Day 3: Snowmobile Safari

Saariselkä Travel Blog

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Ed on the snow mobile.
I woke up shortly after seven o'clock and felt as if a reindeer had been tap dancing on my head all night. I guess that last pint of local brew was one too many yesterday evening. A couple of painkillers and a refreshing shower later we were off to have breakfast. At ten o' clock we were picked up by Mark of Eräsetti Wild North Safari, today's guide for our snowmobile trip. He took us to their office across the road where we were equipped with boots, overall, balaclava and mittens. The rest of today's group consisted of two brothers from India who studied in Germany and the UK and seemingly had enough cash left to spend it up here in Lapland. There was also a German lady who had booked the snowmobile safari since she didn't to go cross-country skiing with her husband and son.
On our way ...
Somehow I found this exceptionally cool; nine out of ten housewives would probably have stayed in the hotel to read a sentimental novel.

Snowmobiles are extremely important in places like Lapland. They are one of the few ways to get to snow covered parts of the land that cannot be reached by road during the winter. There's dedicated snowmobile trails throughout the surroundings of Saariselkä, easily recognizable by the red crosses marking the path. Mark explained us how to ride the snowmobiles, which work remarkably simple. It's got a caterpillar track that pushes it forwards and two skis at the front for steering. The throttle is on the right handlebar and the break on the left and that's basically it. As a matter of fact, you rarely use the break.
View from the fell.
Loosening your grip on the throttle is normally enough to come to a quick stop. Our snowmobiles were made for two persons. The co-driver sits on a slight elevation behind the driver, enabling him to have a good view and that's the real advantage of that spot; you get to take in the wonderful landscape and nature around you. The driver would, in the meantime, follow Mark. At first, steering seemed a bit laborious, but eventually you notice that the snowmobile's skis find their own way in the tracks on the trail. On average the speed in the forests is about 30-40 km/h, but on one stretch we were able to pull of a nifty 80 km/h. And I assure you, that feels very, very fast on a snowmobile.

The group pulled out of Saariselkä eastwards into the area where the Urho K Kekkonen National Park which stretches all the way to the Russian border.
Snow mobiles on top of the fell.
As a matter of fact, when we were standing on top of one of the fells, the typical blunt hills created by many ice ages that cover the area, we could see the sun shining on Russia behind the clouds over Lapland. Well, it might have been a cloudy day on this side of the border, but it wasn't cold. Like yesterday it was about 4 degrees Celsius and there was hardly any wind. Excellent conditions to tear through the wilderness on our powerful machines. And what a total rush it is to cross the white surroundings and pine tree forests. We only had one minor mishap in an unexpected curve that had Paul drive straight ahead into the snow. ;-)

We arrived at a wilderness hut and a frozen lake. Here Mark showed us how to drill a hole in the 80cm thick ice and taught us the techniques for ice fishing.
On top of the fell.
The next 45 minutes we spent drilling our own holes and patiently watching the lines of our small fishing rods hoping for some tugging (no pun intended). But alas, the fish weren't biting today. Fortunately Mark had anticipated this and had taken some fish along to prepare a tasty fish soup in the meantime. Combined with toasted bread with cheese and coffee this made a nice lunch. 'Is there actually any fish in the lake Mark ?', I asked. 'I know there's at least one, because we put it back last Saturday!', he grinned.
After packing up we drove back to Saariselkä, arriving shortly after half past three. If it weren't for the lack of snow in Holland I would have loved to take one of these machines with me as a souvenir. Driving a snowmobile around the forests and fells was an amazing experience indeed.
View from a fell.


Back at the hotel we decided to finally try out the hotel's sauna, opening up the pores and sweating it out for half an hour. After having cooled down a bit on the veranda it was time for dinner. Now, Finnish food has been described as 'unimaginative', but the buffet we got with our full board booking at Hotel Kieppi was close to dreadful. We'd seen the food that people got when they ordered 'a la carte' and the buffet felt like a cheap rush job compared to that. 'Buffet' was actually too big a word for what is offered since there's no real choice. There's one soup, one main dish and one desert to choose from. And it all looks and tastes mediocre. Today we were actually happier with the bread and butter that was meant as a side dish. If only we had some of Mark's fish soup left.

After some chilling, blogging and reading we madfe another visit to Panimo for some more dark local brew, Talon Tumma. By the time we finished our second pint I felt absolutely exhausted and we returned to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
Biedjee says:
sounds like a cool day!
Posted on: Apr 08, 2010
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Ed on the snow mobile.
Ed on the snow mobile.
On our way ...
On our way ...
View from the fell.
View from the fell.
Snow mobiles on top of the fell.
Snow mobiles on top of the fell.
On top of the fell.
On top of the fell.
View from a fell.
View from a fell.
Paul, this is not an off-the-road…
Paul, this is not an 'off-the-roa…
Mark drilling a hole in the ice.
Mark drilling a hole in the ice.
Mark drilling a hole in the ice.
Mark drilling a hole in the ice.
The ice was this thick!
The ice was this thick!
Hole in the ice for fishing.
Hole in the ice for fishing.
Lake and wilderness hut.
Lake and wilderness hut.
Paul drilling holes.
Paul drilling holes.
Paul ice fishing.
Paul ice fishing.
Ed ice fishing (and my patience be…
Ed ice fishing (and my patience b…
Lunch with fish soup and toasted b…
Lunch with fish soup and toasted …
Lunch in the wilderness hut.
Lunch in the wilderness hut.
Feeling soooo cool!
Feeling soooo cool!
The dynamic duo on the road again.
The dynamic duo on the road again.
On top of another fell.
On top of another fell.
On top of another fell.
On top of another fell.
Saariselkä
photo by: edsander