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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Svolvaer to Tromso

The leafless birch trees make the mountain
look unshaven
click to enlarge

Over the last two days, mountains have become more majestic, there’s more snow and the enormity of the scenery becomes more splendid hour by hour. It’s the isolation and undeniable dominance of nature that makes this part of the world so attractive.

Huskies

It’s 1500 and we’re in our cold weather gear. We have the camera. We’re about to meet the huskies and go sledding.

The thirty minute bus journey takes us high into the thick snow of the hills.

We arrive. Dogs are howling. The buildings are wooden, some round like wigwams. Doors are open and we see central open wood fires flaming away. Warm and toasty. Blackened kettles are steaming alongside.

‘The dogs are really friendly,’ says our Kiwi guide. ‘Put on one of our arctic suits over whatever you’re wearing, so if the dogs jump up to cuddle you your clothes won’t get dirty.’

The mountains become more majestic
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We do. Anticipation is running so high.

We learn the guide came to Tromso on holiday to sled and loved the area so much that she stayed. That was five years ago. ‘The isolation, the lifestyle, the reality, and you only have you to blame if something doesn’t work. Just make it happen.’

Working dogs

Behind the huts are rows and rows of kennels, each with a dog on a chain. The dogs go nuts when they see us all. Barking and howling.

‘We have two hundred dogs. These aren’t like the domestic fluffy huskies you see at home, but strong working dogs, bred for hard work and strength. They live outside all year. We take them higher in the mountains in the summer when the temperature is above 15C. They like the cold, so we go high and let them chill out.

‘In a sledding race, a dog will burn 10,000 calories a day. The dog team is graded. At the front are the bitches to control direction with the muscular dogs at the back. In between, the dogs are graded. If we have a puppy that needs training, we add them to the team so the others can start to train them.’

Meeting the dogs

Tiny houses are at the base of the mountains
click to enlarge

We walk to the puppy enclosure and meet the tiny three week old pups. Mum is with them and proud to let our guide pick them up.

After coffee (tea for Lin) and a piece of chocolate cake that seems to have 10,000 calories in it, we go to the kennels. The dogs start jumping and yelping. ‘They’re so excited to see you,’ says the guide.

Beyond the kennels are the sleds. Each has a team of ten dogs in pairs. The guide says, ‘Some are encouragers. They bark and bark as if to say “come on, let’s go”. The moment they’re off, it’s all silence as they put all their energy into straining and pulling.’

By now it’s quite dark. I don’t want to use flash, so long exposures are necessary.

Gorgeous

The dogs are just gorgeous. They love being loved. I take pictures of one of them and another comes up to take the attention away.

The Husky village
click to enlarge

After ten minutes of stroking and ruffling and pawing, we are taken to our sled. Piers at the back, Lin in front. Just like the dog team. Our musher gives us a short brief and we’re off.

The pull is enormous. The speed is exhilarating. In the dark skies the full moon shines its light on the snow making the millions of tiny ice crystals sparkle.

The ride goes on and on. We rush by small trees. ‘Keep your hands inside the sled,’ we are told.

The huskies pull us up hills, rush down the other side with the musher applying a brake to stop the sled going faster than the dogs.

In the distance we see the lights of Tromso below us by the sea. Breathtaking.

We seem to have travelled miles across the mountain and now we’re back. ‘Hurry, says another guide,’ your bus is about to leave and time is tight before the ship leaves.

We feel like saying we don’t care. We feel we could stay forever.

We decide not to stay up to see the lights. Too tired. Too full of memories. The next morning we hear the lights didn’t show.

Piers and Lin
chasing the Northern Lights
MS Midnatsol

You can get in touch with us any time by using our Contact Form.

Husky kennels
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Wooden tepee style huts
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Roaring wood fires keep the huts warm
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The communal hut
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A three week old pup
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Much barking and baying as we arrive
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Some are really tired
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We wonder what he’s dreaming about
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You’re interrupting my sleep
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…and who are you?
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Wide awake and intelligent
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Yes, that’s me you’re talking about
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Linny and husky – inseparable
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Watching intently
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Our team of ten desperate for the ‘off’
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In a blur of motion, they’re off
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Returning after a most exhilarating 40 minute drive
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