16/03/2017

Swimming in the Arctic Ocean

As our last day in Finland slowly approaches, we were offered the incredible chance of a day trip to Norway, to see - and bathe in - the Arctic Ocean! Of course everyone accepted immediately, and we found ourselves in the bus at 6:45 this morning - only to fell asleep minutes after the departure. The destination? The super small village of Bugøynes, in Norway.
Bugøynes, Norway

As you can see from the map, Bugøynes (literally meaning "the headland besides the island with several inlets" - quite a long name, uh?) is situated in the northern part of Norway, facing the Arctic Ocean. It has no more than 200 inhabitants, but among they are of about 10 different nationalities! They live together like an extended family would do - there is no police in the village, the nearest hospital in 80 km away and children must leave to attend high school because there is none in there. 
How did we end up in such a lost place, you may be wondering? Well, Bugøynes is famous for two things: King Crabs...
Giant King Crab
Doesn't look that big? Trust me, it is. Longer than your arm!
... and Elsa's Arctic Ocean Sauna.
Arctic Ocean Sauna
The middle building is the sauna... and we were 40 people inside there!
Elsa is a middle-aged woman who's spent most part of her life in Bugøynes. She used to be a teacher but, she told us, when she turned 45 years old she realized that she wasn't living the life she wanted. So, she retired from her job, dedicated herself to environmental-friendly campaigning and opened a business, consisting in renting cabins and houses overlooking the Arctic Ocean during the summer, and organizing refreshing in-and-out-the-freezing-bay sessions in wintertime.

And this is exactly the reason why we came to Bugøynes! 
The "session" itself consists in getting all warm and sweaty into the sauna and, when you really can't stand the hotness anymore, you run out - wearing only your swimsuit and flip flops, with an outside temperature of -8°C - and go straight into the Arctic Ocean, staying in as long as you can! Pretty much like this:
video
I admit I was a little bit afraid while I undressed: I'm pretty much the most scared of coldness girl you could ever meet, always going around with at least three pairs of socks and two layers of thermal pants, and getting my hands and feet numb nonetheless. But I didn't feel cold at all exiting the sauna! As my guide explained afterwards, that's due to the fact that inside there, aided by us being 40 people in a cubicle smaller than my bedroom, the temperature was over 80°C...

But I assure you I felt the Arctic Ocean. My feet especially. Just to give you some numbers, the average temperature of the Arctic Ocean in winter is +4°C; a normal seaside destination in Italy registers +10°C. Which means that two seconds in there is already more than you can bear! However, as soon as you make it back to the sauna, you feel so much better you are tempted to try again. And again, again, again!

Sadly, after three times running around we had to stop and get back on the bus towards Finland, a long journey awaiting for us. But who knows, maybe one day I'll go back to that peaceful pace, far away from everyone and everything, where you can just leave all your worries and problems behind, staring at the blue sea...
Reindeer on the way


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