The Arctic Circle conjures up images of below freezing temperatures, white deserts and well, not much else!
I recent wrote about my winter experience in Sweden… I want to flip this idea on its head and show you a world you never knew existed by recounting my recent summer adventure in the Arctic, Sweden.
Dreaming of my summer adventure in the arctic began at school….
When I was young I wasn’t interested in school – so I would sit at my desk in the heart of the English countryside endlessly staring out of the window and daydreaming of exploration in the farthest corners of the earth. This normally resulted with a trip to the Headmasters study and a sharp clip around the ear for not concentrating….
In the end the pull was too strong and I would run away from school and into the forests. I had an irresistible urge to explore and hide from the conformities of a formal education. What I found deep in the forest was peace, a sense of calm, nothing to judge you other than mother nature herself – I got on with her, we seemed to have an instant bond.
The landscape we found ourselves driving through in Sweden reminded me of those days gone by. I enjoyed a private moment of contentment in this Arctic scene. I was truly happy.
My guide Mark and I had just landed at Luleå, a tiny town in the far North of Sweden. The airport was so small if you blinked you’d miss it. As we walked outside, the blinding sunshine greeted our arrival.
We picked up our 4×4 and headed north-west into the depths of the Arctic Circle with not a snow flake in sight. The sun was beaming down on us and the sky so blue you could mistake it for the Caribbean. As we drove, the pure Arctic air hit me. I took a breath, cleaner and deeper than any I had taken before.
The idea of a 3.5 hours drive made me wince at first, but the time flew by. Our own private journey took us to the edge of the earth, OK, not the edge of the earth, but the very last hamlet – surrounded by millions of acres of majestic nothingness and our home for the coming days. We soaked up the scenery, spotting moose feeding by the roadside, going from forest to forest.
Finally we arrived, pulling into a tiny hamlet with 8 cabins sitting lakeside looking across to pine covered islands. We were greeted by Lars and Gun, husband and wife and the proud owners of their hamlet, which they later told us had been in their family for 5 generations.
Their warmth was infectious. If they smiled any harder I think their faces would crack! Open arms, big hugs and a local brew later, we were part of the family. They showed us to our cabin and invited us to dinner at their home. Amazing!
“Which house is it?” I asked.
“Oh, you can’t see it from here, when you are ready, jump in the rowing boat and head towards the sun!”
“You will see a Swiss Mountain dog on the shore waiting for you, then follow him and he will take you to our home.”
Sure enough, the dog was exactly where she said he’d be, ready and waiting. He proceeded to lead us through a small field, then through the forest and into their home. I could smell the cooking as we approached and I can tell you, it tasted as good as it smelt!
Gun told me how she had walked three hours (each way!), just to pick a certain type of mushroom that brings out the taste of her deer stew. This was one incredible lady who clearly loved this environment and had learnt to live with nature.
I went on to spend an incredible few days swimming in lakes, meeting the Sami (indigenous people who inhabit the Arctic), hiking in the magnificent Laponia World Heritage area, canoeing to remote islands and eating incredible local food. The highlight for me, were the people. They were the soul of the earth. Kind, gentle and truly welcoming. I will never forget my time there.
A summer adventure in the Arctic is like a mini Canada. I would encourage anyone of any age to explore this region, an area rarely visited by tourists. I promise it will leave you with the same smile it left me…
Check out the website for our summer in the Arctic experience here!