New World

The morning is sunny. No signs of the previous night's party... I get up and repeatedly turn to the dogs, asking, "Did you see that? Are you okay?" They seem moderately confused, but it looks like they've adapted to the new conditions better than I have. The cause of Skudra's awkward behavior last night then reveals itself. All the snacks from the sled are gone as she was within reach of the supplies.

After a moment, a snowmobile arrives, and a man steps off to talk. He states the reason: this is Abisko National Park, and setting up tents is not allowed. I confirm that I'm aware of the fact, adding it's an emergency stop due to the storm. "Yes, I know there was a storm, that's why I don't bark at you," the man jokes in a serious tone, while Skudra can't stop barking at him... He politely bids farewell and suggests we leave quickly as this is private territory. I couldn't leave in time because shortly after, the owners, Sámi people, arrived. Hands waving in the air and shouting something, a snowmobile approaches. The man steps off, walks to my skis, and throws them away into the snow. I try to say something, but I'm met with, "Go to hell!" spoken with a Finnish accent. I have to be fast again—I move all my belongings close to the trail to prevent the conflict from escalating. The Sámi disappear as quickly as they show up, and I can calmly pack my stuff. I also want to leave quickly as this place hasn't given me any pleasant feelings so far. However, the weather is very mild and sunny; I pull out the snowhook again, and we glide onwards, lit in the sunlight, across the lake.

Soon, we reach the first serious ascent, which the dogs outright refuse to take on. "Too heavy a load or the slope is too steep, pull it yourself," is the verdict. The snow, previously whipped by the storm onto the trail, is now soft and heavy. Quite exhausted, both pushing and pulling, I eventually decided to go ahead of the dogs. But that doesn't really work—stubbornly, they wait, expecting me to come and help them push forward. I'm sweaty and worried that the sudden wind might cause a cold. At the top of the hill, we encounter a middle-aged couple with two huskies. We briefly discuss the storm, and I continue on my way. The pace is slow, even on the relatively even terrain; snow sticks everywhere, including to the sleds. But finally, the beauty of the mountains reveals itself in all its charm, a sight I can't get used to. It trumps the heavy work of pulling and pushing. Crossing lakes, testing my map-reading skills a bit, but with no critical errors. The feeling is serene, as it can be when the winds no longer blow the soul out, and a calm wilderness surrounds you.

In the evening, I arrived at the Alesjaure STF hut. I meet the manager and opt to stay indoors as the previous night didn't offer much rest. Anxiously, I bought two packs of matches—I've got two half-empty boxes left from the previous night, with a questionable ability to ignite anything. I then get acquainted with the STF camp's order and rules. Guests cut and chop wood themselves, fetching water from quite a distant spring. There's no electricity in these mountain huts; everything is simple and basic, with minimum comfort, which is enough. Self-service brings guests together—while preparing dinner, I get to know some Germans, who are also heading my way. In another house, there's a Dutch person and a Swede, who recognizes my origin from my accent and always greets me with, "Very good!" in Latvian.

The Germans are awaiting the northern lights, the sky is clear, and the weather is cold—perfect conditions, but where is it? The Germans are impatient. I'm tired and unable to wait for anything more—either do something or sleep. Before going to bed, I send a message to Santa. It's been two days on the road, albeit not full ones, but only 35 kilometers of 200. At this pace, reaching Kvikkjokk should take two weeks, and a lot of snacks specially for Skudra. I consider changing the route and heading off the trail towards Nikkaluokta, where there's road access and a possibility to get out.

The next morning, the Dutch person reports that the northern lights danced like crazy for 45 minutes. I inform the Germans, who can't hide their disappointment as they went to bed just half an hour before the show. I'm not very disappointed – I still have everything ahead of me.

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