JEDDAH: From sand to ice, new driving experiences await Saudi adventure buffs in the icy tundras and thick forests of Finland’s Lapland region.
Many Saudis and Gulf residents have had an uncanny love for the desert sands spanning generations, often venturing out to the seclusion of the deserts to unwind and enjoy the calm and quiet.
There are fertile lands for motor adventures, and one collaboration between a Saudi and a Finn will have Saudis desert drifters venturing out to the northernmost region of Finland, where temperatures can easily drop to -40 degrees — the frozen subarctic wilderness of Lapland, which offers a unique thrill on the ice.
Janne Honkanen, founder of Octola Lodge and Private Wilderness, and Saudi rally driver Rakan Al-Rashed, spoke to Arab News about this unique collaboration, where adventurers can experience the ultimate thrill of ice driving offered by Al-Rashed and enjoy a proper Finnish winter exclusive to Octola.
The two met at one of Al-Rashed’s arctic rally races a few years ago, and their friendship grew stronger over the years during Al-Rashed’s frequent visits to Lapland, where Honkanen was just beginning to build the lodge resort on the empty land in early 2017.
“It was a huge piece of land in the wilderness and we began to think that a day will come when we’ll collaborate and do something together,” said Honkanen. “I thought it was crazy for Rakan to do what he’s doing, racing on the ice and snow, and it hit me that we could offer that in the lodge for guests to experience, and what better way than with the help of a rally racer in person.”
Some of Honkanen’s frequented guests at Octola were Arabs and adventure seekers that would dare head to one of the coldest places on Earth to experience some of the unique features of the land.
Visitors can enjoy the majestic northern lights, the relaxed activity of reindeer herding, or join Al-Rashed in the thrill of riding in a car fit for speed over the ice and snow.
This might not seem like an average Arctic experience, said Al-Rashed, who began his career in 2011 racing on the ice. He said Lapland provides one of the best driving experiences anyone could wish for. “The driving experience is unparalleled. You have such vast lands and frozen lakes that can allow you to really test your skills and driving abilities safely and without any trouble.”
He also believes there is little difference between the sandy and icy terrain. “It’s simply a matter of adapting,” he said.
“I’ve always been interested in racing and cars and my start was on the ice. Taking the discipline of the desert, I began training in Finland during summers and winters in various conditions, and I learned how to apply it on the snow and ice,” he told Arab News. “That’s what makes the environment quite unique.”
With more reindeer than people in Lapland, it is an adventure seeker’s playground. From custom-built snowmobiles to private ice tracks and more than 70 different experiences, the ice racing experience is one that is catered to everyone’s taste.
There are over 300 hectares of private wilderness and different driving routes and tracks, as well as the chance to provide guests with custom tracks built to their specifications to add to the unique experience.
Al-Rashed’s rally experience serves as an integral part of the ice driving experience at Octola, as he introduces guests to the theory behind driving on ice, takes them through the stages based on his own experience and has them test trial their skills in the safety of a car under his supervision, or, if they feel brave enough, on their own.