Tag Archives: Finland

The call of the wild

Arctic winter cover - Telegraph magazine

My diary of the time I spent working on a husky farm in the Arctic Circle made the cover of the Telegraph Magazine shortly before Christmas.

My words were accompanied by some beautiful images taken by the up-and-coming Norwegian photographer Anki Grøthe who spent a week with us in Hetta, and was not at all phased by the sub zero temperatures or the boisterous dogs.

Full text of my article is available on the Telegraph website here, or after the fold. I’ll also post some more of the images later, if I can. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

“A snow angel in distress”: the winning entry

Bradt-IoS competition win

I found out last week that my article “In Deep Snow” was the winner of the Independent on Sunday/Bradt travel writing award. It was published with a few of my photos in the Independent on Sunday’s travel section this weekend.

The theme this year was “A narrow escape”, which was interpreted very differently by all the shortlisted writers (including one who cleverly wrote about a trip on a narrow boat in the Norfolk broads). All of the shortlisted entries are available to read on the Bradt website here.

Full text of the article can be found on the Independent’s website here, or after the fold.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

“In Deep Snow” wins Bradt/Independent on Sunday travel writing competition

Wilma and Rapin

I am delighted to have won the Bradt/Independent on Sunday travel writing competition 2013, with my article “In Deep Snow” – a story of how an attempt to break a fjord horse to harness ended in disaster while I was living in Arctic Finland last winter. (Wilma, the offending horse, can be seen on the right in the image above).

My article will be published in the Independent on Sunday’s travel section this weekend – please pick up a copy if you can, and I will also post the cutting online on Monday.

The prize is a week-long trip for two to Istria, courtesy of the Croatian Tourist Board and a commission to write about it for the Independent on Sunday. I can’t wait.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

When is a Sami not a Sami?

New Statesman Sami observations article cutting

 

I have an article in this week’s New Statesman magazine, about the Sami people’s struggle for land rights.

While living in Enontekiö I regularly came across people from local Sami reindeer herding-families, and wrote about my experience at the autumn reindeer separation here.

It soon became clear that the fight for land rights – through the ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 – loomed large in local politics.

Local businesses, like my hosts Hetta Huskies and Cape Lapland, were worried that the Sami may decide to limit access to the wilderness if they took control of the land. Already use of reindeer grazing land by non-herders can be the source of some friction.

Sami families – rightly – maintained that they had a right to land that they had populated for centuries. But do some Samis have more rights than others?

Full text can be found on the New Statesman website here, or after the fold.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Living in darkness

Image

I’ve written an essay about living through the polar night for Prospect magazine. Here in Enontekiö, in the far north of Finland, the sun goes down on 6 December and is not seen again for a month.

The picture above was taken on my iPhone while I waited with my stalled snowmobile, as described in the article below. Shortly afterwards the battery failed, as it tends to in extreme cold conditions (pro-tip: keep phones in a pocket next to your body for warmth).

The full text can be found on Prospect’s website here, or after the fold.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

A baptism of fire (and ice)

Dog sleds crossing sign, Hetta

I arrive after dark, dragging my suitcase through the thick snow. But I’m barely through the door when I’m handed a pair of work boots and dispatched down to the farm.

“Do you want to get thrown in the deep end?” asks Anna, my host, but it’s not really a question. “Get your jacket on, go down the hill and follow the snowmobile tracks to a gate.”

The instructions turn out to be unnecessary – I follow the sound of barking which starts off loud and grows to a wall of noise and fury by the time I reach the kennels.

Three figures are running back and forth up the lines of dogs, pulling more from cages and running circles and harnessing them to three sleds tied to posts along a track running up the centre of the yard. The noise is incredible; I can barely hear to introduce myself to the others, but they are too harried to talk much anyway. Not knowing how to help, I hover on the sidelines and rub the forehead of one of the quietest dogs.

Ice crystals are hanging in the air, glinting in the glare of the floodlights.  The dogs are mewling, almost hysterical in excitement, throwing themselves forward and straining against the holding ropes in their desperation to be off and running.

“Get in!” someone instructs me, and obediently I hop down onto a sled full of snow, immediately soaking the jeans I’ve been wearing since I got on the tube in Kentish Town the previous morning.

A command rings out and with a jerk we are off into the dark, through the snow-tipped pine, with only a head torch for light.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

From London to Lapland

Location of Hetta, image via http://www.hettahuskies.com

Tonight I fly from London to Helsinki, the first leg in my journey to Enontekiö in the north-west corner of Finland, 300km inside the Arctic Circle.

But I’ve been preparing for this journey for a while. My weighty suitcase holds:

  • one down-filled Rab Neutrino jacket (800 fill, second hand)
  • one Primaloft inner jacket
  • four fleeces (one heavy, two mid-weight, one base layer)
  • three pairs fleece trousers (two leggings, one normal cut… i.e. I might not be too embarrassed to wear around the house)
  • 6+ base layer tops
  • 5+ thermal tights
  • four pairs salopettes (two of which are waterproof)
  • two polar buffs, one normal buff
  • one pair heavy-duty outdoor gloves, one pair waterproof mittens
  • one pair Polartech thermal liner gloves
  • 5+ pairs magic gloves
  • first aid kit
  • one under-helmet balaclava
  • one ‘Petzl tikka’ headlamp
  • two carabiner
  • one climbing knife
  • one pair fur-lined ‘mucker’ boots
  • two hats (one waterproof, one fleecy)
  • fleece sleeping bag liner
  • several pairs Merino wool four-season socks
  • camera kit, laptop
  • misc personal items, including a bottle of vodka and three Christmas puddings

Needless to stay I’ll be up all night guarding all this kit before the next leg of my journey (Helsinki to Kittilä) tomorrow morning – not least the Merino wool socks, which cost an extortionate £21 per pair. I’ll review all my kit in a couple of months, which may be useful for anyone planning a similar purchase.

On the bright side, I’ve been doing my research: Helsinki Vantaa is one of the most comfortable airports in the world to sleep in.

I’ll fly out too early to make use of Finnair’s four (4) saunas, but free wifi will be very handy for following the US elections as the results come in.

Tagged , , , , ,