søndag den 4. oktober 2015

hikers guide to the galaxy, part 2. Second day in Sarek

We wake up before sunrise, and as the light slowly starts to dissolve the dark, stars fade and the sliver of a moon melts in to the rosecoloured morning..
It's cold, and I slept poorly, as I kept sliding off my improvised pillow, a drybag with a bit of clothes in, since we were sleeping slightly downhill. The buckle of the drybag irritated and I had silent discussions with the thing several times during the night. It wasn't a pillow and it didn't feel like a pillow.
Seeing the sun slowly rise and illuminate the mountains on the other side is pure joy as we eat our day's ration of oatmeal and sip freezedried coffee with dried milk and sugar of plastic mugs. A sugary drink that has little resemblance with the coffee that I enjoy at home, but none the less much enjoyed.
Most of our food is dried food, and everything is rationed so that we don't carry anything unnecessary with us. Around 8 kilo of the weight I'm carrying is food. Oats mixed with dried fruits and nuts for breakfast. Freezedried food for lunch and dinner. Nuts and dried fruits, a bar each and one single piece of chocolate for the little extra daily snack that sweetens our existence. Food is not just food up here, it is pure pleasure. Delightful.

We start hiking down the mountain and my sore back- and legmuscles get reacquainted with the backpack, and we head towards a snowy patch on the other side, trecking along the eastside of the valley.
Today and tomorrow we are going to stay up away from the valley, where it is reasonably dry and free of mosquitoes and where we can enjoy the magnificent view.

We hike in relative silence, making our way through patches of shrubbery, that block our way. Once we get up on the other side, no more shrubbery and hopefully it will get easier to hike. Progress is slow and deliberate. There are tiny little miracles of colour that light up the mountainsides. Little delicate flowers, that when I bend down to take a closer look, have intricate patterns and soft colours that belie the hardiness of survival up here. No doubt they get pollinated by the mosquitoes; only the female mosquitoes need to suck blood, the guys make do with flowersap.

We are heading up the opposite side, when we stop for a break and relieve our backs of their load. A bit of bar and a cup of tea. For a long time we have been watching some black spots on the white snow grow in size as we close in on them, and what I first took to be rocks or gravel on the snow, now is undoubtedly alive. We can see movement and wonder if it's a colony of birds. Then suddenly we realize it's a huge flock of reindeers, around 300 of them probably, and other snowpatches further away are dotted in the same way. All in all three flocks with a total of maybe 1000 reindeer.
And we are slowly heading straight towards them. They probably seek the snow to cool of a bit in the heat.

Suddenly the flock closest to us starts moving. A single animal decides to head off and more follow, starting a movement that picks up in speed and force as more and more animals join. We watch in anticipation; are they heading off? We sort of looked forward to walk straight past them.
But then the outbreakers suddenly turn around and back towards the flock in a spiral-like movement that closes in on itself and slows down towards the centre of the flock, and slowly the movement comes to a halt. It's like watching a hurricane move around it's eye. Completely incomprehensible to us, we have no idea why they do this, but it happens several times while we hike towards them.

Finally walking by them, they are calm and don't seem too concerned about us. They talk to each other in little almost barking sounds. Calves keeping close to their mothers. There is something very calming about the whole thing. All these animals living their lives out here, no where to go really, nothing to do, except the necessary. Once in a while they are rounded up by the same people and moved, some are used for meat. These are not wild animals, they all belong to the same community.

It's hard to hike and my initial enthusiasm in the morning gives way for the pain of walking with a 20 kilo backpack. Every time we eat something we silently celebrate that the packs are getting just a tiny bit lighter.
I keep trying to find the ideal way to carry the load on my back, but too much on the hips, and my hips ache, and when I loosen the hipbelt, my shoulders start to burn.
There is nothing to do, but to accept, that this isn't comfortable.
This is our first whole day of hiking and our bodies still haven't gotten used to it.
Bodies take time.

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