Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Frozen Frontier>; Slogging though a harsh reality

25th of February 2013 –
Camp at Uyega, an abandoned pre-Soviet weather station –
Around -30 degrees Celsius

The last three days have all been the harsh reality of life out here in the taiga. It is among the harshest I have ever come across.

I still wake up early morning, feeling slightly cold, but right now I am just sleeping in my undies. I am sure the great Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland is smiling if he reads this. I talked to him before leaving asking him to update me on the equipment to choose since it is more than 7 years since I spent any time in the Arctic. But yes, Borge, my sleeping bag was probably too cold this time too!

However, freezing a bit keeps you on your toes. And before leaving, I communicated with a new friend of mine, Dr Ken Kamler, about extreme cold and he mentioned that in the best cared for and reasonably humane gulags during the Stalin Atrocities, very few of the prisoners had colds, flu´s or any such illnesses due to the extreme cold. (In the worst ones, like the ones I visited along the Kolyma, 100 000 where worked, beaten and starved to death) I will, once back in from this Expedition, write more about the tests done on this trip as regards to the extreme cold and everything related to this. And on other items of discovery on this highly interesting Expedition, since one always needs a decent amount of time to make an assessment. I have learned throughout the years that one very often makes serious mistakes speaking out about life when tired. And, yes, I am tired after a demanding trip! I miss my wife and girls more than I ever thought possible!

The last three days have been a real roller coaster trip. It has been like sitting on one of these mechanical bulls which can be found at some bars in the US of A. One fights desperately to hold on, until impossible, and then you get thrown off! Yesterday I rolled off the sled three times, one time with two reindeer running over my back!

But, let me tell how impressed I am by the reindeer! It is less than 8 months ago I crossed one of the hottest deserts on earth together with Kensington The Camel and Tanya Holm, who´s intellectual company I miss a lot on this trip. But camels, well Kensington being an exception, they can be mean and bite and kick. Reindeer however are so docile, kind and even when I ended up in front of them, having been thrown off the sled due to Slava´s aggressive driving, they hardly touched me with their hooves.

Everyone is eager to reach Arkah which will be the end of our trip. This is where Slava, Tolya, Vika and Yura Grigorovich live. The old settlement will be the end of their trip. So, that means it is the end for us as well. For this reason, animals such as humans, are eager to get there quickly. These last days we have furiously traveled over steep hills, dense under growth, thick taiga, big stretches of snow free ice and we are no more than 3-4 days away. At this speed, it’s hard on the reindeer, so we are resting at least one day here in this abandoned, ruined former Soviet weather station.

Yegor is leaving us today. A snow mobile arrived last night from Arkah with two big personalities. One of them Slava´s brother. They will soon take Yegor to Arkah. It is 10.30 in the morning now and he will be leaving in 30 minutes to sort out some serious business problems. This is sad for the rest of us. Yegor has done a superb job so far of organizing this Expedition, and without him it would not be possible. A great promoter of the region and its people, Yegor’s aim is to promote tourism travel by reindeer for a few days, something I agree.

We still have a very hard way to reach Arkah, but we plan on being there this weekend. If all goes well, and so far it has. Yet, every time we have a rest day, it ends up being 3-4 rest days. We will see! I want to go home to my wife and girls now. A month is too long. Far too long!

However, I feel extraordinary privileged and happy to have experienced what I would say is one of the most interesting journey´s I have ever done!

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