Bob from Nature Travels muses on his recent experience of booking a hotel room…

In April this year, Sofia and I are going to the Azores to spend 10 days as volunteers on a whale and dolphin research project – we’re very much looking forward to it. The flight connections mean that we need to spend an overnight in Lisbon en route, so we decided to make the most of it and spend two nights there.

Next step was to find a place to stay, and in my Google search I quickly arrived at a well-known hotel booking website. Hard as it may be to believe, it was my first time there.

And so my search began. I was presented with a wide range of options which were easily searchable/comparable and accompanied by attractive images and useful descriptions, the reservation process was smooth and painless, and in no time at all I had secured my room in Lisbon and had my confirmation in my inbox. I’d been on the site about 10 minutes, and the job was done. Hooray!

So why on earth was I left feeling so rattled, on edge and plagued with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction?

stress1

I sat back to ponder on how I’d spent this 10 minutes of my life.

What’s clear is that the booking experience was an almost perfect exercise in persuading me to make a decision to purchase. The very best that marketing theory, consumer psychology and shopping cart design can offer had been unleashed on me to make sure that I didn’t leave without handing over my card details, and in the face of such an onslaught, I’d found I was frankly powerless to resist.

Throughout my time on the site, my screen had been filled with little pop-ups and messages giving stats relating to my search, “There are just 2 rooms left for your chosen dates”, “Don’t delay! 66% of our accommodation in Lisbon is now booked for the dates you are viewing”, “20 other people are currently viewing this hotel for your chosen dates”, “The last booking made for this hotel was 15 minutes ago from Germany”….and on they went.

The messages quietly but very effectively ramped up the pressure as I browsed, until by the end they had whipped me into a frenzy of uncertainty, desperation and self-doubt and I was a quivering wreck, silently screaming, “Just let me pay! Take my card details now and get me a room before it’s too late!” Delaying a minute longer would surely mean I’d be forced to choose the only overpriced flea pit still left with a space.

stress3

Am I exaggerating? Well, maybe a little. But I realised that what had been missing from the process of choosing and booking this important piece of my holiday had been any sense of fun or enjoyment. I have no doubt that, when we arrive in Lisbon, the hotel will be just fine, and I certainly can’t fault the efficiency of the booking process or the price I paid. But had I enjoyed choosing it? No. Was I now looking forward to enjoying the product I had purchased? Not at all. When the last card number was entered and “Book now” button pressed, all I felt was a palpable sense of relief that it was all over.

Is there something special about purchasing a holiday compared to other products? What is the purpose of a travel website – simply to facilitate the process of choosing and booking a component of your trip as quickly as possible? If so, then the website I used did its job almost flawlessly. Or is the planning and the dreaming part of the fun, extending that precious holiday feeling to make arranging the trip an integral part of the enjoyment? Should we really be using the same approach to buying our holiday as we do to renewing our car insurance?

Nature Travels is of course also a travel company, offering products which we hope our guests will find attractive and wish to purchase. So is booking with Nature Travels any different? We would like to think so. We may never be able to match the technological sophistication of the website I used. But we would hope that the experience of researching, discussing, planning and (hopefully!) booking your holiday with us can be an integral part of the overall enjoyment of your trip, and perhaps heighten the sense of excitement and anticipation as you prepare for your adventure.

Oops, no more time to chat…my car insurance expires in a week…but just one final thought:

stress2

Here are 10 reasons why winter is great and you should all embrace the cold season!

1) Beautiful views – nothing beats the magical wonder that is a blanket of snow or a crispy frost, pair that with a bright blue sky or a majestic sunrise/sunset and you don’t even have to get up at the crack of dawn or stay up past your bedtime to enjoy it!

scenery

2) Snow days – waking up to find a fresh layer of snow outside your window is always exciting, even more so if you go to school and discover that it’s shut and you have a surprise day off to play! Even if you’re not at school, the snow will bring out your inner child.

Wilkins-Wonderland

3) Get creative – whether it’s making a snow angel, building a snowman, or ambitiously attempting to build your own igloo, let your imagination run wild! Or just make snowballs and throw them at your friends.

emily-suamarez-igloo

4) Winter adventures – sledding, ice skating, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, ski touring, ski bobbing, snowmobiling and end the day in a cosy log cabin in front of a fire. If it doesn’t snow much where you are then great news, it’s holiday season and a good excuse to go somewhere different and play in the snow!

snowshoeing

5) Ever seen snow under a microscope? – nature is amazing, that is all!

GodsSnowflakes

6) Log fires –whether it’s open, burner or a bonfire for Guy Fawkes, we all enjoy warming up in front of a crackling fire, especially if you have some marshmallows to toast.

log-fire2

7) Frosty walks – we don’t get much snow down here in Dorset but we enjoy a frosty morning walk. You can jump in freshly frozen puddles and the ground is so solid that you don’t get your wellies covered in mud.

frosty-bridge

8) Our winter wardrobe – an abundance of accessories, hats, scarves and gloves with every outfit and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a little extra Christmas weight as all can be hidden under a massive jumper!

child-playing

9) Which leads nicely to winter food and drink – soups and stews take a front seat this season and it’s always great to come in from the cold and drink a hot chocolate to warm you up.

hot-chocolates

10) Hibernation – its not only hedgehogs and bears that want to sleep until winter! You might be feeling a little lazy this time of year but so is everyone else so you snuggle up in a blanket with your favourite book, guilt free.

book

10.5) And finally – the excitement of seeing snowdrops and daffodils for the first time and realising that spring is on the way!

So wrap up warm and get outside and play! Enjoy!

Check out our winter adventures here.

Tree decorationsJulgransplundring – “Christmas tree looting” is a tradition in Sweden that happens 20 days after Christmas, that is 13th January. Julgransplundring is traditionally when you “undress” and “throw out” Advent and Christmas decorations.

In connection to this, especially if you have younger children, you often arrange a small celebration. You dance around the Christmas tree and play various games: demolition/eating of gingerbread houses, raffle and opening filled Christmaimagess crackers (in Sweden you make your Christmas crackers yourself, fill them with candy and hang on the Christmas tree).

This happens both in people’s homes and daycare centres, schools and sports clubs.

The tradition has its origin from when originally you hung goodies, apples and snacks in the tree. The decorations were simpler then and you did many of the decorations yourself. So you raided the Christmas tree of goodies, and ate them up!

Once you’ve plundered the Christmas tree of goodies, you throw the Christmas tree out! It’s seen as an julpl3end of the long month of celebration which starts with First Advent and includes the Advent period, Lucia, Christmas and New Year.

So you loot the Christmas tree and throw Christmas out of the house! Until next year……

In Sweden, Christmas is celebrated in the afternoon and evening of the 24th of December. In the morning, many do the last Christmas preparations, then at 3pm the whole of Sweden sits down to watch Donald Duck on TV.

Disney on TVDonald Duck and his friends wishing you a Merry Christmas is an American TV-show that was first broadcasted on American TV in 1958 as an episode of the TV series “The Wonderful World of Disney”.

In Sweden, it has been shown on TV at 3pm on Christams Eve since 1960. The program ends with Benjamin Syrsa singing “When You Wish Upon A Star” (in Swedish of course).

Then often there is a knock on the door and Santa arrives to deliver presents to the children (and adults) who have been good over the year past. Read more about the Swedish Santa on our previous blog on the subject:

https://naturetravels.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/jultomten-swedens-santa-claus/

After presents have been opened, it’s time to eat the Julbord, special type of Swedish smörgåsbord, which is the standard Christmas dinner in Sweden! Julbord is a word consisting of the elements jul, meaning Christmas and bord, table.

Julbord

The classic Swedish julbord is filled with small dishes and you pick and choose your favourites – a traditional smörgåsbord starting with the cold food such as smoked salmon, pickeld herring, eel etc.and of course the Christmas ham! It’s a ham that has been cured and sometimes smoked and then cooked in the oven. It’s traditional in the Nordic countries to coat it with a layer of mustard mixed with eggs and breaded with breadcrumbs.

After the cold food, you move on to the warm food – small meatballs, pork ribs, sausages, potato, Janssons frestelse, boiled potatoes.

Both the cold and warm food are served together with soft and crisp bread, butter and different cheeses and beverages.

One beverage that needs to be mentioned is Julmust. Julmust is a soft drink that is mainly consumed in Sweden around Christmas. The rest of the year it is difficult to find. It was created to give a non- lcoholic alternative to beer. Must is made of carbonated water, sugar, hop extract, malt extract and spices. The hops and malt extract give the must a quality a little like root beer, but much sweeter. The Julmust outsells Coca Cola every year in Sweden as the main non-alcoholic drink.

There is also often dessert and candy as part of the Julbord. One dessert that is often chosen as a small late evening snack is Julgröt, Christmas Porridge! It’s nicer than it sounds!

One nice tradition is to put some gröt out for the house tomte (gnome, please see link about the Swedish Santa above). When I was small we always put some Christmas porridge out in the evening and in the morning we used to find an empty bowl and a small thank you note!

Merry Christmas everyone!

christmas rice pudding

 

The room is quiet and dark, from afar you hear singing. Slowly you hear the singing getting closer and closer…

Suddenly the room fills with light. A girl in a long, white gown with a wreath of candles burning on her head enters the room.  Behind her come a procession of people in white carrying, candles in their hands and singing together the Santa Lucia song….

On the 13th December, this Swedish tradition happens everywhere across the country.

In schools, in the town square, in day-care centres, in offices, in old people’s homes, in churches and even at home, parents often get woken up by short Lucia “trains” done by their children.

Lucia-1

I remember when I was fifteen, I was part of six Lucia “parades” that year. First in the morning, my sisters and I woke my parents up with singing and coffee in bed. Then I was part of the school procession  and as I sang in a choir, the choir were the “followers” for the town Lucia, so we went to two old people’s homes, the town square and the last one in the evening in the town church.

Lucia-2

Lucia is a very cosy tradition and one I really miss now when I’m living abroad, but we’ll definitely see the Lucia celebrations in Stockholm on the live broadcast in the office on Lucia morning and drink hot chocolate and eat Lussekatter.

Happy Lucia everyone!

Sofia from The Nature Travels Team

For more information on the Swedish Lucia tradition, please see our previous blog on this subject.

gavle-goat-day

The Yule Goat, or Julbock, is a traditional ornament made out of straw and bound with red ribbons that you will see it in many Swedish homes during the Christmas season. The Julbock is said to have originated from Thor and his two trusty goats and then traditions have subsequently evolved throughout the ages. One tradition involves him playing a supervisory role, overseeing the Christmas preparations are being held properly and neighbours would trick each other by sneaking the goat into each other’s houses to remind them that they are being watched, because the pressure of your mother-in-law visiting wasn’t stressful enough! More recently the Julbock is now thought to attract presents by placing it under the Christmas tree.

The most famous Yule Goat can be found in the town of Gävle. In 1966, the tradition started of building a giant version of the straw goat in the centre of the town in Castle Square. However, in the first year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, the goat was burnt to a crisp and since then almost every year the Gävle Goat succumbs to some sort of misfortune. The poor thing only has only a 45% survival rate of it still standing by Christmas!

gavle-goat-snow

Over the years, the town has put many things in place to help the Gävlebocken survive until the New Year but even covering the straw goat with a flame resistant coating didn’t slow down Father Christmas and a gingerbread man setting him alight by shooting flaming arrows at him. However, going up in smoke isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. In the past the goat has collapsed after being sabotaged on a couple of occasions including after being crashed into by a Volvo. One year a helicopter even swooped down into Castle Square in an attempt to kidnap him!

Only escaping destruction a small number of times has without a doubt made the goat famous and people now place bets as to how long the goat will survive. I should probably mention that burning the goat is actually an illegal act and not welcomed by most citizens of Gävle, as one American found out when he attempted to burn the goat down after assuming he was following a Swedish tradition but ended up with jail time instead. A couple of years ago the police were on the case when someone posted a photo online of 4 tattooed ankles displaying the burning Gävlebocken but that wasn’t proof enough.

gavle-goat-burnt

Will this be a year the Gävle Goat survives? In the hope to deter potential vandals, this year the town is relocating their taxi rank into the square in order to bring more people into it. He will be set in position from 30th November and you can follow his twitter, blog, instagram and even his webcam to check on his progress or whether a calamity has occurred!

 

Sofia from Nature Travels joined our Husky Mountain Expedition in Lapland in March 2014.

It was going to be an eight day experience with six days’ dog sledding. There were six of us, me, two brothers from Belgium, a Swiss couple, Laura the dog handler from the kennel and Marcus, our guide.
The day after we arrived, we packed all the equipment, people, dogs and sleds into the trucks before we were ready to drive up to the mountains.

DSCF3921A

Once in the beginning of the mountain range, it was time to leave the cars behind and head off into the mountains by sled. For the first day we stayed in the lowland forest, and it wasn’t until the second day we started climbing. Both the second and third days there was a lot of uphill and when you added the work around the cabins in the evening, we all slept early those nights.

It is not only the dog sledding one needs energy for when on a dog sled tour of this kind. Every night when we reached a camp, we first set up the stake-out line for the dogs and then unharnessed the dogs and attached them to the line. Then we carried all our equipment to the cabins and went to fetch water from the lakes to be able to start to heat all the water we need to be able to feed the dogs.

DSCF4260A

One of us also chopped the big blocks of dog meat we had with us into smaller pieces so they would defrost more easily once we put them in the hot water. Others went to chop the wood we needed for the evening to heat the cabin and for the sauna (in those cabins which had a sauna).

Then when the water was hot, it was time to feed all the 30 dogs we had with us and at the same time dig holes for them in the snow to protect them against the Arctic wind.

All the cabins along the route are used mostly by hikers in the summer and ski tourers in winter. We had mostly a separate little cabin to ourselves or at least a bedroom for just our group. All the cabins have a host, who runs a little store and makes sure that everybody that comes knows where the wood, water, etc is. Some of the cabins had sauna and connecting washing rooms, where you can wash yourself with hot water that has been heated on top of the sauna radiator. So on the days we had sauna we tried to have a wash and get clean before dinner, times in the sauna were allocated by gender.

Our last two days we got clear blue skies and sunshine and sledding on mostly downhill and flat and I could hear myself saying to myself, “This is what living life is about! This is quality of life!”

DSCF4330A

Best regards
Sofia, The Nature Travels team

You can find out more information on the Husky Mountain Expedition in Lapland and see our full range of dogsled tours in Sweden and Norway on our website.

You can also read another account of the Husky Mountain tour here

 

Bob from Nature Travels travelled to Gothenburg and Bohuslän in West Sweden for 5 days in September 2014, and came home with a suntan!

Any opportunity to travel to the beautiful coastal region of Bohuslän in West Sweden is always welcome, so despite a brutally early start of 2am to catch the bus from Dorset up to Heathrow, I arrived at Gothenburg Landvetter airport feeling buoyant and optimistic for the days ahead.

The trip started well with a chat with the world’s friendliest taxi driver on the short ride into town, during which we skipped through subjects as diverse as English football (he was a Man Utd. supporter), his original home of Montenegro and the Swedish welfare system. He dropped me off at the Clarion Hotel Post right opposite the station, an imposing but nicely-converted hotel in the old city Post Office building which retains much of its original charm.

fish-church

The first 24 hours were eat-eat-eat, as we sampled the fantastic herring at Gabriel’s in the “Fish Church” (Feskekôrka), the traditional welcoming atmosphere of Styrsö Pensionat (I loved the cardamom-flavoured meringue!), a little oasis of calm on the island of Styrsö just a short boat ride from the city, and a delicious veggie risotto at Palace.

herring-at-gabriels

We attempted to burn off just a little of our excess calorific intake with a kayak tour of the city under the guidance of the lovely Ulrika from Point 65, though didn’t make much of a dent.

starter-at-styrso-pensionat

Kayaking is a great way to see Gothenburg – from gliding along beside the battleship and submarine floating museums to exploring the canal running through the city centre.

kayak-gothenburg-warships

Getting to drive a lovely old Volvo around town on the “Time Travel Sightseeing Tour” was also great and reminded me of my old Morris Traveller!

old-volvo

Next day it was out of the city and north to the coastal region of Bohuslän, where we spent the next four days glorying in some fantastic late summer sunshine. Barely a cloud in the sky for days, temperatures into the 20s and the sunlight painting beautiful shadows and reflections on the granite and gneiss formations of the coastline.

cardamom-meringue

The water and its rich bounty of seafood were an ever-present companion during our time at the coast – sumptuous lunches of freshly-caught crayfish and cod-related fish varieties, consumed at leisure while watching the ever-changing tapestry of coastal life.

fjallbacka

We explored the coastal towns of Strömstad and Smögen, very popular in the summer especially with Norwegian visitors, and the beautiful small village of Fjällbacka, home to and setting for the crime novels of Camilla Läckberg, now one of the world’s top-selling authors (we even met Camilla’s mum!).

smogen-2

No trip to West Sweden would be complete without a visit to the stunning islands of the west coast archipelago. The Koster Islands, Sweden’s first Marine National Park, are great for exploring by bike, provided free at the harbour and making it easy to get to the lovely café and organic garden at Kosters Trädgården.

koster-tradgard

We also liked the new network of “snorkelled” (snorkelling trails), self-guided underwater information boards linked by a rope trail to teach visitors about the rich marine life of the area.

styrso

The Weather Islands (“Väderöarna”), Sweden’s most westerly point, have a real “frontier” atmosphere and make a great base for kayaking day trips, where you can end the day’s paddling with a warm welcome at the comfortable guest house and a hot tub on the jetty!

weather-islands

While West Sweden itself is rich in wildlife, from harbour seals to seabirds, the endangered species breeding centre at Nordens Ark provided a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Sweden’s harder-to-see animals from elsewhere in the country, including the mysterious wolf and charismatic wolverine.

tiger

The centre focuses on endangered species from outside Sweden too, and we had wonderful views of the Amur tigers and (a special treat for me) a chance to get unbelievably close to the snow leopards (never felt a snow leopard breathing in my face before – wonderful!) while learning about the valuable work of the centre from head guide, Pelle.

snow-leopard

After squeezing in a short hike along the varied shoreline of Bohus-Malmön (the very last section of the the 3-day IceBug Experience walking/running event, taking place for the first time this year), our last little adventure was a kayak tour from the town of Lysekil, well-placed to offer great kayaking right from the shore – we spent a happy couple of hours exploring the gorgeous smooth rocks and islands which pepper the coastline before returning to land for fresh mussel soup! And just before the bus left, a lightning tour of Havets Hus, a small but very interesting aquarium focussing on local marine species, including a rare blue lobster!

Then all too soon it was time to head south once more to Gothenburg for our journey home. I dozed on the plane with my mind full of impressions and snapshots from the trip – the tang of the salty air, the slap of the waves on the side of my kayak, the succulent softness and rich flavours of the fish and seafood, and the seemingly endless sunshine glinting off the rocks.

smogen

The Boshuslän region has its own very special atmosphere and its proximity to Gothenburg makes it very easy to discover. One of the real attractions of the area is that it offers something for everyone – if you want challenging, world-class sea kayaking with wild camping on your own deserted island, it’s there in abundance. If you just want to chill out with a bowl of crayfish soup and a glass of wine and watch the sun go down, you can do that too!

Nature Travels offers a number of activities in the Bohuslän area, including self-guided sea kayaking, guided sea kayaking (including tours in the Fjällbacka, Koster and Weather Islands regions) and self-guided hiking.

Bob from the Nature Travels team gets to grips with his first Via Ferrata on a tour to Fjord Norway in July 2014:

My wife, Sofia, and other Director here at Nature Travels, has a t-shirt from a recent 24-hour running event with the slogan “Life Begins at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone.” I have a t-shirt with the slogan “You Can Never Have Too Many Guitars”. I like my Comfort Zone – it’s warm, safe and, well, comfortable – and I find life goes on inside it very nicely most of the time, thank you.

But I also have to grudgingly admit that whenever I find myself outside its cosy borders, whether by fair means or foul, these end up being some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my life, and (apart from a 32 mile walk along the Dorset Coast Path last Sunday from which I still have the blisters) I have my time with Nature Travels to thank for many of them – canoeing in the pathless wilderness of Rogen in north-west Sweden, dog sledding along the King’s Trail in the far north of Lapland, and, on this occasion, hanging off the side of a cliff slowly losing feeling in one arm while desperately fumbling with some tangled carabiners with the other.

I’d come to Fjord Norway on a trip investigating new experiences for the Nature Travels portfolio – we have been slowly adding new options in Norway for the last couple of seasons and I was keen to research some additional possibilities for summer (our summer options currently include Sailing the Norwegian Coast and Nordic Yurt Camp in Hardanger). We found ourselves in the stunning Sunnmøre Alps area, where within striking distance of the lovely regional capital Ålesund there are several of Norway’s most spectacular natural areas, including the beautiful Geirangerfjord, on which we’d spent a glorious early morning the day before kayaking around the base of the Seven Sisters waterfall in the stillness before the cruise ships arrive.

I’d been to the Sunnmøre area before, in winter for off-piste skiing and ski touring, but hadn’t had an opportunity to try summer activities in the area. It was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I saw that a newly-opened Via Ferrata, in the small village of Loen, was on the list of things we’d be doing. For the uninitiated, Via Ferrata (“iron ways”) were found originally in the alps, and basically allow non-climbers without technical skills the chance to access climbing areas that would normally require you to be a “proper” climber. As Wikipedia puts it, “via ferrata allow otherwise dangerous routes to be undertaken without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing or need for climbing equipment”.

One or two points have steps to assist

Running the length of the route is a steel cable, fastened every 3m or so into the rock. Participants climb with two points of attachment to the cable, sliding the carabiners along as you climb. When you reach a fastening point, you unclip one, attach it to the other side, then unclip the other and reattach. In this way you are always anchored to the cable by at least one point and, if you do slip, the maximum distance you could fall would be the 3m down to the next clip point (this would undoubtedly hurt, but is better than the alternative). This is foolproof, though not it seems tour-operator-proof. At one point I looked down (and during one of the steepest sections too) to find myself, to my surprise, holding both my carabiners in my hand. Oops. Still, momentary lapses of reason and muppetry-attacks aside, it’s foolproof.

After the bridge - the last push

After a carb-loading breakfast, we walked across the road from our hotel to the climbing centre, where a group of around 40 were assembling, collecting harnesses, shoes, gloves, and generally looking active and healthy. As a newly-opened route, the clientele so far is almost exclusively Norwegian, and with the odd exception (i.e. me), most people looked worryingly like they knew what they were doing – a sea of bronzed Scandinavian muscles, taught and rippling in the morning sun, and that infuriating glow of health and vitality so common to these parts. There were also a couple of children – two girls aged just 10 or so, but as all Norwegians are able to climb, ski, sail and paraglide seemingly before they are on solid food, this didn’t make me feel any better.

In our little group of four were myself, Tove from the tourist board, and two tour operators in Holland, Sabine and Maiike. Tove certainly sported an impressive climbing pedigree – her father had first-ascented the nearby Trollveggen in the 1960s, an absurdly steep and precipitous cliff that we’d visited the day before, so I was keen not to let the side down.

The trip was scheduled to take all day and, as Norway was in the grips of a ridiculously hot summer, where it had been close to 30 degrees for several weeks, the guides were sensibly insistent that we wouldn’t be rushing and there was no timetable for getting back. After an introduction to the technique, safety talk and a check that we were all carrying enough water (at least 3 litres each for the day), we were off.

Walk up to start

Physically, the hardest part of the day was the hour-long initial trudge up a steep forest path in the blazing sun to where the via ferrata begins. Once at the base, things settled into a stop-start routine, ensuring that the climber before you has cleared the section above before you begin.

Up we go, into the wide blue yonder

The rhythm of the day was oddly meditative and gently hypnotic – bum out, arms straight, feet flat, climb, unclip, clip on, unclip, clip on, gather your safety lines, and off you go again. Despite nursing a bit of a cold which was sapping my energy, I found myself enjoying it all right from the start. Some of the steeper sections required some deep breaths and internal pep-talks, but the views were spectacular, the cameraderie warm and friendly, and the day had a real sense of achievement.

The top! (almost, still smiling)

Towards the top comes one of the highlights of the route – the longest Via Ferrata bridge in Europe, 120m long with a 160m drop. Then you’re over to the other side for a bit more climbing, and finally you’re off the line and out onto the rolling moorland that is the summit of Mt. Hoven at 1010m. From here it’s an hour and a half or so walk down through meadows and forest back to the village, with the springy turf beneath your feet providing a lovely contrast to the hard rock of the rest of the day.

Sabine and Maiike make their way across

The summit of Mt Hoven at 1010m

And so we made it home – 8 hours, 1010m up and down again (starting and ending at sea level), 3 litres of water and probably 5 litres of sweat later. It was universally agreed to have been a great day.

The springy walk down

And who knew it? I may be an adventurer after all….but until the next time, back to the comfort zone…..

Wolves have often been portrayed as the villains of fairy tales and folk lore, but are they really all bad and what should you do if you encounter one whilst walking in the forests of Norway or Sweden.

Where do wolves live?
The main wolf populations are found in Dalarna and Värmland in Sweden and in the bordering areas in south-east Norway

There are thought to be around 350-410 wolves in Norway and Sweden (based on surveys in Winter 2012/2013) with most of these being found in Sweden. Wolves are, in Sweden and Norway, considered an endangered species (though not in other parts of the world). In the past wolves have been entirely eradicated from Sweden and Norway; the current population are thought to be descended from a small Finnish-Russian population.
With such small numbers it is rare that you will come face to face with a wolf however you may see signs (e.g. tracks) or hear them at night; the sound of their howls can carry for over 10km.

What to do if you encounter a wolf
If you do come across a wolf, you will probably find that the wolf backs away from you as soon as you make any noise or speak. If the wolf starts to come towards you or you feel nervous then there are some simple things you can do:

  • Back away slowly and loudly; shout, sing or talk it is not recommended that you scream in a high pitch.
  • Do not run away; this is more likely to make the wolf chase you.
  • Should the wolf start to follow you, stop and try and make yourself seem as big as possible (hold up your arms or backpack etc.). You should also take a step towards (rather than away from) the wolf.
  • If the wolf does attack you kick and hit it as hard as you can (do not play dead)

If you are out walking with your dog and you encounter a wolf you should still follow the above advice however you may find that the presence of your dog makes the wolf less shy. It may even approach you (up to a few meters) however it seems that normally the wolf is mostly interested in the dog and will pay little (if any) attention to the human. If the wolf attacks your dog you should never get in between the wolf and dog; you should take off your dog’s lead (if possible) and throw something at the wolf.

Should you come across a wolf with food, as long as you remain at a distance and do not try to take its food away, there is no evidence to suggest that the wolf will be aggressive towards you.

Life in a pack
Wolves live in packs these can range in size from 2 individuals to 30 or more, in Europe packs usually consist of 2- 7 individuals. These packs usually are made up of an “alpha” male and female pair and their offspring though can sometimes have non related wolves in. The offspring usually leave the pack when aged around 1-2 years though some will stay with their parents for longer. Normally only the “alpha” pair will breed with the rest of the pack helping in the upbringing of the pups (or whelps). The pups (normally 4 -5) are born in a den where they spend the first few weeks of their life. When the pups are born they are both blind and deaf; their eyes open at around 10 -13 days and their sense of hearing is developed by 21 days.

Wolves and humans
Past
In Norse mythologies wolves are often portrayed as being evil. One of the most famous mythological stories is about Fenrir who was the wolf son of Loki and who it was foretold would kill Odin, however the other gods manage to bind him up before he has chance to kill Odin using a special Dwarf made chain (in some tales in is a ribbon) although this was at the cost of Týr’s right hand which Fenrir bit off in his rage at being unable to get free.

Present
Wolves today tend to live in remote areas so that contact with humans is rare and there have been no reported killings of humans by wolves since 1820 and the last reported death was caused by a half tame wolf. You should not feed wolves as this could cause them to associate humans with food leading to them entering into human populated areas more frequently and increasing the chances of humans and wolves coming into contact with each other.

Wolves usually feed on moose, however when food supplies are low or a wolf is starving they may well attack sheep and have been known to attack cows and horses. This leads to much animosity towards wolves from farmers who have had their sheep taken by hungry wolves.

Whilst wolves are shy and it is unlikely that they will attack you should you encounter them you should remember that they are a wild predator and you should not attempt to approach them or touch them even though they may seem friendly.

Our Howling with Wolves experience is a great way to learn more about these wonderful creatures and to spend an evening round the camp fire listening to their howls.

Best regards

The Nature Travels team

Bookmark and Share

ABOUT

Nature Travels is the UK specialist for outdoor experiences in Sweden. Please follow links below for details of our range of holidays in Sweden for independents, families and groups.

Travel Quest

TravelQuest’s Ethical Travel section lists a variety of ecotourism holidays world-wide, including UK holidays, charity treks and gap-year ideas.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers