Friday, January 24, 2014

CEREMONY & TREK SURVIVAL - PART 2 (B)

The trek that day toward the west had deeper snow than normal on the ground. It appeared, for now, that the weather was going to stay the same in the direction they were heading. The herd would soon need a fresh plentiful food supply and it was the job of all of the herders to reach that location. This was their quest, for now. For this journey, it was decided that the hooved creatures would benefit by being fattened up at various stages on the trek. The idea was to make them look healthy and increase their survival ability rate as the pilgrimage still had a long way to go. The anticipated added bonus would be a higher value of each animal, when they arrived back home.

After some time along the way the group passed a single, well used cabin. Some of the older, more experienced reindeer trekkers just laughed at the dwelling. Jokes were exchanged between them. Comments such as, “Ha, Ha, Ha. Those are for the tourists and people who really can’t handle it out here. They just think they can, but instead are pretenders trying to imitate us.” A few other herders joined in with additional amusement and further quips. This experienced crew did not need to stay at a place like that nor desire to use such a poor immobile structure. Plus, it was very inadequate and unsuitable in their eyes Ah! It was sort of an old shelter. Mekkar had not seen one of those small quarters for quite awhile and had been exposed to very few throughout the area. Thankfully, this was the only well-used cabin that they would pass along the way.

It was said that the national government, at one time, built quite a few of these out of the way hovels to serve the travelers that visit this area. The reasoning was it is all in the name of progress. Locals saw them as another item to disturb the land at the expense of the native inhabitants. The usual official rote answer was the project would add money to the official coffers of the various regions. The complete opposite was the reality. Unmentioned was the intentional official lie that this undertaking would help the native areas supplement themselves with badly needed extra revenue. Some have suggested that the whole enterprise stinks of pure exploitation, where only a handful profit from the deal. Mekkar has heard on occasion that there is substantial graft and wasteful taxpayer funds spent by the government which only helps a few individuals. While at the same time, the result is the locals who live in the area are neglected. Many are kept in the dark as to the true purposes. Many are convinced the world over that where there is a government project, a high probability of corruption and foolish spending is involved. Adults have expressed concerns about outright theft, misappropriated funds, and kick-backs for favors while advantageous for a select few.

As the herd was going by, Mekkar was near the rear of the column. He was one of the trekkers attempting to keep the animals together in an organized way. Against the advice of another, the boy did go up to the cabin and opened the door to get a quick peek. Mekkar heard the creaking noise of door as it swung open. He thought to himself that the place had been isolated for some time. As he looked inside there were a couple of amenities, but on a small scale. Some items were older versions were like home or in other village residences he had previously visited. Of course, he was aware that this spot had not been accessed in a while. There was a little amount of dirt on the floor, small portions of rust on metal objects and that type of thing. The place showed a sense of character, even more so without activity as of late. So, he closed the door and left to catch back up with his group that was still on the move.

Now this trekking party didn’t need more restrictions and permanent dwellings, they had that back home in the village. It was better to have transferable, functional pack animals, loaded up with goods, for this journey. Portable tents that could be setup fairly quickly were among the items also. The group had all they needed at the time and still be flexible and mobile too. There is no use for clutter. At this point the day was vanishing fast. Darkness was descending earlier than usual for this time of the year. Thus, the band unpacked to rest for the evening. Only essential and a minimal number of items that was required. At this particular stop, not all the regular materials for a normal full camp were used. This is a key concept, to only get what you need, when you need it. It is a very different mindset from modern consumerist driven societal ideas. There is an overriding consideration as part of the cycle. You don’t take more than you require for existence so there will still be provisions for you when you come back at a later time. This way of thinking is fed by the culture itself and dominates the native belief system. This trekking party has bought into that system. They are following patterns used continuously and successfully for generations. All were regional natives from the Arctic, with no contrary foreigners in the group, and thus were in agreement.

The herders followed their animals on the trail to the west for quite a few miles as the time passed. These were ancient migratory routes travelled for many years and well known to the leaders like Ansetti. Not long afterward a horrendous blizzard came upon the group, which changed their direction, before they were supposed to turn northward. It was easy to tell the source of the bad weather. It was coming toward them from a westerly direction off of the sea nearby and over the small mountain range. The Arctic blast built up as it reached over the peaks and the wind gusts swooped down into the valley. They were stuck in the middle of it and were committed to stay on the move to find better shelter. The aggregation of man, equipment, and animals were in an area just north of a designated national forest that they already had bypassed. That particular stretch of tree-filled expanse would have been ideal to stop at. The area was set aside as protected land by the government. Naturally, Juhani asked the question, “But for how long? Only until it can be maximized for exploitation like everywhere else by those who use money to bribe officials to change their minds?”

In this region are some deep valleys and fairly wilderness plains side by side. Yet, going to the north there are another set of height obstacles. There are a handful of the highest points in the territory where the band is headed. However, it is too much to expect this herd will reach any high mountain tops. Natives to this region have seen visitors attempt to climb those cliffs fairly often. The reason these are chosen is they are not too tall like a Mount Everest. Still the elevations are challenging enough in certain places to tease those willing to attempt their ascent. For instance, on the one face of a few of the mountains it is easy just to walk up a path, near the top. Well, if you have experience as a climber. It is not advisable for the average person who might not be in great shape and would have difficulty catching their breath.

On the opposite side might be a whole different story altogether. On the higher fells portions are made up of shoal rock as a friend of Mekkar’s described it. That is, after he made the ascent later on. Mekkar’s friend climbed some of the more difficult parts here by himself and he said it frightened him at times. It was expressed that shoal rock can disappear underneath you and crumble away when you step on it. He recounted in the beginning, he misinterpreted what was happening on the cliff. An illustration was made to show any hold could fragment in an instant. The enjoyment increased after adjustments were made to combat the hazards encountered and as the approach upward to the peak commenced. A dangerous place indeed, with other risks as well, such as avalanches, etc.

Mekkar, himself, at least tried to stay away from those mountains, and in particular the formidable faces along the range. Since, the arctic boy had no desire to climb hills; those stories slightly freaked Mekkar out. He was not interested in that type of recreational activity. The majority of the herders were not attracted to mountain climbing either. Mekkar liked to keep his feet firmly planted on solid soil, if he could help it.

The problem was the trekking band was in vicinity of the range and had to stop the trek. It was time once again to brace themselves against the onslaught of more nasty weather. Nobody was going anywhere. A couple of reindeer tried to desert them and were brought back. Some others wandered off again to be retrieved once more by their guides.

One positive is the native inhabitants of this area have are some inherited abilities and traits that have adapted over time to help them survive in this environment. The recent settlers and other non-natives do not possess these facets nor come close without specific training. The eyesight is normally better than the average person and in bad weather appear to be closer in regard to birds than people. It is amazing how objects can be spotted in snow areas at great distances. However, not quite like Arctic reindeer that has the ability to see in ultraviolet light. [Wikipedia] The native wisdom says that it is part of adaptation to one’s surroundings. Mekkar says it is more individual modifications exercised for use in a unique environment.

For example, some say that moths are a species that have revolutionized their body light and make it able to change colors and blend in. So, no matter where they land or where they hide in the scenery the effect comes from within and displays outwardly on their outer layers. Just one necessity employed for survival and developed through an evolutional process over time. A pattern of genetic alternation through DNA change to aid that continued natural selection on an individual basis. So, the moths do not become extinct and are still here to both people. Many other insects and animals utilize these techniques. [Wikipedia]

Similar to people that live in special climates around the globe, many individuals enjoy specific adaptations to the environment around them. Good sense is also considered necessary. For example, it is better to cover the top of the head where a lot of body heat loss occurs. Thus, the use of head wear in the form of various hats and caps are prevalent during the cooler weather. On the other hand, one can cool off against heat at a faster rate by applying cold items there. Peculiar assets and traits are inherent and learned to give native and isolated peoples a better chance to survive in the remotest regions on the planet. There are assumptions that other Arctic races sport these distinctive features as compared to new arrivals or settlers that now shared the area with them. Some of them are correct and several are inaccurate. A few advantages are quite obvious to all. Trouble is, people usually take them for granted and do not miss them until they are gone.

Observing those staying reindeer detach themselves didn’t change the fact that the animals still fled from the main herd. It was extremely difficult to track the wandering beasts through the storm. Mekkar never has understood the stupidity factor that forces something or someone to intentionally harm them through reckless action. The concept itself is very alien to him. When the trekkers found enough cover and a suitable spot they made an early stop, setup camp, and attempted to wait out blizzard. A temporary corral was hastily rigged to keep the rest of reindeer close together and in check. The animals are like the herder’s money in the bank. At that time, the animal’s worth was not the same as what they are now. That is, in money terms or on the open market. The exchange idea always considers the value of an item is only as much as another will purchase it for. Also, labeling value is seen as continually changing and in a state constant adjustment.

The adolescent Mekkar had help to place his coned tent between two trees. That way it would be better protected from being swept away by accompanying strong wind gusts. The strong weather had brought more than the normal windiness for this particular area. Mekkar was not used to these forceful blasts of air as compared to his home village, where the breezes were a refreshing contrast. Back home was a village and not referred to as a town. This was due to the lack of enough local inhabitants according to the national government standard. Mekkar remembered going outside his house and encountering very little wind as a general rule. The proximity of the high hills nearby and small forests of trees and brush as breaks near the village. The boy attempts to describe a current parallel situation of the Tahoe Lake Valley Airport setting in California. It is a comparable scene in regard to the landscape, but the wind patterns are different and more active there. [flightsafetycounselor.com/Article 04.htm]

It took two days for the nastiest of the bad weather calm somewhat to get started back on the move again. Those delays put kinks in the herder’s plans. However, to stop and wait it out for completely ideal conditions was unacceptable. Staying put for longer could mean a possible alternative more reindeer lost from the herd due to various factors. It was a good thing that almost all of animals stayed where they were supposed to be. Mekkar thought that the animals probably knew they might not be any better off by running away into the teeth of the harsh circumstances. Nevertheless, he was unsure if the reindeer were mainly used to more comfortable being exposed to familiarity of their trek guides. In opposition to what was happening around them in the unsettling surroundings.

It made Mekkar, along with a few other attendants; look bad because there were a number of stragglers in the back of the herd. Certain ones took off to follow their own path away from the herd. The youngster was partially responsible like any member of the group. Fortunately, in Mekkar’s mind, it was a scattered few so the numbers still looked pretty good. This statistical outlook is a mistaken one and flawed. The positive aspect was there no wolves or other dangerous predators around the area to attack them, so far. Yet, how long would that last? Usually this is an ideal time for aggressors to strike. Right before a storm, during it, or immediately afterward. Raiders seek out situations and instances where they perceive disorganization in the animal or watcher ranks. It sounds very militaristic in a sense. In nature’s reality, it is a different type of warfare, a game of survival between man and beast. Outside assailants against the reindeer herders and their group of animals. All over the globe it is truly a balance of an on-going endurance struggle to make it to the next day, month, or season.

Working with the elements and adapt them, as well as yourself, for your advantage instead of fighting against them. Unlike modern man who is, whether they admit it or not, always trying to control all possibilities they can in all situations. The truth is, no one has total control of everything all of the time. It is basically impossible. Mekkar believes that if you oppose nature long enough, you will fail and be overcome. Mother Nature will eventually come out on top and you are kicked down and defeated. Mekkar has grasped this type of thinking by growing up in the native way.

Mekkar was the youngest trekker in this party. Yet, he had other experiences to draw from, despite his youth, due to his travelling around the world with family members. The key was how could the Arctic youngster adapt that to this endeavor and come out ahead.

The boy donned a wonderful hat with individual colored and streaming ribbons flowing from it. Most are identifiers that reveal various skill proficiencies. Mekkar could then fulfill those particular functions on the trek. It would be dangerous to assign a person who lacked competency in certain areas. Yet, businesses and governments do that often. Other symbols worn by any of the trekkers could also show associated training aspects. There was sometimes additional related markings and emblems displayed on the clothing. Those were given for undergoing distinct trials or circumstances. The event experienced did not have to be necessarily related to the trek. Ansetti had so many decorations that he became embarrassed to adorn most of them like military medals earned for valor in battle. He was of the belief that situations are always changing with different factors involved each time. Ansetti acknowledged what you did yesterday or long ago might not be the best course of action to take today. The key, in this case, was could the youthful Mekkar fulfill all of his responsibilities placed upon him? Could he perform them well under pressure situations that his group might encounter on this trek? The youngster’s overall exposure was minimal as compared to the vastly experienced reindeer herders on this trek.

Ansetti had an admirer in Mekkar because he chose not to be excessive and fully display the majority of his previously earned wares. The concept was foreign to their culture. There is not an attitude of a single person using their personal awards to show off and lord it over everyone else. A few of the herders find the insane consumer driven modern societies of today laughable. They are unable to comprehend that opposite method of contemporary thought that most people are involved in. The conceit of so called civilized individuals primarily focused to shamefully display of their wealth for all to see. Projection of a certain image toward their peers with an attitude of if you have the bling, exhibit it to have them look at you. It is beyond many of the natives like Mekkar as they cannot internalize that ideology. He says, “Why would an individual target themselves to be stolen from instead?”

People in the trekking party respected Mekkar. At the same time they also had minimum expectations of the youngster to pull his own weight also. He must fulfill his duties as required for a successful journey, otherwise he would have been left back home. There is the adage that as part of the cycle of life, contributions are required by everyone that is able. You are just one part of a team, group, band, or what have you. Yet, one cannot focus on the group only. Neglecting prudent management of their self and family is inadvisable. Taking that approach will eventually catch up to that individual and furthermore affect the whole group.

Okay, as the trek is now moving again with a turn due north. The effect of the surrounding scenery was breathtaking to Mekkar. For a person who grew up in this region and was familiar with the landscape, it painted a picture. However, visitors from elsewhere might have been overwhelmed by the expanse of the isolation.

During this period of travel Mekkar wanted to do something different. He got the chance to ride on the back of a snowmobile during one of the slower movement days. The boy was a passenger as he was too small to reach the guiding mechanisms to actually attempt to drive the machine. This was the beginning that would ultimately get Mekkar hooked on the motorized snow machine. When he grew up Mekkar had no problem taking the snow sled out to play with his friends. He wanted to capture any advantages of independence that he could. Right now, at this point, he was too young and too small to accomplish that by himself.

Near the official border the trekkers passed by a bridge. Mekkar remembered particular photos of this area from back home. He recognized this exact structure. The migrating group had a choice of two different paths, if so desired. Mekkar guessed where Ansetti and the other leaders were directing them, but he wasn’t absolutely sure either. The arctic boy still could see some of the tracks left behind. Another party had taken this same route not long before his group. Snowmobiles, helicopters, left their own markings in the snow along the path ahead of them. The trained eye recognizes these indicators and those made by reindeer hooves as well as other animals. Not even a small amount of white powder dusting over the impressions could fool them.

Now, Mekkar conducted some mathematics to estimate how many animals were in the last herd to pass through. It would only be an approximate number as he had no method of finding out the true numbers. Since he was at the rear of the column, providing mop-up duty, he could see other people and animals around a hill that were in the front of his group. At first, he wasn’t sure if they were from another herd ahead of theirs or not. He had trouble determining that. Around the bend was a now slightly flowing part of the partially defrosted small river. The large stream appeared to be a crossing for reindeer. Mekkar saw them swimming to the other side. Reindeer are quite good swimmers similar to horses and other animals.  Humans as a whole don’t realized how adept reindeer are in the water until they are exposed to it and have seen it in action. That is not to say that they can swim as fast as a polar bear, but who can? Not many animals. That is a different discussion altogether due to the size difference.

The crew and herd are going northward where the land is much less disturbed as opposed to major cities …