Sunday, 14 March 2010

February 20th

(This really is a direct transcription - and copying it out now makes me feel rather odd and slightly sad.)
Today was one of the best days of my life.
In the spirit of Steiner, who encouraged individuals to review their day each evening, going backwards through the day recalling its events, its sequential unfolding (experienced reversed in time):
I am sitting on my bunk listening to stories being told around the woodburner; snakes, adventures, accidents are all on the menu. Everyone is squeaky clean, having just got back from the sauna, it is currently - 35C and the sensation of feet freezing to the floor between the wet room and the changing area was unsettling, but it was 'simply divine', which was all Elsie could squeal as we poured cold well water over our sweating, aching bodies.

Richard, Elsie, Paul and I are on Human Duty whilst the others are on Dog Duty and I actually wondered if we were on hidden cameras at one point, thinking this whole trip was some kind of reality TV trick, as we tried to work out what the hell we were supposed to be cooking from the large box, which Milos unloaded. Pretty much everything was initially unidentifiable as it was either unlabeled or labeled Swedish, which none of us speak, and dried or frozen. We did have 3 fresh onions though, so that was a start. Eventually we managed to catch Milos between water bucket runs and ask what we should be cooking 'onions with wild meat, cream and spice' apparently, and then as an afterthought he added 'with berries and potato'. The wild meat turned out to be reindeer and moose mince in large frozen bricks and after searching for potatoes for some time we found some packets which looked like soup, with pictures of spuds on the outside - Smash! 

Richard was very concerned about his tasks and after lots of chatting through what we could all do we found that he is an excellent stirrer and pot watcher, adding pepper and spice throughout and we actually ended up with something which was quite palatable. The lodge is large and well equipped but there is no power so lighting was by candles and this made it hard to know where things were, let alone when they were cooked. 
The first lodge 

The drive was everything I expected and so much more. The vast snowy landscape is unimaginably beautiful, the most natural and unspoiled space I have seen in the flesh, with only the tracks of our predecessors to show human influence. It took a while for me to be able to see this through tears of happiness though. Being alone with your team of dogs allows a deep appreciation of the still air and silence. It's a strange combination of feeling safe and surrounded by your companions and leaders and yet completely independent and alone, especially as you travel in a long line, only seeing the team in front.

My dogs are excellent, two brothers lead - Rune and Refat, with Sara and Uno on wheel and they work well together. The brothers throw themselves in the snow whenever we stop, which we have to do a lot as we are near the back and poor old Steve is having a problem with his team. He says they cannot get motivated and he keeps having to get off and push. I also have to use the brake, especially on the more steep parts of the forest tracks, when my lot just want to go and whenever I do they turn to look at me accusingly. When we stop Uno just barks and jumps up and down, inching the sled further forward with each jump shouting 'Take your foot of the break! Take your foot off the break!' I really wish I could, I am used to traveling faster around bends but it is not nearly as safe in this thick snow, which is so deep either side of the compacted track. 

Getting clothing right is a challenge, tomorrow will be colder and I will need to wear more layers than even today, when I wore: 2 pairs wools socks, 2 pairs ski socks, Arctic boots with felt and foil linings, 1 pair long johns, long sleeved thermal top, short sleeved thermal top, thick fleece, cashmere neck warmer, fleece neck warmer, alpaca hat, thin gloves, mittens, Arctic suit.

When the day started I was shaking with cold and fear, not knowing what to expect, now that I do know I will be shaking with excitement. 

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