Tuesday, 23 March 2010

February 23rd

My journal from a month ago to the day - it hardly seems possible. Much was rekindled yesterday by meeting Gaynor in London and catching up, as well as making tentative steps towards a new challenge... yes, really.

Day 5 - a magical Dr Zuess type of a day today. Totally surreal, but in a good way.

We left Per Nils, after a few stories and being shown around his barn full of bits of reindeer and reindeer related artifacts. He loves being centre stage and had us in stitches at times with tales of bear hunting and assuring us that the best way to scare a bear was for 'the ladies to be dropping their trousers'. The next moment he had us in tears with stories of herdsmen losing their animals and their honour. He knows how to tell a tale, that much is certain.

After my day of braking yesterday Miloš and Gaynor  decided to give my dogs the other kind of break and moved me forward in line to travel behind Richard which gave me a totally different experience. Although I still had to brake, there were times when I was able to travel with both my feet on the runners for long periods of time. Bliss.

The landscape had developed too, there had been heavy snowfall overnight and the trees were droopy and Zuessy wherever we went in the wooded areas. The sun was entirely sliver too, we cast strange moon shadows on the snow as the low sun bleached all the colour from the sky. The angle of the sun also caused a twinkling phenominum, which we hadn't experienced before as we crossed a huge frozen lake, catching the little indentations in the snow.

Today we also met other people for the first time - most peculiar to see other humans in the wasteland. The leaders of both teams conferred and for some reason it was decided that we would circumnavigate them and a snowmobile, which was travelling with them, came forward to create an alternative, crescent shaped route (narrowly missing one of Miloš's dogs). Miloš led his dogs through and Richard's began to follow into the thigh deep snow, as if they were swimming through treacle, until one decided to go and investigate the other line of stationary sleds. This made it impossible for Richard to turn them and it was clear that he was not happy to lead them so I weighed anchor and jumped into the snow, which was even deeper that I had expected, to lead them back around. At this stage that I thanked the training sheet, with lists of squats, lunges and planks as all my strength was needed. Miloš had made it look deceptively easy. During this time the other team had been content to stand and watch our efforts as we did all the work, but when my team decided that they would follow me to the ends of the earth and Uno managed to pull out my insufficiently weighed anchor, one of them finally helped by stopping the Brothers Grimm and holding them till I was able to get back to them and pull them all the way around. I had not felt well at the beginning of the day and I felt even less so after this.

Having lost time over the shenanigans we made the decision, at the lunch stop, to thaw ourselves out and Miloš and Gaynor built a fire pit in the snow and cooked up some frozen salmon in a soupy liquid with some veg. I rather covet Miloš's tripod cooking stand and think I shall have to have one for cooking at the sheep shed in the summer. This decision also meant that we would be driving to the Basic lodge in the dark; a decision that had to be made in consultation with the whole team. Whilst there were concerns about the prospect of navigating what we knew was a twisting, turning route by the light of the moon, everyone felt confident enough and trusted the leaders enough by this stage to go for it and I was delighted as it would be our only chance. We all needed to get properly warm too.

It was an experience I will never forget. The visibility was pretty good as the moon was clear and we had head torches, but soon my eyelids froze as I had taken off my snow glasses, which have dark lenses. My lids stuck together at the corners which meant that I had to trust my dogs' judgement and look for movement of their heads, as Uno always turned back to tell me if the line was getting slack or they needed support. We reached the lodge with even more respect for our fearless dogs, who had ensured that we made it safely, and feeling pleased that Miloš had trusted us to make the decision, which none of us regretted. The familiar sight of the cabin we had stayed in 2 nights before was the icing on the cake. Knowing the layout in the dark meant we didn't have to fumble about whilst getting water and lighting fires and Alice was cajoled into cooking again as she had done such a good job in the cramped cooking space. I'm in the same bunk/shelf so I am also prepared to fall asleep in the fug of the upper level, only to wake freezing cold.

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