Winter and Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland
The first days of the new year we spend in the snow of Swedish Lapland. Arvidsjaur is the location, from where we make our excursions. Zum deutschen Blog.
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Excursions in the surrounding area
We are glad that we also booked a car via Flycar, otherwise it would have been a bit boring for us. At this time of the year the brightness begins with an almost endless, mostly dark red glowing sunrise around 8 o’clock, at 10 o’clock the sun has then crossed the horizon and from 2 pm it gets dark again quite quickly. At 3 p.m. it is night and a good opportunity for Northern Lights.
Therefore, we leave quite early, because we want to go to Arjeplog. Just like Arvidsjaur, the latest cars get tested here for their winter outfit and driving behaviour on snow and ice on the surrounding frozen lakes. Here, too of course, on secret test tracks.
Arjeplog used to be a fishing village and more and more Sami have settled on the edges of the lakes. Today the village has about 2000 inhabitants, there are some smaller hotels, a few shops and cafes and a really nice, very interesting silver museum. It is closed for lunch at noon. We arrived quite late, because we didn’t know the opening hours, but we were allowed to stay longer and also watch the film about Arjeplog. This is available in several languages. Besides us, two other German speaking guests were here, so we got to see the film in German.
The museum shows a lot about the art and way of life of the Sami people living here and also many historical artifacts and documents.
Outside, on the other side of the parking lot, we visit Café Arjeplog Vilt & Kafé. They got not only good coffee and cakes, but also reindeer specialties for tasting or frozen to take away. Pretty souvenirs from the surrounding area complete the products that is for sale.
The wooden church just behind is open and we look inside. A short walk through the village and we make our way back. The sun is slowly setting. We choose a different way back to Arvidsjaur. We drive back over little-used side roads, which is also a proper detour, but that doesn’t matter. We can even see a bit of the landscape and the forests thanks to the bright moon.
On the way to nowhere
On our way to the Storforsen waterfall a few days ago, we saw a sign to Reivo nature reserve. We want to go there and try out our new snowshoes.
Unfortunately, nothing will come of it. The road that branches off the E 45 is well maintained, and we drive along. Right and left are well-shielded test tracks of the car industry. Then a sign, turn right it says. Yes, for about 10 meters, then the road is covered with high snow. Very bad. Turning around is hardly possible. So I look at Google Maps, as the Internet is very good here, even far from any major settlement. The road will eventually hit 95, one of the main routes in Swedish Lapland. It is quite lonely here, from time to time we drive over hilltops and, if it doesn’t snow, have a real view over the white winter landscape.
Arriving at 95, we head south again. Not too far from Arvidsjaur we simply park our car at one of the cleared parking lots, strap on our snowshoes and hike over one of the many lakes that are very close to the road. The wind whistles and I’m actually a little queasy. I know that beneath all the snow and ice lies a lake that may not be completely frozen down to the bottom. Does the ice hold? Sure, because many tracks of snow scooters lead from one side to the other.
Once again Mala
Johann then picks us up in the morning of the next day by minibus. It goes back to Mala. To an excursion, which Dirk and I are looking forward to all the time. What do you think that will be? Right guess!
Excursion with sled dogs
In Mala we are already welcomed on the shore of the lake by a big crowd of very excited sleddogs. They are already in their harnesses in front of three sledges and their mushers can hardly hold them back. They want to go, run!
The animals of cold-nose-huskies.se and their owners greet us more or less stormy. The Huskies are extremely friendly and cuddly. As soon as you cuddle one, the others also want to have their petting units. I like it, but Malin (she’s Swedish) and Lars (her German husband) want to go. You already know why… the sun goes down early and we want to have some fun from the tour.
A special route has already been prepared for the tour one day before. Unfortunately, the last few days it has rained rather than snowed and the icy snow is not good for the dogs.
Therefore, they all wear the little red shoes on the hind paws. The dogs transfer almost all the power to race over their hind legs, as our Austrian sled dog guide Nadine explains to us during the ride. This let them dig much deeper into the snow and thus their rear paws are exposed to much more possible injuries. Of course, this should not happen!
Some of the dogs are not yet one year old and so to speak “apprentices”. They can’t run quite as long distances as their older colleagues, who even take part in “Long Distance” trips. But they are just as motivated for this ride. As soon as the stop iron is removed from the ground and the command to go is given, it starts! Immediately, the enthusiastic barking and yelling stop and the dogs concentrate completely on their job.
On the sled
We glide, warmly cuddled into reindeer skins and blankets, over the frozen ice of the lake and then into the forest.
Only the panting of the dogs and the grinding of the skids on the snow can be heard. Life can be so beautiful! I snuggle up to Dirk, after all we booked the “romantic ride”, i.e. the sleigh for us alone, except for Nadine, whom we need as a musher.
The daylight changes to the “blue hour” just before sunset. Some of the mother-of-pearl clouds appear again in the sky and unfortunately the time of the sleigh ride is already over. Could these clouds be a sign for upcoming Northern Lights? Dirk and I cuddle a little bit with the dogs before they are quickly strapped off and be returned into their transport boxes. They don’t seem tired, it was probably more of a distance for a warm up for them.
On the way back, hardly anyone likes to talk. That was just too nice!
But it´s even getting better this evening! At around 9:00 p.m., we receive a message from Johann via Whatsapp that
are building up. Our “Aurora Northern Lights” app has already “warned” us. We jump in the car and drive off. To the north we can see a very slight shimmer of Northern Lights, so let’s get started! We drive on a country road, always towards the shimmer, unfortunately the moon is too bright. After about 1 hour we turn around or we try, because that’s where we get stuck. An ice board got stuck under our front wheels. The rear of the car is still on the road. Nothing helps and unfortunately there is no shovel in the rental car. All the time we saw a car every now and then, and now 20 minutes nobody! We are standing in the middle of a forest on an intersection, the Northern Lights do us no favor and now it is really almost pitch dark. Finally, we see lights in the distance, a small van arrives and two men with it. We explain our misery in English, but as it turns out, these two are not from Sweden and neither do they speak any English. But with hands and feet we describe our problem. Together, we are now able to get the car going again. We thank them a lot and everyone drives their own way.
Will the Northern Lights appear?
It is now almost 11 p.m. and nothing to see of the Northern Lights, although the app still gives us hope. So, we drive up the Akkanalke mountain, from here we have a good view. Nothing to see from here, that’s very frustrating. So, we decide to cancel this excursion and go to bed. Tomorrow we have to get up early. Just before we reach the main road, some beautiful green loops of the Aurora Borealis are building up directly in front of us! We jump out of the car, I take pictures with my cell phone and Dirk sets up his camera. The bows are already gone. What a pity! What remains is an incredibly beautiful, green band on the horizon that is easy to photograph with long exposure. At last! The whole driving was worth it, and we finally see Northern Lights! It is so beautiful!!!
The next day Johann picks us up for the last big trip during our Swedish Lapland adventure. It goes to Pitea. What are we doing in the city on the shore of the Baltic Sea?
An icebreaker ride!
Yes, you read correctly, we will embark on the icebreaker „Arctic Explorer” which is still in proper operation. Before, we look at the construction of the Iglootel in front of the Hotel Pite Havsbad. Unfortunately, the construction this year does not work so fast and the students from Germany who came with us in the same plane, who were supposed to do the interior fittings, are not really progressing. It’s just not cold enough now, the water pumped on to the igloos via a kind of syringe doesn’t freeze fast enough. Let’s hope it gets ice cold again soon!
But let’s go! With us, other Germans are waiting for the departure of the boat. Then the heavy machine starts. And hardly the ship picks up speed, the ice-cold and humid air of the sea hits us. So, we put on really warm clothes now, preferably with a mouthguard.
As soon as we have left the protected berth of the icebreaker behind us, the ship must make its way through the 25 cm thick ice of the Baltic Sea. This is an easy one for the ship, but it knuckles and crunches quite neatly. The ice is getting firmer and thicker.
Then we seem to be stuck, but that cannot be! No,because the ship´s screws are supposed to free a kind of pool from the ice, because now the fun really starts! We will bathe in the freezing Baltic Sea!
A bath in the frozen Baltic Sea
Don’t worry, Dirk jumped into the -2°C cold water in Antarctica some time ago in his swimming trunks, we don’t want to repeat that here. There is no hot shower for passengers, but special survival suits that make freezing and drowning impossible, at least for a long time.
So, all the brave passengers queue up and wait for their turn. A railing is left on the ice, the path to the ice hole is scattered with sand, so that we can jump into the water in the suits reasonably safely.
Then we go. I hand over my camera to Johann, my GoPro has to go into the water. That is a very strange thing. I lie on my back in the freezing water, behind me the bow of the icebreaker, in front of me the edges of the ice. In the middle of it me, like in a hotel pool. Well, I can’t get my feet down or swim on my belly. There’s a lot of air in the suit and then I get cold on my legs. I let myself be hoisted onto the ice by one of the strong sailors and just want to get out of this thing!
In the changing room it becomes clear why it was so cold. The zipper was probably leaking or the suit has a tiny hole. Anyway, my wollen underwear is wet and I have to get rid of it quickly. How good that I packed a towel!
Bare legs in the ski pants is a strange feeling and I am glad that the fare includes a hot soup and hot and cold drinks. I was only exposed to the water for a short time and with little skin, but it immediately turned bright red. So warm up quickly!
As soon as everyone is back on board, we turn back again, meanwhile it is already quite dark. On shore we see the lights of the passing city.
Too bad, the day is over and our Swedish Lapland adventure unfortunately, too. But happy we are that our greatest wish has come true. We have seen the Northern Lights!
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