Like excited kids on Christmas morning we were down the hill in to town as fast as we could without falling on our ass. Katherine was giddy with the fresh coat of snow and when I checked us off the list for the tour, the bus driver was wondering where she was, glued to the harbour fence getting a photo of the Arctic Cathedral and hill-top observatory.
The bus journey was incredible, with views and scenery that neither of us had ever seen before. It was a unique journey, not knowing where we were going, just relaxing and watching the world go by. Normally worried about when to shout at the driver or having to get our coats and bits together for a speedy jump off the coach, the time passed by and we arrived at Camp Tomak.
Incredibly well set-up, the adventure park for want of a better word, had huts dedicated to each activity and staff milling about getting things set up. We got in to our very fetching suits (Katherine got the only red one) and watched as the morning dog sled trip returned, people beaming from ear to ear. We split up in to groups with Dave being our guide. He had a lovely accent to his amazing English and while his jokes didn’t at first make sense, he was still very humorous and had us start our route before the snowmobiles set off.
The start of the outing was uphill and Katherine was a machine powering up the slopes with the dogs, either kicking with alternative legs or running with the pack. As a passenger I was treated to a rollercoaster of a ride, whizzing past trees and branches with the opportunity to glide my hand across snow dust.
I quickly drained the battery on the main camera, with the GoPro hopefully recording some footage. Dave regularly stopped to check on us – Katherine was always right at his heels, while the rest lagged behind – and was saying that this looked to be the first day of sunshine he saw in 4 months. Sure enough, coming out of a glade of silver birch, we had an open expanse of snow with the sun briefly casting its warmth across the valley between two mountains. It was glorious. Ripples of snow were now highlighted like open quartz and patches were sparkling as if diamonds were thrown asunder after a jewel heist.
We continued on for a while more, with saplings and trees desperate to be seen buried in the snow. We stopped briefly to change drivers/passengers and take a few photos. The track over which the sled was running was deep. Occasionally there would be an intermittent gap in the smooth flow of the sled as Katherine would kick down in to snow that wasn’t compacted. But, nothing compared to this rest stop where the snow to the side of track was deep and yielding.
We managed to change camera batteries without freezing the camera and take a few snaps, posing with the pack of dogs behind us. The return journey wasn’t as long, but wow what a rush. All the uphills that Katherine had navigated proved to be an adrenaline rush of Bond style, bumping up and down mounds of snow in the forest sections and swinging my body weight out over the side of the sled to help with the tight corners at speed. It was epic and the pack of 5x dogs loved being able to run at full pelt. The chap behind kept swearing and shouting and didn’t control the sled very well on the way back, so we all had to put on the extra breaking mechanism on the sled to slow us (him) down and prevent the dogs from overtaking each other, i.e. not running next to our sled or between our legs. But, we returned to camp in a lap of honour, reminiscent of a coliseum scene, around the other dog kennels and stopped back where we started.
We had lunch of fish stew with lovely chunks of cod and salmon. There was fresh bread offered round and the lady dressed in traditional garments was very obliging in topping up coffees or hot squash. The laddu (as I hope it’s spelled, Google returns LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) or ladoo (Indian sweet) was nice and cosy and the cold was felt as people started to come in and out after their meal, the breeze whirling around the tent. (In Sweden I’ve now seen it spelled ‘Lavvu’) We returned our boiler suits, jumped back on to a suddenly overcrowded bus and motored back to Tromsø with adrenaline still pumping through us from the experience.
We had dinner in a restaurant next to the dock. We watched as the observation building on the hill came in and out of view during the evening and boats power northwards. We walked across the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral and enjoyed a different perspective of the city from the other island.
The concert within the Artic Cathedral was short but wonderful. They trio of performers – soprano, celloist and pianist – started on the balcony where they used the organ in two pieces. The soprano then gradually walked down the aisle for the third song, her voice projecting in a breathtaking fashion in the triangular architecture. We were then treated to a variety of folk and traditional songs, with much of the lyrics sounding the same, but the tempo and accompanying instruments giving a vibrancy and charm to different melodies.
The concert ended and the congregation departed, with many people traversing the bridge on the wrong side, facing the wrath of cyclists. We enjoyed our night stroll and detoured to devour a snow cupcake before heading to bed.
Sunday, 17th February 2019