Tromsø: 4-Legged Obsession & The Northern Lights

I think I am in love and it involves a few four-legged creatures called Alaskan Huskies. I went on two sessions of dogsledding (in the evening under the moonlight and in the morning under the twilight of the Arctic Polar Nights). It was hard work, but it was also exhilarating. The energy of the dog teams were contagious and we just wanted to go faster and faster, bumpy or not! Alaskan huskies, as told to us by Per-Thore (PT), the owner of Artic Adventures Tours in Tromsø, Norway, are a crossbreed of the huskies and the shooting dogs. They are friendly, active, and just want to run!  It is so exciting that one does not even feel cold being out for a couple of hours. As a matter of fact one has to unzip the winter suit to keep cool from the hard work.  PT and his wife, Hege have 105 huskies and a team from various parts of the world: Germany, Iceland, New Zealand.  Great people!  My time with them is the BEST ever! I am glad I joined the overnight expedition which includes a stay in a traditional Sami lavvu (tent) and two dogsledding sessions. I also got to see the mushings (how the team prepared the dogs and the sleds). I, of course, had extra time with the dogs. They are all amazing. Friendly, playful, and total attention-seeker! PT has also a dry sense of humor.

 

 

Note: This video was taken while we rushed to get ready on the sleds.

In my evening session, I was paired with PT and we were the first sled in the group. There were about 6 sleds total (10 guests and two guides). I was let to drive in the “easier” portions of our 90 minutes ride (I believe our rides was cut a bit shorter to arrive back in camp before the main Northern Lights show started – haha as if it was timed!  PT is experienced. He could tell from what he saw on the sky – he has promised me a good show since we were on the bus on the way to his camp). Ten minutes into the sledding session, we saw a big white streak from the city of Tromsø to the of the field over our heads. This is the beginning of the Northern Lights.  At some point during the rides, some of the white streaks turned into whitish light green.  We dogsled under the Northern Lights! How cool is that!  I have to stay I was not enjoying the Northern Lights too much. I was too busy focusing on the sledding, especially when I was driving. Apparently I screamed and made weird noises when I drove. Haha! No photos were taken during this trip.  One guy tumbled and dropped his camera during the ride. So I was happy I did not bother taking out my iPhone.

Upon arriving back in camp, we were treated to hot drinks and homemade cakes, made by Hege in a large traditional Samu lavvu. The big stove burning wood fire was heavenly.

 

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Traditional Samu Lavvu at Arctic Adventures Tours in Tromsø – Where We Had Our Hot Drinks and Cakes After Dogsledding.

 

While we enjoyed our snack, the Northern Lights got stronger and we got an amazing 45-minute front-row show!  It was a strong one, as I could capture bits of it with my iPhone camera. At the some point, the movements made me think of the sand dunes in the Kalahari desert being blown by the wind and reshaping themselves. (Unfortunately I did not capture this in my camera and no one in the group had DSLR camera). I captured other movements afterwards where the Northern Lights moved like a curtain being opened or it moves up and down. It was amazing. I seriously could go home today and I would be happy. I do not have the professional photographs to prove it, but the images are firmly etched in my mind.

 

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Northern Lights – Green and the Rare Red Color – Post Dog Sledding in Tromsø. Captured by iPhone Camera. No Photoshop.

 

 

Note: If I figure out how to make my Northern Lights photos into slide show, I will post the link here. Stay tune.

After the other dogs left, I got served my homemade dinner of Reindeer Stew.  Hege is definitely an amazing cook and host!  We chatted during my dinner, and I got to learn that they are passionate about the dogs and it translates to how the run the business. Guys, they are totally top-notch! I highly recommend them.  (And thank you, Øystein from Arctic Explorers – another top-notch operator here in Tromsø for recommending me to them).

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Homemade Reindeer Stew Made By Hege with Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberry Jam. Yum!

 

She also set up the lavvu very cosily with an oil lamp, a wooden wood stove and reindeer pelts, before she put on my sleeping bag and fleece liner. I was not cold until the morning when the stove had died.  She taught me how to add the woods and start the fire, and how to operate the lamp.  It is a big achievement for a city girl like me. Haha. I had an amazing sleep and was ready to go for my morning dogsledding in a heartbeat.  I also had learnt – while going shopping for winter gear in Tromsø – how to keep warm and what to wear and how to layer while doing winter outdoor sports. So I suppose that helped my evening to be a pleasant one.

 

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The Inside of My Lavvu – It Can Fit Up To 4 People

 

I woke up to a wonderful sky, though it was a little bit overcast. It was not too cold. I also had a breakfast spread prepared for me. I had salmon gravlax with the fish roe paste and coleslaw. It was yum!  After that I spent a few minutes playing with the dogs and chatting with one of the team members (I am ashamed I never asked for his name, but he is from NZ).  It was interesting that there are so many foreigners here working in tourism industry (my guides on the first day were Guatemalan).

One of the dogs was so playful. While his buddy was standing against my chest, he stayed down and wrapped one leg around one of my legs.  It was a firm grip, too!  Some of the female dogs are in heat and it made the male dogs quite excited.  I took some pics with the dogs, while I wait for the day trippers to come.

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Mushings Done and The Dogs Were Ready To Go (Team of 8 Sleds Total)

 

My partner for the morning session is an American girl. Last night I had more confidence because PT is experienced.  Today it would be challenging as both of us are beginners.  I started off driving and I was very tense. Hege had to stick with me on my sled trying to give me confidence for the first 250m or so.  After that the terrain got less bumpy and I was more comfortable.  My partner is also an expert skier from Utah, so she understands perfectly well the movements necessary.  We both did well, I had to say.  Nobody got thrown off, despite our dogs being very strong and energetic and fast (we were the last sled in the team).  We had a hard time braking and a few times we stop slightly passed the sled in front of us.  We had fun though.  The most memorable stretch was the three successive decent downhill, while I was driving. Oh man, I was yelling and screaming like a little kid. It was so much fun! I felt energized and exhilarated. Dogsledding is not an easy activity, but doable if one is aware of one’s body.  A heavier person would have an easier time driving the sled (easier to brake).  The passenger is not sitting down and relaxing. He/she also has a role to play to lean into the bumps and lean left/right depending the turning direction. Tromsø has less snow in the last two years, and thus, the track was icy and that made it bumpy and harder.

 

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Doglsedding under the Twilight – Photo Courtsey of My Sledding Partner, KZ

 

The last 24 hours has been one of the best of my life, and I got so addicted to dogsledding that I would consider  joining the company’s 7-day sledding trip in March and April. We shall see how that goes 🙂

I hope you guys will give it a try too!

 

 

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