Tuesday, August 03, 2010

16th August

We woke up to the blinding light of the YL's dressed for "Rave Day" and we crawled straight into the showers to test out Tim's theory of a free hot shower. It didn't work, so we had to pay they whole 10NKR for the 5 minutes of hot water, which was bliss. The smell of herbal essences followed us through the campsite and my secret stock of shampoo was harder to hide than I thought as the boys started to ask to borrow it.

The day officially began with a meeting at 10am to assign us jobs to sort out and clean the kit for taking home. Gabby and I didn't actually get assigned to anything but to pull our weight we went into Mark and Stevie G's group to sort tents. This lasted until 12 when we decided to have lunch and then we were going on a bus to visit the Alta Dam. Before we left we got a group photo taken as this would be the last time the whole group would be together as a few were leaving today. Mark's goodbye was especially emotional as he had managed to inspire each of us during the trip somehow.

We attempted to get some of our reflective journals done but ended up falling asleep before picking up our informative guide. there weren't enough helmets for us all walk into the plant so we were forced to drive the bus through the mountain and onto the dam. Nobody had told us what we were actually there for so there was just lots of revelry and crude photos taken on the dam and it wasn't until we followed the labyrinth staircase to the cinema did we realise that this was the site of a cultural protest by the Sami. The cinema itself was the darkest place we had been during the four weeks and it was beginning to feel like a school trip as we all messed about at the dam and on the bus.

We were heading back to the campsite for a BBQ but on the journey back Steve and Tim overheard Tasha, Gabby and I's about the chick-o-meter and joined in, but as soon as the process of "laying" got introduced it all went a bit too far...

Back at camp Tasha and I got on the Rave paint, just as we were about to be evaluated for out Duke of Edinburgh Gold, it didn't seem to make a difference as they decided to give me the residential and expedition sections. I was more than happy with that.

Meanwhile we painted everybody else with rave paint as it was a long time before any food was served but when it was, my were we excited. I usually avoid hot dogs at all costs but it was the most beautiful and was gone in a flash as we had not had "meat" in so long. There was a little boy who knew Mike or something had tagged along and was called Ru, there were mixed feelings about him.

The last night had not major big farewell feeling or group reminisce. I got my antlers signed before attempting to pack in the dark but it was helped by me finding my glow sticks and head torches for Rave day. We attempted to get everyone to stay up but it didn't work as we got to the tent at 12. The mood was lightened as I turned my phone on and realised I had a voicemail from mum asking if I had landed in Gatwick safely... We were reluctant to go to sleep as we knew this was the last night as a trio in our tent.

Monday, August 02, 2010

15th August

Steve came to wake us up at 6:22am as we had snored past our 5:45 alarm... We weren't to pleased to be on the first shuttle considering we were the last to get back to the campsite and to bed. Plus poor Tasha had to get up too although she was on the last shuttle. We had an hour to get completely packed up, tents and all. Mark tried his tactic to get us to the fluffy stage by making our hot chocolates and hot cereal starts which we ate on the mini bus(which didn't leak this time). Helen put on a random Norwegian CD which was very amusing but it was very quiet under Steve the Sami fact Machine as we were heading to Kautokeino which is one of the largest Sami settlements, in Norway at least.

We arrived in Kautokeino at 8:30 but nothing opened until 9am and the tourist office we were leaving our packs in wasn't open until ten... It appeared out modern western culture is effecting the young Sami people as they face a dichotomy between sticking to tradition or moving on with the rest of the world as many young men stumbled past swigging alcohol at 9 in the morning. As we waited outside the tourist office we made several toilet runs before heading down to the "Coop" in time for it opening. We were in awe. Suddenly we were surrounded by all the foods we had craved throughout the whole trip. In the end we went for the simple foods of "Super Brøt" and "Ballerina Muffins." After letting the boys go in got a look we headed over to somewhere that looked like a bank in search for a cash machine. It was weird going straight from 4 weeks of wilderness to being back into civilisation so quickly. Here we saw some people in traditional Sami dress and it was inspiring to see that not everybody was infected by western culture, although it was apparent this was still mainly the older generations.

Back at the coop a man stumbled past us and perched himself next to Gabby and flung his arm around her and nuzzled his nose into her cheek while telling her to come up to his tent on Finnmark's highest point to see his reindeer... Steve then jumped to the rescue but the man misunderstood and said "oh, you like this girl too?" but Steve replied sternly, "No, I am the group leader." The man backed off and eventually disappeared into the Coop. After that encounter with an overly friendly local we were told there had been a large wedding in the town last night and so most residents were probably still drunk. We headed to back to the tourist office to finally get rid of our rucksacks but the "surfer dude" who Steve spoke to wasn't there and the tourist office was apparently closed for the rest of the summer. The tourist office was also a hostel and a cafe so the ind woman running the place let us keep our bags in the cellar anyway. With that finally sorted we headed down to the Sami museum to learn everything else about the Sami that Steve or Sam had left out. Kautokeino was particularly busy today as there was a unique festival on called "Vaandrag" which involved competitors racing skidoos on water. The museum had a great view of the river where it was held so we tried to grab a spot. The museum was small but packed full of traditions dresses, stuffed reindeer and equipment used by the sami over the years. Outside there were authentic huts and one was a sauna and had a good view of the river. Unfortunately people in fluorescent yellow jackets with "Billeten" on them came past and informed us it would be 100NKR (about £10) to watch so we had to move on.

We met the group from the next shuttle and warned them about the tickets and so we headed back up to the tourist office and there was actually a good view from their, until the rain started. After several more trips to the coop the final shuttle arrived and we headed up to the Sami university for a talk at 1:30. The university building was far from any of the traditional huts and tipees from the museum but very futuristic. The building wasn't actually complete yet and we had to take our shoes off at the door be it for hyqiene reasons or tradition, it wasn't pleasant for anyone as we exposed our four week old socks, especially to our lecturer who greeted us. Although the doors stopped working and half us the group had to go in the side entrance the uni building was very impressive as we headed up a walkway that was partially a staircase but just at a very low angle.

Our lecturer was called Svein D. Mathiesen and was a lecturer of vetinary sciences at Oslo university as well as Biology at the Sami University. He is also and active member of EALÁT and the Arctic Council which raises awareness of the effect of climate change on the Sami lifestyle and how they have to adapt to these changes. The speech was interesting and very useful to most of us but you could tell some people were drifting off elsewhere...

After the talk it was back to waiting as their was a bus coming for us in either half an hour or at half five. Our group went to the coop for one last spree before gathering around the picnic table for more tales of Askalladin, jelly sweets and marzipan animals.
The bus eventually arrived and we were heading all the way back to Alta. I got my nose stuck into my bedtime reading, the first aid book.

The Alta campsite greeted us with dry weather despite the angry stuff we went through to get there. All the other groups had set up camp by the time we arrived and they distracted us from putting up our own tents as we caught up with them. It was weird how much we had missed them after only 5 days, imagine wahyt 5 months will be like...

We got our tent up but stayed in the TV room, even though the TV didn't work, and investigated the other facilties ie, the hot shower. We all congregated there and spoke about the past week . It was great to all be back together but a shame that we had all grown so close on the last days.

14th August

We were all feeling the aches and pains of yesterday but none of us as bad as Tasha who was forced to walk with Deirdrie the doctor with "bjorn" as she probably wouldn't be able to do our trek today. Gabby and I had a few aches and pains but our "lie in" helped a bit. Mark even made us breakfast which was sweet but we learnt this was a tactic to get us up... However he was forgiven when he helped me pack my stupid roll mat and fixed my gaiters with duct tape.

Gabby and I were in charge of the map today briefly until Alistair "wanted a look." Probably for the best really, although I am exceptional at knowing places I am rubbish at navigation. However, none of us were as due to a non-existent river we went the wrong way down a peak and the wrong way down a road. As we plodded, in the wrong direction, Mark and I discussed travels and bread, he told me of the amazing flavours of bread he made. Tim then told us of some chili jam his friend made. It got to the point where we really missed home comforts, like bread. Two berry pickers passed us on quad bikes and a man who worked on a salmon farm. It was nice to see the locals and their level of English was impressive, it always makes me feel terrible about how ignorant we are to their language.

After getting lost several times we passed a reindeer farm that led to the main road and we knew "Bjorn", and camp, was nearby. The reindeer farm was abandoned as we assumed they were out on the plateau but it was discouraging that there were reindeer legs sprawled about the place looking disturbingly fresh. As we were observing such sights a freak hailstorm started and thankfully we headed to a bus shelter where Helen and her "trusty" minibus picked us up from the roadside.Turns out we had just walked the wrong way again as the bus took us straight back from where we came from. Again Bjorn had our stoves going and we got food but there was no constant water source so there wasn't hot chocolates all round. Gabby and I were devastated to find out that we were on the first bus to Kauteokeino at 7am. Therefore we took our veg bolognaise to the tent, to the disgust of Tasha, went to bed and crashed.