Dogsledding through the arctic wilderness
After I opened up my eyes in the city of my dreams, under the influence of stunning views from the night before, I jumped out of my bed ready to run outside and happy like a child, knowing that this is the day during which it would visit a chocolate factory. Dressing up for late august is not particularly demanding; during the day the temperature was around 4-6ºC with constant low wind which means that I wore wool baselayers (thin tights and camisoles made of ultra soft merino wool, and no – they do not itch at all), technical trousers and windproof jacket. If I intended to be active (f ex during hiking, walking), I used a thin fine wool sweater just to provide a light extra layer of insulation as I heat up very easily, but for activities in which I do not move autonomously (I am driven) I needed a thicker and chunkier merino sweater. The next activity required exactly that.
My first “to do” activity was one of those in which I am not running: I went to drive a dog sled.
In this piece of heaven.
I truly do not mind so called “bad weather” (f ex snowstorm, rainstorm, whateverstorm…) as I am aware that Arctic weather is known for its mercuriality and it is up to me to either accept it or not visit the Arctic at all, and I was ready for a ride in any possible weather scenario, but the weather was remarkably excellent. Clear sky and strong sunlight made the surrounding mountains glow, and the sea had that amazing intense blue color and it was impossible not to stare like a lunatic into that scenery. It was gorgeous beyond words.
I wanted to start the day with a huge BANG! and it seems that the fact I’ve booked this activity for my first morning at LYB was excellent.
Before I sat down in the sled, I was taught how to pick the dogs, which one of those eight animals has which function in the sled organization (in short terms: which one, where and why), I learned how to connect them with the sled by harnesses and wires, and how to actually drive the sled.
The dogs are amazing. They are extremely energetic and powerful, and they obviously need to run on a regular basis. Keeping this enormous energy pent up inside of them would obviously break them to pieces in emotional sense, and whoever thinks that dogsleds are animal cruelty should try the same thing I have done. This experience confirmed my theory that it is way worse to keep a dog in an apartment, and be convinced that the dog is happy in a setting in which going out to poop is the highlight of the day.
I was stunned when my guide opened the doors of their kennel cells and all of them jumped on me at the same time. I have had a long time fear of dogs, and even though I keep it on a short leash (ba dum tssssss!) I still have some ppm level amounts of reluctance when the dogs charge at me, but in this situation I felt nothing but true safety. These dogs are pure energy and full of positivity, and their playfulness was something to enjoy.
Most of the dogs which drove me and my guide are a family, of the closest kind. The main dog is the mother of all other dogs tied to the sled.
The sled is very plain and easy to drive. You are in the standing position on the sled (as the driver), and in charge of brakes. There is another brake under the sled, which buries the sled into the ground like with a large knife, and which keeps the dogs “parked” aside. They WANT to run so it is very advisable to use that brake immediately after you stop.
I drove a little (low sunlight was killing me and I did not wanted to be responsible for any accident, so I told to my guide to take over the sled) and it was really strange and unusual, but beautiful. I don’t think that there could be a better place to do it than in LYB on that exact day. It was perfect and it exceeded all my expectations. The dogs are strong and they pull the whole composition with extreme ease.
This “training” is very demanding for them. We stopped every 10 minutes for them to cool down and drink a lot of water from a nearby stream which was following the road on which we drove on. The sound of them lapping up the water while inhaling the air intensely will be something I shall remember forever.
I took a huge amount of pictures and videos on several devices. Here you go.