Contribution by Darren Martin, Region 5
The Finland 2018 I.P.A. Adventure
The start of 2018 brought a new adventure for the members of I.P.A. Ireland.
During the 2017 annual trip to the Aran Islands, it was decided that it was time to visit the most northerly I.P.A. house in the world, located in Lapland.
With the destination decided upon it wasn’t long before enthusiastic I.P.A members from around Ireland signed up for this trip to the top of the world.
The group flew out from Dublin, directly to Helsinki and from there caught a connecting flight to the northern region of Lapland.
Assembled were 22 I.P.A. members, coming from 9 of our Regions, all clad in their winter finest and prepared for the extreme cold of -21 degrees, our final destination being 120 km north of the Arctic Circle.
On arrival at the small regional airport in Lapland, our first sensation on exiting the plane was the blast of cold air. This was quickly followed by everyone making the necessary adjustments to the zip on their coats, leaving no room for the cold to enter.
Our bus was waiting and it was a short drive to the I.P.A house, “Finland” in Akaslompolo, Lapland, the most northerly I.P.A. house in the world. All around, the snow was clinging to the branches of the trees in large clumps, in what looked like imposable weights, but somehow the snow remained fast.
On arrival at the I.P.A. Finland house, we were warmly greeted by our host who works as a detective in the serious crime investigation team. She had driven for over six hours to be with us for the weekend and had prepared a welcoming beverage for everyone.
The I.P.A. house which was to be our home for the next few days has a large central living space with a central fire. Just off the main area is the Sauna and it has ten bedrooms.
As we settled in, bags were stowed away and soon we were enjoying that welcoming drink, which was handed out to all. As we had arrived during the night, the next morning came all too soon but everyone was up early to enjoy the magnificent scenery just outside our door.
First things first and we assembled outside and launched the drone, capturing a picture of our group from above. The day’s activities was about to begin and so we boarded the bus, which brought us to our first activity; Husky Sleighing.
As we stepped off the bus, the excited noise of the dogs could be heard at the end of the short track into the woods. Our two person crews were then assigned, instructions received, including the important tip; “don’t pet the dogs, they are eager to get going” and with a shout and a signal we were off, our guide leading the way.
The dogs exploded into action. The trail took us through the frozen landscape, the noise of the crushing snow and the panting of the dogs heralding our journey. An icy fog hung in the air and as we moved along, it became obvious that this was a much colder place than we had anticipated.
Through the winding turns of the trail, the dogs kept pace with a single purpose. Every now and again they would look back with disapproval when the brakes were applied to slow the sleigh.
On our return from the trip, we saw that the frozen fog had formed ice on our eyelashes and clothing but the heated tent and hot berry juice was a real treat immediately after our time out on the frozen trail.
That evening we dined on some of the excellent local cuisine in one of the local restaurants, though it still remains something of a mystery as to what was in the ‘reindeer sauce’ that accompanied the burgers!
When we returned to the house, we discovered that the shed there contained a sleigh, snow shoes and a bike with oversized tyres for the snow and of course, they had to be tried.
It was all going well until someone discovered that using a snow drift as a brake for the sleigh was not the best idea!
With conversation in full swing, the room fell to hushed admiration as a traditional Irish song was sung to the dying embers of the fire and the end to day one.
Day two was to be just as exciting with plans for a 12 km skidoo trip across a frozen lake, to a famous snow village.
Every winter the hotel there is built out of solid ice, with a particular theme and this year the theme was Game of Thrones. With a short instruction of how to drive the skidoo and more importantly how to stop it, we were off again.
Along the way across the frozen lake, we admired the beauty of the frozen landscape. When we arrived at the hotel we had enough time to explore this unique accommodation which even had an ice bar for those not driving home.
Each room was unique in design, the layout depicting images from the show. In the lobby, guests were greeted by the Ice Throne, an ice replica of the iron throne and flanked by an ice statue of ‘The Mountain’.
Each corridor led to a different room containing everything from a White Walker over the bed, to the wolves of House Stark motif. It is possible to stay in the hotel for a night but for us it was a return journey back across the lake, our headlights lighting a surreal snow-filled wonder as we made our way “home”, under a sky filled with the Northern lights.
That evening after a quick trip to the sauna and a short walk down to the restaurant, some of us decided to dine again on the local specialties and we were not disappointed. That evening we enjoyed conversation with our
hosts and extended invitations to this year’s “IPA Aran Islands Event”.
The next day saw the start of our long trip home. For some, that journey was longer than for others, but that really is another story!
The friendship and generosity of our hosts certainly lives up to the motto of the I.P.A. ‘Servo per Amikeco’ – Service through Friendship.
A return trip to Lapland may be undertaken and this time we may visit that special fella in the red suit for Christmas.
It truly is a magical place where we made amazing new friends. As it turned out our cold weather experience came in handy a short time later when the Arctic snow came to Ireland with storm Emma.