When I was a child, I always fantasized about a typical winter: snowmen; huge Christmas trees; everything is covered by snow; people sitting around fireplaces warming up themselves… For me, it was impossible to see that because the winter in Hongkong is so mild, there is never snow, and Hongkong people freak out when temperature drops to a single digit. Although my body really enjoy subtropical climate, I promised myself that I have to spend an authentic snowy winter up in the north, at least once in my life!
So here it comes this winter, I decided to take a break of my bike trip from Portugal to Hongkong, and went up to Finnish Lappland. Thank you Loma-Paksu for accepting me to volunteer at their place in a tiny village called Kongas, 10km away from Levi, the famous Finnish skiing area!
I arrived in mid-November in which there are still 5-6 hours day light, basically my tasks included cooking lunch or dinner, cleaning, decorating the guesthouse, teaching yoga as well as giving treatment to the family. During my free time, there are plenty of Nordic adventures waiting for me to try!
Around 10 years ago I took a downhill skiing lesson in South Korea, it was embarrassing to learn with all the kids and I kept falling down, not to say there were millions of people visiting that touristic ski area, you could hardly find a quiet spot to practice on your own. While in Lappland, unlike anywhere in Asia, they have numerous hectares of land covered with nothing. You will never understand what spacious means if you have not been to here.
Practically it was my first time to try cross-country skiing, the ski board is much thinner than the one we use in downhill skiing. In Levi, there are altogether more than 250km cross country ski tracks crossing the forests and fields. My hosts showed me 3 basic skills:
1. Treading with opposite limbs, right leg and left arm with the stick move forward, and then left leg and right arm.
2. Pushing with both sticks and slide.
3. Falling is a part of the learning process.
Actually it is not as difficult as I thought, and I managed to ski around 5km in my first day. Sliding down a gentle slope is so much fun, but I did fall down at some shape turns that I have no idea how to move my legs to shift the direction. When you go uphill, remember to use your chest and shoulder muscles instead of just your arms, or you will get tired after a short while.
I highly recommend you to try cross-country skiing if you are a newbie to skiing and want to have some memories on the snow! Also remember to cover your head with beanie and scarf, sliding downhill could be windy and chilly!
Riding a snowmobile
If you could ride a scooter or a motorbike, snowmobile would be an easy job for you. The design of a snowmobile consists of 2 skis in the front and a slide rail/track at the back; and usually you accelerate at the right handlebar, and break at the left. Snowmobile is not only for tourists to try and have fun, it is an essential daily transport for people working in the forest covered with snow. It can go up to 60-80km/hr but usually people drive rather slow because of all the trees around.
I had the opportunity to drive a snowmobile with my host to the forest, and it was super exciting. Sometimes I found it hard to control the turning, but since I stood up using my whole body to move the handlebar, it became a piece of cake! My host said we could also drive it across the frozen lake, but we have to wait until the ice layer gets thicker, and once we drive on the lake, we cannot stop or we will sink!
Snowmobile is suitable for someone who loves driving in top gear, although you cannot change gears in snowmobile. The speed and the coldness is definitely an adrenaline rush!
Remember to wear helmet and cover yourself properly, as the cold head wind could freeze your hands and ears!
Imagine yourself walking on water like Jesus, actually it is not that hard during the winter! In Lappland, most of the lakes get frozen from November till next year May, you can find pretty good natural spot for ice skating, as well as ice fishing! I met some friends here who are experienced in ice fishing, they took me to a lake Jerisjarvi, closed to the Swedish border, in the middle of wilderness. I thought we would use a fishing line with bait to catch fish, but my friends has dug 2 holes and put a fishing net across the holes. I was amazed by how he uses a floating skate board with a curved sharp nail to thread a line under the thick ice surface!
Once I even assisted to dig another hole to put one more fishing net, it was interesting using the ice drill and shovel, but be prepared to get exhausted.
Although using a net is a more advanced way comparing with ordinary fishing line, at the end it is still a way to understand local culture, and rely on what the nature provides us as food in such harsh weather.
If you want to experience how the Lappish people get their food from nature, do not miss the opportunity to try ice fishing!
Walking in the wilderness
As I mentioned before, the specious landscape allows you to immerse yourselves with the nature. Surround yourselves with pine trees and snow when you step inside a forest or nature reserve, occasionally there are reindeers jogging slowly with their elegant horns. It is a totally different world, no wonder Nordic writers created mystic stories such as Moonintroll, using this wilderness as background.
You can totally forget what is going on in the outside world once you walk in the nordic forest, feel the calmness and peace, appreciate the beauty of a pollution-free environment.
There are rather low risks to walk in the forest, wolves and foxes are more scared than you and they always hide when they sense human walks by. A very low chance that you will see a bear, but in case it happens, do consult the locals or walk with a guide. Walking alone is always not recommended, unless you know the area well.
Prepare a water proof boot, and some thick jackets, maybe a hiking stick if there are some slopes to climb. Enjoy yourselves, Into the Wild.
Actually there are lots more activities you can do in Lappland, stay tuned for my next post about Northern light; Finnish Sauna and Horseback riding and more…
If you also want to experience a real Lappland adventure, contact me by email, and I can direct you to my friends here, they will surely give you the best offer you could ever get! Travel like a local!