By Laurent Lefevre
(Part 1 of 2) – Welcome to Rajamaa, located in Swedish Lapland, some 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. Rajamaa actually is in Pitkäsaari by the river Muonio uniting Sweden with Finland. In this isolated territory man still lives in harmony with nature. It is a great place for a Covid – Safe adventure. From forest skiing and snow shoeing to discovering dogs and traveling on reindeers sledges, and meeting Sami people, the last indigenous people of Europe, going through this part of Sweden to see and photograph the Northern Lights was unforgettable.
Into The Heart of Blankness
To explore the area, nothing better than to put on snowshoes. When you leave the main piste and plunge deep in the forest snowshoes on, your body seems to sink into the powder snow: the surprise quickly gives way to pleasure for this new sensation.
As the Kurtz of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, you penetrate deeper and deeper into the heart of blankness. It is ‘like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty space opens to you and a great silence envelops you, only disturbed by the scratching of your feet on the powder snow.
This guided trip Led by Lars, makes you experience the rare nature of the Taiga: tracks of birds, lynx feet in the fresh snow, a trunk lacerated by a bear which has marked its territory before going in hibernation.
Gliding Among Pines and Spruces
With forest skies, the old white skies of the Swedish army, you can go deep in the forest. On a morning’s frozen snow, it is exhilarating to glide among pines and spruces in this northern coniferous forest.
Some trees bend under the snow, dazzling you with their whiteness or catching your eyes with their strange winter coats which make them look like the Michelin Man. The long-time-awaited snow has fallen in abundance and sticks to your skis when the temperature reaches around 30°F (-1 °C), an abnormal heat for these latitudes. The snow hadn’t arrived until the end of November, a month classified worldwide as the warmest ever recorded (+ 0.77°C above average, but in Scandinavia it was almost 5°C, above average temperatures).
Around midday, your lunch is cooked on a flaming log fire in the forest. Like the Bedouins of the Sahara who dig in the sand to light their fire or for shelter, Lars clears a large circle in the snow and carves a few logs with a knife attached to his belt. Before snowshoeing back to Rajamaa, we savor a sausage grilled over the flame and a hot blackcurrant juice.
First Northern Lights
At Rajamaa it snowed most of the day on Februay 25, 2021. Unexpectedly, the sky provides a clear night and a Northern light can be spotted, like the trailer of the night filled with Northern lights that we will be able to see from the refuge Moukon Kuusikot built by Lars.
[…to be continued.]
Please note: Sweden requires a negative PCR-test for Covid for entering the country. It should not be older than 48 hours.
Photos by Fabrice Lievin, Serge Maraval, Valérie Tournois, Hélène Vienney-Touraine.