Our third day in Saariskella with Esprit was our designated activity day.
After breakfast we trekked back to our rooms, and togged up for a day in the outdoors. We waited outside the hotel for our designated bus, Dancer. All the buses were named after one of Santa’s reindeer and have signs hanging in the front window.
It was still snowing lightly and a little colder than the previous day, so we were a bit nervous about being dropped off in the middle of nowhere for hours, but we needn’t have worried.
The Activity Centre was on the edge of a forest, on a slope down to a frozen stream. There were at least 4 bus loads of people there, but it didn’t seem crowded. On the coach we were given a time to go for lunch, and a time to meet for the husky ride, but otherwise we were free to do whatever we wanted to, in what ever order we preferred.
The snow wasn’t great for snow balls and snowmen actually. It didn’t seem sticky enough and googling has suggested that the outside temperature can affect this. Once we’d finished with the snowman, we followed a path of lit candles that took us to the reindeer ride.
These candles were everywhere, along with big open fires in half-open Sami huts. The kids were fascinated by the open flames and had to be dissuaded from collecting bits of wood to drop into them or chucking snow at them, trying to put them out.
I waited in line for our turn on the reindeer sleigh ride, while DH and the kids stumbled about in nearby snowdrifts ‘playing’. As far as I could tell, the game seemed to consist of someone falling down and screaming ‘Help me, I can’t get up’, then everyone would wade towards them and attempt to help them up. Then someone else would fall over.
Even though we had done a longer reindeer safari the night before, the kids were still keen to have another go, even though this was a much smaller 10 minute circuit. We went 2 to a sleigh and I was amused to see the reindeer behind us coming right up beside us before we started.
DS was sitting on that side and thought it was hilarious until the reindeer got spooked and tried to leap into the sleigh with us! It landed sideways, and DS was up against the side, so wasn’t hurt but it leapt up again and tried again. I grabbed its harness with one hand and dragged DS onto the other side of me with the other hand. One of the handlers came running up and told me to leave it alone until I told him what had happened. Luckily the bloke behind me backed me up, and the poor traumatised reindeer gave an extra high leap while the Sami guide was standing there, which illustrated my point nicely.
After that it was a pretty calm sleigh ride, but I’d advise seating small children on the side away from any overtaking reindeer- just in case.
The kids were happy to do this again and again, for almost an hour. The staff had a good system going and made sure that everyone was was safe and no one had to wait long for a turn. There is a really big toboggan run in Saariskella (takes 40 mins to walk to top!) that we didn’t have time to visit, so I was pleased the kids had such a good time with this activity here.
When they finally tired of running up and sliding down hills, we all had a go on the kick chairs.
These were a lot of fun. The little two were able to have a go with some strap on skis as well and surprised me by the way they just took to them. I learnt to ski as an adult and I can see how a lower centre of gravity would make for a much less painful experience.
At this stage, we all went into one of the temporary huts and drank warm berry juice and ate gingerbread by the fire, then the girls had a go at lassoing reindeer! DD2 was pretty good at it.
Afterwards we headed down to the ice and tried our hand at some ice fishing.
No, we didn’t catch anything but everyone had a lot of fun trying.
Then it was time to go for The Magic Snow Mobile Ride. We were pulled through the Magic Forest on a sled behind the skiddo, and ‘discovered’ Santa’s crashed sleigh with presents scattered everywhere. Our driver played along nicely and the kids seemed totally convinced, and didn’t seem to notice the sled full of other children leaving the hut as our snow mobile pulled up!
At this point we met more of those pesky Elves, but these ones were much less annoying. They romped in the snow with the kids, rolled around with them and submitted to all sorts of mucking around until we were called in to see the Big Man himself.
Santa was sitting inside a little wooden Lapland style hut. It’s not very Disneyesque so don’t be expecting Elf toyshops etc, but our four were enraptured by the fact that Santa had their letters in his hand when they walked in. They sat down, two either side of him and chatted away brilliantly while the Elves surreptitiously took off their hats and hoods so I could get a nice photo.
So there you go. The ultimate photo of the trip. Isn’t it great? I know DD3 isn’t looking straight at the camera but when you have 4 kids, even 2/4 looking is a miracle!
The only disappointment was that DD3 had brought her school bear along for the visit, but we were all so overwhelmed that we forgot to get him out, and he remained shoved in the front of her snowsuit! If any kind person out there knows how to use photoshop, any offers would be gratefully accepted!
As you can see, they were all given a wrapped present which turned out to be a lovely soft reindeer in Sami dress, and then we were whisked back to the Activity Centre in time for ‘Lunch’.
We all desperately needed the loo by now, and it took about half an hour to get everyone in and out of their suits for a wee and into the restaurant.
Lunch was Spaghetti Bolognese and pancakes; it was okay but by this point we were pretty hungry so everyone ate it, except for DS who filled up on bread yet again. We were also in a rush; our Husky ride was leaving in 15 minutes.
We got to the designated meeting point in time for the safety talk and were assigned a sled. Our poor dogs had to pull all 6 of us; DH drove to the half way point, while I had all 4 kids piled on top of me and then we swapped places. It was a lot of fun but it was now 3:30 in the afternoon and so quite dark. The only light was from the head torch we had been issued for the driver and the snow mobiles that were buzzing around, keeping an eye on things.
The dogs knew the drill and stuck the track; they steer the sled and the driver’s job is to keep the harness tight by using the brake, as and when necessary. This is not as easy as it sounds, but both DH and I managed. We all thought this was one of the highlights of the trip. So much so, that when we got back to the hotel, we booked ourselves in for the Husky Safari the next morning. We were going to have to get up at 10 past 6!
We were warned not to pat the dogs before they set off as they were very excitable and had been know to jump up and give people blood noses(!) but afterwards they were all quieter and the kids all got a photo of themselves with their favourite dogs.
After such a busy day, all we wanted to do was ot eat and crawl into bed, but that night was the ‘Gala’ dinner. You are supposed to dress up for this but of course we hadn’t bought anything appropriate. It didn’t matter, we had a drink at the bar (very expensive) and some food (better than normal dinner offerings, especially if you like salmon) and waited while everyone was ‘awarded’ Arctic Circle Diplomas.
Most people stuck around longer but we headed off to bed at this point as we had to be up at such an ungodly time. Strangely enough, it wasn’t long before we were all snoring away.
( Last instalment tomorrow, I promise!)