As we flew North from Helsinki the change in the landscape reflected how cold it was getting. Out of Helsinki everything looked a faded green colour, the snow shading the forests but not completely hiding underlying green, the rivers looked grey with ice just beginning to form. But as we went further and further North, eventually leaving the Arctic Circle behind us, the world became a sea of white. The trees are so heavily covered with snow that there’s barely any colour to be seen, rivers are frozen solid and the deeply shrouded in snow – it is just white, white and more white.
The temperature was -17 when we landed in Ivalo although it is so dry it doesn’t seem so bad – although we’ve hardly been out in it yet. The snow is deep here and trees are not so much dusted with snow, but hidden under a pile of it. We arrived at 1pm and the Sun, such as it was, was setting. By the time we arrived at our hotel, in Saariselka, an hour later it was deep twilight, and by 3pm it was dark.
Ivalo, where we landed, was officially the farthest North that any of us have ever been, by a substantial margin. We came close to the Arctic Circle’s 66° 33′ 44″ when we were in Iceland, but this is two-and-a bit degrees or about 230km further North.
We sat and had some soup – described as ‘meat soup’ and we fear it was rudolph – in the hotel looking out at the snow-covered forest. There is a flagpole outside the window and the flag was flapping wildly in the wind, but the trees are so heavily weighed down with snow that they didn’t move in the slightest.
Tonight is planned to be our first attempt at seeing the Aurora. Unfortunately the forecast for the next few days is cloudy so our chances of seeing the Aurora are low at the moment. On the positive side the clouds do mean that the temperatures will go up to more reasonable levels, likely around minus 5.
This evening the boys and I had our first sauna in Finland, their first anywhere. They only lasted about 15 minutes and I didn’t have a chance to take them with me to run out and roll about in the thick snow. I did the entire running out and rolling about experience and it was amazingly refreshing in a weird way – the snow felt great because it was such a contrast to the burning hot sauna and then the sauna felt great because it was such a contrast to the sub-zero snow. My aim for tomorrow is to get the boys to make the run with me.
But that’s for tomorrow, tonight we’re off to have our first attempt to hunt down the Aurora.