Saturday, April 10

Reindeer games

Dog sled riding is so passé. It's the ultimate cliché Arctic tourist activity. It's also incredibly expensive. The savvy tourist always chooses a reindeer sled ride. First, it's cheaper and your sled experience feels far less artificial. Reindeer live outside in the snow, they don't come to your hotel packed in a rusty kennel trailer. Second, you always set up your own sled, which includes catching your own reindeer with a lasso. They don't stand around waiting for you. Finally, they're largely silent unlike those dogs. This means you're able to truly enjoy the icy wilderness, soothed by sound of your sled sliding through the snow.

Garry and I booked ourselves on a tour that took us reindeer sledding through snow-clad pine forests and across the flat, white expanse of a frozen lake. As luck would have it, we were the only booking and thus we had the entire pristine Arctic landscape to ourselves for more than four hours. Well - almost to ourselves - we had a guide and three patient reindeer with us. Half of our time was spent sleding; the rest saw us camped around a fire in the snow, dining on traditional Sammi reindeer soup and flat bread.

Garry was a master with his lasso, while I struggled to catch anything other than thin air. When I finally did lasso myself a reindeer, the stubborn creature refused to budge an inch and I eventually had to let to go. Once our reindeer were captured and harnessed, as with all tours, our guide patiently explained what to do should we fall from our sled, or if our reindeer were to veer off course.

However, we weren't told what to do should our guide fall from her sled. Naturally, this happened and for several hilarious minutes we watched our reindeer dutifully chasing after an unmanned sled. I did begin to wonder if we were destinated to sled our way across the entire width of Sweden. However, in a moment of pure Hollywood stunt craft, our guide commandeered Garry's sled, rode up alongside her emply sled and lept from one to the other.

The next funny moment occured when Garry stepped off his sled to rescue our guide's mobile phone. He swiftly discovered that the surrounding snow cover was more than a metre thick. Within seconds he found himself buried up to his waist and remained entombed until I came to his aid. The entire hilarious incident was then given a final slap stick moment as Garry's reindeer stepped back, pinning our guide's phone under its hoof.

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