29th March until 5th April 2015
Luckily we were invited for another skiing holiday in the Arctic by Charlotte and Svarte, an opportunity which of course we grabbed immediately. We flew to an airport which sounds a bit like a spicy Greek sausage and is just north of Umea. As we landed a little girl shrieked at the top of her voice “Christmas Trees – Hundreds and Hundreds of Christmas Trees!” which made me smile. We hired a car and headed off for a five hour drive northwards through well hundreds and hundreds of Christmas trees. It wasn’t long before I learnt to just use one foot when driving an automatic. We stayed the first night at Njavre and learnt the delight of the new tree bark toilet. On Monday morning our gang of six drove up to Kvikkjokk to start the mini tour. Jokk means small river in either Swedish or Sami.
I’m not quite sure who it was (actually I do know but that would be churlish) but someone started to apply some sticky wax to their skis and we all followed like lemmings – more of lemmings later. This was a big mistake! The wax was so sticky that the skis constantly balled up and made progress very slow. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. We tried to get the stuff off but with little success. Perspex compasses make good wax removers. So my Lesson Number One is “Go for a ski first before applying any wax”. Bet I forget that before next year. The days ski was to be all uphill save for a long trek across a lake which I normally find tends to be flat. After about 14 km we arrived at the tiny mountain rescue hut of Tsielekjokk. On the whole route we had only met one other skier who happened to be British and was towing a pulka. He had stayed in the same hut which made us worry that he may have eaten all our food but luckily our food drop remained intact. Charlotte and I took an axe and a bucket to try to get some water from the river. This is potentially a bit dangerous but we succeeded without falling in. The hut was wall to wall bodies as it was very small. Once the fire was lit it was very cosy and we all slept well. I suspect carbon monoxide poisoning may have lent a hand. We had a very lazy and long breakfast before setting off on the short distance to the fabulous farmhouse of Skaite where we were guests of the joint owners of the estate. Apart from a large and very beautiful main house there was also the most fantastic log sauna house next to an iced over river. There was a hole smashed through the ice were you can plunge yourself into icy water after the superheated sauna. Quite an experience! In the evening we had a scrumptious meal with a spectacular dug out cake filled with marzipan and cream. This stay was an unexpected luxury. Skaite can not be reached by road at any time of the year. It is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter or boat and a long walk in the summer, although helicopters are often used. The north of Sweden still has places that are 80 km from the nearest road and I mean any road at all, even a track. It is the biggest wilderness in Europe. On Wednesday after a fine breakfast we set off on the 14 km route down to Oarrenjarke which means squirrel peninsular. Every day that we go out skiing there is the ritual of the lunchtime fire. I love fires! There is quite an art to building a fire on snow but with Svarte’s excellent training I think we have the knack of it now. Our last few days were to be spent on day tours from Njavre. The first day Charlotte, Grit and I went to ski up a distant mountain (OK hill). We were able to pass our fire building badge with honours and we only got lost a couple of times. The second day was to be a mass snowmobile ride into the lovely Kabla mountains where we would all have lunch around a fire (of course) and then some of us would ski the 20 km back to base. The Kabla mountains are gorgeous! We saw a fluffy ball of a lemming frolicking in the snow. I haven’t yet mastered steep downhill skiing with these cross country skis so there were some long traverses and flip turns to lose height. I’d love to grasp the graceful Telemark turns. We only got lost once of the way back but still arrived before dark. The final day was another snowmobile trip to go ice fishing. Erik was the winner of the fishing competition by about ten times but Eric is a real expert – we all spent an hour or so one evening captivated by his fly making skills. There were all sorts of tools and clever tricks to produce what I think was called a Royal Coachman. We skied back down the narrow and sometimes steep tracks for last time. We were joined by Eleanor and the lovely dog Rafi Ki. There is a point when the snowplough just will not slow you down enough so you need to choose whether to let ‘em run at a breakneck speed (breakarm in my case) or to bail out into some deep snow. There must be another way! After a big meal of salmon(s) and cakes we said our goodbye and thankyous to everyone for we needed to head of back to the airport very early in the morning. Ryan air decided to greet us both with a £70.00 fine for not checking in online – at least the coffee on their planes is first class! Another lovely holiday – thank you to everyone who made it happen.