Round the Cape and Northward bound we go! Benno and I have started to rack up some respectable distances and rounded Cape Hooper in calm and clear weather and good spirits. The ice and snow gods have not however been particularly kind to us and the conditions under sled and foot have been testing and frustrating.
As our sleds get lighter the going is getting easier and the previously insurmountable ice and snow ridges can now be conquered with brute force and a lot of swearing. The lighter sleds bring us happiness in that they now feel like dragging a small dead cow behind you, where as previously it had felt like trying to drag a dead Narwhal - tusk and all - through the deep snow. The difference I assure you is noticeable! This is happiness is tinged with the knowledge that the sleds are light because they are rapidly emptying. Food, fuel, dog food and Benno's hemorrhoid cream are all disappearing at an alarming rate and it is a daily reminder to us of what is needed out here to keep your body functioning and our tent warm. We have however judged it correctly so far and we should be arriving at the next depot in three days time with five days worth of everything to spare, which is good to know in case we get any unforeseen holdups. Jaypootie's hut, that we are now aiming for and has our cache of food and fuel in, is well marked and we have exact coordinates from the man himself, so finding it should pose no problem. Not so the last two huts. There are few things more demoralising than promising yourself a warm evening in a hut, maybe even sitting in just your base layer if it gets warm enough. A raised platform to snuggle up together on, the ability to sit upright against a wall and the special thought of waking up in the morning without your beard frozen to your sleeping bag. We have had these heady dreams twice dashed now in the last week. True disappointment is knowing that despite having skied for eight hours to reach a random point on a map given to you by a hunter two weeks previously, the 8ft by 8ft hut that is apparently "unmissable" is nowhere to be found. When moving by skidoo, travelling 6-10kms in search of the exact spot is a 15min job and of no real concern, but when that distance represents half a day's travel by foot, searching becomes a totally different proposition. Knowing you are probably only 1-2kms from a small shed whilst you put your tent up in -30c after a long and arduous day is completely gutting. At least it means we will really appreciate Jai's hut when we get there.
We are starting to see more bear tracks and in one area saw either a single bear running around a lot looking for something or the equivalent of a mass polar bear rave. We both agreed it was probably just one or maybe two sniffing about. We cleared and recycled the shotguns and had more frequent glances over our shoulders just in case. A quick and casual reminder of whose kingdom we are trespassing in and that vigilance is key to a safe journey through.
Our evening of sulking over a lack of huts was improved immeasurable by eating some of the brownies Celine (our friend back in Qik) had given us before we left. We had been saving them for a low moment and this seemed appropriate. As we broke the brownies hurriedly we saw pieces of paper tucked in between the slices. On our piece of paper was a quote from Ernest Shackelton giving us a timely reminder as we snuggled in our down sleeping bags next to our roaring camp stoves that some things are best kept in perspective. A wonderful gesture from Celine and Yves and it helped turned a miserable night into a happy one as we sat like children at Christmas reading our quote and munching our brownies.
So, onwards to the hut and some more biltong, chocolate buttons and no doubt more deep snow and horrible ice mounds of ice. However as the great Shackleton said "difficulties are just things to overcome after all" and we will be bearing that in mind as we go.