Lapland for Dummies by Trevor Jones

Lapland © Trevor Jones


“Thermals, thermals, where am I going to get thermals at this time of year?
This is 104.3. Weather for Melbourne. Today will be hot, very hot, a maximum of 44C and no cool change in sight. Currently at 10:00 a.m. 34C. Now to take your mind off the heat, is some cool music…”

So off I go to the ‘Kathmandu’ store who specialise in outdoor clothing. Fortunately we do have a ski season in Australia albeit short but long enough for the store to stock thermals’ and other wintery things. On arrival at the Camberwell store there was a distinct lack of people around, and even less in the winter section. Guess they were already sitting under an air-conditioner. If there is one thing I hate, it is being hot & bothered and trying to put on tight clothes, however I was heading off to Lapland in less than a week so there was a degree of urgency to find attire that would keep out an Arctic winter. So there I was on a ridiculously hot day trying on garments that are about as tight as your skin. The one positive note was that winter garments don’t sell well during an Australian summer so are “On Sale”!! So with mission accomplished I headed home with the thought of packing but the heat defeated me for the day.

Of course I did eventually get packed and made my combination of Emirates and Finnair flights to Helsinki for a one-night stand. My date was with Inter-sport and Stockmann to obtain the necessary survival gear. I was with a small group from Australia and some members’ live in tropical northern Australia and Perth in the west, that have absolutely no need for winter gear at all. So a quick shopping trip in Helsinki was essential. I bought more thermals, silk gloves and merino socks. I might add that these were better quality and cheaper than I purchased at home.

Trevor JonesArrival in Ivalo was exciting. Snow all around as you step off the aircraft and an exhilarating freshness in your nostrils. Making the way to the terminal was a low priority as most on-board were excited tourists and they were more interested in jumping around in the snow and taking pictures, with many taking “selfies” having the Finnair aircraft in the background. Within seconds photographs would appear on ‘Facebook’, ‘What’s app’ and other assorted social media for their family and friends to get equally as excited about. It took me 24 hours to beam the first photo back. My daughter calls me “a techo dinosaur”…

The first impression is often the lasting impression and the coach trip to Saariselka was one of those memorable times. Whilst I had expected lots of snow and ice, I had not expected to be evaporated into a scene of a quintessential Christmas card. En-route we stopped for lunch at Joiku Kotsamo, Sami house for a hearty lunch, then a sleigh ride pulled by real reindeer. Other than my belief in Santa, I had no idea you could train reindeer. With light snow falling it was surreal and the sleigh ride provided for many laughs. Entering into Saariselka at dusk with its magical lights and snow covered everything was fantastic.

The next day we walked up to the Kaunispää summit restaurant to enjoy a highly anticipated toboggan run. On the incline, stopping every few metres to take photos of trees so laden with snow that it made them appear like fluffy cumulus clouds. On the 1.2km decline there was no time or ability to stop.

What a pleasant evening at Petronella restaurant in Saariselka, wonderful ambience, great food and lovely wines, friendly service and topped off with a lovely walk back to our hotel. I wasn’t expecting restaurants this good in the Arctic.

Lapland - Fishing on ice © Trevor JonesA new day and two new adventures. Motorised and dog power a la Snowmobiles vs Husky’s. So off to the Snowmobile outfitters to put on blue suits built like duvets, balaclavas, boots, helmet and giant sized gloves followed by a quick driving lesson. All good as we head out over Lake Inari to do a spot of ice fishing. The wind chill made good reason for wearing duvets and what was unbelievable is that the handle bars are heated. In Australia, you fish in a lake and not on it, however usually with the same amount of success, which is not much. Drilling a hole in the ice was encouragingly difficult as the ice was so thick which was reassuring as I was standing on it.

At a much slower pace, a visit to the world-class Siida Sami Museum which proudly shows off Sami culture is a must. Its combination of history, artefacts’, flora & fauna displays’ and audio visual presentations are brilliant. Even the gift shop is well done.

As a complete contrast to petrol power, our vehicles in the early evening were pulled by over-enthusiastic dogs. Husky dogs with vivid blue eyes. With snowmobiles the brake is on the left and the accelerator is on the right of the handle-bars and the steering is obvious. With a dog sled well…. Let’s just say “Go” does have the require effect but “Whoa! Stop!” does not. The wooden breaking system eventually works but the steering is in the hands of the God’s or should I say dogs? One minor spin out created chaos but so much fun and much laughter. Total exhausted it was time to retire to the sauna in my room and then the bar of the hotel to re-live the highlights of the day.

And why were we in Lapland? To see the Northern Lights. And did we see them? Actually “No” but it makes a great reason to come back.

Trevor Jones,
Managing Director

Magellan Famil Scandinavia © Trevor Jones