This is a guest post written by Laurence Norah about his experience in Rovaniemi during a snowmobile trip to a handicraft workshop. The trip was part of the Nordic Bogger’s Experience Finland. Thank you Norah… and hope to see you back here soon!
Check the Bio of the Author at the end of this post.
I recently had the thrill of visiting the Winter wonderland that is Rovaniemi, up in northern Finland on the edge of the Arctic circle. This is a hotbed of snowy activities, from husky sledding to snowmobile, not to mention being the home of Santa Claus himself.
Now I should point out that I am not exactly used to cold weather. With a childhood spent mostly in the tropical climates of the Seychelles, anything under around 15 degrees Centigrade feels a bit chilly.
So to be setting off in a snowmobile with temperatures of 30 below zero (and falling!) was not something I expected to particularly enjoy.
Full credit to the folks at Lapland Safaris though – they made sure we were wrapped up warm. On top of the six layers I had turned up in, they added a full padded overall, extra socks, a scarf, mittens, balaclava, face mask and helmet. In fact, I think only my eyeballs were showing. Check their Youtube video to see the equipment that they deliver to all of us to keep us warm! Suitably prepared, we headed out into the cold for a quick introduction to how to drive a snowmobile.
It turns out this isn’t that hard. There’s a lever to accelerate and a lever to brake, and you steer by turning the handle bars and leaning, pretty much like a bike. A big, growly, snow-eating bike admittedly, but a bike nonetheless.
The main feature in my mind though were the heated handle bars. These rapidly positioned themselves, in my mind at least, up there with mankind’s greatest inventions, somewhere between the wheel and antibiotics. Warm hands at -35C is something to be excited about.
After our introduction, we were paired up onto snowmobiles and we set off. It is possible to pay a supplement to have one snowmobile per person, which I would recommend, if only because the passenger doesn’t have heated handle bars!
Our first foray was onto the frozen river, past the famous Rovaniemi bridge. This gave us plenty of opportunity on a nice wide expanse to get used to the feel of handling a snowmobile. First impressions – these things are powerful, needing only the most delicate nudge of the throttle to get you going, and if you really open it up, they really roar along. I’ve never driven a motorbike, but I can certainly see the appeal. It being so cold, the tour was split so after twenty minutes we turned off the river into the forest, where we stopped at a forest lodge, home to local Finnish artists who welcomed us into their home with hot blueberry juice and homemade cakes, before teaching us some crafting skills of their own. I’m now the proud owner of my own handmade reindeer bone bracelet.
After we’d heated up again, it was back into the forest, with the aim of reaching the top of a nearby hill in order to get a view of the surrounding areas. This was a more winding and challenging route – the practice on the frozen river coming in useful as by this point I had more of a feel for the machine.
Up into the forest we went, finally emerging at the top of a hill, where despite the freezing temperatures I was absolutely thrilled to get my first glimpse of the northern lights – one of the main reasons I had chosen Finland as my Winter destination.
Cold forgotten, I quickly went about setting up my camera to get a shot of the phenomena, which although low on the horizon, was still awe-inspiring to finally be able to witness in real life.
All in all I somehow managed to spend half an hour in the freezing cold taking photos, with the icy landscape and snow covered trees all around providing the perfect foreground for the heavenly display. Inevitably though, the cold started to seep in, and those heated handlebars became more and more tempting, so I packed everything away and we headed back down the hill and blasted home along the frozen river. A truly wonderful experience. If you’re heading to Rovaniemi, there is plenty to do, but I would very much recommend you ensure that a snowmobile safari is on your list. Hopefully it won’t be quite as cold for you, but my tips would be to wrap up warm, bring spare batteries for your camera, a tripod for taking longer exposure shots if you are lucky enough to see the northern lights, and a sealable plastic bag for all your electronics to help them adjust to the warm air after you’re finished. Author Bio:Laurence is a photographer, writer and long term traveller who has been taking photos since he was 13, and has been travelling the world for six years to find beautiful things to capture through his lens. He documents his adventures on his travel blog, Finding the Universe, and tends not to take life too seriously. He’s happiest somewhere with his camera, tripod and some spectacular scenery, but you can also find him teaching photography, hiking and generally enjoying life all over the world.