It was not the Radison at $550 per night, but Guesthouse 102 at $180 per night. It was very comfortable - warm and cosy, shared bathrooms (who really needs to shower in the Arctic anyway), and a good breakfast. Also, with a. 20 minute walk to the settlement - 30 minutes to come back as it is up hill, you get to see much more of this harsh environment, almost at the top of the world.
Pick up was at 8.30 and after a briefing, issue of snowmobile suits, mittens, motorbike helmet and goggles, we were off. Four of us and a guide who had a shot gun - mandatory to be carried when leaving the settlement in case of polar bears. The other two were a couple from the USA who were riding tandem.
It was lightly snowing and at times blizzard conditions - temperature was minus 2 and with a wind of 40 kph, that produced a wind chill temperature of minus 19 degrees! Still we were warm, perhaps the only part that was exposed was our cheeks and around the mouth. We quickly learnt to pull the balaclava up and under the goggles. Even though it got frozen it created a barrier and we were then ok.
We passed a German Luftwaffe aerodrome from WW2 and off up the fjord over the ice valley. There were many other groups out and we would occasionally stop and see wild reindeer grazing on the ice. It was truly spectacular to be out in "the Arctic wilderness".
Snowmobiles are easy to drive, with a throttle on the right bars and brake on the left. There are electric hand warmers to add comfort and a windshield that protects about half of your upper body. Two mini skis, one on each side balance. Steering is sometimes a struggle if you get caught in an ice rut or snow drift and requires a bit of effort. Generally a relaxed sitting position - and full speed ahead - makes for an easy ride.
The conditions were not the best and we were occasionally in a "white-out" but we pressed on. The journey was to be about 50km in each direction to reach the Templefjor Glacier. We were a little on half way when the American couple crashed and the snowmobile rolled in the soft snow. They were lucky, a sore leg and very shaken. That was about the end for them, they never recovered their confidence and this was obvious to the guide. The weather was worsening and although other groups were going on, our guide decided for safety to turn back. They were now going so slowly that it was obvious we were going to be hundred in our progress and could further compromise safety. So sadly we returned to the settlement.
We booked for an afternoon husky tour then went to our now regular pub for a late lunch. Aaron visited a shop selling arctic fox pelts, the whole body - 20,000NOK - $4,000 AUS, polar bear skins and heads (80,000 Nok), stuffed foxes, fury hats of fox fur, reindeer skins and much more. You will have to wait and see as to what he brings home!
Off husky sledding - these are Alaskian Huskies and are domesticated - not like those we will encounter in Greenland. When we arrived at the kennels they went crazy and we were told to go and say hello. They are beautiful dogs and very affectionate. They live in an enclosure chained to a pole with an elevated kennel. After being shown how to gather the husky from its kennel, harness and hitch to the sled it was our turn to get our 6 dogs. Each dog's name is on the kennel. I'm off to get one of the lead dogs for Aaron and I. His kennel was behind a snow drift and he was not getting on well with his neighbor and after I unhitched him I had to climb this snow drift. A bit of a bark and snarl, next I am being dragged along through the snow drift with 2 dogs snarling at each other and me trying to hold on. Needless to say a bit stressy, but laughable. I had to lead him to the sled, put his harness on him then hitch to the driving harness. For those who know how I struggle putting Charlie's car harness on him - well you can imagine. And, this process had to be repeated for the other five dogs. The dogs were very understanding and patient. Meanwhile the other groups were doing the same with their team.
Finally we were all hitched up, the dogs were barking and pulling, eager to go. Aaron was the driver for the outbound leg and I was sitting in the sled. It was snowing and a strong wind.
We're off and what fun to see the dogs enjoy themselves so much pulling though the sometimes deep snow. They followed the sled in front,sometimes wanting to overtake so it became necessary to put the break on to slow them down. We passed other dog enclosures and a few other people with small teams. An hour out, then Aaron and I changed over, with me now driving and he relaxing.
On return the process had to be reversed - un hitching, harnessing and returning to their kennels. Then it was feed time.
A great experience. We had to thank our dogs and they really lapped up the attention
Dinner time for ourselves, now back in the settlement and we elected to share a marinated minke whale steak ( and a pizza). What a delicious taste. We both agreed that it was ok, as this is culturally sustainable in Norway.
It has been a great day and on return to the guesthouse we wee both ready for bead at 10pm.