We have kids from sunny Australia with us this Easter holidays in Norway and so have an explosion of Norwegian activities on our calendar. One of the activities that is a must-do when you come to Norway is dog sledding.
Last year we went dog sledding in Alta, Finnmark (you can read more about it in our article Dog Sledding). This year we thought we’d try out dog sledding in our home town, Tromsø, in the evening. (Normally the evening tours between November and February gives you a chance to see the Northern Lights as well but because this Easter is so late in the year it was unlikely for us to see them.)
When you arrive at the Dog Sledding Centre you get geared up straight away. Everything is supplied to you – jumpsuits and boots. Don’t be shy to pick up an extra pair of mittens to put over your gloves or a fur hat over your beanie as the evening tour can get rather chilly. It is good to wear the goggles supplied as they are tinted yellow which neutralises the blue evening light and enables you to see much better. The goggles also protect you from the cold breeze. It’s actually quite fun to dress up in the Arctic gear. Watching the kids figure out how to put on the clothes made us laugh – they looked like they were going on an expedition to the moon.
Each Centre runs their tours differently. In Alta we had our own sled to drive with a team of five dogs. In Tromsø we had four of us to one sled – two in the sled and one standing with the instructor – with a twelve dog team. You need to make sure the instructor knows which of you want to drive the sled so you can change at certain points, otherwise you will miss out.
The dogs greet you with loud barking and excitement. They know it’s time to go out for a run. After receiving a couple of instructions the tour takes off immediately and all of a sudden the dogs go quiet as they scanter through the snow as fast as they can.
As we went the sun was setting and so we got to see the moods change in the atmosphere. This is the time where the native animals come out to hunt and we saw an Arctic fox on the prowl in the distance. During the tour the instructor spoke about the dogs and how they are trained. The ride was a little bumpy in places, like bouncing over waves in a speed boat and the sled tilted and turned with the contours of the snow.
(Even though I might have needed another cushion, being pregnant and all…lol) the kids loved all the bumps and zig-zags. The smiles on their faces could be seen for miles.
It was really pretty to see Tromsø city light up across the fjord. The snow in the sky and the cold in the water made a wonderful blue-grey picture. The white fluffy snow captured all sound and the quietness made the tour even more wonderful (even the kids held their breath as we sped down the hill towards the valley).
Racing towards the Centre we could hear the other dogs welcoming us home. Some jumped up on their kennel roofs for a better look at us coming down the slope. With the anchor down we climbed off and thanked our team with hugs and pats. Sled dogs are very friendly and enjoy the attention and admiration.
At this time of year there are usually pups in a near-by kennel. We were encouraged to say ‘hi’ and the kids were a big hit. Visiting the pups is part of their training to get used to strangers. One of the remarkable traits of a sled dog is their positive attitude. All the dogs seem very confident and happy. And even though there were over 280 dogs at the Centre they all get the attention they deserve.
After the ride in the brisk air we went into the Lavvo for dinner. With a big fire in the middle and reindeer skin throw-rugs on our seats, it was very easy to warm up. we were served a three course meal:
Buljong – is a traditional Sami broth that is usually served at celebrations such as weddings. The reindeer meat is simmered overnight. The next day potatoes, cabbage and swede are added (the traditional growing vegetables in Northern Norway). The Buljong is the ‘stock’ from the stew and is drunk with dipping bread.
Bidos – a traditional Sami dish is the stew of Buljong. The fatty parts of the reindeer meat is very important to the flavour and texture of the stew. The bones are also left in the stew and the vegetables are cooked until very soft. Bidos is the Sami equivalent to Fårikål
Chocolate Cake for dessert with tea or coffee.
The kids were a little hesitant at first to try the reindeer meat. With a little bite they realised that reindeer tasted like beef but was as tender as chicken. However, they still opted for ‘pølse i brød’ (sausage in bread) – they couldn’t resist the opportunity to cook it themselves on the fire. They loved munching on the Norwegian flat bread too – until I told them it was healthy. Lompe is a traditional flat bread that is made out of mashed potato and flour. It is common to eat it with Norwegian sausage and is sold at any good hot dog outlet.
With great food in our tummies and an adventure to last a lifetime, we headed back to the bright city. The kids were ‘tuckered’ and for the first time since their arrival… slept in!
Tourist Tip: It is a lot cheaper to go directly through the kennel. Tourist Information Centres charge for their services and can rank up the price 100%. Because we had our own transport and booked directly, we saved 50% off what the Tourist Information Centre normally charges.