15:47 Sat.
11 Jan, 2014

Land with no sun

Day 156 , -10 remain
Lulea , Sweden
-17 °C
9:28 am
1:50 pm

It was Saturday morning, a bit over half past 4, pitch black and snowing. We were about to go on an adventure, to a land where night lasts for entire month. We were about to go to Enontekiö, Finland, about 200km above Arctic Circle and around 500km away from Lulea. To do so, we rented a car and I was designated driver (the joy).

The car was brand new (only 4000 km), slightly modified for artic winters up here, it had metal spikes impelled into tires, external heating of engine and cabin which you plug into electricity socket (in parking spot), steering wheel and seat heating.

The roads up here are not entirely cleared of snow, there is always 2 or 3 cm of compacted snow on them. This, combined with warm weather we had lately, led to a road that was made of ice. The first hour of driving was like a rollercoaster. I was full of adrenalin as the car was sliding everywhere all the time, breaking distance was 5 times longer and I couldn’t see anything because of darkness and snow. Yet it was somehow fun, a new experience, nothing like I’ve done before.

Highway in northern Sweden, full of snow and dark for most of the time.
Highway in northern Sweden, full of snow and dark for most of the time.

I remember few years ago when I was driving home from Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia – where I’m studying), there was unexpected snowfall and traffic slowed down to a crawl, even thought there was no snow sticking to the road. Here you would think people would drive slower because of all the snow, ice and darkness… well think again, I was overtaken by a truck when I was going 80km/h on a highway.

After an hour of driving I got a bit more used to everything and I was able to drive at cruising speed of 100km/h on a something that could be said highway. Highway here is basically just a wider road, it still has only one lane on each side (like normal road), though you can’t really tell the lanes because of all the snow on it. Sometimes when there is a hill, the side that goes up gets additional lane. Even so usually you drive somewhere in the middle and when you see a car in the opposite side you move more toward the edge. Because of the darkness you spot a car kilometres away so it is relatively safe. What about the curves? Well the land is almost flat so there are almost no curves.

After 2 hours of driving we reached Finland border and soon after crossed Artic Circle.

Me and Veronika at crossing arctic circle.
Me and Veronika at crossing arctic circle.

We continued north in American style (turn right in 250km). To my big surprise environment was getting brighter. Because of all the snow and clouds (it was a snowy day) the light reflects quite a lot even though the sun is nowhere near horizon up there, beyond Artic Circle.

With the help of camera’s high sensitivity we were able to take few shots of the road. Try to find road here, and mind yourself, we were going 100km/h here and it was darker than it looks.

After long 6 hours of driving and only 1 stop we reached our destination.

The huskie farm was large, around 120 dogs. Besides us there was an American family that was scheduled for a safari at the same time. That meant we were going on 4 sledges. Each sledge was pulled by 6 dogs, one person was sitting on it and one was driving. Yes you heard me right, we were actually driving the dogs.

Preparing to start.
Preparing to start.

After not so quick briefing, I was first to drive our (mine and Veronika’s) sledge. Start was surprisingly fast, followed by around 10km/h pace for around 5km over snowy tundra and frozen lakes.

Ride was a joy. Dogs knew the route by hart and we had little to no steering to worry about. The thing we had to regulate more frequently was speed. This was done by stepping on step-on break, which increased drag on snow, slowing the sledge down. In turns we had to be careful to tilt in the correct way, to prevent sledge from tipping.

Riding a dog sledge
Riding a dog sledge

On half way we stopped for tea and Finnish biscuits. After that we changed drivers and continued toward home over a different route. This time I was sitting on the sledge so I was able to take more photos. Sadly it was already dark by then so I wasn’t able to take any good ones.

Veronika at the steering wheel.
Veronika at the steering wheel.

Just before reaching kennel again dogs speeded up again. Breaking didn’t help and we just flew through last corners almost tipping over.

Despite being novice drivers we did a good job. We didn’t overturn, I only got hit by a few branches, we caught the sledge ahead of us and got caught by the team behind us. Haha we also had an accident when the dogs behind us overtook us, haha let’s just leave it at this.

After we arrived we helped feed the dogs and put them in their cages. Here I found a dog with a name which sounded familiarly.

This dog's name sounds familiar.
This dog’s name sounds familiar.

Whole trip lasted for about 3 hours and was one of the best things I’ve done up here. It was worth 12 hours of driving, thankfully car had very good gas/km ratio so we didn’t spent fortune on gas, here in Sweden it’s little below 2€/l. The car, even with winter tires with spikes and driving on snow, had an average of 4.2l per 100km consumption.