In the Heart of Nature - Lapland
That's great underwear you're wearing, we are told by our guide. We are dressed in our winter wonderland clothing. Five layers on top including thermals, fleece, down jackets, three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, fur lined boots along with scarf, neck warmers, beanies and dual layer gloves. Apparently this is not enough. As our guide says, this is just underwear.
We are handed another two pairs of woolen socks, alternative snow boots to wear, an all in one jump suit to put over the top of all of the above, followed by balaclavas, face warmers, spare beanies if we want and also spare woolen knit tops. A helmet is squashed on my head, my hands shoved into leather wool lined mittens. Now I am ready to venture outside. Are they serious? I am in a sweat. This is overkill for sure.
Walking outside towards our snow mobiles, I am getting hotter by the minute. This is ridiculous. Today's temperature is said to be -23C, however on our snow mobiles, the wind chill factor is up to -50C. Guess this gear is all necessary then.
We are shown to our snow mobiles and given an overview as to how to drive them and then we are off. Sitting on our red snow Ferraris, we zip across the frozen river. Freezing at a rate of 200m every two days, the steam in the distance rises off the waters still not solid ice yet.
The river is wide and flat, we are the only ones out there on the ice covered in a blanket of snow. The landscape is spectacular. As we scoot along, we veer into the pine forest. The scenery is stunning. Lean pines are weighed down in snow, their bows bending with the weight, smaller pines almost fully submerged in the soft powder.
We wind and zig-zag, through tunnels, across frozen lakes and waterways, weaving through this Disney like scenery. Bare trees that are nothing but twigs are encrusted in inches of snow creating a forest of white fortified looking coral.
The wind chill starts to kick in. My toes are frozen. I can barely feel them. They are going number by the second, as are my fingers. There is not much I can do. The wind whips my cheeks like someone is lashing them with barbed wire. When I blink, my eyelashes crunch and I can feel that they have adapted a new look of snow mascara. My lashes are completely frozen. This is nothing though compared to the man in our groups mustache 'Stalagmites' his daughters refers to it as.
Picking up speed, the scenery continues to amaze. It's a shame it's too cold to have a camera out to snap pictures of the beautiful nature and the Go Pro has frozen from the cold and won't even switch on.
Following in a single file, we reach our destination 30km deep into the forest. An opening greets us on the side of a frozen lake with two tepees made from hide. Whilst we all go for a run to get our frozen blood circulating again, our guide cranks a fire for us to defrost by. Sitting on reindeer pelts, we almost have our hands in the flames to try and get some of heat back into our lifeless fingers.
As lunch is thrown onto the fire, (we are told it will take some time to cook as it has also frozen along the way), we head onto the lake for some ice fishing. Our guide demonstrates by drilling a small hole. Once he has penetrated the thick ice, freezing water gushes forth. It's time to throw a line in!
Within seconds of the hole being created, it already begins to freeze over again. Showing how tough he is, our guide plunges his hand into the water and splashes the arctic waters onto his face. Brrr.
He threads some bait on this tiny fishing rod. To be honest it looks completely ridiculous and smaller than a child's toy fishing rod. There is no way this little flimsy thing could catch anything. The bait he uses is florescent as it is dark under the ice and the fish can see the vibrant colours.
He drops the line in and releases some tension. I almost laugh at this fully grown man sitting on the ice with this tiny rod. Less than a minute later, he's had a bite and has snagged a fish.
Winding it in is a process in itself. The hooks are so tiny, that you have to be so gentle when reeling in the line. Keeping in mind that the fish also needs to be vertical when it reaches the surface so you can squeeze him through the hole in the ice, otherwise the line will break. The diameter of the hole in the ice would only be 10cm or so.
Speaking of the line, our guide has been winding for about five minutes now and the line has half a centimetre of thick ice forming on it and he is winding in using bare hands.
Finally the fish reaches the surface and low and behold it is correctly positioned and comes out of the hole vertically and hits the ice with a flop. A beautiful large rainbow trout is lying before us. Its reflective pink and green colours stunningly vivid on its silver skin, our mouths all begin to water at the prospect of what we could catch in these frozen waters.
As our guide takes the fish to fillet and smoke on the fire, the group take turns drilling holes and attempting to secure their own prized fish. No-one has any luck. It seems the guide is the only one with the midas touch today. We decide it's snow angel time instead.
Snow shoeing was another option we could have done on the frozen lake, but with daylight disappearing fast and everyone chilled to the bone from kneeling on ice for an hour trying to fish, we all decide to huddle around the fire taking in the beautiful scenery as the wafting aromas fill our frozen noses.
Our guide heads off into the pine forest with two empty jugs and returns moments later with them filled with water from a fresh nearby spring. Deliciously refreshing. As our Lappish sausages sizzle away slowly, soon enough it is time to dig into our meat and potato mixture, washed down with hot Lingonberry juice. Then it is time to taste the catch of the day. Our Rainbow Trout. Smoked perfectly over the fire, we each taste the freshest fish that any of us will probably ever eat in our lives. Strong in flavour and bursting with smoky goodness, we fill our bellies by the warmth of the fire as the sun disappears by 3pm. It is now complete darkness.
As we snow mobile back in the dark, the headlights illuminate the shadows of the snow bent trees. Everything is crisp, white, silent apart from the hum of the snow mobiles and eerily beautiful. The sky looks like it is dancing with glitter as the snow gently falls.
The powder on the ground glistens like diamonds. Everything is sparkling in this sharp cold air. I gaze towards the sky. This would be the perfect moment for the northern lights to dance before us. There is a heavy cloud cover. There will be no northern lights tonight. Perhaps tomorrow?
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