Explorer Mikael Strandberg

20 years since the Siberian Expedition: Johan Ivarsson’s two month summary

20 years since the Siberian Expedition:

Johan Ivarsson’s two month summary

N64°43’07.1, E153°41’13.8
All day rain, light wind

We’ve basically been out two whole months in the Siberian wilderness, paddling our baidarka (canoe). We’re getting closer to Zyryanka, our main goal for the paddling part of the expedition. Once in Zyryanka, we will have to wait there at least one month, until the ice is strong enough and there’s enough snow to continue north by ski’s.

This first part have been a wonderful time, a dream coming true for myself. To live as a trapper, to survive on hunting and fishing. I have now seen that I’m capable of doing just that. What an enormous sense of freedom that gives!

When I sit here inside the heated Moskoselcot, eating fish caught only an hour ago, and thinking back over the last couple of months, I realize that this time has given me a new, wider perspective on the secure life I’ve lived back home in Sweden. During this time I’ve experienced periods of hunger, a nasty, life threatening incident with a giant of bear only a week ago and the viciously fast and dangerous rivers during the start of our trip. All this have given me perspective.

Even the day-to-day things to be done have gone through a complete overhaul since the start of the Expedition. In the beginning, it would take us over 4 hours to get everything sorted out in the morning, before the canoe was packed and ready for leaving. A time at least one of us got irritated on the other for doing something wrong or standing in the way. Now, however, we do those same chores in just over 2 hours and we both know exactly what to do.

Another dramatic change since the start of the trip, is the way we handle the canoe and how we handle the big variety of water we pass through. For example, fast currents and whitewater, which in the beginning was so frightening that we didn’t know if we would dare to paddle through it at all, we now pass concentrated, but relaxed and easily without any doubts.

These changes are only a few of all our daily chores gone through out here. Changes like better cooperation and stricter routines save lots of time and effort, and makes life much easier. And even if it isn’t strange at all that this changes have occurred, it would be even more peculiar if they didn’t. Still, it is remarkable how fast one can adjust to one another to make life easier and more comfortable. And indeed, what can be more comfortable than this life?

Anyhow, the paddling is coming to an end and the arrival of winter and thousands of kilometers of skiing is getting closer. Even if preparations for the winter part of the Expedition started a long time ago, with pulling tires, a training aimed at the specific muscles one uses when skiing and pulling the sledges, and with nights spent in the tent outside in the garden during the cold nights last winter, it is now that the more exact planning of the winter is taking place. And therefore, the worrying has also begun.

My biggest worry is the weight. The good thing with the canoe is the capacity it has to carry a lot of equipment. During winter we will have to pull this heavy weight ourselves. And we will have no help from the water or the currents to move forward, on the contrary, they pose a threat of weak ice. So the only thing we can rely on, is our own muscles and bodies. And I ask myself:
“How heavy will the sledges actually be? Will we be able to move them at all?”

What I do know is that I’ve had a great time so far and I doubt, even if I know that it will be extremely cold and tough, that the winter will be any different.

The Siberian Collection

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