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The Way: A New Beginning - Dog Sledding with Fra Indi

The Way changed me, my dogs, and our relationship. The Way clearly marks a new beginning, a new phase of my life. It changed my perception of the interconnections between the living and non-living which exist in our world, eliciting the radical idea of a sovereign nature with laws that are clear, and straightforward. 

The Way turned out nothing like I had planned: after two days, the pulk became so damaged it could no longer be used, so the load had to be reorganised solely on the sled. The weather conditions and these unforeseen circumstances meant that I would have to adjust my plans and start all over again, calling deeply on my strength to adapt and be flexible. I learnt that Nature asks but one thing of us: the ability to adapt. 

I can’t help but think of the local people who were there for my dogs and me when we had to go back and start again. They offered us a place to stay giving me the chance to repair the equipment and reorganize the expedition. The Way gave me the opportunity to meet these supportive and altruistic people.

They were curiously attracted to my dogs come from afar: six pairs of eyes and ears intrigued by every detail of a land so different from their own, six noses to the wind, six hearts eagerly waiting to go and travel to boundless horizons. The locals were quiet and watchful, their daily activities closely attuned to the weather and light conditions. No hurry, no demands. Sometimes they approached me saying “It’s cold today”, “It’s going to be tough out there”, and “You may need this, I can lend it to you” as a reindeer skin was gently placed on top of my sled.

The immense white extends as far as the eye can see. The wind is a constant presence in these lands; it is right at home here. The Northern Lights are so intense that they can touch even the most indifferent soul. Waves of light that move in the night sky with a rhythm that is inexplicable to the human eye. It’s the spirit of the Earth manifesting through a silent and unpredictable dance on clear, Arctic nights.

The Way transformed me. The ability to change and being flexible are the basic principles of adaptation. 

My dogs and I experienced the Arctic in all its harshness: strong winds, blizzards, heavy snow, and ice characterised the expedition. We had only one sunny day: how amazing the sunshine is, so uplifting! Adi, Tayen, Tulku, Dolly, Indi and Ciuk have been my eyes, ears, legs and mind when the visibility was so poor I couldn’t see where to go. I relied on them in the most difficult situation, when we were in the middle of the storm and had to reach campsite. Adi deserves special thanks: the little one, disrespected by the dog breed and racing experts because of his small size. Despite his size, he took over in this difficult situation and led the team safely to the campsite. He is a “thinking” dog with a big heart.

The Way was the experience of spending the night outside incapable of pitching the tent, with the dogs completely covered by the snow, coping with the blizzard: fifteen hours in the sleeping bag, forcing myself to stay awake to move my hands and feet so they wouldn’t freeze. In my mind, I can see the emergency cabin where we arrived the following day. I felt so much relieved to be there, where I could start a fire to dry the equipment and, so much pride in Adi leading the team and getting us through the continuing storm safely yet again.

At the end of each day in the tent, feeling tired and satisfied, I showered my brave friends with pats and praise because I realized the Arctic was a tough test for them, too.

I couldn’t have asked more of them: they guided me towards what I started calling “our dream to the end of the Earth”.

Crossing frozen lakes, valleys and white expanses, I saw the Sami’s tents and wooden huts (uninhabited in the cold season) and I clearly perceived how nature there marks and decides the rhythm of the life of all living beings, from animals to humans. Everything there owes its life to that harsh place. The natural environment is above and beyond any profit or interest. I believe that not only have I travelled through this part of the Arctic, but I have actually seen it, touched it, experienced it.

Solitude became constant, sometimes joyful, sometimes oppressive, as we traversed passes, crossed over plains and passed by forests of small birch trees under the discreet gaze of birds and moose. The feeling of being the only human presence within tens of kilometres was often very lonely: I would have given anything to hear a familiar voice. I was so happy to meet, talk and drink a cup of tea with two travellers, one day. The misfortune (or the fortune that allowed me to totally immerse myself in that place) didn’t even spare my technological accessories: the satellite phone stopped working quite early on…perhaps a sign that civilization and its vices lose their grip out there.

A few friends of mine, who had been in the North before, warned me, “It’s a place that changes you”. The Way did change me as a human, as an explorer, as a soul searching for answers, as an observer of the world. This experience taught me the importance of recognizing what is truly essential, letting go of the superfluous. The Way has been the most genuine metaphor for life that I have ever experienced.

The Way is a new beginning. The Way: where Civilization ends, Freedom begins

 

Fra Indi -