Norway Part Deux

Thursday 19th February

Quiet day today so for variety Daz shaves off the goatee and then sulks for ages because bizarrely I find his hairless face hysterically funny!  ( Note to self: Don’t laugh at B/F’s face! – at least not out loud).  The last time he was clean shaven was December 5th, so I’m just so used to the goatee.

At 10am we cross the Arctic Circle and have a ship’s ceremony that involves a spoonful of fish oil. Yummy! Daz throws his surreptitiously into the bin, but at least we get to keep the fishy shaped spoons that say we have been to the Arctic… Great!! We also see the monument to the Arctic circle that is sat on a small island as we sail past.

P1040125 P1040128 P1040129 P1040136~4

The ship stops today at Bodo, Ornes, Nesna (old trading post with only 1000 inhabitants), Sandnessjoen, Bronnoysund and Rorvik.

The rest of the day is spent relaxing on the forward observation deck, before we are tempted by free aperitifs prior to the evenings Farewell Dinner. Daz manages to circle the aperitif queue several times so we get our fill of sparkly plonk!!  During the dinner we sit to next to 2 fantastic Swiss couples and have a great time chatting and telling them of our plans, they were very excited about the cycling part.  We mentioned our friends, Dawn and Shaun who are doing a trip via a motorhome and all the ladies agree that might be preferable.. I get a wistful look and Daz just frowns!

The ship fails to make it into one of its destination ports tonight (Rorvik – centre of the island group Vikna) as the high winds are not conducive to docking and we can see everyone walking the ship is having difficulty doing so in a straight line… And I thought Daz was just merry!!

After all the free plonk and beer with dinner it’s soon time for bed… Daz falls asleep very quickly and I am left to take his Kindle off him, tuck him in and turn out the lights!!!

Friday 20th January

The alarm goes off at 0630.  Oh my god it’s early!! We have docked in Trondheim, originally the capital of Norway, and need to get breakfast and walk into town and we only have 2 hours until the ship leaves.  We manage to navigate pretty well with the tourist map (of course Daz is Army orienteering champion – retired!) and walk up the big hill to the fortress (phew), see the cathedral (from the outside only…it’s huge!!), cross the ancient bridge and get back to the ship.  All the snow has gone and it’s a lovely day and Trondheim has a good feel to it!   We’re the last passengers on with moments to spare before the ramp is hoisted and the ship sails.

P1040148 P1040158 P1040168 P1040170 P1040174 P1040176

Our next stop isn’t until Kristiansund at 1630 and then we hit the open seas before stopping at Molde after dinner.

Well dinner was fun, with the ship on the open sea it was rocking and rolling and for starter we had a very thin broth… The waitresses were having a hellish job keeping it in the soup dishes and walking and juggling 3 or 4 dishes at a time! We order a nice bottle of red to celebrate our last dinner, as tomorrow we leave our cruise in Bergen and meet our couch surfing host Eirik.

Saturday 21st January

Today we pack up and leave our cabin at 10am.  Now we just need to wait for Bergen at 2.30pm.  To be honest, we’ve found the last couple of days a bit dull.  This is of course typical of us – we want to relax and have some comfort but when we get it, we soon become restless and bored although our current hero ‘Tom Thorne’ by Mark Billingham keeps us occupied and Daz finds a new game ‘Cut the rope’, which keeps him entertained for hours!  The ship is late and we don’t dock until 3.  Then we walk to the train station – about 1.2km with bags and it’s raining.  Apparently it rains a lot in Bergen; in 2012 it rained every day for 100 days. But REMEMBER “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” – a famous Norwegian saying!  We get the tram to Lagunen and then phone our host, Eirik, who picks us up.

He lives in Fana (probably about 19km outside Bergen).  He’s our first experience of couch surfing and he’s great.  He’s welcoming and hospitable.  We chat and cook dinner together, play cards and then watch Birdman.  I should have recognised the warning signs – a highly acclaimed film expected to do great things – award wise.  I have no idea what the fuss is about and fail to understand the plot – the only real surprise is that I managed to stay awake!  Daz pretends to enjoy it but I know he’s as clueless as me really!  We’ve got money on this – that Trish and Carl will love it.  They’re far more discerning and appreciate quality movies!!

Sunday 22nd February

We sleep well and discover it’s been snowing.  It doesn’t often snow in Bergen and if it does it doesn’t usually settle.  The skies are clear so a good day for sightseeing.  We walk from Fana to Lagunen.  It’s about 4km and we try hitching but no luck.  Then we get tram into town and look round the Bryggan area ( the old harbour area), then take the furnicular up to a viewing point, looking out over Bergen.   There are so many people up here: walking dogs, skiing, walking, running or taking their young children out for sledding.  It’s obviously a really popular spot and it’s such a lovely day (and a Sunday), everyone’s come out to enjoy it.

P1040190 P1040197 P1040207 P1040208 P1040210 P1040213 P1040215 P1040228 P1040230 P1040240 P1040242 P1040251 P1040253 P1040254

Back in Fana and we share pizza and watch a movie with Eirik, ‘What we do in the shadows’ – a vampire film. Very entertaining!

Monday 23rd February

There’s been strong winds overnight and it’s raining.  Eirik told us that yesterday’s weather was very unusual for Bergen and we’re so glad we went sightseeing yesterday even though all the shops were shut.  We were going to do a walk around the local area today but we’ll see if the weather improves!  Eirik even offered us the use of his car to visit some local landmarks – how kind is that? But we decided against it.

OMG no weather improvement – instead we’re getting hail showers.  We decide to try geocaching and so off we go but after 2 successful finds our luck runs out and since most of the cache information is in Norwegian we can’t rely on previous cache finds to give us some pointers.  So we give up and go shopping instead.  Only to buy ingredients for tonight’s dinner.  Tonight we’re cooking for Eirik!

P1040257 P1040258 P1040260 P1040263 P1040267 P1040270 P1040274 P1040275 P1040277 Eirik n Hels

Tuesday 24th February

An early start today.  We’re up at 6am, say farewell to Eirik, and we’re off to Bergen to catch the 8am train from Bergen to Oslo.  The Bergen railway has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.  We get off at Myrdal and take the Flam Railway to Flam.  It’s a 20km ride dropping from 866m to 2m at Flam, which lies at the head of Aurlands Fjord.  This offers the most magnificent mountain scenery Norway has to offer with towering mountains and impressive waterfalls. There’s 6km of tunnels en route and these tunnels were hand hewn, a metre taking a month to build.  In Flam we book into our hotel and after grabbing a bite to eat we decide to take one of the walks shown back up the Flam valley to Flam church dating back to 1667 situated in the old centre of Flam.  As we walk we notice that there’s a large amount of heavy plant working in the river valley.  We watch and theorise for some time.  We stop and ask a local.  Apparently on October 28th 2014 there was a huge disaster here.  The river flooded after 2 days of heavy rain and there was huge damage to the river valley with a number of houses destroyed, bridges washed away, the path of the river completely changed and the local school flooded and completely cut off.  200 locals had to be evacuated and the repairs are scheduled to take 7 years!

P1040278 P1040279 P1040284 P1040285 P1040292 P1040296 P1040300 P1040302 P1040310 P1040326 P1040327 P1040351 P1040353 P1040355 P1040362 P1040366 P1040367 P1040368 P1040369 P1040371 P1040373 P1040375 P1040384 P1040387 P1040390 P1040396 P1040399 3bdec642d486b91fedc562210d736d


Norwegian cruise – Kirkenes to Bergen

Monday 16th February

Today we get on our cruise liner MS Nordlys.  By the time we board I’ve managed to spend my entire terminal grant plus some.  So that only managed to burn a hole for 2 days before I spent it!

On board – lovely! 222 passengers – some do the entire cruise south to north and back whilst others do the northern leg and disembark at Kirkenes and others the southern leg embarking from Kirkenes like us and disembark in Bergen.  There’s a brilliant viewing deck, a gym, sauna, bar and restaurant.

P1030943 P1030938 P1030945

We have a mooch and then the ship leaves Kirkenes and lunch is served.  All our meals are included but not our booze unfortunately.  Daz enters into a long, convoluted chat with our waiter to decide if he wants the wine deal, the beer deal, the water deal or to just order drinks from the bar.  All are expensive – the wine deal is £165 for 5 bottles of wine.

The ship stops a number of times each day.  One is the main stop (usually a couple of hours; today’s was Kirkenes); a short stop of about 45 minutes – today that’s Vardo where we get off and walk to the Vardohus Fortress and then there are a number of 15 minute stops.  Just enough time to bring the ship alongside and for forklifts to take their pallets of goods from our holds and deliver the post.

P1030903P1030898 P1030900

We have decided to do the night safari.  Well it’s called “Snow mobile trip in the Polar Night” at the magnificent price of £250pp.  Yep stupidly expensive!  We get off at Mehamn (the world’s northern most mainland town) at 1am, get kitted out in cold weather gear and then get our skidoo training.  Then we’re off.  There are 7 of us in the group and we all have to follow our guide who clearly is adverse to travelling at speeds greater than 20 km/hr.  These machines are capable of 120km/hr but this is never going to happen because a.  We all have to follow the guide and b.  The boring bastards have fitted a speed restrictor.  Of course where there’s a will……………….. So I spend the trip dropping back from the guy in front and then putting my foot down ( well the skidoo equivalent – these are fully automatic and has a hand throttle but John Buchanan I still did my lifesavers!  Daz didn’t!!! )

P1030912 P1030915 IMG_38194077506526 IMG_38188767753110

Behind me Daz is doing the same but he gets told off! We stop and all the lights are switched off and we see the Northern lights.  They’re the best we’ve seen to date.  Fabulous!  Then after the skidoo ride we get onto a mini bus and we’re driven to Kjollefjord.  As we enter this village we see barriers.

When the weather is particularly bad these barriers are closed and no one can drive out of the village unaccompanied.  They must wait and be led by a snow plough and on some occasions the conditions are so bad even the snow ploughs can’t get through.  And the village is completely cut-off.

3am and it’s back to bed but what a fabulous excursion!!!


Tuesday 17th February

This morning we pass the Snohvit-project.  The first facility in Norway to extract and export liquefied natural gas.

Today we visit Hammerfest.  One of the greatest men of polar history, Lindstrom, came from Hammerfest.  We visit the church and then walk up Mount Salen and look out over the town and harbour.

P1030971 P1030985 P1040002

Later we attend a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral, Tromso. Beautiful!

P1040023 P1040014 P1040021


Wednesday 18th February

Early start.  At 8am we’re getting off for ‘A taste of Vesteralen’ and we’ll rejoin the boat at 12.30.  I’m at a bit of a loss to describe this excursion although Daz’s eloquent ‘shit!’ probably covers it!  However, we do have a lovely chat with a couple from the Lake District about ‘salmonella’!

P1040029 P1040034 P1040040

During the afternoon we sail into the 26km long strait of Raftsund, arguably the most beautiful part of the voyage.

P1040100 P1040094 P1040109

 In the evening we go ashore at Svolvaer.  We take a walk around the harbour and town but finally end up in a pub.  There’s a rather strange guy at the bar who appears to be eating his own hand and randomly having verbal outbursts whilst looking at us.  We have no idea whether he’s the local looney or if he’s just trying to be friendly.


Bike picture included because Daz was so excited by the chubby tires – 5 inches wide for snow riding!  Never knew 5″ would excite D soooo much!!!!


The Great Escape!

Saturday 14th February

Route choice Inari to Kirkenes via hitchhiking. (More pics to come)

 P1030842 P1030840~2 IMG_19480109378565

The hitching isn’t a huge success.  We stand on the road side for an hour 20 before the cold and toilet needs drive us to the petrol station.  Then back out for another hour. There really isn’t much traffic and it seems to be mostly families.  Hitching on a Saturday was probably a mistake. We know if all else fails we can get the 16.55 bus to Karasjok but we text Horse Satu and ask her if she would like to drive us north for a fee.  Bizarrely she actually has time off and agrees.  Hurrah! So we wait for her in the petrol station.  She calls back and says she can’t take Rocky over the border but she’ll take us to the border town Naatamo.  It has 3 shops and a motel.  It’s a lovely drive.   At the border town we all have coffee and cake.  There are loads of cars here with Norwegian plates and we ask the guy at the till – he confirms most of his customers are Norwegian.  It’s cheaper here than in Norway.  Satu takes Rocky for a walk.  And we start hitching.  It’s 4pm and if we want a room in the motel we need to book in before the receptionist leaves at 6pm.  Finally at 5pm, 2 men originally from Sudan, stop and give us a lift to Kirkenes.  Result.  By 6.20 (7.20 Finnish time) we’re booking into a hotel.  A big ‘Thank you’ to Horse Satu for driving us north – without you we’d have been stuffed.  Yes we were supposed to be couchsurfing but I’m ill.  My hands hurt, my throat hurts and I’m feeling really cold.  By 8pm I’m fast asleep.  Happy Valentines Daz!

 IMG_22157392174300 P1030847 P1030845

Sunday 15th February


A lovely breakfast followed by a walk down to the port.

P1030855 P1030868 P1030864 P1030866 P1030862 P1030873

There really isn’t much here and most of its closed because it’s a Sunday.  We toy with the idea of the King Crab safari (£140 pp) for 3 hours: skidoo ride, fish for king crab then cook and eat it.  Then consider the snow hotel visit with dinner.  But in the end we decide just to enjoy the comfort of the hotel.  I’m still feeling poorly and the thought of being out in the cold isn’t attractive!


Last days of Finland

Monday 9th February

9am pick up for Seb and Stefi (SS) and 11am for me and Daz.  Daz needs to drive the bus and pick up clients because Erkki and Boss Satu are off to Ivalo to buy more stuff for the cabin because from Tuesday we’re going to be using it.

Whilst the SS mob are busy putting the dog teams together, we go to pick up the two clients from hotel Inari, they are from Taiwan.  Inari seems very popular with the Taiwanese maybe its the draw of the snow as most have never seen it!  The lady is very giggly and has big sunglasses and reminds Daz of his time in Thailand… Best not go there!


We’re expecting an early finish for Seb and Stefi but then we get a phone call about another 7 clients. Daz has to pick these up too and finally gets to drive the snowmobile on a proper run as Erkki is still in Ivalo. Another 7 Taiwanese, they are all young and we wonder if they are all well paid or on daddy’s expense account.  One of them falls off the back of their sled twice and Lukas has to do an Indiana Jones dive from the snowmobile to catch the runaway sled… Good going!   By the time these clients have gone there’s no chance of an early finish for the SS. Lukas however does get a lift back into town for his weekly shower!  The snow is belting down now and has made it very difficult picking up the horse poop again and generally getting around!   We finally all head back home and Daz sets about cooking a lovely nasi goreng, I assist as ‘sous’ chef and don’t tell anyone I chopped 2 chillies into it!  We meet the new workawayer at dinner, Aude, from France, a young 21 year old who will be working in the Villa Lanca to start. Shame she doesn’t like hot food as the nasi goreng blows everyone’s socks off with the chilli heat! Seb is very funny in his accented Flemish shouting how ‘you English are crazy with your hot food!’


Tuesday 10th February

A day off and another (our second) attempt to scale the summit of Otsamo!  So I’ve insisted on an early start to give us the best chance of success and we’re up and breakfasting with the SS who are off to the farm at 9am and will be the first to spend a night in our new farm cabin.  P1030766 P1030754 P1030753

We’re skiing by 9.30am and feeling confident about our chances of success but once again it’s not to be.  We’re just over half way and our skis start to stick to the snow.  Finally we look at the bottom of our skis and the waist of the ski (the middle section) which has a glue applied (to help go uphill) has loads of snow snuck to it.  So the skis won’t slide.  We clean it off with a knife but it just keeps happening.  We think it’s too warm and the snow too wet.  We continue and a skidoo passes us heading back to Inari. Daz thinks he’s clearing the trails.  About 1km after passing the skidoo we start crossing a lake.  Firstly we try skiing in the skidoo tracks but we keep sinking into slush and water.  We try moving away from the skidoo tracks but we’re still sinking over 6″ and we can feel the water seeping into our boots.  This combined with the sticky snow makes us reconsider.  We’ve made such little progress in the last 30 minutes that we decide to head home.  We’re on our way back when the snow stops, the skies clear and the sun shines across the landscape and we can truly appreciate the beauty of this place.  I’m glad we’re heading back early and not having to worry about getting home in the daylight.  Otsamo will have to wait for another day!! And on our way back we see some reindeer.  We stand silently in the snow as they stand watching us from the forest before they get back to foraging and we move on, the spell broken.  Awesome!

P1030778 P1030780 P1030776 P1030777 P1030772 P1030760

Back home and Seb turns up.  He was supposed to be spending the night on the farm but because of his epilepsy Erkki and Satu have decided he can’t stay on the farm.  There seems to be an issue because they only found out about his epilepsy from Lukas.  Then there’s some sort of discussion; Seb, Erkki and Boss Satu and they ask if he’s enjoying the farm and when he says “not really, the hours are long and he’d rather work with the horses than the dogs”, it seems their response is unsympathetic.  He must work in conjunction with Stefi and since there are 37 dogs and only 5 horses, the emphasis on dog work will continue.  The long hours are glossed over in much the same way as when Rob mentioned them.  Seb isn’t happy here and would leave early, but he’s booked his return flight for the end of March and it’s non-flexible so he’d need to buy a new flight which he can’t afford!


Wednesday 11th February

Today we told Erkki we’re leaving on Saturday.  He said we should have discussed this with him earlier but we know volunteers who have talked to him about the working hours and nothing has changed.  So on Saturday we will head to north Norway.  We are very excited and really looking forward to our travelling adventures.  We hope our next workaway hosts adhere more closely to the premise of workaway, which is generally 25 hours a week work ( 5 hours a day, 5 days a week)whilst being embraced by your hosts and given a flavour of the country and culture.  So a pretty typical day although trying to get Daz to relinquish control to ensure Stefi knows the process inside out is almost impossible.  He can’t help himself.  He keeps taking over.  We have 6 clients so 3 dog teams to prepare.  Lukas decides we should try Ripa, Hila and Kid but leave Bang.  I know from past experience that taking pups from this cage can be difficult.  But we’re all in the cage with a dog each.  And the 3 that are needed leave the cage and I’m holding Bang.  Then disaster – firstly Hila escapes and Stefi has to recapture her.  Then once the 3 pups are away from the cage, I let Bang go and leave the cage.  Unfortunately, he goes ballistic running around the cage trying to escape until he finally managed to scale a fence and he’s away to join the his 3 mates.  Then Hila escapes again and the both run down to the lake where the 3 teams are set up.  2 young pups running free amongst 3 teams soon causes mayhem and there’s fighting and all sorts.  Lukas captures Bang and takes him back to the cage and Hila follows – still running free.  Bang escapes another 2 times before he’s finally chained.  It’s been chaos and everyone’s sweaty having chased at least one dog through deep snow (except Seb, who merely gives a Gaelic shrug ‘Mon dieu!’ and ignores it all!)

Erkki drops me and Daz at the apartment, Stefi is still at the farm and Seb is taken away for another ‘chat’!   He’s back in 10 minutes.  He’s been told he’s being replaced and he needs to leave on 19th February.  This seems pretty harsh treatment and poor Seb feels he can’t say anything in case they throw him out immediately!

We take Aude and Seb to the Kultahovi.  We have good news from ‘couchsurfers’, we have an offer of a couch for Kirkenes, north Norway so all we have to do is make it there!

P1030810 P1030806 P1030808 P1030803 P1030791 P1030783

Thursday 12th February

Penultimate day at the farm.  Another 9am pickup and once again (for no discernible reason), we all have to be there.  We asked about Seb’s day off, which should be today, but for whatever reason Erkki said ‘no’ and Stefi lost her day off Wednesday!  Seb is really down in the dumps these days so he’s proving less fun than usual but I’d be upset if I’d been treated like he has!  Nothing much happening today although a reindeer herd comes onto the lake during the dog sled tour and the dogs go crazy and one of the clients can’t control her dog team so Daz has to come to the rescue.  My hero!

Seb manages to leave the farm early but no such luck for Stefi, there’s horse sled clients at 5.  Lukas leaves the farm for a ‘business’ meeting with Erkki and Boss Satu.  We help prepare the horses and then Daz and I do the evening feed. Then we make sure the Lavuu is ready for the horse clients.  When all is done we all leave the farm with Horse Satu leaving the farm uninhabited!!!

About an hour later we’re all at the dinner table eating a salmon pasta creation from Seb ( yummy) when we think we see Erkki’s truck pull up.  ‘Shit!’ – crimes committed:

Daz and me leaving farm when Erkki expected us to stay in new cabin.

Horse Satu – being overfamiliar with the unpaid filth (yes she has been told not to be too friendly) and eating dinner with us ( and her food isn’t included in her contract)

Seb – just for being Seb really.  Unwanted by the bosses!

Stefi for being excruciatingly red having had her 1st shower for 4 days ( she’s had to stay at farm).

The only innocent is Aude – but that won’t last!!!

Daz tries to dive into the shower to avoid Erkki and I’m surprised Horse Satu isn’t hiding under the table!

Erkki comes in and asks us about his maths skills.  There are only 4 beds in the apartment but 5 of us need to sleep in it. We explain that we only use one bed and it’ll be fine because it’s only for 2 nights.  He leaves and we all heave a huge sigh of relief!


Friday 13th February

Our last day.  The day is a little ominous, Friday the 13th, but hopefully all will be well.  It’s a 8.30 start and it’s soon clear that our last day won’t be a good one.  I ask Erkki if I can drive the skidoo but apparently we’ll be too busy (with 6 clients) and he wouldn’t allow me to drive it anyway!! Apparently it’s a man toy!  At the farm Lukas isn’t too forthcoming either and we have to work out that we’re no longer welcome in the house.  Then Daz nearly pokes his eye out on a tree branch, burns his hand picking up the kettle from the gas cooker without a glove and then Saki drags him around the area and so he’s pissed off and soon we’re arguing!  And the final straw – Daz tries to drive Lobo’s team up the hill but can’t undo the knot and when he finally manages it he has lost control of the sled but considers hanging on to the trailing rope ( I’m watching all this – well I’m on my way to assist but as usual Daz waits for no man) and expect to see him being dragged through the snow like a comedy excerpt from Road Runner.  But he realises the danger and let’s go.  I toy with the idea of trying to stop the team but remember Lukas saying never to stand in front of a ‘runaway sled’ so I get out of the way but should have tried to jump on it as it passed.  They go straight up the hill into the other dog sled team and start scrapping.  Fortunately Lukas is there and soon gets the dog and sled under control before any harm is done.   I tell Darren not to touch or do anything else.  It’s clearly not safe! Friday the Thirteenth has struck!


Onward travels.

Saturday 14th February

The plan is to hitch from Inari to either Karasjok or Kirkenes.  Or if we make good time get the bus from Karasjok to Kirkenes.  We have a cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen booked for 16th and we have an offer of a bed in Kirkenes for Saturday and Sunday from a couch surfer.  We will update you about this if we get there!


Seb and Stefi – the new partnership

Thursday 5th February

A day off.  Seb and Stef go off to the farm and we stay home, do our washing, post our blog and catch up on the internet.  That’s it!  However, we end up in PaPaNas at 4pm.  Our lame excuse – internet.  But of course we have to have a pint and then discover cookery programmes on the TV – Top Chef America and Master chef USA interspersed with Frasier and some shit about American kids in talent shows.  So my refusal to leave the TV, even though I had to keep turning it up to drown out the music and the noise of the pissed ‘Reindeer Sami’, leads to more pints and then a burger.  Then we text our house mates and shortly after Stef and Seb turn up.  It’s Stef’s birthday so more beers are required.  Seb doesn’t drink so he has a couple of glasses of water.  However, Seb is entertaining enough without alcohol!  Kate joins us too and we have a couple of games of Jenga. Seb has never played before so we explain the rules in pidgeon english and of course he loses.  Later we get back to the apartment worse for wear and find out we are being picked up early tomorrow!!! Ah well there are 2 cans left in the fridge, best open them too!

P1030671 P1030672 P1030669

 P1030745 Seb, Hels and Stefi at the farm

Friday 6 February

8am start today. There’s been about 4″ of snow overnight and it’s only -10 today so all chores are extra hard because we have to wade through deep snow and the extra effort soon means we’re sweating and uncomfortable.  We have 3 clients at 11am and Lukas wants Seb to drive but Seb keeps telling us ( Daz and I) that we should drive. But we insist that we shouldn’t and that he should for his personal development.  Finally he agrees grudgingly.  He finishes the tour and says it was OK for ten minutes and then it was dull.  Precisely why do you think we didn’t want to drive.

We are busy all of today with only 2 short breaks because Boss Satu has booked another short sled ride, ice fishing and a horse sled ride and we don’t find out until the last minute.  So we have to keep the Lavuu going and clients waiting to leave the farm have to be entertained.

P1030679 P1030677 P1030675

Once back at the apartment we get a call from Erkki.  It’s Sami national day and there’s reindeer sled rides available.  We imagine high adrenaline activity but actually its us sat on a sled with the reindeer being led by a Sami round a very small circuit.  The reindeer is either too tired after a hard day, too lazy or we’re too heavy.  Whatever the reason the reindeer often grinds to a halt and both it and the sled need pushing and in the end Daz leaves the sled to help push it up the final gradient.  All this for the princely price of 20 Euros. But at least we get some nice photos.

 P1030688 P1030685 P1030684

Saturday 7th February

Another 8 am pick up.  Stef’s off today so just the 3 of us.  We’re all tired and I ache pretty much everywhere.  My hands ache, my back is sore and I know when I start work there’ll be other tired/achey parts. Daz has this too but I think to a lesser degree.  I’d have thought after 6 weeks, since we’re both fairly fit, we’d have got used to it.  I wonder if it’s to do with the jolting/jarring nature of our work.  Dogs dragging us all over the kennels, falling into holes dug by the dogs, falling through deep snow, the jolt as another frozen horse poo refuses to divest its grip of the horse wee ice underneath it and horses generally pushing you about as you try to brush them or clean their hooves!

The Spanish group that went to the reindeer roundup came to the farm today for dog sledding – so that was 4  sleds to prepare and there’s been more snow overnight and the temperature is a roasting -0.5 degrees!  Our warmest day yet.  These working conditions are the pits.  We’re all too hot, sweating and stinking and my gloves become soaked. The deep wet snow slows us down and it’s so hard wading through it.  Our last sled group is a British couple.  This is the first British couple we’ve met and it’s nice to chat to British tourists and Daz has soon told them about our travel plans.

Seb puts the bunk beds together, although its not until he is putting the ladder on that he realises half the wood is the wrong way round! Sod it, drill some more holes, it’s only Seb that needs the safety rail anyway! It is a real morale booster working with Seb, his expressions and accent make for funny conversation and we are always pulling his leg so when we are being serious he doesn’t believe us and then appears startled when he finds out we were serious! Sebs pet hate is picking up the dog poo, well today I have to agree with him as none of it is frozen and trying to empty a bucket of wet snow and poo into a sack not much fun! So the cabin is almost ready for occupation.  It’s small, really small, and looks even smaller with the bunk beds up and it still needs a cooker,  the heater installed, cooking equipment and seating for 4.  Wow it’s going to be a tight fit!!

Today we asked Seb what he’s doing tomorrow – it’s his day off.  He says he’s going to the museum and we say yes, the Siida.  Seb immediately pulls a really disgusted face and says “I do not like this word”. We look at each other in confusion.  ” What’s in a word and why such a reaction”. We assume he’s talking about something else but after a convoluted and confusing conversation including condoms, melodies, sexually transmitted diseases and much hilarity as he tries to explain himself, it turns out SIDA is the French word for HIV and his melody was ‘maladies’.

We take Seb and Stefi to the Kultohovi; to the bar with the log burner.  The Aurora are good tonight but Seb is totally unimpressed.  We’re wondering if his nickname should be ‘Victor’ from ‘Victor Meldrew’.


Sunday 8th February.

The temperature had dropped to -10 which should make work more comfortable and it’s a 10am start.  We have 3 clients for dog sledding so Stefi will be driving and because she’s usually involved with the horses, this a chance for her to learn the dog preparation process.  We’re taking the 2 youngsters, Bang and Ripa as part of the teams.  It’s difficult to get just 2 of them out of the cage and we never know how they’ll behave once there amongst the other dogs. The high winds overnight means we have many paths to clear; the path to the Lavuu, the puppy kennel, the bitches kennel, to the lake and around all the sleds.   We also clear the horse shed roof and clear an area for a wood delivery.


Another good night for the Aurora and over the lake we probably see the best display to date.


Dog Team Setup!

So it’s a long old process for getting the dogs ready for the sledding… here’s how it goes:
Collect equipment – leashes, harnesses, snow anchors, sled cleaning kit, and reindeer skins.  Take equipment to kennel area.  Find out which teams are running and which dog you need to fetch.  Take leash and approach your dog of choice who by this stage is very excited and will jump all over you and lick you (not good when some are chronic shit eaters), attempt to hold dog and swap chain for your leash. Not an easy task with a moving target and thick gloves.  Swear. Remove warm gloves and keep trying until successful by which stage your hands are freezing.  Walk madly pulling and excited dog through chicane of other madly excited but jealous dogs and be grateful when you exit kennel area unscathed.  Take dog to one of the two holding lines in woods just above lake.
Repeat until 5 dogs (a sled team) are on the line.

Put a harness on each dog by getting its head threaded through and then its front paws and reclip to the holding line. If at the end of this the harness is upside down, you are upside down, or the dog is hanging from a tree by its harness you have done it wrong… repeat until right.  At this stage the dogs are still incredibly excited and will be running  around on the line, jumping at us or other dogs or even lying on their backs for some attention. They also might choose to lick or wee on us. During the unclipping, clipping process there’s the risk of losing grip of your dog and having to chase it back to the kennels as it happily cavorts about (especially bad if it’s Polar or Alaska who detest each other and not that keen on other males either!)

The number of teams required depends on the number of clients.  A sled is driven by one client whilst the 2nd sits in the sled covered in reindeer skins.  The clients drive across the lake led by Lucas or Erkki on a skiddoo.  There are 5 sleds available, so we could have to get up to 25 dogs ready! About 20 mins before the clients arrive the dogs are taken to the sleds on the lake and clipped in to the running lines. Each sled is anchored at the back and the dogs held in a relatively straight line by a snow anchor at the front.  Once the clients arrive and are positioned in the sled the lead skidoo takes off, one person has removed the snow anchor at the front and is holding the dogs steady as another pulls the slip knot and releases the sled… hoping that the person at the front has moved out of the way of a now rapidly accelerating dog team and sled.  If there are more sleds then the process is repeated allowing about a 30 meter separation between the teams… that is until the slip knot snags and its a mad few moments as the dogs are heaving on the sled and you are trying to free the knot… as a last resort we are supposed to cut the rope, but that hasn’t happened yet!

On the return of the sleds we signal to the driver to put the ice brake on as they come up to us and hope they remember, otherwise you’re about to get run over!  We then assist the clients out of the sled and take the teams back to the hitching post to secure them so the clients can take pictures etc!  We also have prepped some bone soup for the dogs to quench their thirst, but most of them are happy either rolling in the snow, eating snow (they love yellow or brown snow!) or just sitting there with a big cheesy tongue lolling grin on their faces.
Once the clients have disappeared for a tour around the farm and to go get warmed in the Lavuu we have to take the teams back to the kennels (no licking etc etc) and clean up the sleds and return all the equipment (when the dogs crap during a run some of the lines and harnesses get messy, thankfully it freezes quickly!) And not forgetting pick up the dog poo from the holding line!

See, I told you it was a long process, it may be only a 30 minute ride for the clients, but it’s a good 3 hours or more for us!

P1030606 P1030603 P1030604 P1030533 P1030532



Reindeer Roundup!!

Wednesday 4th February


Bizarre day today.  Started with a vague plan to go up north in horse Satu’s car and see the reindeer round-up.  However Horse Satu, who was driving 8 clients to the roundup, spoke to Boss Satu and she said it was a working day for everyone and  Seb and Stef were going to the farm and me and Daz would be given chores by Erkki at 10am.   So Horse Satu left the apartment and then rang us about 10 minutes later.  There were too many clients to fit in the mini bus so would we take the extra to the roundup in her car.  So something we weren’t fit to do, suddenly became acceptable because there was clients (therefore money) involved!  We think “exploitation” at its best or perhaps I mean worst!

So we got Horse Satu’s car ready and off to see Boss Satu.  She gave us our briefing.  What we should tell the clients about the roundup and what we shouldn’t tell them – “we’ve no idea we’ve never been before!”. And if all else failed to give them a long complicated explanation which they wouldn’t understand because they’re Spanish!

So off we went following the minibus.  In our car we had a young Spanish couple.  And we shared all our newly found knowledge with them and we will share with you too.   On the way north it’s possible to see the vegetation change from Taiga to Semi-Tundra where the trees are much smaller and more shrub like than the birch and fir forests we’ve left.   There are 8500 Sami in Finland divided into 3 tribes; reindeer Sami, fisherman Sami and skull Sami (well it sounded like ‘skull’ – and they are the vagrant Sami from when a part of Finland was originally annexed by Russia).  Each group has its own culture and language.  The site of the reindeer roundabout is very close to a very distinct hill, Ailigas, the 2nd most holy site for the Sami in Finland.

The roundabout: there are about 14000 reindeer in Finland all owned by Sami Reindeer herders.  It’s fairly common to see them out in the countryside, riding their skidoos (the herders, not the reindeer!) with trailers of hay, looking for, feeding and checking the animals.  But remember all 14000 reindeer run loose (in the Karigasniemi area)and aren’t held in areas by fencing.  At the roundup (which occur several times a year)  3000 reindeer had been herded to this site.  They need to be checked, counted and marked by their owner.  Each ‘mark’ is a special cut in the ear of the reindeer, there are about 30 different marks to represent each family. The new calves (born  May 2014) which haven’t been marked yet, need to be done.

P1030631 P1030621 P1030611

There’s a round corrall about 15metres in diameter and off it are gated shutes that lead to small paddocks.  Approximately 50 reindeer are herded into the corrall where there are about 30 Sami and some tourists (us) stood waiting.  The reindeer run around the corrall and the Sami identity their own deer, grab it by its horns and man handle it to their own particular gated shute.   This continues until the corrall is empty.  In some cases there are calves without markings.  They have a tag hung from its neck and are sent to their own paddock.  When the day is done, these calves will be released into the entire herd and will find their mother and then it will be clear who owns them.  All the Spanish tourists and us entered the corrall and watched the action.  The reindeer are running around us madly and although we have been told they will not run into us their antlers look extremely sharp and close at times.  We stay inside the corrall for a few rounds of the selection process and enjoy the earthiness and splendour of the reindeer at close proximity.   Truly memorable!

P1030658 P1030650 P1030641 P1030642 P1030638 P1030636

When no one could stand the cold any longer we went to Uncle Hansi’s cabin to get warm.   If I’ve understood correctly Hansi’s nephew owns (and races) reindeer and is cousin to Boss Satu.  Hansi must be around 70 and is clearly an absolute charmer and flirt and whilst we totally depended on Horse Satu for translation,  there are some messages that are conveyed without language.  Hansi has diversified and has a hotel and recognises the value of the tourist and their interest in reindeer.

P1030633He wore (as do most Sami) reindeer moccasins with a pointed toe ( I thought this was some quaint affectation) but it’s so the point can be hooked into their skis.  In these shoes they used to have hay instead of socks; it needs to be specially prepared before use.  

An Arctic fox fur hat, seal skin gloves and over his coveralls a hand crafted belts with 2 knives.  The Sami now use top of the range skidoos (approx £15000) but once used herding dogs and skis.   Hansi told us that as a young man (1959) he was at a reindeer roundabout and there was a young girl there from Helsinki who caught his eye.  She returned to Helsinki and there was no emails or texts or phone lines so Hansi couldn’t stay in contact but instead sacrificed a white reindeer to the Gods.  And in 1962 he came home after a day working the reindeer and a car was parked under his bedroom window and ‘the girl that had caught his eye’ was inside chatting to his mother having finished her degree in Helsinki.  And they’ve been married ever since.

We got back to Inari about 6, Daz said his eyes were bleeding from the long drive with nothing to look at except snow snow snow and maybe if he was lucky the van in front appearing from the snow spray in time to brake if it needed to stop suddenly for reindeers on the icy snowy road!

P1030632 P1030629 P1030625 P1030627 P1030608 P1030609

At least tomorrow is a day off!


New Cabin!?

Monday 2nd February.

Early start today because there are 2 clients for the long tour at 0920. And because Daz has been waking up every hour worrying about oversleeping we get to the farm even earlier than expected!  Chores done and dog team ready BUT no clients.  So we go out sledding. Just me, Daz, Lukas and ‘Team Kazakhstan’. First I drive whilst Lukas drives the skidoo with Daz on the back.  Then Daz and I swap and finally Daz drives the skidoo and Lukas the dog sled.  It’s a beautiful clear morning and it’s fab and no clients to worry about.  Great fun!

P1030545 P1030543 P1030536 P1030548

Then we have more puppy time and take them for their first proper walk outside their compound to the yard by the horse paddock.  Only 3 come with us the other 2 are a little shy and stay in the kennel but hopefully next time they’ll all come.  They are so cute and just follow us around… Fatfuck got distracted by the horse paddock when he came across his first horse poop, ‘yum yum’, and runs off chewing on a lump or two!

P1030562 P1030567 P1030569 P1030571 P1030579 P1030577

We do a few chores

P1030582 (Daz and his amazin’ shit sled!)

 and clear the snow on the road to remove the drifts and everything’s done but our cabin still hasn’t arrived.  So we give up waiting and go for coffee and then just as we sit down Lukas tells us the trucks have arrived and we all rush out so we can watch and record the delivery of our new cabin with sauna!

P1030585 P1030591 P1030594 P1030595 P1030599 Hels enjoys the sauna!

P1030598 new cabin is a bit small! P1030601

Tuesday 3rd February.

Another early start and when Seb falls asleep in his dry muesli we discover he hasn’t slept well.   Apparently the bed’s too small for him so when he rolls over he falls out of bed!!!

Today Rob leaves and Stephanie from Karigasnimi will be joining us.  It’s a really long day for us – 8am pick up and not home until 7pm.   Hard day too.  We start with an early dog sled long tour and then have 6 for short tour at 1.30pm.   We take Grey, Lumi and Beige which is always an adventure.  Firstly going into their cage to get their collars on and they jump all over me.  One always wants my jacket hood so jumps all over my back whilst another is hanging from my ripped pockets and the third generally getting stuck in where there’s space. They’re so excited but finally I get their collars on and its down to the holding line.  Grey and Lumi are pretty well behaved but Beige cries and whines as if he’s being beaten to death and all will fight and squirm to get out of harnesses and even chew their way out.  Daz is supposed to be leading on the skidoo but Erkki decides against it because of the snow drifts and Erkki manages to lose the track several times leading the dogs into deep snow.  One client manages to capsize his sled and another walks away leaving it untended.  An eventful trip and Daz is relieved he wasn’t driving!

We take the puppies for a walk and clearly Lukas hasn’t shared the briefing with them.  When we asked him how to walk the puppies he said ‘ We are their mother.  They love us most and they will follow us anywhere!’. Well clearly they don’t!   The 3 that did follow us yesterday are more than happy to make a break for the yard whenever we let them out and when the more timid 2 follow they all end up down a new track playing in deep snow.  They don’t even look to see where their ‘mothers’ are – 3 of us watching them from a distance to make sure no-one gets lost in the dark.


February is here

31st January.

OMG – Double surprise today.  Firstly it’s the first time in over 22 years I woke as a “Civvi”, my disgust was so great I had to shower for over an hour. But fortunately soon realised nothing had changed when we made a timed schedule for our day off, with ETAs and ETDs and NMB timings and started with bed blocks!!!   See – nothing’s changed.

Secondly it’s our consecutive day off.  Fxxx me that’s like a weekend and to think I always complained that 5:2 (work:time off) was shit now it’s more like 8:1 and instead of a bank account briming with cash; now I’m doing it for free!!!

So we had a lie in followed by a mooch around town.  There really isn’t much in Inari but we found it truly pleasurable to pop into the supermarket and get a refund on our empty beer cans; check out the gift shop; send a few postcards and then have coffee in the petrol station.  Actually all petrol stations have a ‘burger joint’ attached.  We were about to leave when the proprietor turned on the TV.  And yes we did watch Finnish langlauf championship for 3 hours. Ain’t moving pictures fab!!! Haven’t seen any since Helsinki.  That’s 28 days – that’s cold turkey that is!!   So we were rooting for contestant 20, 51 and 81 and comparing their style to our own yesterday.  Clearly we would’ve given them a run for their money.

P1030503 Rocky relaxing at the Wilderness Church.

Then we did a short walk behind the Sidda -the Sami cultural museum (specially chosen walk for really deep snow – thanks Daz!) and then back to the apartment, just as Seb and Rob were returning.  An early finish from the farm.  And then off to Hotel Inari to update the blog etc and catch up with Kate, who’s back from Karigasnemi to run Villa Lanca for a while.  Chatting to her and hearing her voice some of our thoughts make me wonder if we’ll manage another 2 months here.  Maria and Ola soon arrive.  Maria has found a job in Svalbard and leaves tomorrow and Ola will leave for Ivalo too.  Goodbye guys – we will miss you, especially Ola with her ‘hole’ game.  Apparently it’s her equivalent to ” who am I?” , when a post-it of the name of a famous person is placed on your forehead and you have to figure out who you are.  Ola’s version – I have a hole, meaning I’ve thought of something which has a hole, and all the other game players have to work out what she’s thinking of (we had coffee filter, a wood chisel, Crocs).  Strangely this is the game she played with the Sami truck driver whilst hitchhiking from Norway.  Ola says ” I have a hole, guess which hole am I thinking of?” Strangely the truck driver wasn’t that interested in guessing but in pulling over in a lay-by and looking and perhaps “filling” Ola’s hole.  Oh the naïveté of youth and thank god for our dirty minds as we enjoyed this story massively.  Thank you Ola.

P1030508P1030511.    P1030501

Petrie the ice fisherman.  The Wilderness Church.  Daz and Rocky skiing.

Tonight after dinner we play poker.  Me, Daz, Rob, Kate and Seb.  Kate and Seb have never played before and we don’t even know if Seb understands the rules or how to win, given his limited English but whatever he does understand, he’s on a winning streak but he’s bored by the game and soon retires.  He doesn’t play cards nor drink (because he’s an epileptic) and it seems he used to rougher play.  Being chased by his brothers and hit over the head with a hammer – well we think this is what he said!  He has 2 brothers – one younger, one older.


1st February

Pick up at 0930hrs.  Rob’s last day at work and Seb’s first day off.  Nothing much else happens although a client did fall off their sled.

 P1030494.                  P1030493

The puppies – can you see Fat Fuck?  I am a feeder and he’s getting fatter by the day.



P1030494.            P1030502

Reindeer poo – smaller than rabbit droppings.