We trekked about 60 kilometres today. Mad Nick the boss-eyed dog was supposed to be in the lead but because he was having a bad day he couldn't be. As a result he had to go at the back and the rest of the dogs went on strike in solidarity. Their go slow was bit inconvenient.
Things got a bit spiced up because Mad Nick wasn't supposed to go with any other male dogs, but he was put with another male and a female on heat! When we got back from lunch they were all in a knot. We had to unscramble them because of what they had been doing.
I managed to drop my phone and got a whole load of sarcastic comments as a result - was i checking my e-mails or drafting letters?
The last few hours we had to travel in the dark. It was a bit of a strain. We couldn't see where we were going. We would career off and only realise after hearing calls from others. We had so many layers on that we couldn't see or hear anything in any case.
The scenery is basically white, the trees are all covered in snow. You go along and notice upturned boats with five foot of snow on them by you. You realise that you're on a lake and that explains the lack of trees. At one point we saw a bridge - we were on a river.
We heard from a Sami tonight who was from the first generation which was not nomadic. His parents would move from the Norwegian coast to the forest of Sweden following the path of the Reindeer. In the summer the reindeer would be in the mountains of Norway and then move through eating lichen, which they dig up with their hooves.
The problem of global warming is that the winters have become much more unpredictable. Temperatures vary from hot to cold very quickly. When it warms up the snow softens up and melts. Then, the next day, it goes cold and everything freezes. The reindeer are frozen out from the lichen. He said that this year 140,00 reindeer are being artificially fed.
That's all for now. Tomorrow is (attempted) igloo building.
After a much needed warming breakfast we meet the guides for the expedition and learn how to harness and care for the dogs; our ‘engine power’ for the week! Once the sleds are packed up we'll be ready to go…but with a gentle start to warm our muscles up and get used to the dogs, and for the dogs to get used to us.
The route for the first day takes us over wide hard-packed trails, west across fairly flat terrain, with a landscape of trees, frozen rivers and lakes. The trek passes through two tiny Sámi villages, Saivomuotka and Sudjavaara. The second has no more than ten houses. From here the landscape will begin to change, becoming more wild and rugged, with small lakes and swamps to avoid, and spectacular views of Mount Nunasvara to enjoy, as well as the possibility of catching a glimpse of eagles in the area.
The rest of the day will be a challenge, but ends in the town of Övre Soppero with the promise of an evening spent eating dinner in the home of a local Sápmi family. One of the expedition participants, TV chef Merrilees Parker, may even get the chance to throw a hand in and help prepare some traditional Sámi foods - possibly reindeer heart!