It was with some trepidation that I joined my first snowmobile tour into what looked like a frozen alien landscape. A place where no sensible person should tread. Sounds dangerous? Let me explain, I am a sailor. Happiest with a full main and perfectly trimmed genoa and standing on a heaving timber deck. Preferably somewhere tropical.
On this day however Göran Widén, arctic adventurer, is explaining to us how we are going to take our snowmobiles, neatly lined in front of us at Brändön Lodge, out across the sea to visit some very interesting islands and the pack ice of the Baltic. Yup…..we would be lucky to survive.
After selecting our winter clothing the skills briefing was fun. These snowmobiles seemed quite easy to operate and mine even had heated handgrips. Göran and his fellow guide Patrik show us the requisite safety and driving tips and we head off into the wilderness. As you drive down onto the sea ice you wonder where this was going to end but to my shock it was easy. The snowmobiles are quite powerful and as we scoot across the flat ice and snow, I am already starting to wonder how fast this machine might go.
Patrik is well out in front showing us the way and we are spread out in a line along the ice. This was no trail ride, though. We were able to control our speed to level comfortable for us and there are a surprising number of small obstacles on the ice that we have to navigate. I start to look around and there is a vast expanse of flat sea ice in all directions. It is a little surreal knowing, having no true appreciation for the thickness of the ice, that we are crossing the sea and heading to a small island now closing in fast. Here we stop for a short break.
Here, just south of the arctic circle, out in the middle of 1300 islands where only about 100 people reside there are no sounds.
Göran signals turn off your machine. Suddenly the silence is obvious. Here, just south of the arctic circle, out in the middle of 1300 islands where only about 100 people reside there are no sounds. No traffic, no horns, no people yelling. Just silence. ….and wry smiles on the face of Göran and Patrik. They have seen this awakening many times before as people enter their remote world.
Göran’s family is the owner of Brändö Lodge and Pine Bay Lodge and the tour to the pack ice is one of their most popular. Patrik, who we learn later has been a champion Swedish Skier, and Göran have an easy manner, very comfortable with each other and us. We are now relaxed and over our nervousness and looking forward to the rest of this four hour adventure. Onward we make several stops such as this on the way out through the archipelago on our way to the pack ice with our guides providing information on local history and the surprising amount of wildlife that live here.