Back in the summer, HAIX corporate had a competition where one lucky winner, and a friend, would get to go to north of the Arctic Circle for a 3-day adventure. Anna, a police inspector from Mettman, is about to embark on the HAIX Nordic Summer Experience. Joining her is best buddy, Judith, from Wuppertal.
Three days full of adventure lie ahead. They will take part in a husky trail ride, visit a reindeer farm, enjoy a canoe trip, go horseback riding in the midnight sun and experience whitewater rafting. However, it seems at the moment that they will have to do all of this without any luggage. The whereabouts of their suitcases remains a complete mystery. Nevertheless, the girls are prepared to view the situation with good humor. After all, luggage is “just a burden”.
Finland is blanketed in meters of snow during the winter months. Dog sleds are often the only way of reaching more distant destinations. “The brake is the musher’s best friend,” Suvi from Finland tells us. She has been working with Huskies for many years. “I spend the whole season here, from September to April.” The sun is low at this time of year in the far North. In the slanting light, the steaming breath of the dogs adds fumes to the crystal-clear air.
It only takes five minutes to learn how to be a musher. For the dogs, this must seem like an eternity. Their unbelievable energy makes the air crackle. When a rookie skids along behind the Huskies for the first time, the momentum generated by the dogs means that the chief difficulty lies in in negotiating tight bends. Suvi gave a final instruction. “Keep the guide rope tight. Once the dogs start to run, then let them run. There’s nothing they enjoy more.” The weather app shows us that sunrise is at 2:36 am. Sunset will take place at twelve minutes past midnight. There is no real darkness during the summer months.
The half-day summer Husky trail ride takes us through the sparse woodlands of Finland. Bilberry bushes brush against our claves. Lichened rocks form a bizarre landscape. A white reindeer unexpectedly crosses our path. Anna states that this is the most impressive things she has ever seen. On her application, Anna stated: “I like to spend lots of time outdoors, and I love adventure!” The HAIX Nordic Summer Experience was to bring plenty more excitement her way.
“Keep your right hand at the top of the oar and your left hand down, then pull gently,” says Tom, our young Finnish canoe guide. He is based in Torasieppi, a small peninsula which offers lakeside lodges, a sauna, boat hire services and a horse paddock. When he is not helping visitors with their Nordic canoe experience, Tom’s job is to take care of the reindeer who live on the adjacent farm.
Bizarre bands of clouds pass across the sky. Birds occasionally circle overhead. Our canoes glide gently through the water in absolute silence. Only the sound of the paddles dipping into the water breaks the vast stillness. A small buoy floats in an outlet between two lakes that has become overgrown with reeds. “Fisherman looking for crabs sometimes hang their traps in the water,” explains Tom. He uses a rope to pull up a basket. “You often get good catches here.” The fish and shellfish in this area live in lakes which offer drinking water quality.
Our two canoes moor at a certain spot on the bank. There is a log cabin, the inevitable sauna hut and a fire pit. Tom digs a packet of ground coffee and some smoked reindeer meat out of his rucksack. He uses water from the lake to make the coffee. The coffee is tipped straight into the pot and boiled up with the water. The hot “filter” coffee is then served in wooden cups accompanied by a few pieces of reindeer meat whilst we enjoy wide views out over the lake. This is a place which we are reluctant to leave when we climb back into our boats half an hour later. We are to embark on a further adventure before the day is out.
We are at the paddock. It is now 10 pm. We climb into the saddle and travel in the direction of the low lying sun along the marshy trails. Fallen tree trunks block the route. The hooves of the horses sink deep into the boggy ground. A young fox looms up with its prey in its mouth and rushes away again. The sun has long since disappeared below the horizon by the time we return to the camp. But it never gets dark in the summer here.
There is no prospect of summer boredom. Not when fishing, mountain biking, and river rafting are all on the agenda. The water thunders as this dinghy turns. It lifts into the air and then crashes back down onto the surface. Fragments of the instructions given by our guide emerge from the spray – “left…right…left.” One wave explodes right over the side of the boat. A body of water that seemed to have been flowing gently only seconds before is suddenly transformed into a raging torrent. Canoeists and rafters differentiate six degrees of difficulty. “That was only level three,” our guide explained later as the vessel was being tugged back onto dry land.
In the afternoon, the Finns invite us for a houseboat barbecue. We travel out to one of the numerous small islands on the lakes. We toast this fabulous corner of the Earth one more time by raising a can of lonkero, a traditional Finnish cocktail of grapefruit juice and gin. “Could hardly have dreamed about a more brilliant ending to the Nordic Summer Experience,” Anna says to Judith later. We’ll definitely be back, that’s for sure. Maybe next time even in winter. “But we’ll be sure to bring our luggage with us,” laughs Anna. “Just imagine -40 degrees without any warm underwear!”