Dog sledding in Tromsø

Dog sledding is one of the most popular activities there are to do while in the Arctic. It’s just a great experience. You can book this activity at any agency in Tromsø and it’s a half day trip. I got picked up at 9am by a minibus at Scandic Ishavshotel by the harbour which was only a 10 minute walk from the hostel I was staying in.
It’s easy to do everything by foot in Tromsø and all the tour pickups are at the harbour.

dog sledding center

Once arrived at the dog sledding center, the dogs were very enthusiastic, they like to be pet, they were howling of joy and to get the visitor’s attention.
Before going on the sled there was a small briefing about the dogs, how to steer a sled and what clothes to put on. I got a suit to protect me against the wind and boots.
My shoes and other stuff that I had with me like my jacket were not necessary and was stored in the lockers.

dogs like to be pet

dog standing on the roof of the dog house on the lookout

selfie with the dogs

dogs are ready

dogs waiting

You need to be with two persons to do the dog sledding on these tours so I got teamed up with another person who was a solo traveler like me. He was from the Philippines and told me he already had some experience as it was not his first time on a dog sledding adventure. Alright somebody with experience how convenient for me, what could go wrong ? nothing right ?

here we go

little bit uphill

run run run

great view over the lake and the mountains in the back

snow landscape

sitting on the sled

Well, we had a little accident, not too bad as we had some luck. There was one moment when my partner who was steering the sled forgot to use the break at a certain point when the sled in front of us had stopped and ran right in to the person (girl) in front of us steering the sled. She fell down on her bottom, but with more speed we could have broken her leg, so one of the most important things in dog sledding is to keep a good distance with the sled in front of you and use the brakes at the right time for the dogs to slow down.
Cause it’s impressive how fast these dogs can run. When it goes a little bit uphill you are supposed to help the dogs a bit by helping pushing the sled up, but our dogs were so hyped up to run that they did it mostly by themselves without any help needed.
There was also a moment where one dog got a little bit frustrated when all the sleds were standing still. He attacked the dog next to him and in the struggle they all got strangled up in the ropes, but amazingly got very fast back in position again to continue the run. We had some crazy dogs, but they did a very good job

my time to steer the sled

I like the steering very much

picture with this beautiful scenery

Every 15 minutes we made a stop to take in the beautiful scenery, the environment covered with snow, the view over the nearby lake and mountains. That was also the time to switch, now it was my time to steer and my partner to go sit on the sled.
When you steer you need to be focused on the dogs and no filming with the camera, that’s for the person sitting on the sled to do the filming and taking the pictures.
I must say I didn’t have any problems with steering the sled, it’s not that hard, but I did almost make a little mistake. there was a passage with 3 short turns and the sled was going very fast and I thought we could get fast through these turns without the need of slowing down using the brake, and that almost got wrong, it was too fast and the sled was leaning too much to the right side and my one foot fell off into the deep snow, luckily I never used grip in my arms and could jump up the sled again keep it in balance and push as hard as I could on the brakes. The dogs got the message and slowed down immediately and made it back safe to the dog sledding center.
The cool thing about this dog sledding experience is the fact that me and my partner could switch about 3 times to steer the sled.

back from the activity

Back at the center, it was time to warm up again and some tea, coffee and chocolate cake was served. After that we said goodbye to the dogs and returned to Tromsø to be dropped off at the harbour again.

campfire outside at the dog center

We all went inside this wooden hut after the activity

coffee and cake

We all got inside the tent where there was a warm stove

 

 

Tromsø above the Arctic Circle

Tromso or Tromsø as it’s written in Norwegian, is a magical place in the North of Norway. This place in the province of Troms in Norwegian lapland is getting more and more popular for those wanting to travel to the Arctic and have an amazing Arctic experience with lots of activities to choose from. In the wintertime there is only 4 days of daylight with long Polar nights and the possibility to see the northern lights just adds to the excitement of visiting this place.

The Town of Tromsø is very tranquil, it has a small centre, you can walk it all on foot as everything is nearby, shops, restaurants,the harbour.

Tromso Harbour

What is there to see in Tromsø ?

The Domkirke which is the most Nordic Cathedral in the world and at the same time the only wooden Cathedral in Norway.

The Arctic Cathedral which is a Cathedral that looks like an Iceberg and can be reached easily just by Crossing the the Tromso road bridge, it’s the first building you will see. The front of the building has a big cross at the entrance and at the back of the building you will see a big colorful mosaic glasswork.

Fjellheisen Cable Car

After crossing the Tromso bridge from Tromso  Island to mainland Tromso over the strait of Tromsøysundet go up the street next to the Arctic Cathedral and turn right at the Spar shop and follow the signs Fjellheisen to get to the Cable Car station to take the cable car up the mountain from which you have a great view over Tromso.
In wintertime try to go before 2pm as it gets dark after that, still with a nice view over Tromso and it’s city lights. I personally liked more the clearer view. There’s also restaurant on top of the mountain where you can try the reindeer burger with a local Norwegian beer like I did. I stayed on the mountain about 1 hour and half before taking the cable line down again and walk my way back to the city center the same way I came by crossing the Tromso bridge.

The Domkirke, the only wooden Cathedral in Norway

Arctic Cathedral

side wall of the Arctic Cathedral

Arctic Cathedral

glasswork at the backside of the Cathedral

fbtmdn

taking the cable car

clear sky view, last hour of daylight

view over Tromso Island

Arctic selfie

great views over the mountains and the visitors footprints in the snow

Cable line endstation on the mountain

what a view, it’s getting darker

another great view

Tromso and the Tromso bridge at 3pm in the afternoon dark sky

Restaurant at Fjelheissen

trying the reindeer burger

Where to stay ?

I stayed in the Tromso Activities hostel which is a very good hostel.
It’s possible to book tours here and the friendly staff will help you with that. The hostel is a budget friendly alternative to the rather expensive hotels in Tromso. It’s not the cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in, but still better than the expensive hotels.
There are not many hostels in Tromso and it’s the only one I could find online that matched my budget.

My hostel in Tromso

How to get from the airport to city center?

Easy , just take bus 42 to the city center, cross the parkinglot and buy a ticket from the ticket machine. Above the ticket machine there is a screen that shows the waiting time for your next bus. A ticket is about 3 euros , a cab would cost you 5 times more about 15 euros. You don’t need cash in Norway, you can just use your credit card for everything.

crdit card ticket machine outside the airport to buy my bus ticket for bus 42

The main reason why I came to Tromso

Offcourse to do the Activities like Dog sledding, meeting the reindeer and the Sami people and offcourse the Northern lights. More about this in my next post.

 

 

Face to face with Hyena’s in Harar – My story

Harar in the east of Ethiopia is the place to go if you want to get yourself surrounded by hyena’s, staring at you like a potential meal. However as unbelievable as it may sound, the hyena’s here are friendly with the people living here.
It’s the only place in Ethiopia where these wild animals got used to people.
Hyena’s are being fed with scraps of meat by the locals  in the evening and this became a habit and a tradition since feeding them would prevent them from attacking the livestock or children. This tradition exists for some decades now.

However these are still wild animals so you have to be careful at all times and never completely trust them like you would trust your own pet at home.
The Hyena man who feeds the hyena’s and calls them out whistling while waving a piece of meat in the air that they can smell from far, got bitten a few years ago and the man died in the hospital of the wounds in his face.
There have not been any incidents anymore since then and it’s still unclear why the Hyena’s suddenly bit the man who had fed them for years.
I came so far to the middle of nowhere, not to back down from it, I was ready to face them and to reset my mind to zero.
I wanted to feed the Hyena’s in the Harar, that was one of the things I really wanted to experience on my trip in Ethiopia. I like wild animals and if I can do a unique animal encounter somewhere in the world, I’m definitely excited to experience it.

The Harar City Gate

The day I went to the Harar to meet the Hyena’s

There is no airport in Harar, the nearest airport is about 1 hour drive (traffic permitting)  in the city of Dire Dawa which has connections to Djibouti and Addis Ababa.
I arrived in the late afternoon in Dire Dawa from a flight out of Lalibela to Addis Ababa where I had to change planes. My driver picked me up and because of heavy traffic and mountainous roads with alot of turns and twists the drive to Harar took longer than the 1 hour that I expected it to be. Almost 2 hours it took to arrive in Harar, it was already getting dark, so before going to the hotel and unload my stuff, I directly got to the spot where the Hyena’s are being fed by the Hyena man on the outskirts of the city, by the old city walls near the graveyard.

meeting the hyena’s in the Harar

mouth to mouth

mouth to mouth part 2

in front of my face

in front of my face part 2

powerful bite inch from my nose, damn those teeth look sharp

looks like the hyena is biting in my hand, cause you can’t see the stick very well that I’m holding with the goat meat on

The guy throwing scraps at the Hyena’s sits on a little piece of wood from a chopped off tree with a bucket in front of him filled with all scraps of meat from a goat or sheep.
The Hyena’s smell the blood from the flesh and get easy triggered by it.
I sat next to the guy and he gave me a stick with a scrap of meat on it that I had to put in my mouth and the Hyena would snap it off from the stick and that’s when I got face to face with the Hyena, animal with what is said to have one of the most powerful bite force in their jaws, more than tigers and lions, which is crazy when you think about it.
Next challenge was to have the Hyena biting at a piece of meat dangling an inch from my face, it was crazy and I pulled my face back a little cause it was a bit to close and had my phone in my right hand to film a video of it and the result you can see on my youtube channel :

The Hyenas are distracted by the scraps of meat we gave them, so they are not really interested in attacking or biting you. Strange thing is I wasn’t nervous at all, it just looked to me like some dogs getting their meal, it didn’t really hit me that these were hyena’s and that wild animals always could become unpredictable. It was a great experience after all and I would do it again, special thanks to the hyena’s of the Harar.

What else is there in Harar ?

I visited several places in Harar with a local guide and it’s the best to do, for safety reasons and because a local can tell other people to back off and give you some peace if somebody would start to get a little too pushy asking for things.
My guide took pictures of me at the most important places and also took the pictures  the evening before, with the hyena’s.

The narrow cobbled stone streets between the colorful old city walls is like a labyrinth walking through and has some great spots for picture opportunities.

I visited some important houses like the King Selassie house with museum and the Arthur Rimbaud house who was a French poet and lived here for several years.
The ceiling and walls in the house are painted with images that represents something out of Arthur Rimbaud’s life and on the top floor there are some colorful glasswindows, it’s a building that stands out compared to the others in the old town. Last house that I visited was a typical Ethiopian style house, the Rowda guest house with all kinds of decorations on the walls. It’s more typical in Harar to hang things like potts and plates up on the wall.

colorful houses

local lady in front of her house

King Selassie house

Entrance to Arthur Rimbaud’s house

in front of Arthur Rimbaud’s house

Me at the top floor of Arthur Rimbaud’s house with the colorod glasswindows

colored glass windows

Rowda guest house with potts and plates decorating the walls

After Mecca , Jerusalem and Medina, the city of Harar is considered by Ethiopians as Islam’s fourth holiest city. The city is predominantly Muslim compared to other places in Ethiopia which are more Christian, but in Harar there is diversity of religion, in the city centre there is an orthodox church and next to the Juma mosque there is a Catholic church of Saint Mary.

Juma Mosque

Orthodox church

Inside the Catholic Church of Saint Mary

My guide also showed me the street markets, the spice market and vegetable market at the Showa gate. After that we got to the old city’s meat market square where he got some camel meat from the butcher and threw it in the air for the eagles to scoop it in the air, really impressing how fast these birds are. They sit on the rooftops waiting to snatch the meat, video here below :

old city’s meat market

The Showa gate

vegetable market

vegetable and fruit market

spice market

posing in front of an old peugeot, looks like one of these old timers that they have in Havana Cuba

tuk tuks in Harar are also an option to get yourself around