You might remember Johnny Ward, who I featured on the show last year. He was on a 10-year challenge to visit every single country in the world, which he’s written about on his blog, OneStep4Ward. Johnny had just three countries left on his list when I spoke to him and he told me he was saving the best for last – a trip to Norway.
Johnny has just celebrated the end of his challenge at the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes, in the far north of Norway. I started by asking him whether he’s sad that his epic challenge has come to an end?
“To be honest I’d visualised it so many times, when I was nearly dying in the depths of Africa, or watching people getting shot or arrested,” said Johnny. “So when I finished, it wasn’t really like a ‘jump up and down’ moment. It was more like ‘well done Johnny’ and onto the next target!”
It seems right that Johnny’s extraordinary journey should end with a stay in a hotel that’s anything but conventional. “The whole thing is made out of packed snow, like a big igloo,” he explained. “Your bed is carved out of ice. You sleep on reindeer hides, in a big, warm, super-expensive sleeping bag. It’s really crazy.”
The hotel is rebuilt each year, once the temperature starts to drop. Johnny told me it literally melts in the summer then is rebuilt in September or October when it starts to cool down again. But there was an obvious question – is it cold? “It’s freezing,” laughed Johnny. “It’s -5°C in the room. It’s just two or three kilometres from Russia – further north than Iceland, really high up on the top of the world. But when you’re in the sleeping bag it’s not too cold. I slept really well actually.”
I wouldn’t fancy using the bathroom in those sorts of temperatures, but Johnny told me it wasn’t a problem – the showers and toilets where in a separate, heated block! “You leave the Snow Hotel through an exit door and you’re into an actual building. There are group shower facilities there.”
And luckily, you won’t be spending all your day in a freezing room, as Johnny explained. “Outside they have husky kennels and snowmobiles. And they have a bar and restaurant in a normal building where it’s warm and nice!”
Johnny told me he couldn’t have picked a more fitting place to end his challenge. “It’s got an ice bar – it’s really fun. For my ten-year journey to come to an end, walking into that ice bar with all my friends and family, I was like, ‘this is a good choice. This is really cool!’”
You can relive Johnny’s epic journey to every country in the world on his blog at OneStep4Ward.com.