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    • Day 3

      Day 3 - Birthday boy!

      February 15 in Norway ⋅ 🌙 -6 °C

      We sleep pretty well. The whipping wind is clearly audible outside, but it’s actually quite soothing, cocooned in our warm little igloo. I wake up a few times through the night, and look through the glass ceiling of our igloo, hoping to see lights - but no dice. We’re up in good time, as need to leave for our dog sledding expedition at 09:00. We grab a quick breakfast, wish Triston the very happiest of birthdays, and then pile into Lyngen North’s Tesla for the 40 minute ride North. None of us think to take off our coats before embarking, and we’re all pretty warm, pretty quickly. I can’t figure out how the drivers up here are son good at driving on ice. I had a a quick look at the tyres on the Tesla before getting in. They looked like pretty standard Winter tyres, where I’d half been expecting to see snow chains. Whatever it is, I’ve gone from being a little anxious on the bus up to Lyngen yesterday, to feeling completely at ease with Ola bombing around the back roads heading up to the Storslett valley.

      We’re met by Tom, who runs the dog-sledding business. We change into some hardcore winter clothing - Tom says we’ll probably be warm enough in our ski gear, the huskies have a habit of shitting and pissing on their drivers, so advises to wear the snowsuit. Suitably garbed, we’re given the briefest of driving lessons, before heading for our sleds. Vicks thinks she’s likely to make a better passenger than driver, so I’m first up. The dogs are howling, so excited are they to get under way. We get Vicks safely ensconced in the sled, and set off. There are 5 sleds running in convoy with Tom at the front. The shock of the dogs setting off for the first time is really something. They’re only running at about 15-16 km/h, but it feels…. Maybe not faster, but more alive. Steering has a bit of a knack to it. The dogs will essentially follow the sled in front, and they learn the tracks around the valley really well so they know where they are, and where they’re going. If they can cut a corner though, they will, and we have a couple of wobbly moments when they tear off around a corner, and the sled starts leaning to one side pretty heavily. It’s a hugely exhilarating experience - it’s still bitterly cold, but the wind has dropped from yesterday, meaning we can take in the sights and sounds of the forest floor. During our first run, one of the dogs - how can I put this delicately - has to use the back-door bathroom. Rather than stop, he does it in mid-run, demonstrating a strange sort of crab-like running technique, without missing a step. It’s a slightly bizarre, but hugely impressive feat of physical prowess.

      After 30 or so minutes, we pull up at a small cabin in the forest. There’s a campfire burning, and we sit around the fire having a coffee and chatting to our host, Tom - as well as a couple of other guests that are visiting from Qatar (but who originated in Thailand and Missouri). The scenery is stunning - incredibly peaceful. Some of the dogs are having a rest, others are playing. They seem really contented, and Tom clearly dotes on them all. He tells us of the races he runs in. A pack of 10 dogs over something like 1,200 kms is his record. It takes around 2 weeks to complete. We’re invited into the hut itself for some elevenses - a delicious fish soup that the chef at Lyngen North has knocked up for us. Recharged, we set off again for our second run. Vicks has decided that she’s going to remain in the sled, so I’m driving again. Liz decides she’s going to have a go, so Tris is in their sled. We set off on what looks like a fairly innocuous open field path. Vicki remarks that this is where we nearly stacked it on our first run. As sure as thunder follows lightning, the moment she says it, our pack tears off to the left, and dumps the sled on its arse. Vicki manages to turn her unscheduled exit into something of a commando roll. My ejection from the back of the sled is closer to a lobster roll. Tom had warned us that the dogs won’t stop if we fall out, and ya know what? He’s right. They hare off into the distance after the other sleds. Happily, Tom has spotted our misfortune, and quickly manages to slow our pack down while we trot to catch up. After this, things are a little more stable. We spend an amazing 20 minutes running through the forest. The air is crisp and clean in a way I’ve just not experienced before. In the car on the way back to Lyngen, the majority of our party grab some Zzzs.

      Back at Lyngen, it’s beer o’clock, and we toast Tris’ success in making it to half a century. A light lunch later, and we’re all feeling a little jaded. I have a quick nap, wake up feeling tired, so have another one. It is the best possible use of my afternoon. By 18:00, we’re back up at the bar. We have a brilliant dinner, with the highlight being a main course of oven-roasted cod with a spinach risotto. Sublime. Ant’s feeling pretty knackered, so heads to bed from the dinner table. The 5 of us remaining have some drinks, play some games, laugh quite a lot. It’s a fabulous way to spend the evening, and we hope that it’s been a good way for Tris to celebrate his birthday. By 22:30, the bar is closed, and we’re ready for bed. There is promise of some half decent Aurora tonight. I’ve downloaded an Aurora alert app, and set it to wake me up for any particularly good sightings. I managed a couple of quick pics earlier this evening, but there is promise of more and better…
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    Spåkenes, Spakenes

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