7000 reindeer

Slept for 10 hours! The morning is lovely and white – no sun due to light cloud cover. Popped outside then back in – it’s very cold.

Had breakfast; my typical European 3 cups of coffee followed by a ham, cheese and egg roll.

There’s three English guys staying here, around my age, who appear to have a large teddy with them. It’s about the size of a five year old child and sits with them. I noticed it last night but thought it was a decoration. It looks more like a grizzly than a teddy. Maybe it’s one of the family.

Last night an Italian woman (also on her own) asked me if I was part of her cross country ski group and also to open her door. Had to disappoint her on both counts. She had the wrong key. She spotted me this morning and I said hi in Italian. She still hasn’t found her group.

The showers here in the centre are brilliant! Power shower to the max. I know it’s sad to get excited by showers, however, once you live with the pathetic pressure they have in the UK, a shower with a bit of oomph is just heaven!

I rugged up and went to see what the day would bring. I walked into Muonio (3k) wearing many layers and nice and warm, except my toes. Two pairs of woollen socks and my walking boots do NOT keep my toes warm. Keep moving them as I walk to make sure they’re still attached.

The footpath beside the road is about the size of a country lane and very noisy underfoot. Scenery all very beautiful. Muonio appears to be a town full of supermarkets. It even has the ubiquitous Spar. There is a restaurant but it was closed. As were the three petrol stations. I walked to the church looking lovely in the weak sunshine. There’s a sort of mist everywhere – not sure what it is – like the English haze but white. It rolls in then out again.

There’s a thermometer in Muonio that proclaims it’s -22 but it doesn’t feel so cold.

On the whole the people do not seem very friendly. I passed a few pedestrians but no-one smiled or said hello. Except for a couple of guys in a car who waved and smiled. I assume they thought I was someone they knew.

This place is so beautiful. When trucks drive past there is a flurry of snow behind them where in Australia it would be clouds of dust. Saw a guy with lots of snow on his eyelashes and beard. It’s not snowing so I assume he’s been on a snow mobile or something. The lack of pollution is very evident; the air is so sweet.

Back at Harriniva, the huskies are howling in the compound. I’m sitting down drinking a beer after my 2 hour walk. This is the life!

Met a very friendly puppy outside (not a husky). Evidence of dogs is everywhere. Lots of yellow snow, for a start!

The day has turned very clear now (1:15) and the sun is very bright on the snow. Everything looks like Christmas.

A few facts: Harriniva Centre is situated on the banks of River Muonio with the National Park Pallas-Ounastunturi close by. It is 70k from Kittila airport. There is an ice hole by the river for (the brave) swimmers. The riverside sauna is a few metres away…if you survive I assume. On the opposite bank of the river is Sweden. Although the river looks frozen, it is quite thin in the middle so it is forbidden to cross. If you really need to go to Sweden, there is a bridge not far away.

Is that Sweden I see before me?

Harriniva has over 220 dogs in it’s Arctic Sledge Dog Centre.

Muonio has a population of 2500 people – not sure why they need so many supermarkets. The area has been inhabited since the Stone Age but only by Finns since 1575. Prior to this there were only Lapps. In Muonio there are approximately 7000 reindeer. Herding them is done by snow mobile and special reindeer dogs. No idea what kind of dog this is. Perhaps it has antlers. Muonio depends largely on tourism and 75% of the population is employed in service related industries (interesting they’re not more friendly then).

Well, I have met the guide and the other three people going on our safari. An English couple (Debs & Dave) and a Dane (Helle). Here was I worried that the group would include a big contingent of foreign friends and it’s just a bunch of ordinary strangers like me! Our guide is called Sanna and she uses her own dogs, which we will meet tomorrow. She loves all 48 of her dogs, and her job. She took us to the clothing store where we were fitted for thermal gear. The boots are massive! The overall is very warm and thick. I’ll be leaving a lot of stuff behind at the centre. We leave tomorrow at 11 to meet and learn how to hitch the dogs.

Afterwards, went for a walk ON the river as far as the bridge that is the border crossing. The sun was just going down and I was alone. It was so tranquil and perfect. I’d like to have just sat and contemplated but I’d have frozen solid in about 5 minutes so I retraced my steps.

Around the ice hole someone has been sculpting ice statues out of big pillars of ice. It all looks quite pagan. The cold is wonderful and there’s no wind tonight so there’s no real harshness. Being hauled by huskies may be a bit different.

It’s getting quite dark outside (6pm) and everything is turning a deep azure blue against the snow.

I went down for a beer before dinner. The centre is very warm after being outside. I was joined by Helle and D&D. D&D seem to have travelled everywhere in the known universe – Dave knows everything. Literally. Helle has a job like Farelli’s. Well in as much as she flies around the world training people.

Rang Mirinda for the last time. Won’t be able to call now until Friday when I get back.

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