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Winter activities in Kainuu, the lake region of Finland

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Attention to this stage of trip to Finland January because it overflows with strong emotions. After a few days in Helsinki, we went to the center of Finland to know the lake region, known as the Wild taiga.

There were a few minutes left before the propeller plane landed in the small Kajaani airport and, from a bird's eye view, the landscape that stretched across the window was something totally new to me: a completely white spot, dotted with small green dots and endless frozen lakes. The device slid down an icy track and, as it came down, the cold hit my face as if the Yeti had slapped me. We were minus twenty-five degrees, never before had it been at such a low temperature.

Kajaani is the capital of the Kainuu region, has almost 40 000 inhabitants and the urban center is quite populated, but we pass by. We headed straight to Vuokatti Husky Farm to do the first winter activity of our trip: a husky sled safari.

We got off the minibus and quickly took refuge in the place, which was a wooden house painted blue-gray. Outside there was a large smoking bonfire surrounded by logs to sit before the fire, but the temperature did not invite. Instead, they were waiting for us with hot tea and a burning fireplace. After getting warm, they took us to a room to equip us for the safari. He was already wearing thermal tights, ski pants, a thermal shirt, a fleece and a Peruvian wool sweater under the ski jacket, but it was not enough. They gave me an overcoat and some special gloves. All clothes are small when you are going to face the elements.

Attentive to explanations

Outside the sleds and the dogs were ready, they kept barking because they were eager to start running. They knew that soon they would go out to tour the taiga and move their tails from one place to another, very excited. But first the instructors had to explain to us how to drive a sled. For everyone it was the first time, so we listened to the directions very carefully. Then we split into teams of two, first I was going to drive, while Nadine was sitting as a passenger, and halfway we had to change the positions.

Ready for action!

I put myself at the controls of the sled, holding the bar tightly, with my feet on the sides of the sled, and waited for them to release the rope that held the dogs. When they dropped it, I noticed a strong pull and we started running. It was an exciting sensation, of great freedom, while the dogs pulled at full speed from the sled and glided through the snow. The icy air hit hard the few square centimeters of my face that were discovered, but the exaltation of the moment prevented me from noticing the cold.

Riding in a sleigh pulled by huskies is an experience, but it's not as easy as it seems. Strangely, one of the difficulties we had was to stop the dogs, because the sled has a brake, but we did not weigh enough for the dogs to be considered when we wanted to stop. This entailed some moment of friction with the other teams, since, for safety, we were forbidden to overtake the other sleds and we had to circulate in Indian row. Even so, everything ended very well and, after the six kilometer walk, we had a bowl of warm soup.

The new "signing"

Then we get on the minibus to go to Kuhmo, 70 kilometers from the border with Russia, where we were going to spend two nights. We stayed at the hotel Kalevala, a mountain hotel located next to some cross-country ski slopes.

Room prepared for dinner

When I woke up the next morning, it had not yet dawned and nothing was visible outside, because in January, the sun does not rise until after nine in the morning. We had a good breakfast, including homemade waffles, and went outside to visit the Petola carnivorous animals center. Is at about ten minutes walking from the hotel and there you can learn a lot about carnivorous animals of that area like the bear, the lynx, the wolf and the glutton. In fact, this area of Finland is famous for observation safaris of this type of fauna, which are usually done in summer. The center is a good place to learn more about these animals, such as sounds and footsteps, and you can even touch their skins.

Petola Carnival Center

Once the didactic visit was over, we returned to the hotel to put on our skis and learn to cross-country ski. The good of hotel Kalevala is that it puts ski equipment (clothes, boots, sticks and skis) available to customers for free. Similarly, the tracks in front of the hotel can be used at no cost.

Map with the cross-country ski runs

I have long since given up alpine skiing, because the pain of the falls does not compensate for the fun of the descents, so I prefer cross-country skiing. The problem is that I had never done a class, so the few times I've skied I have traveled simple tracks so as not to end up with a broken leg. Therefore, I was anxious to do the cross-country skiing class. Our instructor was called Reki-Pertti and was a retired Finnish army colonel who currently runs a ski school that offers classes and other activities in the snow.

Learning to ski

With an iron hand he explained to us the basics of cross-country skiing, such as warming up before practice, learn to slow down, climb hills and various ways to propel ourselves on skis. I admit that I did not start on the right foot, because first I went to the track without the sticks and then I lost them before reaching the track. However, after the initiation class I did in Finland At least I'm not a skiing potato anymore.

In full skier action

The physical exercise woke up the hunger, so we climbed a small hill putting into practice the techniques to climb slopes with the skis on and we saw that I had prepared a kota, which is a tent opened by the roof, similar to those of the Indians of the Far West, with a bonfire lit. The good of Reki-Pertti prepared us a snack and we cooked some sausages punctured in an iron on the fire. For vegetarians, the sausage was replaced by a banana that was roasted with the peel, and that is a typical dish in Finnish barbecues.

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