By Sophie Ashworth, Exodus Marketing Executive
Although I do love a relaxing beach holiday, the adrenalin rush that I get from a snow sports holiday in particular snowboarding, definitely scores higher in my list of favourite activities to do.
So, going on Exodus’ Finnish Wildnerness Week really set my pulse racing, as this wasn’t just one snowy activity I’d be taking part in, but many. The only preparation I’d done beforehand was darts on a Thursday night, so I was slightly apprehensive about how physically fit you would need to be, but I needn’t have worried as I was in for a treat!
Stepping off the plane at Kuusamo after a four-hour flight from Gatwick onto deep fresh snow, really added to the experience of getting away from it all. The drive to Basecamp Oulanka is a real wilderness treat, yet only 45 minutes drive from the airport, you may even catch a glimpse of Rudohlf and his friends taking a rest amongst the forest walls.
The beautiful cosy lodge sits on the River Kitkajoki, overlooking a lake and backing onto Oulanka National Park. The wilderness really takes your breath away here, all around you is pine tree after pine tree arching with the weight of snow, and the silence of nothing is just bliss.
After a good nights sleep, and a hearty breakfast of porridge and fruit we were ’geared’ up in basecamp equipment and ready for action! Nothing prepares you for the sight of over 200 huskies barking in excitement of pulling a sledge. Once briefed on the do’s and don’t’s of dog sledding, ‘Wolf Man’ (susi) takes you to meet your team. Pipa, Petra, Pietr and Podra were raring to go! Once your foot is off the brake, there is no stopping the eagerness and energyof the huskies as they race you through the forest for an hour, covering 10k.
That evening we headed back to basecamp for a lovely dinner and jenga (and the odd tipple of Baileys on snow)…then another good night sleep in the lodge.
Snowshoeing was on the list of activities the next morning, and what a great way to start the day. Having never walked in snowshoes before, it was relatively easier than I thought, almost like having two tennis rackets strapped to your feet, keeping you balanced and upright (almost) in the deep snow. We trekked through the beautiful snow filled pine trees, stopping at an old mill for hot blackcurrant juice to warm us up, taking in the view of the stunning frozen waterfalls. The views of the icy river were a real picture postcard moment. In the afternoon we then headed to Ruka for an evening of snowmobiling.
Snowmobiling through the forests at dusk was truly magical; the light from the snowmobile hitting the trees and paths really makes you feel like you’re in Narnia. There is the option to ride a snowmobile alone, or if you prefer, like most of our group, you can take charge yourself (which is what I would definitely recommend!) After an hour of racing through the forests, we stopped at a cosy wooden hut for tea and cake before heading back to Ruka and basecamp for another night of good food, roaring fire, hot tub and Jenga and not to mention a tipple of baileys – on real ice.
The morning after we ventured out for a morning of Cross-country skiing. Having had more experience on a snowboard than on skis, this was a new experience for me. We had a little practise up and down a small hill, learning the basic techniques, which were easy to pick up. Then it was my turn to cut into the deep snow and make tracks. We spent a few hours taking it in turns to make fresh deep tracks up and down the forest, a beautiful way to see the wilderness, and for a beginner I was lucky to stay upright for most of it.
After lunch we headed to a reindeer farm where we met Rudolph and his friends, who took us on a sleigh ride around the farm before resting in the lodge with a cup of coffee and cake. The evening is free for you to visit the ski resort of Ruka to test out the slopes or enjoy a hot toddie in the bars or a bit of shopping if you fancy. Back at basecamp, I tried out the newly prepared ice wall. This became one of my favourite activities as I made it to the top twice.
Back in England, I’ve now given up the darts for a climbing course instead. So far, so good!
If you’re looking for a magical adventure, away from everything, with lots of adrenalin thrown in then this trip is definitely for you.
Oulanka National Park is part of the PAN Parks network, a Europewide organisation, founded by the Worldwide Fund for Nature that promotes tourism as a tool for wilderness and nature conservation. For each booking on this trip Exodus will give 20 euros to help expand the network throughout Europe.
Sophie went on Exodus’ Finnish Wilderness Week
Departures for this trip run through to April 2009 for this season and we’re already taking bookings for December too.