear the huskies barking. We were in a big group and as we were told that we would be in pairs for the safari, I wondered who I would be paired with seeing as it was my turn to fly solo on an activity! I don’t mean to sound stereotypical but I got paired up with an asian guy and was a little bit nervous that maybe him driving the husky sled would be disastrous. But he was not bad at all! He drove the sled for the first part of the trip, and not to his fault at all, it was super bumpy and I wished there was better cushioning and that I was wearing a sports bra! Ouch! Also, it was so cold especially when we were moving along the track in the surrounding nature that I had to wear a face mask and I still felt like parts of my face were going to break off!
A couple of times along the track a few of the dogs had a little tiff with one another. So now and then they got swapped around to get the right personality balance! Just like the movies! They seem so determined and a bit quieter when leading the sled. You can’t help but want to try and help them as much as you can. How do you do this? Well when it was my turn to drive the sled, I made sure that every time we went up a hill, I stepped back off the sled and ran up the hill before jumping back on when the surface evened out.
When it was all over, we were invited into a cozy warm hut for a warm drink, cookie and my favourite part… to meet a husky puppy! I had a quick hold of the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen in my life and made my way back to the bus where the others were waiting. What an experience!
Seeing as this was our last tour with Safartica, we had to part with our very warm onesie which was a very sad and cold occasion. But to keep us laughing, Robyn had forgotten to bring her own shoes along to change into, meaning she didn’t have any shoes to wear! Haha! So Robyn went shoeless in the bus and Chris had to give her a piggyback to our hotel room! Classic.
It was our last night in Lapland so we ventured out into the cold weather minus our warm onesie to have dinner together. We found a nice restaurant in town near the Safartica office and enjoyed dinner before splitting off from Chris who decided to continue drinking in a nearby bar. That’s when Robyn and I got adventurous! We tried to find a darker spot in the hope of seeing the northern lights. This included trudging through snow in our jeans which meant wet jeans which meant cold. Have I mentioned how cold it was?! Actually I haven’t really given specifics have I? From memory and double checking with Robyn, we remember it being -14 degrees celcius as displayed at the entrance / exit of the hotel reception! Anyway back to the story. Robyn and I walked around for a while with our heads tilted towards the sky and still no luck. We spoke to the guy at our hotel reception to see what he predicted before retreating to our hotel room and he said we might be able to see them at around 3am. There was no chance we would still be awake by then after our super exciting husky safari day! We figured we would see the northern lights in Norway anyway… I wonder if we will?