Our second trip on snowmobiles was a full-day safari through the Pallas-Ylläs National Park. After the previous night's antics, I was afraid that our tour operator wouldn't allow me to drive again, but our Ylläs Adventures guide, Herman, quickly assured me that people crash their snowmobiles all the time. So I took my seat behind the wheel (somewhat nervously) again and we set out on what would turn out to be a very memorable day.
Gareth and I were the only people on this day's trip and Herman turned out to be a great guide. His knowledge about the area and the animals we encountered was astounding, and his wit and easy-going nature soon endeared him so much that we were ready to call him a friend by the end of the day.
Although I started off slowly, my confidence soon grew and I was able to keep up with the two guys. Not only did I already know how to drive the snowmobile, but this time we were doing it in daylight.
While the previous night's trip was carried out in the pitch black darkness of a Finnish winter's night, the pale sun was now bathing the white landscape in a surreal pinkish glow. I'm at a loss for words to describe just how absolutely beautiful the surrounding countryside was. We drove through a forest of tall trees, limbs heavy with snow, past burbling streams, up hills and down hills, past a sleepy farmstead where we had our first glimpse of wild reindeer in the distance, and back into the forest where we stopped for lunch at an open wooden shelter.
By that time we were famished and ready to eat just about anything. Herman quickly made tea and coffee and then surprised us with bowls of the most delicious creamy vegetable soup that I have ever had. Seriously, I would go back to Finland just to eat that soup again! It was a simple meal, but hearty, and we mopped up every last drop, not even leaving any breadcrumbs for the inquisitive robin that came closer to try its luck.
It was starting to get darker again by the time we set out on the second leg of our journey. Instead of pink, we were now surrounded by shades of white and grey. When we stopped for a breather, the absolute quiet of the Lappish forest made it seem like we were the stars of an old black-and-white silent film.
Instead of returning the way we had come, we opted to take a different, more advanced, route back. The going was more challenging, with soft snow and steeper inclines to traverse. We had so much fun! If there was any way for us to take up snowmobiling in South Africa, I'm sure Gareth and I would jump at the chance.
When we reached a particularly difficult piece of track, Herman stopped us and we all had a look at the path ahead. One side had collapsed, which meant that one ski on the snowmobile would be off track if we tried to go over it. It seemed risky, but we decided to go ahead and try. Herman went first, and he promptly fell off as his machine dipped into the trough. He quickly got back on and managed to get his snowmobile back on track. He beckoned, warning me to be careful.
I suppose you can guess what happened next. I ended up in a ditch. Again. Worse this time, the snow was really soft and deep, and when the guys heaved the snowmobile off me I was almost thigh-deep in the stuff. It made getting the machine out of the trench and back onto the track nearly impossible.
We pushed and pulled, but it wouldn't budge an inch and only got more and more stuck. Herman, prepared for every challenge, pulled a shovel out and we started digging. But for every shovelful of snow we moved, two more slid back into its place. I was begining to lose hope, thinking we might have to leave the machine behind, as it was starting to get very cold and ever darker. But I have to admire our guide's tenacity - he never gave up. After much revving, pushing and pulling, he finally managed to drive it out of the trench and back onto the path, while Gareth and I cheered him on.
Unanimously, we decided not to tempt fate further by continuing on this track and turned around to return via the easy route. Our journey home was uneventful. We passed the place where I had crashed my snowmobile the night before and parked safely in front of the safari lodge.
Herman asked if we had enjoyed the trip and wanted to know if the experience hadn't been spoiled by the trouble in the trench. We laughed his worries off. We had just had one of the most incredible days of our lives, with a story to tell that we would remember for a very long time to come!
For more posts in the Winter Escape 2012 series, click here.
Labels: Finland, Lapland, Scandinavia, Winter Escape 2012