Back to Kvikkjokk

The Pårtestugan hut sits on a picturesque peninsula, so small you can see the lake on all three sides at once. Early morning, Matt's already up, chopping wood. While camp visitors usually handle tasks like collecting firewood and water, he seems to relish being involved in everything. Sensing his openness, I approached him the previous evening. He treated me to freshly baked polar bread straight from the pan, accompanied by butter, a divine taste even after having just eaten. His past as a baker is evident in the taste. Lately, he's been teaching natural sciences to teenagers, but he stepped back with the shift to remote learning, recognizing the diminished connection between teacher and student, something he deeply values. When I asked about Pårtestugan, he mentioned it's his second time working here, the previous stint being... 29 years ago. "There was a frozen tree over there. I miss it..." His reflection suddenly shifts my perspective, bringing me closer to this place and the elderly gentleman. He inquires about Russian-language newspapers, movies, and cinemas showing only Hollywood films. Everything outside Sweden used to be foreign, but not anymore," he says, still surprised. I add that today, Norway feels more foreign than Latvia due its status outside the EU, a fact we both acknowledge.

He's here this morning too, unobtrusive and willing to assist. Our conversations, typically formal, are now genuine—filled with gratitude and kindness. Once again, I meticulously organize the sled harnesses; mistakes at this stage would be foolish. We're back on the lake, heading toward Kvikkjokk.

Snow clings to the skis again, but it doesn't bother me much; I've got time, and I estimate arriving around noon, even with a slower pace. The last descent flashes through my mind, although not steep; these indicators can mean varied conditions. I plan to secure ropes around the sled runners again, just to avoid any surprises.

With about an hour left to Kvikkjokk, the realization dawns that the journey is indeed ending, soon the trip will be over... I glance at my dogs ahead, wondering if they know... They sense something, undoubtedly reading my mood and emotions. In the middle of the lake, I halt, hug the dogs, and tears well up. Our regular routines and relationships will resume soon, but this shared experience will linger with us.

Santa awaits us at the Kvikkjokk mountain station, the dogs rushing to greet her. We loop around the lake, getting closer to the road uphill leading to Ario's cabin. The snow has melted, and the path is rocky. I remove my skis, yet the dogs effortlessly pull the sleds uphill, even without snow, because, yes – we can.

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