Norwegian Lapland

Jan Leeming

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Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

NORWEGIAN LAPLAND

Date: 18th August 2010

Hallo All,

Haven't done anything exciting or worth talking about so I thought I might share with you an article I wrote a few years ago about a fantastic few days in Norwegian Lapland, husky sledding, snow-mobiling and spending a night in an Ice Hotel.

After I came out of 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' I had a very kind offer from the Norwegian Tourist Board to spend 4 days in Norwegian Lapland.  I was allowed to take someone else, so chose my son Jonathan - always excellent company and also a quarter Norwegian through his Paternal Grandmother.  Anyway, here's the article and I hope you'll enjoy it.

JAN LEEMING'S TRIP TO NORWAY.

Wow!  If you want a short adventurous Winter break, I can't think of anything more exciting and exhilarating than the few days my son Jonathan and I spent in Norwegian Lapland

We flew from Heathrow to Oslo and then on to Alta in Finmark - a Canton of Norway which is officially Norwegian Lapland.  We were met by Sinikka  a representative of the local tourist board who was to be our guide for the two-day experience.   She booked us in to the Vica - a charming 'pension' type hotel - all wood and warmth.  We were invited to have a Hot tub under the stars before dinner - well who could resist that!  So we peeled off our clothing, donned swimsuits and sprinted some eight metres across the snow and into the Hot Tub.  I'm not a beer drinker but it seemed appropriate to partake of the Norwegian brew whilst lolling back against the wooden tub - and though not an expert on the subject the beer was excellent.  We had hoped to see the Northern Lights and stayed in the tub for an hour but nobody turned them on!

I would rate the hotel as a 3 star but the Dinner was definitely 5star.  Our starter was King Crab claw followed by a choice of either Reindeer or Cod.  Our host regaled us with the history of the smoking of the Reindeer meat and the drying and salting of the Cod.  The dessert would have done credit to the Roux brothers - various sorbets drenched in cloudberries (a Norwegian speciality) and served in a spun sugar basket.

We were up reasonably early for our three hour drive to Karasjok and our eagerly awaited Husky Sledding.  The weather was good and the drive was spectacularly beautiful.  We drove through a Winter Wonderland of Snow laden trees, waterfalls which had frozen in suspension and a gorgeous pink haze to the landscape.

On reaching  Karasjok we lunched on Reindeer stew and the most delectable  al dente vegetables.   Our first visit was to the Sami Museum (the Sami are the indigenous people of Lapland) where we met Joseph - a colourful character in his traditional dress who spoke the most impeccable English.  The Audio Visual Presentation on the Sami Culture was the best I have encountered in a very long time.  The Sami believe that when you die your soul goes to join the Aurora Borealis and you are there forever in a Rainbow of colour -better than mouldering under the worms!  After this initial introduction to their culture Joseph took us to a Sami “hut” where we sat on reindeer skins around a fire as he explained their way of life and sang us Yoik songs.  Each sami has a song woven around character and this grows and stays with the person throughout life.  Joseph got us all to join in singing a Yoik song  and it was a great joy to see my son letting go so completely and enjoying the experience.

We were staying the night with Sven Engholm on his Husky farm near the Karasjohka river, 6km outside Karasjok.  My son wanted to try driving the sled but it was already dark and this wasn't an option.  So we helped feed the huskies (48 of them) and then went for an hour's walk in the snowy dark with  the house dogs to work up an appetite for dinner.  Sven's wooden cabins have to be seen to be believed.  Every piece of furniture, every light, everything has been designed and constructed by Sven from the wood, the furs, the feathers that he finds around his property.

In the morning we prepared for our Sledding experience - thermal suits covering our ski suits and thermal boots over ski socks.   Sven gave Jonathan his instructions and we were off.  It was an exhilarating experience - snowing lightly and still half dark - to be pulled at speed along the frozen river  by these fantastic dogs.  I'd been led to believe that husky dogs are kept apart and do not bond with humans.  Maybe that was the case in the time of the Polar explorers but today these wonderful dogs are just vying with each other to be cuddled and loved.  As you walk around their enclosure and stop to pet one dog, another will be pawing at your back for some attention. As a great dog lover, this melted my heart and I would love to have adopted them all.

Being on a tight schedule, we had to leave the dogs and set off on a long drive through Finland to our next destination, Kirkenes on the very edge of Eastern Norway.  The weather was awful and it snowed the whole way. Sinikka is so used to these conditions that it didn't phase her at all but we were late to our next appointment.  It didn't actually matter because the wind conditions were such that the Ice Floes were dangerous and we couldn't go out in the rubber boats to do our King Crab fishing.  But a Scuba Diver collected the King Crabs for us - massive things over a metre from one claw to another and Jonathan went for a dip in the Barents Sea.  Well, to be more accurate, he got into a flotation suit and had an 'experience'.  Bit like 'swimming' in the  Dead Sea - you can't swim, you just float.  However, it was something to be boasted about - 'swimming' in a sea at -4 degrees. 

We lunched right royally on King Crab - two legs being an absolute feast and then we were off again to experience snowmobiling and a night in the Snow Hotel

It was pitch black and I decided that I did not want to go out snowmobiling for 2 hours over a frozen Fjord and a frozen lake and through forests.    The Barents Safari staff very kindly offered to take me out for 20 minutes and bring me back again. So off we sped - but it was so exciting that I stayed the full course, including Jonathan's mobile breaking down -   three hours later we returned in time for our host, Sarah, to tell us she was about to send out the search party!!!!

We left our luggage in an hotel and were driven to the Snow Hotel.    You don't do anything at the Snow Hotel except experience, if you want to, a night sleeping in a snow room on an ice bed at -5 degrees. You wear your thermals, ski socks, a balaclava and a hat and pour yourself into a sleeping bag.   There's a Sami-type hut in which you have dinner and to which you can return if the Snow Hotel defeats you.  What they have created in Snow and Ice is remarkable.  The rooms are staggeringly beautiful - all different - and we were like a couple of kids running from room to room trying to decide where we wanted to park ourselves.  I chose a room with jagged ice blocks at the bed end, an illuminated feather at the bed head and birds sculpted into the snow.

I'm not a good sleeper but I had one of the best nights' sleep in years.  I completely immersed myself in the bag to the point that I couldn't see light at all.  Sadly, my son who is very tall couldn't pull the sleeping bag over his head so he was somewhat cold and had a very uncomfortable night.  Our host, Sarah, gave up and went to sleep in the Hut.   Perhaps they should have extra long sleeping bags for the tall people!  Sarah is young and had never experienced  a rudimentary 'loo'.  As a youngster I had holidays at the coast in Jaywick and the only loos then were Elsans - or septic tanks.  So along with that knowledge and my recent experience in the Australian Rainforest in 'I'm a Celebrity .........', I thought the Arctic Loo was actually rather posh.

After Breakfast,  it was up and off to collect our luggage from the 'proper' hotel and make our way to the Airport.  It was all so brief but so enjoyable and I certainly want to go back for more.  We never felt cold.  Our thermal underwear and ski suits were always supplemented, where necessary, by Thermal suits and Thermal boots.  The only article of clothing I wished that I had brought with me was a Balaclava. My face was the only part of me that felt cold in our four wonderful days in Norwegian Lapland.

This is not a break for those seeking 5star luxury but if it's adventure, experiences and warmth of hospitality, then a short break in Norwegian Lapland should be on your menu.

I will try and make time to post in the gallery a few of the photos from the trip.

Do let me know if you have enjoyed this article - as I've said before, I sometimes feel that I'm talking to myself but I know I'm not from the analysis I receive each Monday and I know that you are tuning in from all over the world.

Till I hit the typewriter keys again.  Au revoir, Jan

I think the Love in the picture is Reciprocal.

NORWEGIAN LAPLAND

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