Went down for breakfast about 8:30. The others already there. D&D are concerned about the cold. It’s started snowing and apparently (according to David) the forecast is for snow for the next four days. It’s very light, and if you ask me, it means it will be warmer. I’ve got a lot of layers on and I’m boiling – that is inside the centre, of course. I popped out and it felt ok.
Set off at 11am to meet the dogs. Sanna (& hubby – Tympani??) gave us a quick lesson in harnessing and driving the dogs. Important lesson #1, NEVER let go of the sled, is drummed into us. We all have four dogs and Sanna has six but then she has to bring all the supplies on her sled.
We finally set off about 12. What a buzz!! Downhill for the first bit then after about 5 minutes I lost my hat! So I stopped. I was at the back so I had to yell for the others to stop. I tried to get close to a tree to tie my sled off. Then I broke lesson #1. I DID have hold of the anchor rope though and was dragged about 6 metres before I managed to gain control of the sled again. I suddenly realised that the dogs had been pulling both the sled and me anyway so if I wasn’t standing up, it made no difference to them!
Eventually Sanna anchored her dogs and sent Debs back to hold my brake while I ran back for the hat. Stupid furry thing! I didn’t wear it after that.
We stopped for lunch after about an hour and 9kms. Minor collision between my sled and David’s legs. I didn’t see him stop and I was too close. He was ok, or just being tough. There was another husky group having lunch when we got there.
This place is a cabin, of sorts, near a river. All logs and woodsy. There is a cooking spot (outside) and firewood in a shed nearby. All mod cons. Poor Helle went to the toilet behind the woodshed when the toilet was in the opposite direction. I didn’t tell her since she’d already gone when I discovered it. Sanna should have known where it was, but she told Helle it was behind the woodshed!
We had fried salmon in a pita bread and coffee (tea for the others) for lunch.
The dogs from the other group were having a major argument, which kept setting our dogs off. Eventually (a LONG eventually) the other group left and we were left alone – our dogs suddenly became quiet.
Sanna swapped some of the dogs around and we set off again.
I might mention at this point that a lot of this trip involves running when the going’s uphill. This is bloody exhausting for someone like me who won’t even run for a bus. God knows how the dogs manage it. Also, your arms get really tired holding on to the sled all the time. And your legs ache because you’re always standing up! Sanna reckons it works out to 2km a day…
The countryside we’re passing through is indescribably beautiful and so quiet. That is when the ski mobiles aren’t travelling close behind, which they have done on occasion today.
The last section of today’s run was on a road (of sorts). There was a very tight right hand turn onto it, which also included a quick drop. I saw Debs hit it and vanish from view, then David so I slowed and took the corner with the ease and grace of someone born to drive huskies. Hella, bringing up the rear, did not fare so well. I suddenly realised her dogs were beside me and reached out and grabbed their ropes. I looked back and she was in the snow. She’d come off on the bend and let go. She got back on and we continued.
Helle seems to have the slowest dogs so I keep stopping when I can’t see her, to make sure she’s ok and to let her catch up a bit. Sanna, at the front, stops every now and then as well, but I think this is also to give the dogs a rest. Needless to say, Helle’s dogs get less of a rest than the others!
We got to the cabin at about 4.30pm after another hour and a half. This is our first wilderness cabin and the luxurious one in that it has electricity and flush toilet. It also has separate bedrooms. It’s very nice. It’s also very warm. We had a tea/coffee then fed the dogs which was an amazing experience.
They get fed in pairs and go crazy for a soupy slop (made up of hot water, dry dog biscuit and a slab of frozen fish guts) that you wouldn’t feed to a dog!
The temperature is now -15. Sanna is getting the sauna ready while David lights the fire in the cabin – because he used to be a scout. The cabin is now full of smoke. Note: Don’t get lost in the wilderness with David! It seems to have calmed down a bit now as I can see the other side of the room. The cabin is pretty dim anyway but with the smoke it’s like being in a cave. I noticed this in my room at the centre as well. The lack of light. There’s usually a light above the table at shoulder height but nowhere else. That’s where I’m writing. This light is dim but rather nice and yellow.
Sanna is now helping David but the smoke just seems to get thicker – I feel like a kipper.
The girls have gone for a sauna, David is playing Patience (by Braille I assume as I’ve got the light) and I’m scribbling. David has a GPS which he keeps using to tell us where we are, what we’ve done and what the barometric pressure is. Unfortunately the cold saps the batteries so now I’m concerned about the camera which is having problems reading the light in the cold!! I hope the pics I’ve already taken come out because I never want to forget any of this. It’s all so brilliant…except for the smoke bit.
I was too hot today so maybe I’ll lose a layer tomorrow. My Telewest fleece might become a bit of cabin attire rather than something for the trail.
This cabin has a good toilet – actually the warmest room. Sanna says the main part of this cabin was built in about 1948 after the war. Apparently the Germans burnt most of Finland in WWII and then everything had to be rebuilt. The centre owns most of the cabins and rents a couple.
It’s hard to believe this place is ever green but apparently all the snow goes around summer. It would all look very different.
I fell up to my waist in the snow near the dogs, so I guess that’s a ditch. The dogs sleep outside, but they don’t seem to mind. They are Siberian huskies so I guess this weather is luxury to them.
I can’t believe how quiet it is outside – magic. Must be what space is like – without the vacuum, of course.
I think we’re in a hut called Nivunki. Either that of Nivunki is the Finnish word for Guestbook. I’d ask Sanna but I like the idea that it might just mean guestbook.
Had a lovely sauna. David, however, is unsure why Scandinavians do it for pleasure. It’s his first one and he’s not impressed.
Dinner was turkey and cheesy sauce. Very nice – no veg. Lovely pudding and a glass of malt whisky courtesy D&D. Feeling very tired and a bit achy. Will sleep well tonight but not sure if I’ll be able to move in the morning.