My personal traveling style certainly does not include staying in villas! I do not earn enough, and even if I do, I cannot spend it on villas. I want to travel every 15 days, I certainly do not earn enough to stay every 15 days in a posh accommodation. How I wish I could take just two vacations in a year and splurge. But that is just not me.
And yet I ended up staying in a villa! When I go on such trips, I do feel someone up there is keeping a kind eye on me. For my #lumiainlapland trip I was staying at the Levi Spirit Villa in Levi, Lapland. After seeing a bit of luxury on my invited trips, I am sort of getting accustomed to it on the sponsored trips. But at this villa even my eyes popped out. First, the location took my breath away, it was located in a winter wonderland! Each villa has four bed rooms on the second floor and one bedroom is in the attic. We were four members from India who shared the villa.
Levi Spirit Villa was sheer luxury. With a nicely done living area the villa had things that I could not even try in my two night stay. For example I could never switch on the music system with Bose speakers. I never managed to switch on the large living room TV as well. For that matter I never managed to switch on the bedroom TV. Then downstairs there was home theater, sadly that also went unused too.
What I did use was the sauna and the outdoor Jacuzzi. Each villa had its own sauna and Jacuzzi. Now that was ultimate luxury for me. On the second evening all four of us went to the outdoor Jacuzzi and enjoyed watching the snow outside. It was such fun to be in hot water while there was snow everywhere around us. Better still, have a look at the video to see the villa virtually.
With beer in hand we went to the hot sauna (this one was a different sauna than the ice dip madness) and I had such a great time. I had to almost pinch myself to believe that this was for real. For me my fist villa stay with the Levi Spirit has been such a memorable experience.
I am scared of them Doggies. When I got to know about the Husky Dog Sledge ride in Levi (Lapland, Finland) at the #lumiainlapland event, I had mixed feelings. I was not sure how I would react to a dog sledge ride. But then I had to give it a try! I also did not know who was supposed to drive the sledge. I was very clear I was not up to it. When Mark asked me if I would go with him, I smiled. I don’t remember what I said to him but I try not to make the same mistakes twice! I knew what a dare devil he was with the snow mobile, there was no chance I was going on a husky ride with him! Thankfully the sledges were driven by the experts, they would not trust their precious animals to us rookies!
But reaching to the Levi Husky Park was a minor adventure. We first reached the wrong place first. We all got down from the bus, started clicking pictures, only to be told that we were at the wrong park! We got back to the bus again, this time we reached the correct place in the end. The dogs were in large enclosed areas, they started barking at our arrival, I guess in excitement and welcome. It did leave me a bit nervous. But going on the ride was actually easy. I just had to sit on the sledge, they tucked me in, in an extra blanket and off we went, galloping and tearing.
For me, an event is not complete if I cannot take pictures of it. I was the first person in the sledge. All the snow flakes the dogs sent up with their paws, would try to find its way around my face and neck. At one point I closed my eyes to avoid the flakes, even though I didn’t want to miss any of the view.
I am not very good at using my camera with gloves in my hands. So, I took them off to take a video! I lasted for 13 seconds in all before I feared that my hands would get frozen solid. One of the members of the team kept her hands out. After the ride she asked me to put on the gloves for her, she had no sensation in her hands for a while. It was scarily cold when the dogs took off. However much I like to take pictures, I just could not keep my hands out. Even with my fear of dogs, this was a fun ride, which I would be happy to repeat whenever I get a chance next!
Even before leaving for the #lumiainlapland we were told to carry our swim suites for the sauna experience. I have been to saunas in the past but within Indian spas. The Finnish take the sauna experience to an altogether different level. First of all we have to take into account the weather. When I landed at the Kittila Aiport the pilot cheerfully announced, “Welcome to Kittila, the weather is the usual Lapland weather, the temperature outside is -22 degrees.” Now that sounded incredibly cold to me. Thankfully the walk to the terminal building was short. I was happy to be back inside with central heating.
Throughout my stay at Levi, Lapland the temperature was minus something. With no sunshine for three months in winter (the days and nights were roughly equal when I was there in March) a hot sauna makes complete sense. We had with us Friida Turku from Nokia who is a local. She gave us great insights to the sauna culture of Finland and Finland in general. She said many apartment complexes would have a sauna where you could book time, even homes may have it. Business deals apparently are sealed in saunas in Finland.
It makes perfect sense for such cold weather. If you Google images for Finnish Sauna you would also see how comfortable they are with nudity. Friida mentioned that recently Finland went with mixed sex saunas and people have mixed feelings about it.
Our group had people from China and India apart from our hosts Frida and Prima. We women went into the sauna first. We changed into our swim suites in a changing room. Armed with bathrobe to keep the cold away, we ran to the sauna which was a short distance away from the changing room shivering all the way.
Once we got in the warmth was oh so welcome. It was a traditional sauna with a huge wood container to generate heat. We were carrying cool drinks to the hot sauna. I was sipping on a beer in the steaming sauna with 7 other women, sitting on wooden benches that went around the room. I was content, I was happy. Our hosts had other ideas though. Apparently it is a Finnish tradition that once you have become nice and cozy you cannot sit content. You have to get out and take a dip in ice cold water! Friida and her colleague Prima exhorted all of us to go and do it.
Imagine getting out in the snow again from a warm sauna. It felt like madness. I thought I had the fill of madness for the day with the snow mobile ride already. But out we marched. They had a special hatch which was covered and hence it had water in which ice crystals were floating. Everything else of course was frozen solid. Friida was the first to go. I was almost the last. Did I scream? You bet I did. One quick dip and I was out of it as fast as my numb legs would carry me. There are pictures of this event to prove that I actually did it, but then my swim suit pictures are not going to make it to the blog.
Getting inside the sauna again was such a bliss. Any rational group would have settled down in the hot sauna and enjoyed the rest of the time, remember the men were waiting for us to get out. But then we were not a rational group. We next decided to make snow angels and unlike the lady portrayed in the link who is fully clothed we were in our swim suites. So out we went to make snow angels. You can hear us scream in this video while we indulged in more madness.
After a few seconds, once again we ran back to the sauna screaming. However, guys started knocking at the door saying we were taking too much time. We asked them to go away. But we knew we had to get out. By now we were experts at getting out in the cold and walking around. The warm changing room was still quite a welcome relief once we got there. With an icy dip, making snow angels and drinking beer in a warm sauna, I wonder if I could have got a better introduction to the ultimate Finnish sauna experience!
I am not a big fan of driving anything that has petrol in it. Snow mobile was no exception. I was given an opportunity to experience the snow mobile at Levi, Lapland that is in Finland. The event was known as #lumiainlapland
Anyway, I forgot my driving license in the room. So, I decided I would go as a pillion rider with Mark Hindle who works for Nokia. When I asked him if I could go with him, he said sure but he would go fast. I thought I was fine with that! There were about 7-8 snow mobiles all going one after the other. It was cold (-22 when we landed) but I was wearing the right gear (all provided by the Nokia team handling #lumiainlapland event) so I was looking forward to enjoy the scenery.
We had two instructors with the group one riding at the front and the other being the sweep. Mark would let everyone go ahead and maintain just enough distance from the instructor at the end. And then he would accelerate! Soon, I was hanging on for my dear life with both my hands, gripping the handles as tightly I could. He told me I had to scream if I wanted him to go faster. I could have screamed much more readily out of fear but I somehow managed not to. There was no question of me wanting to go any faster.
When the first photography stop came I already wanted the ride to be over.
However, I had no such luck. In this second spell I was suddenly conscious of how many bones there were in my body and how brittle they felt. If I fell off I was sure a lot many of them were going to break. I thought it was a good thing that Nokia was covering all my medical expanses in Finland. But then I was wondering how would my family feel if I ended up with broken bones in a hospital in that part of the world! These were the kind of thoughts I had for the most of the ride.
At the rare occasions when Mark would go slowly (because there was someone in the front and he had no space) I could see how beautiful the landscape was. But most of the time, I was left gripping the handles tightly and praying that I would not fly off. I had to grant it to Mark that he would immediately slow down at the first sign of trouble. But then he would push the snow mobile almost that far too. I cannot count on how many occasions I didn’t like the noises coming from the machine. But then it would almost go off immediately, as Mark would back off at that precise moment.
At the second break I asked him if he had done this before, to which he said ‘yes’ thankfully. Then I asked him if he was a biker to which he said yes again. He told me owned a Yamaha. When I asked him where would he go for biking, he said- dirt biking! Now that explained a bit of his driving. At this second photo break I eyed the other drivers. Some of them were going solo and not at such speed. I thought if I should switch snow mobiles but it remained just a thought.
When we would make a temporary stop I would tell Mark that I had taken off my gloves to click a few picture and under no circumstances he should fly off without letting me know. I did not fancy broken bones in any way. He often asked me if I was good during these breaks and I always grinned and said yes. My brain was in a freeze frame.
By the third stop I was desperate for the ride to end, for all I was thinking during the ride was about being thrown off, broken bones, medical expanses, brittle bones, hospitals, helmets, heads, you get the idea! When the cottages came into the view I let out an audible sigh of relief, we were moving to the civilization and maybe I was going to escape with all my bones intact in the end. I could sense that Mark thought it was over too soon. For me it was all I my nerves could stand!
After I got off I hugged him, in relief of coming out in one piece from this ride. In his defense Mark told me from the word go he would go fast. It was I who could not conceptualize he would go bone rattling, nerve racking fast. Later he mentioned with a grin that we were going at 100 to 110 kmph. Eventually when we were sitting in the bus and driving back to the Levi Spirit villa, I guess I must have had a lost look on my face. Mark asked me how was I doing. I told him and everyone who was listening- slowly my bones were turning back from jelly. I now know what it means when they say your bones turned to jelly.
The two lessons I learned from this experience- drive the snow mobile yourself the next time and go at 30 kmph, enjoy the scenery. I also learned that it makes sense to have a good secondary camera for such trips when a SLR cannot be lugged around. I clicked all the pictures on this ride with my Lumia 1020.