After we spent an hour around an open fire on a hill looking into the dark skies hoping to see something, we finally gave in to the freezing cold. Our guide didn’t say much but I guess he knew that we were disappointed. We had hoped to see the Northern lights but with the clouds refusing to clear, there was nothing much he could do.
Unlike so many other activities that could be switched on and off almost at will, this one was completely beyond anyone’s control. So, there was only small chat as we headed back to the hotel. One thing was for certain though, the seemingly elusiveness of the phenomenon made it only more magical. We were sure this was not going to be our last attempt.
So, on our last day in Nellim, we decided to go snowmobiling on Lake Inari. This is only the third largest lake in Finland but it is the sixth largest in Europe. It covers 1,040 square kilometres and contains over 3,000 islands. In short, it is a pretty BIG lake! And in winter, it is completely frozen over!
Jouko took us on this and the feeling of riding the snowmobiles over a frozen-over lake is something quite surreal. The vast flat expanse of ice stretches out before you. You are only reminded that you are actually on a lake when you drive around little islands that would have been great picnic spots in summer. Although the entire lake looks well frozen over, Juoko says that there are still spots where it is not safe for snowmobiles especially towards the end of winter.
The other thing we couldn’t help but notice was that there was really no one around but us. We could not see anyone as far as the eye can see. It was just us creating new tracks as we drove on and on, further and further into the vast expanse.
Here we learnt about civil twilight. This is where although it is daytime, the sun actually never “rises” above the horizon. At this time of the year in the Arctic circle, it sits 6 degrees below horizon so daytime is interestingly not dark but never very bright. And the next real sunrise is actually still a couple of weeks away!
Juoko then took us to one of the little huts that seem to appear out of nowhere. Here he started a fire and we had the now familiar hot berry juice to warm us up. We chatted and exchanged stories and thought about how we would cope in Australia if we had this much snow! Well for one, Peter reckons the first thing he would do will be to get one of them Skidoos! Or maybe even two. These things are just a dream on snow.
Soon, it was time to head back. In the short time that we have been here in Finland, we realised two things. One is that there is a lot more to the Nordic countries than we had come to expect. And two – that we will certainly be back again.