Written by: Stein Håvard Fjestad
Date: 13.03.2012 07:54
Third night. The worst. Tired now. Grabbing on to the handlebar. Ops, fell asleep there for a second. Dogs are running nicely next to each other, two and two. The reflective ribbons on the harness glow in the dark. Good to have something to look at. Watch out now, don’t fall asleep. Opening the parka so it gets cold, not as easy to fall asleep now. Tying the line hard around my wrist in case I fall off. Dogs are running, dancing, two and two through the dark night. The reflective tape shows the walk, some in amble, two galloping and the rest trotting. Time does not exist, only movement exists. The sound of squeaky slats, and dancing paws are drowned out under a fur hat and hood. Darkness surrounds everything and all that matters is what I can see in the glow from the head light. Life is exhausting, but simple. Smoke? Is that the smell of burning birch? The dogs start galloping. Are we getting close to the checkpoint? Soon I can see the lights from the village down in the valley. Some unrelenting descents make me awake, alert and decisive.
Out on the river. A few kilometers later I see the lights from the checkpoint behind the headland, soon I see headlights. People in reflective wests grab hold of the lead dogs and leads us in to an area bellow the mountain lodge that is surrounded by plastic tape. Three dog teams have already hit the hay. Lights, sounds, people talking to me. Can see them talk, hear the sounds, but can’t really perceive what they are saying. Haven’t heard the sound of voices in eight hours. Going to care for the dogs now. Knows the routines like the palm of my hand. Anker down. Going around, praising every dog and stroking some of them over the back. Good mood in my pack. High waging tales, high heads. They are twisting their entire body, some throwing themself down on the ground and rolling around. Booties off. Working methodically from the back of the dog team to the front. I guess I’m tired, have to take a step back when I stand up. Bringing out the snacks, and giving one piece to each dog as I say their name. They jump up, and catch the piece of salmon in the air. Taking backlines off, giving out hay. The dogs get in to the hay after a few laps around themselves. Running for water and firing up the feed cooker, putting meat and dry foods in to the cooling bag. Eating a frozen piece of bread and emptying a bottle of cola that is now slush, while the water is boiling. Sounds start coming through now. I realize that a couple of hundred people are watching me work. The dog food is mixed with water and after some stirring it’s ready. A ladle and a half for each dog. Bowls carried out two and two. And then the reward, the best sound a musher can wish for; fourteen dogs eating without hesitating. Bowles collected, before I lay coats on all dogs, and blankets over seven pairs of tired dogs, soon to enter deep and dreamless sleep. Tiding up around the sled before I walk to the lodge where I can sleep. Peeling off outer garments and boots, noticing that my entire body is aching, before I crawl into my sleeping bag. Sleeping safe and sound, knowing that in three hours I have to get up and out again. I am 95 kilometers closer to the finish line.
Quote of today: ”It’s not real long distance racing until the breeding on the way is decisive.” Rolf Wille Johansen, Alta. Cowboy and musher.
Kjetil Reitan at the checkpoint.