Monday, 3 July 2017
03.07.2017 - 03.07.2017
Crazy experience, woke up about midnight and stepped out onto the balcony and captured some images of the snow-covered mountains in the distance. Bright daylight at midnight !!
Six hours later we were in closer to the land and the snow-covered mountains are in closer. We've never seen so much snow. We get dressed and head up for breakfast while the ship manoeuvres into the wharf. With all the layers we've put on there's no escaping the icy wind.
There was quite a crowd in the Cabaret Lounge waiting to start their Shore Excursion. There was an announcement that a series of tours had been cancelled due to "Weather Conditions". This didn't effect us and I was surprised that there were not many who got upset. I believe the majority of the passengers are seasoned cruisers and are fully aware of the fickle ways of nature.
We proceeded ashore and were met by a trio of 'Guides' who directed us to three 6-seat vans where we piled in and drove out of town. On the way out we were asked to read and sign an indemnity form. We've agreed that accidents may happen. Some 15 Km out of town we arrive at the camp where the 60 or more dogs set up an overwhelming din as they welcomed us. There are 18 of us and four guides and over the din of the dogs we're told to get dressed in a one-piece insulated waterproof pants, jacket and hood. That took a while as we found the correct size and the matching boots.
Back outside we are introduced to the 'sled' - a 4 wheel buggy with brakes and handlebars for steering. The buggy seats 3, two passengers and a driver. The driver stands and is expected to steer the buggy and apply the brakes to control the dogs. We are to be accommodated in seven buggies but there are just three available guides. They need four volunteers to act as drivers. Disregarding the Army's rule to NEVER volunteer I found that I was to be one of the drivers.
To the accompaniment of the barking dogs who are more than a little excited the guides bring out a pair of dogs and hitch them to the cable that's attached to the buggy. This process is repeated until there are 8 dogs attached to each of the 7 buggies, The dogs are going crazy, snapping, barking and jumping over each other. During this activity the buggy has been anchored to a solid post. When all 56 dogs have been hitched to their buggies one of the guides removes the anchors and the only thing holding the dogs is the driver applying the brakes. With a guide in the lead we take off. The power of those eight dogs in the team was somewhat unexpected and we were soon belting down the road at over 15 Km Per Hour.
With the wind behind at about the same speed the cold was not too bad. The dogs constantly pulled to the right and I was fighting that to keep us on the roadway. After some time we pulled up to provide water for the dogs. The fourth guide had positioned drums of water along the road and each buggy carried two plastic buckets. This watering of the dogs was necessary because on the dog's scale these were summer temperatures. Turning the team for the return trip was not straightforward. One of the guides had to drag the lead dogs back onto the road as they tried to cut the corner over some rough ground.
Heading back to camp was straight into the Arctic blast of the wind. With both hands on the steering I couldn't adjust my hat and hood and my ears were tingling from the cold. All in all it was a unique experience in every sense of the word. I had no previous appreciation of the power of these dogs and was impressed with the ease with which they dragged three adults and the buggy along a rough dirt road. Jenny took over the job of photographer for the duration and made an excellent job of it under adverse conditions.
Back at the camp we stripped off the supplied gear and we were transported back to the ship. We asked to be dropped off in town deciding to catch the shuttle back to the ship. Jenny found a jacket in a local shop for her collection. We wandered around in the bright sun but couldn't imagine how people lived here through almost six months of total darkness. Back aboard we managed to thaw back to normal temperature. As we left the port we were fare-welled by a quick flurry of snow, so happy we were back on board.
The satellite link is still problematic so I have no idea when I can post this.
Today's temperatures were a high of 1 °C and a low of -3 °C. No sunrise and no sunset, we are in 24 hour daylight.
Tomorrow we'll be at sea as we head for Tromso.
Until next time. Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony