Day 5 Reindeer Safari

A strange sound of hair drying is coming from the bathroom. What IS Chris doing? It turns out that he is hair drying his beard to stop it freezing when we go to breakfast. Probably just as well as it is minus 11 today. Breakfast’s scrambled egg looks like a sponge but Chris says it is nice – he has passed on the meat balls though. I stick to berry compote, yoghurt and toast.

077 23 January 2013 on top of Levi 1A slight problem getting in to my thermal boiler suit today. Chris ‘helps’ by pulling it up for me. This manoeuvre ends with him punching me in the ear. We wait for daylight, about 9.30am this week and walk to get the gondola to the top of Levi Fell. I have trouble coping with the automatic revolving door and am at risk of going round forever. At the top are panoramic early morning views and ‘Samiland’. The latter is part of an international eco-tourism scheme to promote ethnic heritage. The exhibition is both indoor and outdoor and also includes some impressive scenic photography. We learn of the vital importance of the reindeer, of which every part is used. There is even a process to turn the veins into thread. This reminds me of teaching of the value of the buffalo to the American Indians. Sami groups are inherently nomadic. The first written record of reindeer herding dates from 892 AD. There are now only 300 Inari Sami speakers left, although there are other groups. The traditional Sami ‘hat of four winds’ is actually Russian in origin. We see various Sami structures in the outdoor part of the museum. These include a hut on a pole for storing food and a cage like siltasuova, for penning reindeer and allowing space to store their fodder above them. Included in our modest Samiland entrance fee is a hot drink and we sip this slowly, whilst admiring the incredible views as the sun comes up. It is a continual problem adjusting one’s clothing to accommodate both the sub zero outdoor temperatures and the sauna like conditions indoors. We are continually ripping off hats, gloves and layers as we go inside, in order to avoid boiling to death. A bit of a nasty moment when Chris mislays his ticket for the return gondola journey in the many pockets of his thermal boiler suit. He solves this by barging ticketless through a no entry sign. A quick trip round the town on the way home, this time we find a shop assistant who is the antithesis of those already encountered. Very chatty and offering sweets to all on sundry, including the local dog.

074 23 January 2013 Me at Samiland 2Our afternoon activity is a reindeer safari. This takes place next to the husky farm. The sleighs are very low to the ground, similar to a wooden sledge and we wrap up in a blanket as a keen wind is blowing across the frozen lake. After a photo opportunity our reindeer is put in the shafts of our sledge. We have been allocated a reindeer based on the staff’s assessment of our combined weight. The various sledges set off and a game of reindeer dodgems ensues as the reindeer show their personalities and vie for position. The sledges don’t look too sturdy and there is a certain amount of hazard occasioned when being overtaken by heavily antlered reindeer. They normally lose their antlers in winter and ours has just the one but others still have two rather fearsome looking ones. Our reindeer reminds us of certain drivers, always hassling to overtake. In order to accomplish this he ploughs our sledge up the banks and mows down a few saplings in his wake. This is a longer and slower journey than yesterday’s husky safari but equally amazing. We cross the frozen lake and drive through the forest encountering a wonderful sunset again. For some reason, everyone else is sitting up but I have slid down in our sleigh so that I am almost horizontal. My fingers are cold but not as bad as yesterday and for the first time my feet feel less than warm but otherwise I am fine. The cold air eats camera batteries and I have consumed a whole set on this ride.

DSCF0171 After the ride, more hot berry juice and ginger biscuits. We chat to Tim the reindeer herder. He says reindeer are better than huskies as huskies are Siberian – enough said! The traditional, reindeer based, way of life was crushed by the introduction of the snow mobile in the 1970s. There are more reindeer than people in Finnish Lapland, which has a population of 200,000.

23 January 2913 Homeward BoundBack at Levitunturi, I try to sample local cuisine by having a vol au vent like salmon roll with my vegetable lasagne. Chris has pancakes that are more like our crumpets. As ever, we lack the stamina for evening activities. Chris is watching a two year old episode of Emmerdale with Finnish subtitles! I am realising how long it takes to write two blogs and download and edit photographs on a net book with serious memory issues.

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