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Tim
Tim

Day 4: Huskies in Äkäslompolo

Today looked set to be the best day of the holiday, even though we only arrived in Äkäslompolo yesterday. Why? Because it was my favourite day last time we came — the day with the huskies! It's only possible on certain days and today happened to be the only chance we would have for the 10km session, so we booked it as the first thing we would do. I was really looking forward to seeing Hannibal again, the puppy I became friends with when we were here on New Year's Day.

As is usual, we got off to a slow start. What's the rush when the sun doesn't think about appearing even slightly until about 10:00? We knew we were going to get picked up at 12:25 and we knew roughly where that would take place, namely a short distance away, so we were in no rush.

During our casual, relaxed start to the day we eventually noticed through the window that there seemed to be some considerable snowfall. No, it's not that we're necessarily inattentive, just that it's so dark outside. But it soon became clear to us when we got outside that there was not only a snowfall, but a blizzard:

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A beautiful blizzard with some extremely large snowflakes:

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They had the effect of creating unspoiled virgin snow. Unfortunately for us, we needed to be the ones to put our feet through it without actually knowing where the path was usually, since we were moving in the opposite direction to our usual travel. That meant a tiring walk because there was no well-trodden route, and the odd moment of putting a foot wrong and ending up with snow around our thighs. We eventually arrived at our bus-stop. I accept that you'd be hard pressed to know!

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Twenty minutes after the time our bus was supposed to be there, we were still standing forlornly at the stop, wondering how long was a reasonable time to wait before trudging off or making a phone call. About 25 minutes later than expected, our bus arrived and a familiar face met us — it was Rita, who took us snowshoeing last year! There was no acknowledgment of being late and we didn't ask, just took our seats and sat back. There was one more stop after ours, a hotel holding people on their package tours. And then Rita made an announcement, that if anybody needed a jacket or trousers etc, they could let her know and we'd turn the bus round and pick some up from her office! Surely nobody was going to say yes, right? Who would be in Lapland without something like that? Tourists, that's who. We did the u-turn.

At the point we arrived, the dogs were already in position and howling away, desperate to be off, so we had the quick introduction from Ben, the fella who carried this out last time. And then we met our six dogs. We were at the front of the queue and ready to set off.

It wasn't long (about five seconds) before I carried out the husky equivalent of an emergency stop. Dog 3 had got his cable caught around his leg in attempting to swap positions with 4. He got his own way — he wanted the right-hand side and that's exactly how the staff member set him up, even though it didn't look quite right from where we were positioned. And soon enough we were off on the run.

It wasn't easy for the dogs. As back at Äkäslompolo, there had been a blizzard where the dogs were, and the result was that there was lots of fresh snow which the sled was having to be pulled through. When we finished I noticed that so much snow had piled on to the brake that it was partially applied too, really making life difficult for our four-legged friends. They braved the still-falling snow, though, and did their best to make us move:

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They built up quite a pace even though most of the first half of the trek was uphill:

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We had the impression that number 5 was taking things a bit easy. He never seemed to give more than a casual trot, and 6 snapped at him a few times. Here he is having fun when we paused:

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As you can see here, whilst he's rolling about, poor 6 is having to cool down with mouthfuls of snow:

We later realised that 5 wasn't being lazy. His cable was always taut so he was pulling perfectly. It's just that he was a lot stronger than 6 and so looked to be taking it easy in comparison, since they could both only run at the same pace.

We set off again, the trees bent over under the weight of several inches of snow indicating just how much snow had fallen:

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No matter how tired they got, they still kept pulling, especially 1 and 2 at the front, who are in charge of steering:

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They hated resting, though. There were times when the panting was audible but within ten seconds of resting they were trying to pull us away again!

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We knew we were most of the way back and so thought we'd try to be very modern and take a selfie whilst the dogs pulled us along. And yes, I am indeed wearing short sleeves and no gloves in Lapland! Had I been able to, I'd have taken off the hat and neckgator too!

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Even though they'd run nearly 10km and had already done that much earlier too, they picked up speed when they knew they were within reach of home!

And within minutes the sled was tied up and the dogs got their treats and cuddles:

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And we got to sit in a tent by a fire, drinking some hot berry juice and eating ginger biscuits:

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And after all the adventure had finished and we were suitably refreshed, Ben said the magic words: "Who wants to see the puppies?"

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This young lady begging to come out is Hannibal's sister. I think her name is Hurra and she's probably coming up to 18 months old now:

And that was the end of the day, and people made their way to the coach. It was then that Ben grabbed me: "Do you want to see Hannibal?"

And with my affirmation, he led me to the next batch of dogs who were hitched together and desperate to leave, and there was my buddy, one year on no longer a puppy but a big strong boy who earns his own living:

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And that was the end of a lovely day. Tomorrow we're going cross-country skiiing.




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