Day 2: Saariselkä (Reindeer and Northern Lights?)

Saariselkä Travel Blog

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Look, it's been snowing !
The day started with mutual accusations about last night's snoring. In the end we decided that I must have sawn down the trees north of the hotel while Paul had cleared those in the south. Satisfied with this explanation I jumped in the small shower, fighting with the grip that should hold the shower head and accidentally turning the tap to very hot water whenever I would bend over to wash my feet. Annoying to some, I was in a good mood that it made me laugh it all away.

The hotel had an Internet corner with a PC that was out of order (how convenient), but fortunately my Netbook picked up the hotel's WiFi network so I could update the blog and we both could check our e-mails. After a simple breakfast we decided to check out what Saariselkä looked like in broad daylight.
The coloured wall of Saariselkä.
Well, forget about the 'broad'. It was a rather hazy day today, but fortunately not very cold (about 4 degrees Celsius). We first made our way to the department store where we baffled about the huge collection of (knitted) caps. But we weren't here for caps, we'd came to buy ourselves some pocket flasks so we wouldn't have to carry our bottles of Drambuie and whiskey around. ;-)

The tourist information office gave us directions to some walking trails and we decided to take the one that went to Kaunispää,which would later turn out to be the start of the skiing slopes of Saariselkä. Unfortunately the routes for cross-country skiing are a lot clearer than for those hiking the area. So as soon as we left the tracks we had no idea where we were anymore.
Basic safari equipment.
What's more, this wasn't the right place to wander off into the woods; each step of the main path immediately resulted in being knee-deep (or even deeper) in snow. The surroundings were beautiful though and the air fresh and healthy. We eventually found a sign directing us back to Saariselkä and when we had a coffee and a bun back in town, we discovered on the map that we had only missed the top of the slopes by a few hundred meters.
 
We originally planned to check out the hotel's sauna at the end of the afternoon, but that was before we discovered Panimo, the pub of the local brewery and their dark ale. Good conversations were combined with four pints of the delicious stuff, after which we really needed to go and have dinner because we would be picked up for a safari at seven.
The main attraction in Saariselkä ?

This safari was part of the week's program and consisted of taking reindeer sleighs into the forest to go and see the Aurora Borealis, the magical northern lights. But even the biggest retard would have understood that with today's weather and the total lack of clear sky, there would be nothing to see. Still, it was part of the program, so when our guide Max picked us up we were in (and with) good spirits (pocket flasks filled).

Max was a Russian and seemingly belonged to a family of Russian Sami, the original reindeer herders that are indigenous to this part of the world. He took us to a reindeer farm, a short drive from Saariselkä and before long a small caravan of three reindeer with sleighs that were basically mangers, pulled of into the woods.
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
This felt seriously silly and very, very touristic. I mean, walking would have been faster and I was wondering if these poor animals actually enjoyed this. When we reached a clearing in the woods we fed the reindeer some moss and Max made a campfire and put the kettle on for coffee. While we were roasting sausages we swapped stories about Russia, Finland and Holland. This actually was more fun that the whole reindeer sleigh ride and when we packed up I asked Max. 'Was there really any chance of seeing the northern lights today?'. He grinned and said 'No, of course not, I'm sorry.' 'Don't apologize Max, I don't blame you.' 'I know, but even if you would blame me, I wouldn't care.' Nice guy with a good sense of humor.

Back in Saariselkä we decided to grab another local beer at Panimo, where we struck up a conversation with a Finnish lawyer and a judge. We discussed the music of the eighties, the seemingly serious attitude of the Fins and for the second time this evening we had to explain Holland's policy regarding soft drug. Our country definitely has a reputation in this field. Three pints later we headed back to the hotel, but not before leaving our imprints in the snow as proof that we'd been here.
 
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Look, its been snowing !
Look, it's been snowing !
The coloured wall of Saariselkä.
The coloured wall of Saariselkä.
Basic safari equipment.
Basic safari equipment.
The main attraction in Saariselkä…
The main attraction in Saariselk…
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Dont stray off the path ...
Don't stray off the path ...
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Winter wonderland in Saariselkä.
Where the hell are we ?
Where the hell are we ?
Sampling the local brew.
Sampling the local brew.
Sampling the local brew.
Sampling the local brew.
Dont stray off the path ...
Don't stray off the path ...
Reindeer.
Reindeer.
Snowdiving ...
Snowdiving ...
Snowdiving ...
Snowdiving ...
Max and the reindeer.
Max and the reindeer.
Dashing through the snow ?
'Dashing' through the snow ?
Dashing through the snow ?
'Dashing' through the snow ?
Feeding the reindeer.
Feeding the reindeer.
Feeding the reindeer.
Feeding the reindeer.
Campfire.
Campfire.
Now ... where are those northern l…
Now ... where are those northern …
Roasting sausages.
Roasting sausages.
Roasting sausages.
Roasting sausages.
Getting friendly with the law.
Getting friendly with the law.
Getting friendly with the law.
Getting friendly with the law.
Ed and Paul were here!
Ed and Paul were here!
Survival in Finland.
Survival in Finland.
Saariselkä
photo by: edsander