Another day in paradise

Three seasons in Swedish Lapland have gone and passed. Every season has come with an abundance of mixed feelings. Already in summer I decided it would be my last trip to the Swedish north. One to end it, one to close the chapter, one to enjoy driving sleds in Kiruna one more time. It didn’t turn out as I expected: it didn’t turn out to be that season that provided good closure, an end on a positive note. Nevertheless, it was the best season I’ve had.

Many people dream of working in Lapland, especially when it comes to the dogs. I was once a dreamer too. I often heard from guests that I must be so happy with the job because it’s the best one in the world. And yes, it is. Except for the other side of it, the side that makes most people head south again after one single season.

When confronted with the duality of their dream job I often heard other seasonal workers reply: “Yes, yes… another day in paradise”. I know that there are many sides to this sentence: some honesty, with a hint of sarcasm and skepticism. This one line nails down what is hard to explain in more words. I always found it hard to speak openly about many issues while I was still there. So now that the journey has ended I feel that I should explain how I personally experienced my time up north.

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The Great Himalaya Trail

A few years ago a man called Robin Boustead had a vision: to create a trail spanning the length of the entire Himalaya, from Bhutan in the east right through to Afghanistan in the west. Though there are some obvious practical and security issues with this, a route is roughly in place from Bhutan to Pakistan. The Great Himalaya Trail is out there and has challenged quite a few experienced hikers and mountaineers during its lifespan. Brave and bold as we like to be we decided to put it on the agenda, though not without a sound portion of shaky knees just from the thought of it.

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The road through Norway, part IV: Svalbard

Being the last outpost before the North Pole, the backcountry of Svalbard is one that truly deserves to be called wilderness. On these desolate islands approximately 2500 people share the land with more than 3000 polar bears. The geography is striking: pointy mountains rising out of the sea, broad valleys crosscut by glacial rivers, ridgelines as sharp as the edge of a knife. 60% percent of the land is covered with ice.

Outside of the main settlements (and even inside of the smaller ones) carrying a rifle and a signal pistol are basic safety requirements. It’s a land of hunters and trappers, where sound instincts and a good intuition are necessary for survival, where us humans are not always on top of the food chain. I had seen Svalbard once before in summertime so a return to the islands while completely covered in a white, fluffy blanket was long overdue.

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The end

Coming to the end of a winter season feels very similar to coming to the end of a long hike: it’s an intense period and it seems that it will never stop, then suddenly it’s all over. People who were automatically around go their own ways. Life as it is stops right there.

My last scheduled tour was a week tour with 6 guests. I had been looking forward to it for a long time: a week out with the dogs during those long, sunny spring days. I still wanted to go to a remote cabin far up the river, close to the mountains: Vieksaluokta. I hoped for the guests, the weather, and the tour schedule to be nice.

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The beginning of the end

For the past five days I have been so incredibly tired that all I felt I could do, was sleep. Outside endless snow kept falling from the sky. Around 50cm of fresh powder must have been dumped on us during the past three days. When I was driving back PJ’s overnight guests yesterday, they asked me if the road we were driving on was a forest track. So much snow had fallen that there was hardly any trace of it left.

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