We stayed out late the night before chasing the aurora borealis, so early Friday morning we tiredly jumped out of bed when our alarms went off. Ready for another day out in the arctic tundra–we threw on our warmest clothes and wool socks. That day we headed back to the island of Kvaloya to be transported back in time at the rural farm where the Sami people live and herd reindeer for our own sledding adventure. We were warmly greeted by Trine, who runs Tromso Friluftsenter. She picked us up at the Rica Ishavshotel in the centre of Tromso at 9:00am. The morning sun had just started to peak through the sky and presented a magnificent sunrise greeting Tromso that morning. We headed over the bridge and onto the island of Kvaloya, where we eventually made our way to Risvika, home of the Tromso Friluftsenter. As we drove up to the farm, which is situated directly on the beach and offered a beautiful view north across the Norwegian sea, we could see the faintest outlines of the reindeer and the Sami people. Silence surrounded us except for the ringing of the bells around the reindeers necks and the whispered excitement from the group. We were greeted by a local Sami couple, wearing Gaktii (the traditional clothing made from wool, silk or cotton) who directed us to our sleigh which was led by the only all white reindeer. We situated ourselves in the narrow sleigh. I looked over my shoulder and another reindeer stood just inches from my face looking back at me. “The reindeer have never poked anyone with their antlers… yet,” Trine tells the group, and I hoped that today would not be the first time! Gently the reindeer began to pull our sleigh taking us on a magical ride to experience part of the Sami way of life. The reindeer that live here are all wild and roam free and the ones that are owned by the Sami people are tagged by GPS so that they can be easily located during the winter months. The reindeer naturally find their way back to the Sami people during the colder months knowing they will be fed when the snow falls and food becomes more difficult to find.
After our sleigh ride, we learned how to lasso antlers, feed a baby reindeer and crawl inside the lavvu to experience life as the Sami used to live. Trine taught us about the history and culture of the Sami people and explained how the reindeer are an essential part of the Sami way of life because they are able to provide food, warmth, clothing and transport. Even the antlers, which fall off every year, are used to make jewelry and tools. Once everyone has gotten to enjoy the magical sleigh ride, it was time to warm up so we were taken back to the lavvu near the beach. A lavvu is a traditional Sami home, shaped like a “tee-pee” with walls made out of reindeer hyde and an open top to let the smoke from the fire out. Inside there were wood stumps covered with reindeer furs and a large, crackling fire in the center. We were served Bidos (traditional Sami stew made with reindeer meat and vegetables) while we learned more about the Sami culture. It was so delicious that we had seconds and thirds (Jamin may have had more). After we devoured our stew, a few joiks were sung to us by one of the local Sami. A joik is a story dedicated to a special person, occasion or animal which is sung to the listener. According to wikipedia, a joik is “one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people.”
I would highly recommend booking with Tromso Friluftsenter for a reindeer sledding experience. Trine and her team were extremely pleasant and the trip was run very smoothly. Visit Tromsø Friluftsenter for more details and a list of the other excursions they offer. The cost for the reindeer raid was 1450 NOK per person which included transport, warm clothes, the reindeer sledding and the meal.