Wednesday. The entire day consumed by driving a stunning, well ploughed road due North, through Finnish pine forest, past frozen lakes, following rivers, traversing bridges, and spotting the occasional reindeer and moose. We drove 250km North of the Arctic Circle and gained 2.100000 latitudinal degrees North.
It was dark by around 1630, we’d lost almost all of the light by the time we reached Ivalo due to the heavy cloud cover. We planned to park just prior to, or just after the town, ready for an early start again on Thursday. However, as events completely out of our control have been changing our plans daily. This time, we decided to change them ourselves.
We passed a hotel and realised we were both in diabolical need of a shower – Macs words not mine, I was happy washing in a bucket and throwing my hair into a bun for another three days. I wasn’t given a choice… We pulled into the hotel carpark and chose a space to park the Mog, out of the way.
‘Stealth-mode’ ON, we skipped into the hotel to investigate shower and sauna options… After having successfully located our individual shower and sauna rooms without being approached, we nipped back to the Mog to gather the necessary equipment.
Post shower, with it being 2100, Mac decided against making burger patties from the mincemeat we’d got out of the freezer. Instead, we went and grabbed a table in the dining room of the hotel to tuck into their buffet…
I’ll tell you how I knew room 227 was occupied… There was an activities board close to the reception inside the hotel. The most English sounding name written on one of the activities lists, and next to it, room number 227.
After another rum and coke, we sung Bryan Adam – Summer of 69, on karaoke and then took ourselves to bed.
That activities board I mentioned with 227 written on it? Well, before our shower we studied it for a while and then found two French girls working for the tour guide company associated with the activities board. Everything and everyone is French! And if you know Mac by any degree, you’ll know he just loveessss the French. They come here from Saturday to Saturday – package holiday type of thing, and this hotel is full ALL winter. Anyway, we chose to do husky sledding because Mac has never done it and we could drive our own sled which was a massive plus!
So, Thursday morning came and we headed out for some husky sledding!
Have yourself a laugh at our expense and watch the following videos for the full story.
After offloading my disappointment onto our sledding guide, we headed back inside to ‘kindly request’ a full refund as we never actually went sledding at all. Well, I think we sledded for about 20 metres in total…
Whilst an apology and a full refund is okay. We still missed out on the experience and voiced our disappointment accordingly. As a consolation, we were offered an ice carting experience of which there were two available spaces, starting just half an hour later.
We chose well, not to show our enthusiasm too much after the ice carting experience as we did still want our money back from the husky sledding, but it was bloody brilliant!!
Also on the activities board, was something I’ve wanted to do for some time – Arctic Swimming. Arctic swimming is an iconic part of Finnish culture. Many studies suggest that going from dry sauna at 80 – 90 degrees C, to rather cold water have benefits to heart health and circulation, as well as it giving you a massive adrenaline and endorphin rush!
1700 came, and we were marched over to the sauna to change into our swimsuits. I was ready rather quick and when the guide asked who would like to go first, excitedly, my mouth engaged before my brain and I volunteered. I skipped 15m across the frozen river to the area that had been cut in the ice to show the zero degree water beneath. We were advised to have a quick dip first, then get really hot in the sauna before gradually increasing our time in the water.
Like I said, the water was zero degrees.
When I got into the water for the third and final time, a man in my tour group that had got in one minute before me, was being timed. Our guide began timing me too. I stood on the platform and put my hands up over my head as was my fellow ice water partner. The water was about mid chest (boob) height.
My current ice water partner made it to 5 minutes and quickly got out. I couldn’t let him be the only one could I? Certainly not!
I was violently shivering for the final 20 seconds but I was I was SO close!!
It took me a while to warm up afterwards, even in a 90 degree sauna. A group member noticed how cold my legs and arms still were and threw a bucket of water on the coals… It didn’t take too long to feel my toes again after that.
Activity over, I got dressed and walked back to the Mog feeling pretty damn accomplished!! Later that evening, a certificate was left on the steps up to the cab! See below, evidence of lasting 5 minutes in zero degree water, cut out of a frozen river! (Check that top left corner) 😉