Finnish Dogsledding Week by Vesa, Exodus husky-guide in Finland
We started our five day safari on Monday the 17th of January. Our pack for the journey would consist of Peter and me as guides, 18 happy huskies and three customers from Exodus. The weather was quite nice, around minus 7 degrees with a clouded sky. Unfortunately our dogs would rather prefer much colder conditions due to their thick fur so they would have a rough start to our journey. We started our day with heavy preparations, gathering all kinds of equipment that might be needed for repairs if anything was to break. In the end we would only need to change one piece of the pulling lines that the dogs are attached to so I guess you could say we were lucky in a way. Our customers Maggie, Susan and Ema to whom I will be referring as the trio arrived at the husky farm around 10.00 am fully geared up and ready to go. Mr Wolf, our boss as he was known by the trio had to make some adjustments to the luggage due to weight issues but it was easily taken care of. After that the ladies got their first interaction with our dogs by harnessing them for the first time. To their credit they did well for beginners, as some of the dogs can really be a handful even for experienced workers/guides. Ago, a young male husky earned himself a special mentioning for having too much raw power for the trio to handle all week. Like Peter said “If only we had a hundred huskies like him”, although then stopping issues would accrue.. Each of the ladies got their own team of six huskies because our safaris are about driving the team, not being a passenger.
Our first destination of the five day safari was a cabin at Lake Suininki and the distance to cover was about 31km. The route featured moderate terrain with some long and steep hills as a taste of what was to come on day 2. All in all the first day went by nicely with the trio gaining experience and knowhow of driving and the huskies in general. At the cabin taking care of the dogs was priority number one, only after that eating, drinking and bathing in the sauna to relax and rest well. Day two was known to be toughest on paper with around 34 km to drive featuring a climb up to Kuntinvaara and of course coming down as well. You might think it is easy driving down but in icy conditions the husky team can reach speeds near 50 km/h at that location. Good thing it had snowed on the route which kept the speed of the teams reasonable. Surprisingly Kuntinvaara didn’t offer the biggest challenge of the day, it was Lake Suininki that took the questionable honor. Since it had snowed a lot there was no sight of the trail we were supposed to drive on. Instead we had to make our own which wasn’t a walk in the park. There was much water on the ice due to the weight of it had gained and it made progressing difficult and slow.
Our guide snowmobile got stuck in the water and snow mix once so badly that we had to use a husky team to get it moving again. Driving in a water canal on ice was truly a once in a lifetime experience for our trio. After a challenging day of driving we made it to our next destination, Isokenkäisten Klubi. There we were well taken care of with excellent food which was spot on after a rough day. The biggest question that evening was would the lake be in a better condition tomorrow since we would be driving most of the day on it. Fingers crossed and hoping for the best we headed out to the route on day number three.
The relief was great when we noticed that other snowmobiles had hardened the route to a nice runway on the lake. Our daily driving distance of about 30 km was covered with ease and in a fast pace. That evening we were back at our cabin at Lake Suininki with only two more days left. Day number four was a “take it easy” day. We only drove 18km on a familiar route, sat by a campfire and tried out snowshoeing. The majority of that day went by resting and eating which seemed to suit everyone fine, our huskies included. In the evening we also cleaned the cabin a bit and prepared everything for our final day so that leaving the next morning would go as smoothly as possible. On day five the harnessing of the team was familiar and the difference in actions compared to the first morning was obvious. Our route back to the husky farm was the same as we had driven on day one, but since everything staying on the runners had been the primary focus back then the ladies had little memories of the trip. This time around they had much more confidence which gave them time to enjoy the scenery as well. We arrived back to the farm on Friday around 02.00 pm which concluded our journey of about 140 kilometers in five days. After eating and touring around the husky farm we took the trio back to the apartment they were staying in.
The next day they decided to visit Oulanka National Park and the Ice Bar on the top of the Ruka ski resort before bidding farewell to Finland on Sunday. For Peter and me our job was finished on Friday and we were looking forward to a weekend off duty. In two weeks time we’ll be heading back to another five day safari with a few new stories to tell. IMGP2939_800.jpg
Vesa, Exodus husky-guide in Finland