Friday, 21 February 2014

Muotka Lapland Finland

This Trip: FROM 2014.02.12 TO 2014.02.18

Our quest to search for the aurora borealis has been a failure, the one-week Valentine’s holiday in Muotka, a wilderness reserve in Lapland, however, was still a great one. Husky safari, snowmobile safari, snowshoe hike, visit to reindeer farm, etc. were all fun things to do there in the Arctic Circle. Local Finnish guides were not only professional, but also very kind. Most importantly, they communicated fluently in English. Food was just fine, while we found the soup made by Finnish exceptional. On the entire Day One we had no fun but flew from Heathrow to Helsinki and then from Helsinki to Ivalo thanks to the long wait for the domestic flight from Helsinki. The holiday ended on Day Seven when we departed from the Muotka Wilderness Lodge at 10am and arrived in Heathrow at 5pm.

Husky Safari + Aurora Workshop + Night Snowshoeing

On Day Two after breakfast we were transferred to the husky farm to meet lots of lovely huskies that could not wait any longer to run! There was a full safety briefing before the safari. The only thing the driver should and could do was to control the brake. Simple enough! Each two persons took charge of their own team of six huskies. The passenger sat in the sledge, while the driver stood just behind. The huskies were so excited that they rushed to take off and continued to run so fast. As the huskies disliked stopping, it was not an easy task to brake. At some point I wondered whether there could have been a crash into the sledge in the front! It was such good fun especially on bumpy snow! There was a break en route for those who wished to swap drivers before heading back to the farm. This husky safari is definitely a must-do! 

In the evening there was the aurora workshop during which videos about aurora borealis were shown. Honestly, there are a load of videos as such on YouTube. For those who know very well about the science behind the Lights, this is absolutely redundant. The guide did explain some of the local myths and legends which are inspired by the Aurora, but we did not find anything extraordinary. At the end of the session the guide gave some tips about how to set individual cameras in order to capture the Lights as much as possible.

Snowshoeing has always been our favorite activity, but this was the first time snowshoeing at night. On the way to some great Northern Lights vantage points the guide talked about wildlife around the area. The snow covered trees looked like unique sculptures in the beam of head torches and the absolute silence when we stopped was something we rarely got to experience. Failed to see a wonderful display, the group settled in a lavvu, i.e. Finnish Tipi, where the guide made a fire on which a kettle of berries juice was hanged and pancakes cooking on a frying pan. A cup of hot berries juice was perfect out there in the cold! 

Snowshoeing + Snowmobiling Lesson + Night Snowmobiling

This morning we headed out into the forest on a snowshoe trek. There were quite a lot of places there we could not explore without snowshoes so they allowed us real freedom to get around the area. We did see a reindeer but nothing else on this trip. It was lovely snowshoeing again though. We then had lunch back at the lodge before having a snowmobiling lesson in the afternoon.

Driving a snowmobile did not seem that hard. Drivers must possess a full driving license. The guide took us through all of the instructions and safety requirements for driving a snowmobile. The lesson lasted less than 15 minutes. Everyone had the chance to practice their own skills on the trails around the lodge before heading off in convoy for a short scenic safari. Again, we loved travelling on bumpy snow! Going up and down hill were exciting too. Night snowmobiling was equally fun. As the drivers got used to the driving, we had a longer and smoother safari this night. We did not have a chance to experience another Tipi time but the guide did serve us some hot drinks and snacks on the way.

Snowmobile Safari to a Reindeer Farm

This was the third and the last time we travelled on a snowmobile. It seemed to be a lot, but believe me, everyone wanted a fourth time. We enjoyed this long safari and get to explore further afield. It was certainly an exhilarating way to travel and as we journeyed along the marked trails we felt a million miles away from our normal day to day routine! Again we travelled two persons per snowmobile and our destination was a reindeer farm around 20km from Nellim. Everyone had a chance to take a 5-minute ride on a reindeer sledge. This had nothing to do with husky safari, since the one reindeer carrying two persons on a sledge did not run at all. It walked in a relaxing way… I loved it. This ride made some kinds of fairy-tale dreams come true. Reindeer herding has been an inherent part of life in Lapland for many hundreds of years. We learnt a little about the fascinating history of herding and its importance to the local culture. After having some tasty fish soup with bread, coffee and tea as lunch, we headed back to the lodge on snowmobiles. It was a long day out, and we really loved travelling a long way on the snowmobile.

Visit to Inari Sami Siida + Aurora by Car

It took more than one hour by coach to go from the lodge to the small village of Inari to visit the Sami Siida Museum which is the center for Sami culture. The museum has several permanent exhibits detailing the history of the Sami people and the region’s wildlife. Since we are not big fans of museums especially this kind of little ones, touring around the museum for one hour and a half was more than enough for us. We also had lunch there in the museum before heading to fish on the frozen river nearby. Of course we knew we would not catch any fish, but it was so much fun drilling holes in the snow/ice through which some in the group hoped to catch a fish for dinner. We were out for most of the day thanks to the almost 3 hours spent in the coach.

After dinner back in the lodge there was another dedicated search for the Aurora as we headed out in a minibus to try and track down a display. The mobility provided by the minibus did allow the guide to utilise the weather and Aurora forecasts to determine the best route to take to avoid any potential cloud cover, it was, however, too cloudy like every other nights throughout our stay and so we failed to see any Lights. We stopped somewhere and this time settled in a cabin instead of Tipi. We had some hot berries juice and cookies. Time spent with the group around a fire in Tipi or cabin with hot drinks was one of the most remarkable in this Lapland trip. 

Cross Country Skiing + Aurora Camp

This was the last day of the trip. We were provided with cross country ski’s and after a 15-minute lesson we headed out to explore one of the many cross country ski trails in the area. These trails around Muotka are popular with the locals and we saw people out enjoying the pretty landscape. Even though cross country skiing seemed easier than skiing, it was very tiring and I could hardly make it! The others in the group were fine. Some liked it quite much.

This evening we headed out on a snowmobile pulled sleigh. This was our very last chance of Aurora hunt. The guide drove us to one of the best locations in the area some hundreds meters away from the lodge. It was just too cloudy all the time. No way we could have seen anything in the sky. We spent some time in a Tipi the last time and mourned the failure of Aurora hunt.

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