Sunday, 7 October 2012

Aurora Borealis

It turns out that this blog will be harder to keep than I thought.

Things are very busy here at Hetta Huskies. There is a very steep learning curve, that includes - but is not limited to - learning the names of all the dogs. J is pronounced Y, Y is pronounced U, double vowels are elongated and double consonants are separated. Add to that umlauts and vowel phonetics.  Basically the language is beautiful spoken but a dick to read and write - Tolkien agreed and used Finnish (in part) as his base for the Sinarian tongue.

The colours of the flora of the Taiga that were so vivid and beautiful when I first landed are now beginning to fade. Flyer Garrick mushrooms are succumbing to the frost, and the skinny Birches are running out of leaves to drop. On the subject of trees, here they have the peculiar habit of presenting a twisted grain, something that can only be seen in the trees of the higher latitudes.

Flyer Garrick without a visiting fairy
This can make the wood difficult to work with - I'd appreciate and answer to this anomaly 
The fauna is also beginning the preparation for the winter of discount tents (one of my Dads favourite puns). The Capercaillie (the largest of the Grouse family) and the Red Squirrel could once be found across all the Taiga are both now difficult to find on the British Isles-I'm slightly ashamed to say I had gone 21 years without seeing a Red Squirrel.

Much prettier than the Greys 
From one animal to another, and to the inevitable subject of the dogs. They are amazing, in every way. They would have to be, otherwise picking up their shit twice a day, getting pissed on (some definitely went on my face but I don't want to talk about it) and mashing up abattoir dregs would not be worth it. The intelligence of the lead dogs and the potential of the shy dogs and juveniles  is obvious to anyone who has the slightest interest in dogs. Befriending them and learning their personalities has been the best part of these early days, although the phrase "he/she is friendly to anyone apart from tall [handsome] males" gets tiresome.

I must apologise for the delay in posting. In hindsight it was foolish to ever expect myself to get anything written in the early weeks. After a day of pooping, watering and feeding the dogs in addition to any training, construction work, computer updates and cleaning the last thing on my mind was blog writing and a quest for carbohydrates was the only thing achievable when I returned to the guide house.

Anyway, five weeks have passed to since I arrived and I am beginning to settle in. I have learnt the majority of the names and personalities of the dogs (and fellow guides) on both farms. Interaction with the dogs is becoming more natural and timelines are almost being reached (almost being the operative word).

Kravitz with his lakeside view 

I feel much more at home at the Välimaa farm, here there is a wilder theme and more basic commodities. it is located further from the town so popping to the local K Market, or grabbing a reindeer burger is a lot more difficult. However this farm homes my favourite dogs: the brothers Yesper and Yasper, Levi (named after a local town), Pikkis and of course the arctic wolf hybrid Yeti and the Tibetan Mastiff Roí. Not that the Hetta farm is in any way terrible, nor it's dogs dull,  but there is an undeniable draw to Välimaa - Middle Earth in Finnish.

The best night of my Finnish adventure occurred  at Välimaa and it gave the title of this post. We finally succumbed to the pile of dishes that had grown in the kitchen. Gathering the plates we started to walk to the Dog kitchen. However we were rudely interrupted by an amazing performance staring the northern lights. A symphony of green with highlights of red and purple, conducted by the constant presence of the edge of the Milky Way

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

23Kg allowance..........

It is now 10 days until I leave and I have finally gathered most of my equipment ready for my trip.  The main reason for this post is to thank the various companies who have given me discount and advice on their gear. I am sure that I will give a much better review of each product once they have been taken to their limits and been battered around a bit.
 A 23Kg allowance. I haven't weighed it yet......
The most logical place to start with is under-layers. Whilst gathering advice the material "Marino Wool" was repeated more times than I can count. Icebreaker were my preferred band, mainly for comfort of fit  and cost. They offer a variety of weight options which increase in insulation. I went for the 260g, thickest weave. The other gradations felt a little to leisurely to be of any use.   Possibly the next logical piece of kit is footwear. I was lucky enough to receive great help from SOREL who discounted a pair of Wool lined Caribou boots, rated to minus 40.
 Montane were as equally helpful. I managed to almost complete the rest of the set with more under-layers, gloves, trousers, fleece and coat. The most exciting thing to mention here is the glove attachment hoops on the jacket. I am somewhat reminded of the length of wool mothers sew onto mittens to run through school coats.

Stealing was not quite necessary as begging and borrowing sufficed to get the rest. A brother in the forces and years in the Air Training Corps meant that water proofs and combat trousers were in good supply. Other accessories such as Marino socks and polar buffs were easily bought from Millets and Mountain Warehouse who were both kind enough to discount their stock.

The phrase "you don't know until you try" is definitely applicable here. I was surprised by each and every positive reply and would have had a much harder time funding my trip if it wasn't for these helpful companies. So in short- Thank you.