This is part 3 of the Northern Lights series. Here is Part 1 – Getting to Stockholm and 2 – Towards Abisko in Sweden and 4 – Day trip to Narvik in Norway

Dog sledding in the arctic

Ready for dog-sledding – receiving life-saving instructions from A, co-owner of Abisko.net :-)

T, the host who helps runs the affairs of the Abisko.net hostel had given everyone clear instructions to be up and ready in our suits by early morning. Most of the guests had signed up to go dog sledding (well in advance, I may add), and there was definitely a sense of purpose in the air at 7am on this cold winter day :-) We had some of our Parisian cereal for breakfast, put on our multiple layers again and trudged out to our meeting spot. We were given a detailed ‘how-to’ on dog-sledding – starting from how to stand on the sled, how to turn, brake, stop, what to do when we fall off the sled (very useful!), what to do when someone else falls off the sled in front of you, and so on.

We were then asked to brave it and enter the cages where these large, barking, and powerful dogs were hanging – 3 or 4 to a cage. The Alaskan and Siberian huskies are original sled dogs – they love the cold, the snow and a brisk exercise. They knew it was almost time for their morning jog and were raring to go! Maybe it was the protection of the space-suit or the fact that there would always be several layers between the dogs’ teeth and my skin, for the first time I volunteered to go close to a dog and put on his harness. With that done, we brought them out by their leash and hooked them up to the sleds in specific positions. Some were leaders, some were workers and each was happiest in his own place. Once hooked up, 3 or 4 dogs to each sled, off we went. Since we were three more than the number of sleds available, Uday, I and another person got a chance to ride on a snowmobile for a bit, zipping through the track and non-track, cutting across fields of virgin snow, ducking under bare branches, getting to see vistas we wouldn’t have while on a sled. After a bit, we switched with others and took off on our own individual sleds. My sled had 3 dogs and it took all my weight on the brake and the handles to keep them steady when not running. One of the rascals absolutely hated stopping along the way and each time we did (to wait for someone who had fallen ahead of us), he would lurch forward, pulling the entire sled and me up and forwards by a few meters. Uday had a sled with 4 very powerful dogs and during one of our stops, he turned around to tell me something and in that split second, they recognized that he wasn’t in full control and lurched forward and took off, leaving Uday running after them. Around the corner he went running only to see that they had  dislodged themselves from the sled too and had run free! He had to push the empty sled the next 100-200 meters until he found Andreas, our guide holding the insatiable dogs that had found their brief, but sweet freedom. As if that was just the morning adventure they had wanted, the satisfied pack behaved very well for the rest of the ride. It was exhilarating riding down hills at a rapid clip, the sled often off the ground, landing with a thud each time it touched down. I even forgot that I was cold and it didn’t matter that I could barely keep my clasp on the handles after a point of time.

Alaskan Siberian huskies ready for action

All hooked up and ready to move

 

Stationary now, but with 4 huskies pulling you on a clear path, you will feel no “need for speed” :-)

 

In the trolley attached to the snowmobile. This was the coldest part of the morning for me!

Uday and I got to ride on the snow-mobile as well

 

Half-frozen at the end of the ride. Notice frozen eyebrows and condensed breath forming an icicle!

Half-frozen at the end of the ride. Notice the frozen eyebrows and condensed breath forming an icicle below!

After a good lunch, we went to check out the local store (the only one) to get some basics – bread, milk, yoghurt, fruits & the like. I was quite exhausted by our morning’s adventures and decided to nap for a bit in the afternoon while Uday stepped out with his photography gear. Actually, I did step out with him a couple of times but had to return each time either because we had forgotten something or because we needed another layer. The third time around, I took it as a hint and stayed put and went for a power nap. For our second day in Abisko, we had to move to a 6-bed shared room and fortunately for us, we had three very friendly young women from Italy and an older Belgian gentleman for roommates.  After the snooze, the girls and I were prepping to go for the very first time to the sauna, when a triumphant Uday returned with an uncontrolled look of glee announcing his luck!

Uday had seen his first ever Aurora – all by himself! Tomas said it was rather rare to see them so early in the evening (~ 6pm). What can I say?!

Uday : A “crunchy walk” on ice & snow while walking down to the frozen lake in Abisko. The path to the lake was full of anticipation. There was dense cloud cover… but never say never!

And Lo Behold! Just a little while later – barely past 6 that evening, here I was seeing this beautiful streak, with no way to call Priya or anyone else at the hostel who would’ve so loved to be here this evening. One strong bold streak of green across the sky- such a joy !

It was barely past 6 that evening, and it was forecast to be utterly clouded, with no chance of an aurora sighting. I had decided to step out to the frozen lake anyway – and here I was seeing this beautiful streak, with no way to call my better-half or anyone else at the hostel who would’ve so loved to be here this evening. One strong bold streak of green across the sky – such a joy !

All this talk of the auroras that Uday had seen just an hour ago got us quite enthusiastic, and the sauna experience was soon forgotten. Now newly encouraged, despite the increasing clouds, that night after dinner, Uday and I set out for a walk on Kungsleden, or the King’s Trail. Our new Italian friends tagged along, all of us hoping (and almost determined!) to see some magic.

This 440km trail starts in Abisko and goes all the way along the Norway-Sweden border to the south, ending near the literal Arctic Circle. This is supposed to be a great summer hike and is normally done in 4 weeks. While we were putting our endless layers on, we met a French man planning to embark on the trail that night, and ski the entire way. He had sled filled with supplies strapped and tied to his back. Serious adventure! – and he was planning to do this entire trail in just 2 weeks!

Yes, people actually do long-distance winter treks like this, for weeks! photo courtesy : Tim Kelley

So with our eyes glued to the skies, watching the sensual moon make her way across the horizon, we watched with dismay the dense clouds moving in rapidly. We had walked just a km or so into the trail when we stopped to take pictures of the moon, throwing gnarly and yet elegant silhouettes of bare trees on the pristine white snow.

A few more meters on came a clearing. We stopped as if that had been our destination all along. The photographers fixed their tripods and cameras, while others (read me) continued to gaze, willing the skies to open up just a little bit. And open, it did. Just enough to grace us with the most intense green orb of bright light we had been waiting for. It lasted just a few minutes before the clouds won again, but that had been enough.

Walking on a snow-covered path of the Kungsleden trail ( ‘ The King’s trail’) near Abisko, in Swedish lapland. Taken during a cold winter’s night in February.

 

The one and only bright green streak the rest of us saw that evening. Taken on the King’s trail, near Abisko, in Swedish lapland. A dramatic night sky with a strong aurora veiled by thick, fast moving clouds

We had had our show. The Arctic Gods had just thrown a splash of bright, green cheer on us. We walked back home, yet again on a high. On the way, after the clouds closed in even more, Uday pulled out two little candles from his pocket and came up with these last few pictures from that night.

Dramatic lighting on bare winter trees and fresh snow adds a magical touch to the night landscape in Swedish lapland

End of Part 3 of the Northern Lights series

Follow the journey – here’s 4 – Day trip to Narvik in Norway

If you missed the earlier parts, they’re here – 1 – Getting to Stockholm  | 2 – Towards Abisko in Sweden

0
Priya
..learns Kathak, worked at Twitter in NYC, and has cycled enough in Paris to be a tour-guide :-)
  1. GAP. March 9, 2014 at 5:07 PM - Reply

    I love your Trip. Merci de nous le partager. Pour les textes merci Priya, pour les photos merci Udya. Pour le rayon vert merci. Love. Robert & GAP.

    • Uday March 9, 2014 at 7:25 PM - Reply

      Merci Gap et Robert! C’était un voyage absolument magnifique! Suis content que cela vous a plu.

  2. Ramani March 10, 2014 at 5:30 AM - Reply

    Very nice description of the sojourn journey. You both had thrilling & chilling experiences. It is good to hear that you had brave heart & thick skin to travel in the places. Any fall from sled which had not been mentioned?

    • Priya Arya March 11, 2014 at 12:17 AM - Reply

      Haha… Thank you, thank you! Honestly, people around us were flying off their sleds quite often (thankfully the landings were all smooth). We did manage to hang on for dear life though. Our fingers were frozen and locked in grip-mode for a good bit after is a different matter :)

  3. Marianne March 10, 2014 at 11:54 AM - Reply

    I looks absolutely other worldly. How incredible that you experienced the beauty and adventure of that place and that you were able to photograph the aurora in all its green. The earth is absolutely magicical.

    • Priya Arya March 11, 2014 at 12:20 AM - Reply

      It was indeed other-worldly. Believe it or not, it required a visual readjustment when we returned to civilization! And, the green was just so unreal. Stay tuned – pics in this post are just a start ;-)

  4. Ahuti March 10, 2014 at 10:17 PM - Reply

    What a visual treat !! The whole day’s experience is vivid and enthralling. Cannot get enough of these pictures – from the morning skies, to the huskies, to the Auroras, to the night skies. Ah such beauty! “Whose is the hand that has painted the glow?”

    • Uday March 11, 2014 at 3:04 AM - Reply

      That line of poetry you quoted made us go read the poem again… so beautiful! The last four lines are sheer magic..
      “…
      It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless,
      And into the midnight His shadow is thrown;
      When darkness was blind and engulfed within darkness,
      He was seated within it immense and alone.”

      – From the poem “Who” by Sri Aurobindo
      http://www.aurobindo.ru/workings/sa/05/0032_e.htm

  5. Karen February 19, 2019 at 10:41 AM - Reply

    Hey! What a nice time you spent and I lovey your triip! Can you recall how much the dog sleighing experience cose?

    • Priya Arya February 19, 2019 at 11:05 AM - Reply

      Hi Karen, Thanks! I think it cost us about 100euro each (~125 usd pp). Now the rate seems to be 170 usd (1600 sek). You can see the current rates for dog sleds and dogsledding here : http://www.abisko.net/dogsled/
      Do share a link if you ever blog about it, we’d love to hear about your story :-)

0
Priya
..learns Kathak, worked at Twitter in NYC, and has cycled enough in Paris to be a tour-guide :-)