A Finnish Adventure
By Robert Dixon
By Robert Dixon, Exodus’ eCommerce Manager
Finland Activity & Adventure Holidays with Exodus.
I have to admit I felt a bit guilty sleeping in a warm comfortable bed inside the lodge (a former border station, with three thick layers of insulation) whilst my new best friends were sleeping outside in the snow, but our Finnish guide, Katerina, assured me that my friends, a team of Alaska huskies, prefer to be outside. That is where they like to live.
Whilst working at Exodus since 1993 I have experienced many personal ‘firsts’. I still remember the first time I saw Machu Picchu – with my jaw predictably dropping to the ground when I caught a glimpse of the Inca citadel from the Sun Gate. It was a very different experience, but I also remember the time I first rode a rickshaw ‘round the back streets of Kathmandu – taking in the heady eastern aroma of incense, coriander and raw sewage. I have also stood on the top of Kili, walked to Everest and spent some time with a family of mountain gorillas in the Congo. I kid you not, but it was a no less thrilling an experience to drive, for the first time, a team of Alaskan huskies through the pine forests and frozen lakes of northern Finland. It was a bit like taking to the wheel of your Dad’s car for the first time as a 17 year-old with L-plates on and you can’t quite believe you are actually in the driving seat, in control (sort of), and it feels like you’re travelling so fast and it’s all just such a blast. That is what it’s like to take your husky team out for the first time. The husky top speed of about 15 miles per hour feels like it was at 60 miles an hour in your Dad’s car!
I was travelling on Exodus’ 5-day Weekend Husky Safari (Trip code: CFW), and was expecting that we would spend hours breaking up dog-fights and battling to get the teams into their harnesses. That’s what Bruce Parry seemed to do on TV. I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped out of the lodge after a hearty breakfast and after a quick briefing was handed the reins and with a mighty whoosh we were off! Clearly a lot of meticulous behind-the-scenes training and preparation had taken place, but since we were only there for the weekend it was great to maximise time out with the dogs, rather than being back at base. Villie was clearly the top dog in my team, experienced, decisive, cool under pressure and intelligent. He led the way across the wilderness, followed by the core team of Tiger, Coliner and Tara, with naughty Goldy at the back, who seemed to be pulling sideways as much as she did forwards, for some unknown reason. Our Exodus party travelled in a convoy of five teams, with our expert local guide, Katarina, up front trail finding.
Each morning, before we headed off, the dogs barked and wagged their tails ferociously, as they couldn’t wait for the day's running. As soon as the brakes are released the dogs go completely silent, lovin’ being on the move, all that you can hear is the patter of their feet and the occasional howl of joy. To my disappointment, to start there is no need to yell 'mush', just release the foot brake and you’re off. To stop, you use the foot brake on the sled, and then fix your sled to a substantial tree or else they will be off without you. You wouldn’t want to lose your dogs out here, this is true wilderness, and we saw no one apart from our group of 10 Exodus mushers and our two guides. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Russian army patrolling the border, but with the Cold War now well and truly part of ancient history it seems that you can drift in and out of Russian-Finnish border these days and no one bats an eye lid. We decided not to test this theory though, just in case….I had to be home Sunday evening to read my little boy a bedtime story!
When I made it home, I told him about how Daddy had spent the weekend taking a team of huskies across snow and frozen lakes in a far away country…he liked the story and we both slept well that night, but I’m sure he didn’t believe a word of it! Looks like my Christmas holiday this year will have to be the new Exodus Family Adventure, Festive Finnish Fun (Trip code: FVK), so that I can prove to him I wasn’t telling porky pies after all. He may also get to meet my new best friends - Villie, Tiger, Coliner, Tara and Goldy! (and Santa Claus).