Thin Ice

Rain drumming on the tent wakes me up. But it's not that; my initial reaction is the sensation of dampness all around. Stepping outside, I calm down—it's snow, yet the reason for its loud sound eludes me. The dogs are resting playfully, despite covering about 40 kilometers in challenging terrain the previous day.

Yesterday evening, another surprise emerged—not just mobile phone reception but surprisingly decent internet. It's not what I long for—the parallel universe where humans spend a large part of their lives. I want to stay here and now. Ignoring the dangerously close approaching web, each of us has breakfast, continuing on the trail.

Today, we'll be edging closer to civilization, figuring out how to reach Saltoluokta, situated on the opposite shore of the lake. The red note about 'Svag ice' warns of dangers due to the nearby power station. After reaching there, I pause to explore route options. At the parking lot, I encountered a Dutch family traveling with a house on wheels—no exaggeration. It's more like a tasteful garden cottage with retractable terraces and balconies, mounted on wheels. I feel the urge to photograph it from all angles but content myself with soaking in the surroundings, capturing my feelings amidst nature's changes. Conversing with the Dutch family, a lovely couple with three nice girls, we exchange stories; mine has grown as I've been on the road for almost a week. The main question about the safe route ahead remains largely unanswered—no trail on the dryland, only along the lake's edge. Deciding options are limited and hesitation leads to indecision, I proceed with what I have. Uncertain about the ice condition, yet not afraid, I keep closer to the shore despite Tommy's pull toward the middle. The dogs have acclimated, navigating some overflow patches without hesitation. Quicker than expected, we safely cross the water, heading toward Saltoluokta STF.

The stop at Saltoluokta is brief—a break for about half an hour to catch my breath and have lunch. I shouldn't lose the positive flow because another significant uphill awaits today—about 300 meters stretched over 3 kilometers. The headwinds, recurring all week, concern me more, particularly regarding the dogs. I've seen this behavior in Skudra, just before heading North—in training, she refuses to pull; the reasons remain unclear. In tough moments, a bond forms between me and the dogs—I try to instill confidence: 'You can do it!' In return, a commitment echoes: 'Don't let us down; we depend on your decisions.' Spotting a mountain hut, I plan to spend the night there. Boldly steering the dogs, we momentarily get stuck in deep snow, but it's a short distance, and we rest.

Struggling to start a fire this time—the wind gusts block traction, filling the hut with smoke intermittently. Trying various techniques, I manage to achieve some warmth when the wind settles momentarily. Drying my boots would be ideal; they've become increasingly wet. Later, I bring in both dogs—not due to the windy chills they endure but for companionship. Sensing we've pushed our limits today, the team needs to come together.

Internet access is available; I send a text to my supporters and surprise Santa with a WhatsApp video call. But the journey isn't over—I focus on the snowy trail, settling into a bunk bed—I'm on the top bunk while my companions rest below.

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