Sled and dogs

If we had known in advance what going dog sledding entailed I think we, especially being over 60, would have declined but now at least we can say “We DID it”.

We boarded the bus right outside our hotel at 17:00 and went back across the bridge and then on a 90min drive to Camp Tamok in the Vass Valley where were greeted by a very encouraging group of young people.

It was then that we learnt that not all 60+ people who were on the bus were going dog sledding; some were going Northern Lights hunting and others reindeer sledding, which is apparently much slower than the dogs but we weren’t allowed to change, so dog sledding it was.

Before going down to the dogs and sleds we were issued with thermal suits, thick beanies, extra thick woollen socks and solid boots. The one thing that we weren’t given was another pair of gloves. Once everyone had joined their allocated group we went with our guide, a young lady, and 2 other couples to where the dogs and sleds awaited us.

Sled and dogsTrevor as driver and Vicky the passenger

We were promised Instruction on how to drive the sled and this lasted all of 5 minutes – never let go of the sled; lean to the side you want the sled to go; there are 2 brakes – one for slowing down and one to stop the dogs, not that the dogs responded too well anyway; ‘OK Everyone ready? Let’s go’ and the guide was off down the hill for the start of the 15km ride through the valley in minus 18degC weather!!

Each driver was issued with a head torch which was very bright. Trevor drove our sled and he said that it was some of the hardest exercise he has ever experienced. He had cramp in his thighs for 2 days thereafter. Besides this it was so cold that his hands were battling to keep the sled steady and his eyes and nose were running. The rest of his body warmed gradually with the effort he had to exert. When we reached the half-way point he said that I would not be able to drive the sled so he did the full 15kms. VERY proud of him! This meant that I had the luxury of being a passenger for the whole journey. This was not actually that comfortable as one has to sit in a very specific position to prevent your hands and/or feet from getting caught in any parts of the sled.

The lead dogThe lead dog

One also begins to have a great respect for the people for whom this is a regular form of transport. The sleds may be packed with groceries, household-goods and of course, people – children and the elderly for example. This means a great weight being carried on a sled that has to be controlled by one adult.

Even though the dogs look thin and scraggy, they are very strong and clearly love being out on the run. This is why it is necessary to be quite fit and strong to drive the sled. Another thing they were also fond of doing was to pee and poop every few moments. As this is a trail used twice a day the stench at some places was dreadful. Our guide told us they try to clean the track once a day but it is impossible to keep up with the dogs.

We returned safely to the Camp about an hour and a half later and handed in our insulated clothing. Then we sat in a lavvu (a Sami herdsman’s tent) and were treated to a delicious hot fish soup. Well, we thought that the soup was delicious but there was a young French couple who had been part of our group and she did not like it at all. Her boyfriend had to eat hers which he did with gusto. There was a Norwegian favourite for dessert – layers of crepe filled with cinnamon sugar and a really yummy creamy mixture. That was loved by everyone!

Green and blue watersGlacial waters

At the end of a long but interesting evening it was another 90minute drive back to the hotel but we were to get a surprise on the way. After about an hour on the road a man at the back of the bus called out to say there were lights in the sky. THE Lights!! What excitement this caused. Everyone was trying to see what was there. The bus driver stopped the bus and we were all out as quickly as we could be. And what did we see of The Lights – a thin green wisp. There was no way anyone could get photos of these but the sight is etched deep in my memory. We crawled into bed at about 01:30 exhausted but elated.

This ended our tour of Norway. Beautiful but very expensive, especially for South Africans. 

Boats in Tromso harbourBoats in Tromso Harbour

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