Day 8 - Snowshoe hiking and It's good bye Yllas

Trip Start Mar 09, 2008
Trip End Mar 16, 2008

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

We paid 47 euros each for snowshoe hiking.  This included the services of a guide, snowshoes, poles, artic thermal wear if needed and hot berry juice.  We hike through the forest, trampling and making new tracks on the snow.  Some areas are so deep that the snow reaches to mid-thighs. 

The forest has shaped Finnish lifestyle and the Finns hold the forest in high esteem due to its environmental values.  The forest provide a place for shelter and tranquillity for the Finns.  We saw various animal tracks as we gingerly plough through the snow and snow covered branches.  How do animals survive the harsh winter in Lapland? 

Now a bit more of the boring educational stuff.   The Fell Lapland is situated in the temperate zone of the Arctic, on the Arctic Circle, on the side of the world where life is considered to be difficult due to the cold climate.  Iceland is completely in the south of Fell Lapland.  Nearly 2 kilometre glaciers of Greenland lie on the same altitude as the Lapland's ski resort, as are the harshest continental regions of Siberia, where the ground is frozen to depths of up to a kilometre.  The Fell Lapland can also be considered to be situated at the same level as the northernmost point of Alaska or Canada's Amundsen Gulf.  However, the Gulf Stream brings warmth to the winter in Lapland.  Because of the Gulf Stream, the nearby Arctic Ocean remains unfrozen throughout the year (no wonder, we have fish and fish for breakfast and dinner).  This region is unique, a place where the phenomena of the Arctic and moderate climates meet and where the winds and rains are temperate.  The Finns are able to live normal lives, grow forest and bring up families.

Finland's coldest ever recorded temperature -51.5 degrees celcius (-60.7 degrees Farenheit) and this was measured in the village of Pokka in the Municipality of Kittila (where our plane landed a week ago) on the 28th January 1999. This very cold period lasted for 2 weeks!  During this period the temperature in Lapland did not get warmer than -40 degrees celcius!  How does people survived?  They did and that's because their houses were kept warm.  They did not get frostbite because they know how to dress appropriately and of course, avoid being out unnecessarily.  Not all children went to school.  Cars were rarely used during this period to avoid metal breaking.  January and February are the coldest months of the year.

There is no polar bears in Lapland.  The largest mammals are the brown bears.  These bears went into hibernation during autumn and emerging in early spring to hunt for food just as snow begins to thaw and water seeps through their dens.  When the bears awake they are usually very, very hungry.  They will eat anything even tree roots.  Stay away.

We saw tracks made by the hares, the only mammal besides the ermine to get a white coat for the winter.  The smaller tracks were made by the squirrels who like other winter animals, also has a thick winter coat.  Although we did not see the tracks made by the wolverine, we were told by our guide, Matti, that the wolverine is a creature who knows how to hide in the snow and hunt for hare and the reindeer. 

The majority of birds only nest in Lapland and migrate south to warmer climates, some even as far as Africa.  Some birds have learnt to survive through the winter.    One of these are the tits and they rely on food provided by people.  These birds associate humans with food and will fly to an outstretched hands for food.  One of these birds flew to perch on my outstretched hands for biscuit crumbs.  On the ground, the willow grouse changes into its white coat in the winter, providing excellent camouflage.  It is not easy to spot these in the snow as they blend into the colour of the snow so well. 

We did not see any reindeer tracks during our snowshoe hike.  We saw these around our log cabin a few days ago. 

We proceeded to the farm, Konijankan Kotielainpiha after the hike.  Admission is 5 euro per person.  We saw the reindeers but I could not locate Rudolf, the rednosed reindeer.  He must be with Santa and his elves.  We loved the pigs and the brown piglets were adorable.  They have thick coat of coarse hair.  They loved their bellies stroked. As we stroked their bellies,  they simply flopped onto their sides and closed their eyes.  An adult pig can weigh more than 200kg. 

The cows have thick coat of long brown hairs and are very friendly.  They enjoyed slices of bread and their warm breath warmed your fingers as their long, moist tongue stretched to pick the bread.  There were other animals like the horses, sheep, goat, chicken, ducks, birds.  Interestingly, we also found Llamas and ostriches.  Horse rides are available daily.  Huskies rides are only available in the afternoon on Thursdays and Fridays.  We were disappointed to miss this.

There is a cafe where one can purchase your hot beverages and enjoy it by the crackling log fire, a few feet from the cafe.  One can barbeque sausages at the fire.  Benches were lined with reindeer hides. 

Finally, after a brief stop at the souvenir shop and the supermarket, it was time to leave Yllas.  Would we visit Lapland again?  Most definitely, yes.  The appeal of Lapland is based on nature and landscapes.  The most significant experience for me is plenty of snow, the tranquility, tidiness, abundance of winter activities, uniqueness and safety.  Crime rate is low.  The negative issues are costly services and restaurants services.  By far, the majority of foreign wintertime tourists come from the United Kingdom and the numbers are growing yearly.  A few have invested in properties in the Fell Lapland resorts.   I would recommend a visit to the Lapland.
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