Archive for February, 2009

Dog Sledding

Last Tuesday I went dog sledding with my sister, at the Tromsø Villmarkssenter. When we arrived, they told us we were on a special list as we had booked to drive our own sled. We had no idea that we had done that! My sister panicked a bit, as she was hoping just to sit in the sled ;) but I was really excited!! We first had a look around the centre, they have about 250 dogs there, incredible! They all have little houses and are on chains, but they are very friendly and playful.

We had crazy snowfall on Tuesday (about half a metre fell that day and during the previous night) and many of the dogs were sleeping outside, curled up to protect themselves from the strong wind. Very cute! 

There were puppies too – ohh they make your heart melt. I am actually not really a dog-lover (I’m scared of big dogs!) but I make an exception for Husky’s and especially puppies, hehe. 

(Don’t you like my fashionable suit and hat by the way? They were provided by the centre…)

And then it was time to go sledding! Here my sister is waiting next to our sledge. I got some quick instructions, and off we went! We were the only ones driving ourselves, the other tourists were sitting in couples on the sledges, with a musher driving the sledge (a musher is what you call the driver of the dog sled).

Since my sister didn’t want to try, I drove the whole way (about 45 minutes). It was actually quite easy, the dogs follow the sled in front of you anyway, so all you have to do is brake. And keep the sledge in balance, that’s actually the hardest part! Our sledge had 7 dogs in front, and they did a great job. The sledge has a brake that you need to apply most of the time (wow, we would go so fast otherwise!). If you brake hard enough, the dogs stop. Then if you want to go again, you simple push the sledge a bit and they start running – they are so keen!

We couldn’t really take photos during the trip – I was too busy, and my sister was trying to stay warm in the crazy snow. The photo below is another team coming in after us, and a photo of me as a musher :)

This is what we looked like after braving the snow blizzard… luckily I was wearing goggles during the trip, or I wouldn’t have been able to see anything!

Afterwards we warmed up by the fire in one of the lavo’s (Sami tent) and had a nice lunch of reindeer stew, while they told us all kind of things about the dogs, running the centre and competitions. It was a fantastic experience, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would! I was ready to apply for a job at the centre after our little trip :)

Ice Fishing

Yesterday we went ice fishing in Ramfjorden with Steve and my sister. We gathered as much advice as we could from people who had done it before, and went to try our luck. The weather was not ideal – a complete blizzard! It took us a while to drive there, and to find somewhere to park where the snow wasn’t too deep.  We found a place outside somebody’s house, who was kind enough to let us go through his “garden” (/snowfield) and gave us some advice too. He said he hoped we would provide him with some entertainment… thanks ;)

The first challenge was getting across the broken ice at the edge of the fjord, where the tide goes up and down. We used ski poles to check the ice, and made it across safely. We went to about the middle of the fjord and started drilling holes with an old auger we borrowed from NPI – quite hard work! The ice was very hard and about half a metre thick. 

We had three sets of fishing equipment – one weedy set that was actually meant for fishing on a frozen lake (which I bought without asking for advice), and two hand lines (extra strong) with a 200 gr (20 cm long!) stainless steel lure (the bait). Steve and Paul went to a specialist fishing shop to ask for advice and were shocked to be recommended such a huge lure. It doesn’t look much like a fish, just a large piece of shiny metal – I don’t know why a fish would ever try to eat that! 

Below is my sister with the weedy lake fishing equipment, and the snow woman she built after she got bored…

 

We fished for about an hour, and didn’t catch anything, though Paul kept saying he ALMOST caught one (it got away though). We were a bit clueless about what kind of strategy to use, so we tried all kinds of things but nothing seemed to work. We almost gave up, but decided to move to a different location, to drill some new holes to keep warm and see if we had more luck over there. We let my sister try the proper equipment, even though she said she had no idea what to do and wasn’t that keen. After a few minutes she started screaming that she had caught something!! She was too scared to hold the line, in the picture below you can see her frightened look while Paul and Steve reeled in the fish…

 

When the fish got to the hole, Paul and Steve started screaming too, as it was HUGE. It was hard to get it through the hole! It had a huge gaping mouth. We were pretty sure it was a cod, though we had to check on Wikipedia when we got home ;). So here are the classic posing pictures…

 

We tried our luck for a bit longer, but soon got bored and cold and decided to go home. That fish looked big enough for dinner anyway. We bought some vegetables on the way back, and went home to gut and fillet the beast. None of us had ever done anything like this before! So with a little help from the BBC and a funny New Zealander on YouTube, we worked out how to do it. My sister was terrified and didn’t want to watch or listen. I also wasn’t that comfortable, so I just read out the instructions to Steve and Paul and let them do the dirty work ;). We were pretty clueless and it took a while, but the end results were two huge and tasty looking fillets! One was big enough to feed the four of us for dinner, so we still have a lot left.

It was a fun experience, and now that we have the equipment, I think we might do it again!

2 days of skiing

We just got back from our 2 day skiing adventure! I’m writing this as my sister is already sleeping upstairs, and Paul has fallen asleep in his chair – we came back really tired ;) but we had a great time! We woke up to rain on Saturday morning, but we decided to go anyway. We drove to Snarbyeidet, where we parked the car and started our trip. Luckily it had stopped raining! My sister (Laura) had never done any cross-country skiing before, but she picked it up quickly. We had lunch at Trollvasbu, where we met a group of students who were staying there for the weekend. After lunch, we continued our trip, and from this point on we didn’t meet anybody for the rest of the day – just us in these enormous landscapes!

Laura and Paul were quite exhausted at this point in the trip ;) It was actually very “warm”, a few degrees above zero, with a very strong wind. It was tough going against the wind – good thing it was warm but having to work hard against the wind does make you very sweaty and warm.

The last bit was quite tough going, as the snow was very icy. Here I am warming up with a mug of a kind of blueberry drink that you prepare with warm water – a good compromise when you’re with a group where some people don’t want to drink coffee, some don’t want tea WITH milk and some don’t want to drink tea WITHOUT milk ;) 

 

At around 17:00, when it was getting dark, we finally reached our destination – a hut called Nonsbu. It turned out to be a small but cosy and comfy hut, divided into 2 parts. We had the entire hut to ourselves, so we chose the cosiest part of the hut – the part where you can sleep around the fireplace :) These huts don’t have electricity or water, but they have a large supply of wood for the stove, and also gas to cook on. So we had candlelight :) and we had to melt snow on the stove…

 

It was very cold inside when we arrived, but after we burnt the stove for a while, it actually became too hot inside and we had to open a window! We had a nice dinner, played some games and then we all fell asleep quite early. 

I was up early the next morning, and took these photos of the hut… it was beautiful!

After breakfast, cleaning up and packing our backs, we continued our way. It was again a cloudy day, though the sun was breaking through the clouds sometimes, and there was no wind at all. We skied up quite a bit, and then started out way down. We found very nice snow and nice open slopes – lots of fun! My sister is a tree hugger…

We had lunch at another hut, Blåkollkoia. This one is even smaller and sleeps only 4 people. We didn’t stop for very long, as we still had to continue to Movik to catch our bus back to Tromsø.

We ended up missing our bus though… We were getting a bit tired and it was still a long way to go. We crossed Movikvatnet (a lake) and from there down to Movik. There are some very steep bits there, and it was getting dark so we were quite slow. We didn’t really mind missing our bus, instead we got a bus going north so we could pick up the car and drive back to Tromsø. This took quite a bit longer, but it means we have the car back now instead of having to go get it tomorrow night. 

We had the GPS with us, and Paul made this nice image of the map with our track on it… red for the first day, and blue for the second day. We did about 13-14 km on both days.

And here are the height profiles for day 1 and day 2! They have some errors in them, like we actually started at about 100 m on the first day, and on the second day it looks like we dropped a 100 m but that was just adjustment of the GPS. 

I’m quite proud of what we achieved! And I enjoyed doing a trip where you don’t take the same way back. Staying in a hut overnight enabled us to get so much further than we ever do on day trips… very nice! It was tiring though, skiing with a heavy backpack, and it also requires quite careful planning on what to bring, especially food/drink wise, but Paul is very organized with that, and he even made a “feeding schedule” for both days. It all went fine, and I’d love to do it again!

Lucky

I haven’t gotten around to editing any more of the Mexico photos, but I just found these photos that I took last Saturday. We went for a drive around Ramfjorden, to check out the sea ice (we are hoping to go ice-fishing!). I had been back for less than 24 hours, was very tired (jetlagged) and still trying to adjust to the very different climate here… I guess I didn’t pay that much attention to my surroundings, but I took pictures anyway :) I then forgot about them, but found them on the camera tonight…

Mist over the fjord…

So beautiful! It made me realize how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place… Harsh but beautiful, something I do forget sometimes… Sometimes I only see the disadvantages: the cold (you can’t just walk out of the door, always have to put on many layers), the dark (though that’s getting better very quickly now), the slippery roads (my bruised knees ;) ), not seeing any flowers until at least May, no singing birds (unless you count screaming gulls)… but HEY there is so much more! It’s an incredibly beautiful place, and we really can just walk into the outdoors from our own house – I shouldn’t be complaining!

My sister is arriving tomorrow, and we’re going on an overnight ski trip over the weekend – how exciting! I’ve never done that before (not even in Summer), and finally feel confident enough :) We are taking a quite easy (almost flat) route, and not much distance, and staying in a mountain hut in the middle of nowhere. I’m really looking forward to it! More photos soon :)