Well, what a week this one is and honestly I could write for days on either of the two subjects featured as this week’s highlights and probably still find some more to write about.
When you talk about magical moments in life, you kinda don’t expect them to be within 48 hours of each other. But here we are. And I can safely say that it doesn’t dampen either of them!
Highs and lows of the week(s)
High moment: Seeing wild bears. Watching the Northern Lights. Being back in Norway.
Low moments: Norweigian food prices. Ouch!
The week started with me finally booking a night in a bear hide at the fantastic: Bear Centre Finland.
You can stay there as if it were an ordinary hotel, and pay to visit the bears in a group hide. Or you can do what I did and pay for the hide of an evening and spend the night in the wild Finnish woods and wait for bears to come to you!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the bear experience. It was something I had seen online after my adventures with bears in Yellowstone National Park earlier this summer and knew it was something I wanted to do.
For the last week or so this has been the sole reason for driving so many miles and for going deep into Finland.
When I finally arrived, I was a little nervous and apprehensive about what was to come, probably made worse when I eventually made it to the hide.
Which had a lock my 1-year-old niece could have opened and I was 0.4 miles away from the Russian border with the prospect of a 500kg bear coming to play during the night!
I’ll be honest, at this point, I really didn’t have too many expectations and I can safely say they’d been blown out of the water.
At approximately 5:30 PM across the water from my small hideout popped my first brown bear!
Oh no wait, is that a cub too?!
Oh no wait, it’s two cubs!
Not only that, Mum was white too! Or blonde, but apparently there aren’t many of her colours in the whole of Finland.
So there I am, looking down the lens of my camera at one of the rarest bears in the whole of Finland, and she’s got two cubs in tow.
That moment in itself will be one I will be able to replay in my head over and over again. Peacefully watching Mum and her cubs do her thing. Eating, playing, and eventually disappearing back off into the woodland behind me.
What would beat that? Surely there’s not another bear experience that could beat that.
Brutus: Hold my reindeer.
So I’m casually looking down at my camera, amazed at the shots I’d captured of Mum and her cubs, then I glanced up and holy fuck, there’s a HUGE bear standing on the opposite side of the lake. How didn’t I hear him?!
At this point I didn’t know he was Brutus, it was only the next morning I found out but my goodness this was a BIG BEAR.
Like, shit your pants big.
He wanders around the left-hand side of the lake and is almost out of view, only to double back himself…
…STRAIGHT FOR CABIN 25.
At this point, I can hear his paws on the ground with every stride.
As he gets closer I can hear his deep breaths.
He keeps coming.
Now, let’s picture the scene for a second.
I’m in a shed, that’s basically what it is. With four holes in the front of it, essentially covered with curtains so that you can poke your camera through. A lock on a small door that, Dottie-Mae, my one-year-old niece could open…
…AND A 500KG FUCKING BEAR 3-5 meters in front of me.
When I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. Brutus terrified me in a weirdly surreal way and honestly was one of the best experiences of my life despite soiling my knickers for approximately 5 minutes straight.
I ended up staying a second night in the hides, as the first night was so good. Caught up on some sleep, refueled myse,lf and then settled in for the night in a different hide.
A similar experience to the first, getting to see Mum and cubs for a second time and then spending more time with Brutus.
I would highly recommend everyone comes and has a bear experience of their own as it was truly special.
The home of Santa Claus
From the bear center I knew the next destination would be up towards Rovaniemi, somewhere I’ve visited before and actually the home of someone quite famous.
The drive up through Finland was superb, and it’s firmly placed itself in the top 5 for me.
There’s a point in Finland where you basically cross the ‘Reindeer’ line.
A line where, I assume, the Sami people have free roaming reindeer that could spring up on you at any point.
Within the 3-hour drive North, I think I saw maybe 25-30 roadside reindeer, and it never got old!
A quick pit stops and stay in Rovaniemi, which wouldn’t have been completed without a coffee from the most Northern McDonalds in the world!
I’ve been here before so it was only a flying visit, not by reindeer, unfortunately. But knew I wanted to visit the Santa Claus village and pick something up for my niece so that she can say she got a reindeer from Santa himself!
Right inside the village is the Arctic circle, so from this point onwards, I’m more than 68 degrees North!
The original plan was to take my time through Finland to reach Northern Norway, however, when the Aurora app pinged me and told me it was expected to be strong that evening, I couldn’t resist.
Strapped in, 7 hours of driving through Finland, across Sweden, and into Northern Norway.
Norway has been somewhere that I’ve loved since my first visit back in 2017.
It’s hard to explain, but it feels like home.
The mountains are different here, the Fjords explain themselves, then combine that with the people, the culture, and the dramatic landscapes. It captured me and never let me go.
Having tried to come back here a few times since my second visit in 2019, this time was going to be special.
How special, I wasn’t ready for it.
As if like clockwork I reached the end of my drive and was just about to cross the border into Norge when the skies laid out their green carpet for me.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights before, but this time was different.
Crossing back into the country I fell in love with 5 years ago whilst the Aurora danced above me was an experience I’ll never be able to express. So special it brought me to tears, before quickly realizing those tears will probably freeze inside the Arctic, so pull your shit together Lou…
Back hiking in the Lofoten
The Lofoten archipelago is a series of islands that branch out from mainland Norway and offer some of the most diverse landscapes in the whole world.
Made rich and famous by the millions of Cod that come here to spawn every year. The Lofoten is primarily made up of fishing villages but has the most insane alpine peaks, jagged ridges, and Maldives ‘Esque’ beaches.
That said, it rains a lot here. When the rain doesn’t show, you feel somewhat obliged to get 70out and enjoy what the Lofoten has to offer.
I managed to bag Tjeldbergtinden which is a small peak but offers wonderful panoramic views of Svolvaer and further afield.
Then managed to get over to Henningsvaer to see the famous football pitch that probably put Henningsvaer on the map.
From Henningsvaer I managed to get up to the highest point which is Festvagtinden, and then over to the scenic Preston lookout.
All in all, a really solid week.
Some miles in the legs.
Some aches in the knees.
A few ££’s later from getting my pants pulled down at the Norweigian supermarket.
But other than that, would 100% do again.
Appreciate this weeks a big one, thankfully it’s the only big thing you’ll get from me.
Till next week.