Wednesday, July 23, 2014

30th of June

This blog was originally posted on the Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blog on July 3, 2014.

by Kate Tyndall and Jinhui Wang

Akka will have a special place in our hearts!
Another early morning saw our ragtag group packing up from our home in Tarfala, saying goodbye to our new friends (Akka got a particularly long goodbye) and hitting the trail. The good weather and promise of a downhill start lulled many of us into a false sense of confidence. If you’ve never done a 14 mile (24 kilometer) hike, let me tell you: it’s not easy, especially when you’ve hiked about 30 miles in the last 4 days.

We started off at a leisurely pace, reluctant to leave the beautiful mountains. The ice-cold streams offered abundant fresh water, and our cracker sandwiches melted in our backpacks into tasty grilled cheeses. Once out of the valley, our trek turned from a leisurely stroll to a life-or-death flight.

Sam took desperate measures
to avoid the mosquito hordes.
It started slowly – a buzz here, a bite there, a bug in someone’s eye – but soon the mosquito hordes surrounded us, insatiable in their quest for hiker blood. Stopping for even a moment meant certain discomfort. The only way to avoid these vicious predators was to walk quickly, in single file. We took turns at the front, pushing through the swarms for a while until someone else took over the lead.

The grueling pace and constant threat of bites wore away at us. By the time we were finished, we all felt ready for a nap and a new pair of feet. We grabbed our gear from the helicopter crew and made our way to Nikkaluokta.

Nikkaluokta is a very small town, part of a Sami village. Hikers come here to eat, camp, and prepare for the trail. We had hoped to meet some Sami people there, but as the spring season requires the reindeer herders to gather their animals to mark the calves, they had all left. We ate dinner in the tiny village’s café. The meal of potatoes, salad, and reindeer stew was delicious after our long trek (for those who are curious, reindeer tastes a lot like lamb).

Kyle makes himself at home in a Sami earth lodge
After dinner, we struggled for a while to find our cabins. You’d think that a town of 50 people would make it difficult to get lost, but somehow we managed. We finally found our quaint cabins and turned in for an early bedtime. The cabins looked like a trip back to the 1950s, with old-fashioned ovens, hand-painted flowers on the cabinets, and surprisingly comfortable bunk beds. We fell asleep watching the first Hobbit movie, and not even the incessant buzzing of mosquitos could wake us.


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