A UFO in the Taiga
Our last wild camp of the Expedition, 30 km:s north of Arkah, in the taiga
-30 degrees Celsius
I just came back from a small tasty dinner of frozen, chopped up reindeer heart eaten raw at the Eveny tent. Tonight is our last night together in the wilderness, and it feels sad. We have had a great time together. Especially the last three days. Gone are the sarcastic jokes. Back is the comradeship and we finally all feel like a team - or a family. Zjena´s arrival has done a lot. On top of that, it is easier travel. We have traveled on a snowmobile track until an hour ago, when we hit the mining road leading into Arkah. Zjena is Slava´s eldest brother and he has gone through a lot of hardship in life, like years of alcoholism, and returned stronger to life, with a lot less golden teeth, but with great warmth and knowledge. He joined us three days ago and will travel with us to Arkah, because he misses his daughter. He has left his parents in a faraway camp in the mountains ten days travel from Arkah.
“Yes!” I have shouted out in joy on and off during the evenings on this journey, when browsing through some of the film material taken during the day. Happy if what I see is what I want for the documentary.
This makes the now 5 Eveny´s laugh out loud. They really see me as one of the biggest jokes on earth with all my oddities or things I do totally wrong in their eyes. Which are most things. Like for example not eating every single scrap in sight of the meat on the bones served during dinner. That can be anything from rare looking intestines or tasty spare ribs. Or holding an axe the wrong way. Or tying on my gear oddly to the sled. Most of the time though, they laugh their head off and joke incessantly about me -in their eyes my fat-looks or odd looking gear. I am really at the butt end of all their jokes. All understandable! I am the true E.T for them!
The other day in Chirpolay, they even asked me to shave off both my beard and the odd grey hair on my normally bald head. They all shave themselves almost every day and keep clean throughout the Expedition. For them this is just normal work. For me on an expedition, looking rough and ready is part of it....sorry Pam, I know you want me to look rough when I get back, but this time it will be hard with all these Eveny´s and Yakut´s who want to look clean shaven. They have no clue how a real guy should look like after a journey like this! ;-)
Fortunately I don´t hear the crudest jokes. Believe me, there are plenty of them, but my special protector Bolot Bochkarev doesn´t translate them. He has such a big heart, this guy, and is the one of us all non-Eveny´s who really has done a tremendous job on all levels on this trip. I met him a year ago and thought he was the most serious guy on earth. But, it turns out, it is just a language thing. When he speaks Russian with the team, he is full of laughter and jokes and when it is time for English, he becomes serious again. So, in reality, he is a very humorous guy with lots of wits! It just shows that humor doesn´t translate easily. Me, normally being a joker, well, the only one laughing here is the great photographer Yura Stephanovic, and he does it just to be kind! Such a crew I have. Great all of them!
One of the highlights every evening in the tent is when I have transferred all material to the hard discs and the Eveny´s can watch the GoPro films taken during the day. The GoPro camera is a tiny camera which can be strapped on your chest, on your forehead or on top of a tripod held to give a birds eye view of traveling with reindeer...Or even on the head of a reindeer...Or its butt! It is kind of an action camera with a great wide angle which is a joy to use and as fun to see the result afterwards. Often long sequences with one of the Eveny´s as the main star of the day. Or me doing some mistake or something they think is really hilarious!
They sit in our tent for hours each evening watching the laptop, me writing, the film clips or the photos taken during the day by anyone in our group who owns one. They love all sequences and photos which includes themselves and the reindeer. They´re really easy going and sociable, so it is just a joy, even if it means that privacy, of course, doesn´t exist. No worries about that!
By the way, Zjenya just said he was nervous going into Arkah tomorrow. Most of these guys haven´t been there for over a year. He said:
“In the forest there´s always something to do, but in Arkah, I don´t know what to do. Or how to behave.”
Maybe I won´t feel like E.T there! ;-)
Then he said; ’”You look like 25 and there will be many girls waiting for you!
So I realized, he was not to be trusted on any subject. Anyways, our second camera just stopped working, the LCD screen have frozen up and that makes me real worried. So we have kind of a sauna inside our tent now, to sort the problem out. The first camera is out, now the second....see if we can fix it by burning lumber during the night.
Ah, yes, Slava said he wants to ride first into town, with the Explorers Club Flag on a pole behind him. This shows that he likes this and just doesn´t do it for the money only. That is what I finally want to add. During a long month like this under these circumstances, one makes many mistakes and judgements, which are not right. I have done many on this trip, as always, and I will eventually, after some time, write a book, since I have been offered a contract, and there I will summarize it all with perspective. Well, I will do it even sooner, in reports ahead. The Expedition isn´t over until the beginning of April!
Now, one day to go to the final goal in Arkah and I am beginning to understand what an enormous privilege I have been bestowed upon. This has been almost a fantasy coming through. But with a harsh reality always lingering in the background. Such is the life of humankind!