At a quarter to nine in the morning, the fog has started to lift, yet here in Swedish Lapland it is still -35°C. But the bitter cold does not stop us from leaving the cosy comfort of the Land Rover Discovery to visit a Sami family in Unna Tjerusj. Our destination: the reindeer farm of Kennet and his son Nikà.
The deeper we drive into the woods, the lonelier it gets. Around us are snow-laden fir trees, and nothing else. Masses of snow have long since turned the asphalt invisible, but the tyres of our Land Rover Discovery glide safely over the icy ground glistening in the headlights. Only slowly does the impenetrable black of the Swedish night turn into a light violet, as dawn breaks through the clouds.
Father, son and their reindeer
The area in front of us is so vast that one can hardly call it an enclosure. "We work together as a family," Kennet explains as he leads us deeper between the trees. With every step we take, snow crunches and cracks under our feet. In the dry cold, it has a completely different texture to what we are familiar with at home. "My son and I take turns caring for the animals."
Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Nikà, now 25, was born on this piece of land. He has been familiar with the tasks of a reindeer herder from a very young age. For centuries, reindeer herding has been the livelihood of the Sami people: they rear the animals and use their meat and fur.
Extreme temperatures and deep trust
We follow the snowmobile without noticing the animals at first. They emerge, curious, from between the fir trees as Nikà pours dry food into a manger. "I recognise each one when I look at them," Kennet says proudly. "Our herd consists of 600 animals and each one has its own personality. They are beautiful animals and they mean a lot to me." Heads held high and displaying their majestic antlers, more reindeer emerge from the shelter of the trees. The colours of their hides range from light sand to dark brown to completely white. The reindeer run after Nikà, sniffing his hands; they trust him.
"I live for the animals," Kennet confides. "But they also demand a lot from us. Up here in the north, we depend on the weather and the tides, on the whims of nature. It's hard physical labour, every day." Nikà nods. "It's a tough job," he agrees. "But I don't mind. I grew up with the reindeer, I love the animals and nature. When I'm outside, I feel free."
Read the full story of the Sami reindeer herders and their unique animals on the Land Rover Club website.