15th Dec 2011 - 16th Dec 2011 - Norway
Tromso - Snow shoeing and Huskies
That evening we flew up to Tromso, way above the Arctic Circle and land of the Polar Night. This meant we weren’t expecting to see any daylight for the 4 days we were going to be there. However, we weren’t too sure whether that would be total darkness the whole time. As it turned out between about 10 – 1 we were greeted with a sort of bluish haze, normally associated with dawn, which lit up the sky enough to see but not so much that street lights could be turned off. Whilst this far North we were also hoping to see the Northern Lights, this being the peak of an 11 year cycle and predicted to be really strong. However, there is no guarantee of sightings, it all depends on cloud cover, artificial light and various other factors. Hit and miss it most certainly is!! We also prepared ourselves for some extremely cold temperatures. Average temperatures in December are below 0, and the record December high is less than 10 degrees. That evening we ordered take away pizza and dyed my hair in a slightly bigger bathroom!!
Our first morning we headed into town where we were collected by a tour company for the first of the many Winter excursions we had planned. We were taken out about half an hour from town to a centre in the mountains, overlooking the town, where we were to spend the next day and a half. The primary purpose was as a husky dog centre, but numerous other activities were available. We were starting with snow shoeing. This is like hiking with a pair of short skies on. Once we’d gotten used to the technique it was actually quite fun. We were told the route to take then sent off on our own with the promise that if we weren’t back by half 1 (3 hours later) they would call us to make sure we weren’t lost since it would be getting dark by then!! Being the intrepid explorers that we are, and given the absolute lack of experience of snow shoeing, we decided the best thing to do would be leave the advised route and find our own way. This meant we went out “hiking” through snow that was knee deep, over uneven ground and narrowly avoiding falling into streams that we couldn’t see due to the amount of snow! It was all good fun, though somewhat knackering, but we had some stunning views, even if they were constantly interrupted by the barking of the huskies echoing off the mountains. After an hour and a half we made it back to the centre for a warming cup of tea and a rather large slice of amazing chocolate cake!
In the afternoon we were taken to see the husky puppies. The pups were about 6 months old and so consequently were quite big and very hyperactive. They would jump all over anyone that went within their enclosure which was not much fun when they’ve been running round the pen all day with dog shit on the floor. We had a few hours to ourselves that afternoon, with another slice of cake, then we were shown to our lavvu. A lavvu is a traditional Sami (the local indigenous people) dwelling, often called a tent although not a tent in the camping sense. Shaped like a wigwam, often with a fire in the middle for warmth, and decorated with reindeer skins, the lavvu was where we were going to be sleeping that night. They had kindly decorated it with Christmas decorations as well, and we had a small window to look out over the mountains and down to the sea. In the evening, others arrived for some husky dog riding and also to use the centres’ terrace for a spot of Northern Lights searching. Unfortunately, it was not to be the night. There were about 10 of us looking in all directions but it was too cloudy and we could see nothing. For dinner we were served Bidos – reindeer stew – and a slice of chocolate cake. The reindeer was delicious, a bit like beef, served with vegetables. They also make a broth out of the juices which was very tasty as well. We had a spot more light searching that evening but at midnight we gave up hope and returned to our lavvu in an attempt to defrost and sleep.
The lavvu was a tad chilly during the night but we did manage to sleep, wrapped up in more reindeer skins that left hair all over everything we owned! In the morning, we were served breakfast, then got to go off on our husky ride. We were in a sled being pulled by 8 dogs and being controlled by a musher. We were out for an hour with the dogs occasionally pulling us at such an angle that we almost tipped out! It was all good fun, apart from when the dogs at the back of the pulling team, and consequently right in front of us, did a couple of big, fat, very smelly poos. We were at the front of about 10 sleighs so I think we had the best views through the freshest snow. The barking of the dogs was again incredibly loud and at times sounded like they were howling like wolves. After the husky ride we were served lunch. Again we had reindeer but this time it was served in a creamy mushroom sauce, with mash potato. Once the mushrooms were removed it was delicious. We also got our 4th piece of chocolate cake inside 24 hours!! We were taken back into town where we got our first chance to explore. We went to the Polaria – the polar Museum – which had a couple of exhibits about the Arctic and Polar Regions. We also saw the seal training. We went back to the hotel and after a spot of food, we headed down to the beach where we finally got a glimpse of what we had been searching for. The Northern Lights. They were very faint, with a slight greenish tinge and very wispy. They didn’t stick around for long but we now knew that if we didn’t get a better view we had at least seen them. It was a very successful evening, celebrated with a hot chocolate at the hotel!!