North of Helsinki, Finland is a little town called Kajaani. I never knew the existence of this wee little town until I booked a dog-sledding trip in early 2008. Nope, this post is not about food for sure, but it certainly was a drool-worthy, memorable experience.
We landed in Helsinki after a three hour flight only to transfer to another hour long domestic flight to Kajaani. After which, we adjourned to a car for another two hour drive to the wilderness centre, Peuranpolku. Quite a trek, I must say, and at that point I was thinking the dogs better be nice and make it worth this trip.
The dogs were more than nice! They were a crazy, clever bunch of huskies. On the first day, we were taught by our guide, Juka, to control the sleds. Decked out in uber-warm gear, we practiced on empty sleds for a bit and were then quickly introduced to some of the huskies, where we were taught to harness and link them up to the sleds. Soon enough, even before I could say ‘woof’, we were off on our very first sledding trip!
Each of us were given our own sled and dogs. I had five of those excitable, power-filled munchkins. In each pack, there’s a leader dog, this clever little thing is the one who knows where to go – usually more experienced and calmer. The others are the equivalent of chasers and beaters of Quidditch. They are the power packed bunch that pulls the heavy load, aka me.
Here’s what our safari itinerary looked like:
Day 2: Breakfast. Distribution and checking of equipment, introduction to your dogs and driving instruction. Safari of about 20km to an old timber lodge near the nature park. Lunch by an open campfire. Return to Peuranpolku. Sauna, dinner and overnight accommodation at the Peuranpolku Wilderness Centre.
Day 3: Breakfast. Safari to the old Karelian village of Kuivajarvi, around 45km, near to the Russian border. Campfire lunch. Sauna, dinner and overnight at Domna House or nearby ‘Louhi Cottage’.
Day 4: Breakfast. Safari back to Peuranpolku along the Russian border. Lunch by an open fire. Sauna, dinner and overnight accommodation at the wilderness centre. Safari approximately 45km.
The first thing I remember about dog-sledding in Kajaani is the silence of nature. When we were out there in the open wilderness along the border of Finland and Russia, all I could remember hearing was the shooshing sounds of the sled being pulled by the dogs, the dog’s panting and my own breathing. Coming from London, Melbourne and Singapore – cities that never really sleep – the serenity was simply amazing.
The picturesque views of untouched nature is breath-taking. All along the way, beautiful snow-covered landscapes greet us at each turn. One cannot help but feel so small and insignificant in a place like that, yet the privilege of being able to experience all of this is such a blessing.
Thank you P for sharing this wonderful memory with me and even though I’m the dog lover in the family, I’m sure this experience changed your mind about those intelligent, four-legged creatures. <wink wink>
I’ll dedicate a whole other post on Finnish food…this one’s just for the dogs. Woof for now.