Discover the wilderness of Northern Sweden on a dog-sledding adventure.
Barbara Weightman, winner of the TNT 2010 Travel Writing Award, describes her journey into Lapland.
There is a pool of blood on the ground, but Seppi, my huskie, does not appear to be injured. Seeing anxious faces, Henrik, our guide, hurries over and explains that this is lunch for the dogs – reindeer meat and blood.
Raring to go, the dogs yelp, squeal and tug at their chains. There are five huskies to a team and they are on a mission to lead us off into the Lapland wilderness.
As soon as the brake on the sled is released, Seppi and his four helpers stop barking and race off into the snow-clad scenery.
We are being taken to a lodge in Lapland where there are no roads. Transport in winter is by dog sled or snowmobile. In summer, the rivers thaw and canoes become the mode of transport.
The dogs run through tracks in the forest and then on to a frozen lake. The area is desolate except for the dogs and us. We have no idea where we are, but it doesn’t matter because the dogs know the route and we trust them.
Upon arrival at the log cabins, Seppi and his co-workers are unharnessed and fed reindeer meat and blood. Meanwhile, the guides chop wood and light fires in the cabins.
Set beside a river, the log cabin contains bunk beds, a toilet block and a sauna. Snow hangs heavily on the branches of trees surrounding the cabin and there is complete silence.
Exploring the surrounding countryside, we see a pair of ptarmigans fly down and land on the snow, perfectly camouflaged in their white, winter plumage. Moose tracks lead down to the river where water runs underneath the ice – a pale blue trickle that had not yet succumbed to the freezing temperature.
The tranquility is overwhelming – no matter that it is -25C. Enveloped in a feeling of complete isolation and total peace, it is impossible not to feel on top of the world.
We head back to the lodge and sit in the sauna to warm up. None of us is brave enough to roll around in the snow though. A BBQ is lit outside and meat is cooked.
As we’re eating dinner, a member of our group ventures outside and screams: “The Northern Lights!” We race outside in time to see waves of green and yellow flash across the sky then disappear. Moments later, a round yellow patch of light becomes brighter and brighter, like an alien spaceship heading for earth. We forget the cold as we watch the spellbinding displays.
Later, lying on a bed of reindeer skins, I sink into the land of nod listening to the fire in the stove as it crackles comfortingly and throws out warmth.
At dawn, we’re woken by the sun slanting through the trees. Seppi is so glad to see me that he knocks me over. We spend the morning attempting to cross country ski and gazing at the expanse of white beauty.
At the top of a hill overlooking the wilderness, we are reminded of the utter stillness and feeling of insignificance. Surrounded by nothing man-made in every direction, somehow we feel we shouldn’t be here, that we don’t belong. This land is for the animals.
Soon it is time for Seppi and the others to take us back to town. As I take the helm with my companion sitting beside me on the sled, our weight can barely compete against the tugging of the yelping huskies. Lifting my feet off the brake, we are off and once more silence falls upon the pack.
Back down on to the lake, it begins to feel very cold as the sun begins to set.
The hairs in my nostrils freeze up and the wind bites into my cheeks, becoming almost too much to bear.
Eventually the trip is over and Seppi is rewarded with a pool of blood. He and his friends have transported us to a paradise, frozen into my memory forever.