Chris begins the day by watching a Finnish version of Strictly Come Dancing, followed by the Finnish shopping channel and finally BBC World Service. These Finns certainly like their sauna like conditions, the room temperature is still 26 degrees, despite us turning everything down and leaving the balcony door open. I am boiling without the thermals. It is only minus 3 so not yet as cold as Bideford Quay. We score a fail for producing our service card in exchange for breakfast. This is apparently the piece of cardboard that I nearly threw away and not the plastic card that opens our room. A range of food is available but I am not too sure about Chris’ combination of bacon and chicken nuggets. After breakfast we take the pretty route to collect our thermal boiler suits and boots. We discover the hard way that leaving the compacted tracks means one ends up knee deep in snow.
We attend the welcome meeting. This is held in the Dancing Restaurant – a misnomer – the restaurant appears not to be dancing at all. There is a nearby hotel called the Crazy Reindeer – we should probably have stayed there. The man in front’s phone goes off. According to his t-shirt he works for a Welsh animal feed company (large number of people from Wales here), how appropriate that his ring tone sounds like a sheep in labour. We are told that we are 170km above the Arctic Circle and that there is currently 50-60c of snow. Local cuisine consists of reindeer meat, salmon and a ‘long drink’ of gin and grapefruit. Traditional entertainment is karaoke and ballroom dancing (at the same time).
We go for a walk towards the frozen lake – not sure we reached it. We see some captive and very smelly, reindeer. Home via the souvenir shops. It seems to be obligatory that the shop assistants talk incessantly on the phone, not pausing to serve and they acknowledge you not at all when you make your purchase. Next we take the underground tunnel from our accommodation block, which is called Ounas, to the spa water world. Chris, as ‘party leader’ has already had to vouch for my good behaviour in order to get our wristbands to enter the spa. We find our respective changing rooms. This is all very odd. First we have to shower in open showers. To do so we are instructed NOT to wear our swimming costumes. I manage this – the place is deserted anyway. I enter one of the pools and I wait and I wait and I wait. Where is Chris? Has he collapsed or been abducted in the changing rooms? It turns out his swimming trunks are unacceptable. ’For hygiene reasons’ short-like costumes are not allowed. Has anyone seen Chris in Speedoes? Can one even buy these now? I swim alone for a while and we return to our room.
An early evening meal. I indulge in vegetable casserole cake and berry quark – which I thought was something to do with particle physics but turns out to be some sort of soft cheese. We meet up again with the young couple from the next room, who, like us, are to spend the night in a glass igloo. We debate the relative merits and demerits of wearing our thermal boiler suits for this. A minibus collects us and four others, including the couple we met at the airport and we head up out of Levi. I panic slightly. We are left in the middle of nowhere – what will happen if our igloo key doesn’t work?
Fortunately there is no problem with the key. We have igloo number 4 – this is out of this world – a 12 foot diameter glass dome, with kitchen and bathroom, panoramic views over the valley and a centralised bed, whose head raises electronically so we can gaze at the view. There is champagne in the fridge, mood lighting, the inevitable sauna like temperatures and even a glass hand basin that is lit from underneath. The fact that the plug is missing from the latter seems to matter not. We sit in fur covered chairs, sipping our champagne by the window – well everywhere is by the window of course. Somewhere nearby is a communal kota (traditional Sami tepee like structure) where we can light a fire and chat but we don’t want to leave our igloo and can’t actually see where it is anyway. It is noticeably colder up here and very windy. There is a thirty foot pine tree nearby that is swaying ominously but we ignore this. Previous occupants have left a strange variety of food behind, including instant mashed potato and several varieties of sugar. The 75 year old Welshman next door seems to be building a snowman. It turns out that he was trying to block out the light from the light pole – wasted effort as they turned off at midnight on a timer anyway.
The interior door to the bathroom is solid glass. This is most disconcerting in the night – as one leaves the bathroom there appears to be someone else trying to enter. We don’t sleep much but completely fail to see the Northern Lights. We learn next day that our companions have managed to take pictures of green lights in the sky. Nonetheless this is a spectacular experience.