The following morning the sun rose over the snow covered mountains in golden but chilly splendour, minus 5 degrees on deck. Some folks had stayed overnight at the Sorrisniva Ice Hotel and came back rather chuffed with themselves, but I’m not sure how much they slept. Others went off in the morning just for a visit, or took trips on snowmobiles, reindeer sled rides, or, as we did in the afternoon, dog sledding. The temperature may have risen a touch during the day, but certainly not above freezing, so red jackets was order of the day, and with as many other layers that could be squeezed on underneath.
We took the dog sledding trip in the afternoon and it was great fun. The dogs knew exactly what was up as soon as the bus arrived, the first sleds were already prepared with six dogs on each and as the first group of red coats approached, a mass barking session started with dogs jumping up and down in their harnesses with excitement. While they literally raced off at a tremendous pace the other group were entertained by the owner who told us he had 84 dogs, all of which were trained from a very early age to become working animals. The following weekend he was competing in a 1000 kilometre race, the toughest in the world, in which the competitors would take at least four days to complete the course and have to look after their own animals, and themselves, without assistance, unless disaster struck of course.
We took the second ride, a charming young Norwegian lady being the handler, standing on the skis at the back. It was a little crazy at times, bouncing along hard ice, hanging on for grim death around corners, trying to miss the overhanging birch and to take photographs at the same time. The dogs carried on at a fast trot, their long tongues hanging out to one side and occasionally dipping their snouts into the snow in order to take in some of the frozen fluid. As they came to an incline they seemed to realise they had to increase their effort and our guide spoke few words.
They worked completely as a team, not reducing their pace, but actually accelerating towards the end, no doubt knowing that ‘home’ was just around the corner. When their work was done they were taken back to their small straw filled kennels where some of them curled up inside with just their heads resting on the entrance, almost casually watching the red coats wandering around taking photographs.
However, when the owner took a bitch out of a large kennel for exercise, they all suddenly came back to instant attention, emitting a cacophony of barking and howling, which only ceased when the cause was hastily led back inside.
A great afternoon was followed by an excellent display of the Aurora during the late evening, when, intermittently, displays of greenish cloud formed rings and moving curtains across the sky. One moment there, seconds later disappeared, a real game of patience and one which only those prepared to hang around long enough were rewarded.