Sweden - husky dog sledding tour
I'm not sure when it got the idea for the first time to make a husky/dog sledding tour. But I think it was about 2008 when I saw some kind of documentary (Goodbye Deutschland - I love it) of a German couple moving to a Scandinavian country to start a new life and working with huskys and offering tours. This was very interesting for me to see but had no priority then.
A long time passed where I did not follow this idea and focused on travelling in Eastern Europe and also extending to explore Southern Europe.
After my great journey in Kamchatka 2015 I realised that I needed a new challenge and wanted to do something different instead of simply looking for a new place to travel. So my idea I had years ago returned to my mind and I started to research possibilities to make husky sledding tours. I remembered the documentary and tried to find the couple who is offering such tours and yes, I was successful in finding them! They have a site where they list the different tours and possibilities ranging from simple day tours to tours lasting for couple of days.
The idea attracted me more and more because I generally like dogs, especially huskys have something special and I like their elegant appearance. And the idea to live and work with this dogs very closely was increasingly tempting. In autums 2017 I contacted the guys, clarified some things and booked a 5 day tour (which has a total of 8 days, taking arrival and farewell etc. into account) for January '18.
First I had to go to Stockholm but stayed there only for one day and immediately continued to a town called Lycksele. The reason was that I wanted to stay in Swedens capital when returning from the tour to calm down of the sledding tour and before returning to my every day life in Austria. Lycksele is a small town in the middle of Sweden.
From Stockholm you have to fly about 1,5 hours and from there I took a bus going further north-east for about 1 or 2 hours. In the evening and at the last bus stop the owners of the farm picked me up and welcomed me.
I was informed that five additional people will join the tour and I was the first who arrived. The first night I had the guest house for myself as the others would arrive the next day. The guest house was really nice and the couple told me that everything was done by hand by themselves, what is pretty amazing! The next day the other participants came. The first day is generally to get to know each other because we would not only work intensively with the dogs but also as team together. We were shown around the farm and finally got to know the dogs. They were already waiting for us, welcomed us and they are so hearty :) They love people and love even more to get attention and being caressed and cuddled :)
We got an introduction and instructions how sledges are working, how to treat the dogs, how to buckle them up, what instructions we have to give them, how to behave in general etc. This is very important as a lot can happen and the leader cannot take care all the time and is also dependent on the whole group to work together as a team, to take care of each other and to assist each other. We also fed them and cleaned their cages. This helps so that they get used to us and for us to know what we will be responsible of the next days. At the end of the day we were going around in the area. And in January daylight is only up to 5-6 hours and a longer period dusky. So we prepared for the next day to start our tour.
At the next day we prepared everything for the 5-days tour: feeding the dogs, arranging the sledges, material etc. and the dogs realised that a tour was about to begin - and man, what an experience! They got nervous and began to bark and howl in excitement! And when we finally buckled them up in front of the sledges, the whole pack (our expedition consisted of about 26 dogs but the whole farm has about 60) was going absolutely nuts and the noise was ear-battering. Everyone in our team got nervous because we got introduction how sledges work and the commands for the dogs but this was only theory but we did not check it out practically, so how the start will work and as the hill was going down, if the crazy dogs will follow our commands etcetc. However, going back was no option anyway. And then we started...
I can only give a summary of the tour but I can assure that it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done! I gathered new impressions and experiences because this was different than everything what I ever did before and still have done until now. To work and live closely together with the dogs and the team for couple of days is a very special experience.
We were living and sleeping in a wooden house with no central heating but wood. So when the fire goes off it gets cold in the night...not REALLY cold but cold enough. When you have to go to the toilet it is a priva outside, so no heating and you have to go outside and take light with you. Water you have to get from the lake, meaning cutting a whole in the ice, getting the water and cooking it. Shower is not existing but a sauna, what is amazing. But also to get to the sauna you have to get outside (usually with no cloths but a towel :) and the average temperature was about -15°. The last night we were sleeping in a tent. When the fire went off it got pretty freezing...
During the tour you always have to take care of the guy behind and in front of you. The snow was quite deep and it also happened that the sledge was falling over and the guide falling off - and this is where the next one has to take care to stop the dogs if possible, otherwise they could keep running and get lost...
But as you are sledding for hours you also get somehow hypnotised by the passing winter wonderland and beautiful nature...and lose concentration leading to lose the track leading to a falling over sledge... The tour guide, who is always in front, has a really hard job and you also have to take into account that he might shout at you when you do not follow rules or do your own thing. But you have to get used to it and simply follow rules and work as a team.
Anyway, the dogs were absolutely amazing and I loved my pack and especially my lead dog. Even though the tour consisted only of couple of days, I loved to get the routine to prepare the dogs and the sledge in the morning and/or buckle the dogs off, feeding them and cleaning the sledge etc. Every time when we made a break I also took care of the dogs, especially the lead dog, to calm them down otherwise they stay nervous and might try to bite or fight the dog beside (even though this is not a sign of aggression but pure adrenalin).
At the last day(s) of the tour you could realise that the dogs get exhausted because they were already on tour for couple of days. One had to be taken into the sledge of the guide to rest (but for this case the guide had 6 dogs instead of 4). But also we realised that the tour gets tiring because we also have to run and/or push the sledge to relieve the dogs when it was going uphill or the track was difficult because of deep snow. Also the cold was creeping into the snowsuit and even more into the boots...
Arriving at the fifth day at the farm relieved everyone, even though it was a pity that it was over... However, it was an amazing feeling having done this trip with all its impressions! The last day was to calm down, relax, spend the last hours with the dogs and look back and reflect about the last days and at the end of the day and celebrate together with a tasty barbecue.
The owners of the husky farm are great guys and they love what they do! Please contact me if you are interested in them.
In Stockholm I stayed for a couple of days but did not take many photos; in fact, I hardly took any because my attitute to take fotos in cities is that it does not make any sense as you can already find enough fotos (and even better ones as I could do myself) of buildings of the capital... However, Stockholm is a nice city and I would like to come back in summer time as you can enjoy the city more.