In Uelkal, and now bound for Anadyr...
Tuesday April 22, 2008 - 65.3227° N, 179.1740° W
Day 5: 4/19
I spent the morning working on sending and typing my first dispatch and waiting for the storm to die down.
Temperature varied from 25 F with a 20 mph wind to 9 F at night.
Sea ice landscape while crossing the bay
Started walking at 15:00 and stopped at 24:30, having completed the last few hours under a beautiful moon, lighting the sea ice ahead of me.
On a side note, I learned on that day that I should definitely not mess around with video equipment in a storm... It just does not respond very well...
On the other side of the spectrum, I have started to use more and more a good old compass strapped around my neck when I have zero visibility instead of constantly checking my GPS, which is not always easy to extract from my coat with 3 pairs of gloves.
Camped at 65.493N, 179.348W.
Covered 7.5 miles, total : 38.2 miles
Day 6: 4/20
12:30-21:30, 9 hrs / 10 miles
Moving on the sea ice for the first 5.7 miles, and then landing on the coast after having passed a few ice surges.
On the coast, as I was approaching the land, I saw in the distant a wezdehod passing by and was consequently able to reconnect with the wezdehod tracks, taking me South towards Uelkal. I continued for another 4.3 miles, bringing it to 10 miles for the day in 9 hrs.
Around 19:30, a major Purga started to come through, hindering my progress.
I ended up setting up camp in a little dip, sheltered behind an old oil barrel and my sled.
Temp: 25F, 10 miles covered, 48.3 total
Camped at 65.416 N, 179.315 W
Day 7: 4/21
Over the last week, the weather has alternated between a few hours of sunshine and April type "purgas" (snow storms), hindering my progress, especially when the the 20-40 mph wind is directly facing me !
So, that morning, the storm was still blowing and I was really debating on whether it made any sense to get on the road...
Was I better off to wait in the tent or go.... then again, I had no clue how long the storm might last and I could not afford to wait too long.
So I decided to go, knowing that I will not be able to follow any wezdehod tracks in the snow . Wezdehod actually don't travel in purgas, quite afraid to be stucked in the middle of the storm, as I learned last year, when I had to wait for a week for a wezdehod to depart from Lavrentiya to Uelen to get to my starting point with Karl Bushby.
I struggled all day in the storm, stupidly barely ever stopping to grab some beef jerky or a Larabar nor rehydrating with some of my favorite NUUN based water, (as I usually methodically do).
Having walked from 12:30 til 19:30, and only covered 5 miles in the blowing storm, I decided to stop.
Having wet and cold hands, turning into "iced claws" that I could not warm up, I realized that I could not operate efficiently enough to go through the entire process of setting up my tent.
So, to avoid the risk of getting frost bites or hypothermia, I decided to bury myself quickly behind my sled wrapped into my sleeping bag + a bivouac bag + my tent wrapped around me as an additional bivouac bag.
I spent the night getting progressively covered with more and more snow, pinning me against the sled... Not the most pleasant night, but at least I was able to sleep in warmth, sheltered from the storm by my sled and a pinning wall of snow.
Covered 5 miles, total 53.3 miles, camped or should I say bivouaced at 65.373N, 179.315W
Day 8: 4/22
Woke up the next morning, all energized and ready to face the Purga which by then had somewhat decreased.
Covered 9 miles in 12.5 hrs (11:00-23:30) on rolling hills, going eastbound to Uelkal, after having to rectify my direction from the stormy day before where I could not move straight towards Uelkal.
In deed, unable to completely face the storm, on the day before I had to go straight South instead of South East where was located Uelkal .
Most of the day, in the fog, I was aiming at old listening antennas in the horizon, left over from the cold war.
I started to the see lights of the eskimo village Uelkal (170 habitants) in the horizon at 22:00 and entered the village at 23H30, after having passed multiple trenches of snow surrounding the village, as a result of the storm.
I knocked at the door of Gamza, whom I met the previous week on my way up from Anadyr to Egvekinot in the Wezdehod.
He and his pregnant wife Sonia were kind enough to let me crash on a sofa for the next two nights.
In exchange, I gave him most of my cold medicine as well as a few other items which are not easy to get in Uelkal since he and his daughter had a bad cold...
Uelkal: 65.3227N, 179.1740W
Day 9: 4/23
Spent the day in Uelkal, working on my gear, attaching new skins on my skis, resuplly, accessing the internet to catch up at the local school and even attended a practice of traditional eskimo dancing performed by some of the students, very similar to what I had the pleasure to see in similar inupiyak villages on the other side of the "pond" in Alaska such as Wales.
I always feel priviledged that I have been exposed to both eskimo and inupiyak cultures on the two contingent continents and try to "nexus"/ connect them through my own story telling.
Day 10: 4/24
Made a presentation at the school in the morning on Nexus expedition in front of most of the students (48 total) with the help of the English teacher acting as a translator.
I always love to see the students excitement when I share my story, and hear the various types of questions they bring to my attention in Russian and today even in English.
Some day, I will compile all of these questions and post a FAQ (Frequently and not so frequently asked questions) on the website.
I arrived in the village of Uelkal after having only completed 63 miles since Egvekinot and having to face a few storms.
I have been able to reduce my cargo (fuel, food) and worked on setting up new skins on my skis which should allow me to move faster , weather permitting...
Now, I am, ready to depart with my sled for Anadyr!