Having travelled over 147 million kilometres on a solar wind, particles from the sun crash into the northern hemisphere, causing an astonishing brilliance of colourful light in the night sky (writes Antony Hayes). This is known as the Aurora Borealis, and while it is a rare sight for distant travellers, it is a common occurrence over the wintery sky of Trømso in the very north of Norway.
Covering an area of approximately 2,516 square kilometres, Trømso is set amidst fjords, glaciers, mountain peaks and beautiful pine forests, all of which merge to create a truly spectacular scene. It also belongs to the region of Finnmark, which hosts a type of race that only exists for the brave-hearted and the mad.
If you think the solar particles had a long journey, they did, but, there is another monumental journey which takes place on a more human level: the Finnmarksløpet 1,000km dog sled race. The race was created in 1981 and is internationally recognised as Europe’s longest dog sled race. There are actually two courses which consist of the 500km race (up to eight dogs per sled) and the 1,000km race (up to 14 dogs per sled) that take place over a short duration. There are various open classes, which makes it possible both for the relatively inexperienced enthusiast as well as the weathered veteran to give it a go on this cold and unforgiving proving ground.
It is easy to understand the appeal and solitary bliss gained from one of the oldest practices in the northern hemisphere. Solitary at least in human terms, because there is no greater example of team work available in the world today. With a relationship built on trust, it is up to the dogs to trust the driver and vice versa when the journey becomes a little rough - and indeed it does. With -20˚C considered a common winter temperature, and the potential existing for it to drop much lower than that, many precautions and eventualities (such as weather and injury) need to be kept in mind and planned for.
In these conditions it is possible to die in minutes if subjected to freezing waters due to a careless mistake. Injury needs to be kept in mind not merely for the driver but for the dogs, especially since they are the ones tackling the greatest physical burden. They do however love it, and the majority of them are quite literally born for the task. While the Huskies and Malamoots are the most popular sled dogs, it has become common for owners to breed their own mix of canine variety in an effort to reign supreme.
If you do decide to witness this spectacular event, there are also plenty of other activities and interests to scout out while on this northern vacation. Returning back to Trømso, the main cultural hub of excitement, it is possible to explore other avenues of activity such as reindeer racing for the curious, and the northern art museum of Norway for the artistically inclined. There are many options available in terms of accommodation, but all of them will be steep in price when compared to other parts of the world.
In all honesty there are many attractions to consider, and for those who wish to witness the beauty of the region in summer, it is possible to sample casual activities such as hiking, canoeing, fishing and golf. The beer and cuisine is also excellent, and there are often many festivals in play. I would say the nightlife is great but then the sun does not set - so remember to bring your sunglasses.
About the author
Antony Hayes is a British/South African freelance journalist who currently resides in Norway with his fiancée. He says: "I have learnt that there is no better way to find fuel for writing than travelling, and hope to get back out there soon. My definition of life is similar to that of experience, and when I experience life I like to write about it and share my perspective with the world."