Tag Archives: Abisko

Living the Arctic Life! Cross Country Skiing, Dog Sledding and Learning About The Sami

So after I arrived into Abisko and I met up with my friend we decided to go for a walk and check out the scenery. It is incredible in Abisko. The trees look like icicles covered in thin sheets of shiny ice on the tiny branches. Everything is white as far as the eye can see. There is on dip in the mountains where you can barely see the sun as it struggles to make its way to just above the horizon for the smallest amount of time again before it disappears and darkness sets in.

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The extent of sunrise….

By the time night fell I was starting to get super excited about the one thing I had been chasing across Canada for years that had up until that point evaded me. The northern lights! So we wandered down to the frozen over lake, stood at the edge of the ice and waited. Before not too long this faint green haze wandered over the hills in front of us and it was one of the most beautiful and surreal things I had ever seen. At that point I was happy. But I had no idea about what a full on aurora could be like. I was going to learn in coming days.

My second day in Abisko was spent learning to cross country ski during the daylight hours. It took me about half an hour to actually figure out how to clip the skis on before I went attempted running in them along the ice and fell so hard on my butt that the resulting bruise was both excruciating and impressive.

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First time Cross Country Skiing… prior to the bruise 🙂

Annette and I went flying along the course with Tim trailing along behind us taking photos and documenting the ridiculousness. Annette having skied quite a bit before kept falling over in the tracks as she was trying to go down the hill because she was trying to control the movement. Me on the other hand, flying down the hill at stupid speeds relying solely on good balance to keep me upright as I do not know how to ski (it is on the bucket list) and haven’t been since that one time when I was eleven. At one point they dared me to go down the massive hill…. and while I contemplated it, I decided that if I broke myself I wouldn’t be able to go dog sledding so I put the hill on the back burner for a later date. The daylight hours were waning and as such there wasn’t much left for daylight hours activities. It was time to return to the hostel and consume my standard Norwegian meal of crispbread and brown cheese – all I ate for about three days…

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Smashing the odd hill….

For that night I booked a photography tour to go and take pictures of the northern lights. They picked me up on the motorized toboggan and I sat on my reindeer pelt as we drove along in the snow up the hill to a place that was flat, dark and quiet. We stood about in the snow and set up our cameras to take pictures of the stars and waited for the northern lights to come. And they never came. It got so cold at one point that our guide took us into the traditional teepee set up with the fire in the middle and we sat around drinking hot chocolates and listening to stories of how the natives of this land, the Sami, existed, used the land and the reindeer to survive in the harsh winters of the north. As we were about to pack up and give up for the evening, we poked our head outside of the tent and low and behold, there it was. The familiar green haze from the night before painting the sky with its stunning beauty.

At this particular point in time the camera I was using decided it didn’t want to work very well. I couldn’t get it to take any pictures. I was fortunate enough that the guide put my memory card into her personal camera and took some photos on that. My favourite photos from this is a still picture of me standing under the northern lights. One of the most amazing pictures I will ever have in my life.

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Under the Northern Lights

I went back to the hostel on a high. I was super elated, excited and ready to get some serious shut eye for dog sledding in the morning… right after I consumes some Bailey’s at the kitchen table with the rest of the crew.

The following morning was best described as like Christmas day for big people. The whole lot of us going dog sledding lined up in the kitchen in our suits raring to go. We walked up the hill to the cages where the dogs were kept and they could feel the excitement in the air. They just wanted to run. So we got them out of the cages and one by one we had to walk the dogs over to the sleds they were working on and hook them up to it. Then we got allocated our sleds, and we were ready to go!

Dashing through the snow… just like Santa, but my dogs are way cooler 😛

For two hours we sped through the snow fields with the dogs leading the charge. There were many things about dog sledding however that I did not realize. Firstly. They just poo everywhere. Sometimes they poo while they are still running. Sometimes the others behind them stop to eat the poo. Some of them make quite a hurrah about the whole situation. It is quite disgusting. Another thing I did not realize is what happens with cornering. Literally where you get thrown from the side of the sled and roll around into the trees as the dogs just go off at their own pace dragging the sled behind them and trying to overtake any other sledder in front of them. It was so funny. I didn’t do too badly with regards to falling off, but some members of our group were hilarious and literally couldn’t stay on their sleds.

Before we knew it, we were back, putting the dogs back into the cages and patting them to say goodbye. It was so much fun and it set the tone for the high for the rest of the day.

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Me and my team. Love these pups!

Hungry we went out for buffet lunch at the pub before we settled back in for a rest. The evening was bound to be a huge on as it was also the last. Little did I know it was also going to be the best…….

For the last installment of my adventures in the Arctic, stay tuned…


On The Wagon and I’m Hitchin’ A Ride… Across The Arctic!

To go or not to go, that is the question……

I am sitting in Canada talking to my friend, Tim, in England on Facebook and he is trying to convince me to come to Europe. So I said to him, “There are things I haven’t done here yet that I need to do before I go. I want to see the Northern Lights and I want to go dog sledding.” Well he told me he would deal with this and I should just book my flight. So I did.

Enter this amazing trip to Abisko National Park in Northern Sweden. My friend planned and organized all of the finer details because he is a planner and I am very much not a planner. All I had to do was book my flight from Oslo to Narvik, get on the train at Narvik that goes to Kiruna, get off at Abisko. Easy enough. Or so we think……..

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Views over the fjordlands of Norway from the plane

As Murphy Law would have it, again, (I swear Murphy and I are besties these days), I find myself rolling around the floor in the airport bored to tears for a solid two and a half hours while my plane is delayed. Now given that I had allowed myself that 2 and a half hours to get to the train station for the last train, it was known and accepted that there was to be no train for me that day. As I arrived into Narvik, I trotted off to the Tourist Information Center to assess my options. They were as follows:

1. Spend $1000 AUD on a taxi to get to Abisko

2. Spend $500 AUD on a hotel in Narvik if I could actually find one because the backpackers hostels are closed as it is not the season.

3. Stand on the side of the road til the following morning and freeze.

4. Hitchhike…….

So I asked the woman behind the counter for a piece of cardboard and a permanent marker. I scrawled out the word Abisko and headed down the road to go and find me a car to ride in with my map in hand.

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Me and my hitchhiking sign… hurrah!

Generally when hitchhiking it is a good idea to know which side of the road to stand on. I misunderstood the directions I was given and spent a good half an hour standing on the wrong side of the road before some lovely gents pulled over and pointed this out to me. I felt like a massive moron but laughed anyway and headed over to the other side of the road.

It didn’t take me too much longer from here to find a nice guy named Sven (yeah I know right!) and he told me he would drive me down the road to the junction where most of the trucks go by in very broken and hard to understand English. He got onto his phone and was ringing his friends to see if any of them on the truck route were going that way but no luck.

So after this, Sven decided he would drive me past this intersection and on to the Swedish-Norwegian border another forty minutes. We chatted along the way about whatever his broken English would allow and while we go along I am starting to observe my surroundings and the thermometer in the car. As we got progressively further down the road, the thermostat in the car told me that the outside temperature had dropped from the -7 degrees it was in Narvik to a now nippy -20 degrees…. We also had not seen any cars coming in the other direction as the road took us higher into the mountains and all we could see around was snow. I was starting to wonder whether I had made the right decision about this but then figured… OK, border, there has to be shelter there, I will be fine.

When we arrived at the border there was a tiny hut on the side of the road and a couple of trucks. Sven recognized one of them and he told me to wait for him while he went to talk to his friend. After two minutes he ushers me over and introduces me to his friend, Cornelius. Cornelius said he would love to drive me the rest of the way to Abisko and so next thing you know, the shoes are off and I am lifted by two men up into this luxuriously decked out truck equipped with microwave, fridge, bed, speaker system and stereo and heated seats!

I said goodbye to and thanked Sven for his amazing kindness and we started out drive to Abisko. Cornelius was one of the most incredible people I had ever met. He is a Dutch National and has amazing stories about flying helicopters in different wars, racing horses in Spain, driving truck fleets in Germany, his small kids. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I had had on the road in Europe and before I knew it, my time was up and we were pulling into a shop on the side of the road. He pointed up the hill to me over the train tracks to where the rest of the town was and I jumped out of the truck, thanked him and wished him well on his journey delivering dairy to the northern most parts of Norway and was left on my own on the side of the road.

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Happily arrived in Abisko, not dead 😀

I eventually found the backpackers hostel. I arrived about half an hour before Tim coming in from the other direction on a high because I did not know I could actually do it and yet I did. That was the start of my Arctic Circle adventure and it set the tone for the rest of what was to be my last couple of days overseas before returning home to Australia for the first time in two years. It was one of the most amazing places on the planet. And one of my favourites……

Read more about what I actually got up to once I made it to the Arctic Circle in the next installment!