I believe everyone of us has seen those advertisements of an ideal holiday and vacation places with sea, palms and sandy beaches, hot weather and lazy mornings. Well, you may not believe me, but those ads are lying. The ideal place to spend your vacations is covered with snow and ice, it has no trees (definitely – no palms) and no sandy seaside for getting suntan, but don’t worry, you can get some frostbite instead… You cannot go easily where you want, as the polar bears, the kings of Arctic, may become interested in you, which may result in rising up your adrenaline levels…
Let’s call this place Svalbard!
I am one of those lucky people, who are there in Svalbard for the sixth day already, engaging in many types of activities this wonderful place has to offer. Today we will experience dog sledging, visit an ice cave and have a special dinner in a local restaurant. I am really looking forward for it all!
But let’s follow the natural order of things and start the day with a daily running!
So, we woke up at about 7 o’clock and went out running our daily 5K. The weather was nice, about -13C degrees, almost no wind, no snowing. (Would you believe anyone in Latvia, who’d told you, that it is -13C and nice weather? I wouldn’t!)
After the run we got breakfast. I overate as usually. We had some chat with some “guesthouse friends” which we’ve already made there, and we were ready to go for our today’s adventures!
Our today’s guides Tommy and Laura picked us up nearby the guesthouse and took us to the Tommy’s house, where we got on some warmer clothes, snow costumes and mittens with ropes (for not losing one), like in my childhood! I have to admit that Tommy’s house looked kind of wonderful (and I am not telling this just because there is “huskies’ farm” right nearby). The house is some kilometers away from the city, it is located in beautiful place with nice view around. It has many cosy wooden furniture items, which looked really nice. The bookshelves were pretty eye-catchy for me, as they were full with adventure literature about Arctic, North, huskies, expeditions etc. The house is like North version of eco-house. But it is a different story already.
Let me say at least few more words about Tommy himself, as it turned out that we were lucky to go dog sledging with a legendary person and his very special dogs. Tommy has not only ridden through Alaska with huskies, but also has reached the North Pole. His kids continue his hobby as well and have already great success in junior competitions.
The dogs are preparing for a trip
Well, back to our story. So, after getting on some warm clothes, we met the wonderful dogs, which would take us to an inspiring journey through the white Arctic scenery. We helped Tommy and his assistant Laura to attach the dogs to the sledges. The dogs were really friendly, but each with a different character.
We made four teams and started to ride. Shortly after the start our (my and Edgar’s) team decided that we have to keep the tradition of falling over, so it is better to do it in the very beginning to take pressure off of our further journey. The plan went out well, so the remaining 99% of our trip we were going just fine.
The white wonderland
We sledged through the white, beautiful hilly valleys, observing the greatness of Arctic nature and appreciating the stamina and strength of the dogs. Sledging with dogs were completely different of snowmobiles and hiking, as it has such a peace and strength of nature in it, making it kind of meditative process. Of course, it didn’t keep my fingers from freezing and my mind from thinking of falling out of the sledge. Still, I really enjoyed the ride.
What’s interesting, you can see the dogs’ characters even when riding. One of our team’s dogs was a bit like a bully, trying to bite leash or a back of the other dog running next to him. The other one was so strong that it looked like he could pull our sledge just by himself.
Riding further the teams switched, so me and Edgars got together on team with Tommy. I got to stand behind and push on uphills. That is the part, where you get your fingers really warm again. While riding, Tommy told me about the dogs, their characters and strength.
We made a pause nearby the ice cave, which is formed in frozen river. It was such a calm, quiet and peaceful place down there, with sparkling icicles and ice layers, which reveal some mysteries of the past years.
After crawling out of this sparkling adventure we had lunch sitting all together in a plateau, watching dogs and hills all around us and listening to Tommy’s stories.
On the way back I and Edgars were on a team with Laura. There were many descents, so Edgars and Laura got to operate the break, while I was sitting in the sledge and calculating possibilities of falling over. It was such luck we’ve ready completed this task earlier today. So the way back was just great.
Going down through the valleys, watching rhythmical dog movement in front of us and snowy peaks all around the trail, the time flew by, and soon we already approached the Tommy’s home again.
We helped getting the dogs in their places. It looked like they were in a great mood after the ride. After we got out of our snow costumes, we hurried back to the town, as we still had great plans for this evening.
The majority of our team had to quickly change the place they were staying at (as the eclipse time is very busy for the Longyearbyen’s hotels and guest houses). I was lucky enough to stay all my days there in one guest house, which felt like home already.
Still, I had to hurry to get to the fancy restaurant in the city centre in time. I put on my best (and only) big white handmade woolen jumper (thanks, Mom!) and my prettiest (and only) snow pants, and matching earrings (of course!), and I was ready for the beautiful evening.
Dinner in a posh place
The restaurant were located some kilometers from our guest house, which could take us about half an hour, but it took us much more, as we met all together on our way there and decided to get lost a bit. Who could imagine that right after those industrial hangars there is a romantic block with a beautiful restaurant and guest house? We were happy to finally get in a warm place, furthermore, it looked really cosy and fancy at the same time. Unfortunately we discovered that the eclipse time has brought different prices to this place, not the ones we were expecting, but I believe it happened to many places there. As some of us were already starving (and as we all know, we can’t be choosy and picky in a survival situations), we decided to stay. And it was worth it, as from my side I can assure you that the vegetarian dish was really delicious. The non-vegetarians decided to have seal and whale stakes, whose taste will remain a mystery to me. We had some nice chat, and Juris gave us a wonderful speech. We concluded the evening with Anders’s story about adventures of the previous day, which were our tradition before I broke it a day later.
On a way back some of us enjoyed winter fun by sledging up and down the hilly road home. Nice surrounding, good company, physical activities and a touch of wine works really well for having great time!
I fell asleep immediately after getting under the blanket and dreamt about our next day in a white wonderland.