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Sweden

A DATE WITH A HUSKY

Dog sledding in Lapland. © David De Vleeschauwer
by Debbie Pappyn

dog sledding in LaplandOur expedition leader Johan Väisänen has the looks of a Viking with the vigour of Ben Hur. The latter also refers to the sled on which he skilfully balances while zipping through a cold and silent, white landscape. Johan is a modern charioteer, with the only difference that the carriage is a wooden sleigh pulled forward by six hyperkinetic husky dogs. The territory of these dogs and their eight, extreme warmly dressed sledge drivers, is a quiet area around Kangos, a Swedish village 150 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Johan runs with his family Pinetree Lodge, an intimate hotel with its own husky kennel. They live far away from busy and touristy Lapland where most travellers go. Kangos village is a couple of streets with a handful of typical wooden houses where according to the tradition; small lights are hung inside in front of the windows. It’s a gesture of warmth in a wintery landscape where temperatures often plunge below -35 degrees Celsius. This secluded area consists of nothing but dense forest, clear rivers and more than 150 lakes. During the winter months, everything morphs into an abstract, white entity. A wilderness of snow sculptures that were once trees, icy plains that change during the summer in lakes and quaint fishing huts that now serve as refuges to escape the -25 degrees nights. Pinetree Lodge is cosy inside. Far too cosy. Outside everything creaks under the extreme freezing temperatures and staying inside, close to the fire, seems the only human activity that is acceptable here. Within two days our group will leave on a three-day husky expedition. Everyone is hoping for a clear sky and maybe some northern lights. Don’t think you can go out in casual winter ski pants or a dress. We get special suits and giant boots as if we are going to walk on the moon. Thermal underwear is a man’s best friend here, believe me. Once you step outside to enjoy the majestic landscape and surroundings, you have to be prepared. Especially when leaving on a husky expedition.dog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in LaplandFans of blue-eyed huskies should come here. Johan has his own kennel with more than 100 dogs. They are well groomed, are in top condition and have three full time carers who are working with them. Alaskan Huskies are not really lazy, on the contrary. Jumping, barking, crying, fighting, pulling … The next three days we will experience that standing on a wooden sled, pulled ahead by a few huskies on speed, isn’t a piece of cake. You soon feel that balance and flexibility are important and yes being fit, because when it goes uphill, you need to help the dogs. If you don’t, they will look at you as if you are a big lazy bastard. To hang casually on your sled, is not an option. We whiz past trees, under low-hanging branches covered in snow, through endless, shimmering plains where you will have to stay on the track or you disappear into the deep soft snow. Johan demonstrates his Viking skills and pops out his Sami knife to build a smouldering campfire for lunch. Reindeer skins serve as a bench in the snow, a pot of hearty soup hangs on a branch above the open fire. Shortly after sunset and on arrival at the wilderness cabin the only thing you want to do is get inside and warm up. But first the dogs have to be fed and put into bed, well, nest of hay, protecting them against deadly, cold nights. And the nights are long and dark in Lapland. Unless the Northern Lights decide to pop-up, then you will have to get out of the warm wooden cabin and stand in the freezing cold to see the spectacle. In case of frostbite, there is always the sauna to heat up again. Or the bottle of Aqua Vit or Jenever that one of our fellow guests took along on the trip. Life can be simple in the high north.

dog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddog sledding in Laplanddebbie pappyndog sledding in Laplandtrees in Laplandsnowy trees in Laplanddog sledding in LaplandPinetree Lodge LaplandSauna LaplandPinetree Lodge LaplandPinetree Lodge Lapland

THE VERDICT Lapland is still amazing. It is so easy to travel from any city in Europe up here but yet you feel in another world. Last time we were in Finnish Lapland around Ivalo and it was much more busy and touristy then during this second trip in Swedish Lapland. During this weeklong stay, we were practically alone in this vast and quiet area. It’s exactly this feeling of solitude you really need when traveling up North.

HOW TO GO
 We travelled with Xplore the North to Swedish Lapland. They offer intense and extreme expeditions to Spitsbergen and to shortbreaks in Lapland for the whole family. A midweek starts from 595 euro, without flight. We flew to Kiruna in Sweden with SAS from Brussels, making a stop-over in Stockholm. SAS is a member of Star Alliance and connects easily with other airlines flying in from the States or Asia.

WWW.XPLORETHENORTH.COM
WWW.FLYSAS.COM

WHAT TO PACK
 1.Start with warm merino woollen underwear: the New Zealand brand Icebreaker is the best when it comes to the warmest and most comfortable underwear and socks that are essential for these freezing temperatures. An Icebreaker baklava, a cap that covers the entire face except the eyes, will prevent freezing cheeks and tip of the nose. 2. Perfect for these climates is the Patagonia Down Sweater, made from Primaloft, a synthetic microfiber that replaces regular down feathers. This super insulating material was made during the 1980 for the U.S. Army and is designed to be as light as a feather. 3. An absolute necessity is a vest and pants of the brand Canada Goose. This is the favourite brand of people living in these cold parts of the world. 4. Cold feet are a disaster in Arctic regions. Invest in good boots that can handle the lowest temperatures. Our favourite type is Baffin Footwear, an outdoor brand from the far north of Canada. Especially the model Impact can resist temperatures down to -100 degrees Celsius for both ladies and gentlemen.5. Buy also some hand warmers that start glowing when needed plus a headlamp with LED lighting from the brand Petzl. Petzl crampons are also useful when
walking on the ice.


WWW.ICEBREAKER.COM
WWW.PATAGONIA.COM
WWW.CANADA-GOOSE.COM
WWW.BAFFIN.COM
WWW.PETZL.COM

dog sledding in Lapland

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