I was conscious of not walking ahead of our guide, but enjoyed taking steps alongside; often quietly without words. I felt like an explorer. I loved every step of the tundra across the rocky, spongy, icy terrain. I dreamed as a child that I would walk across the tundra, and after my first hikes in Greenland, something sparked within me a yearning to continue taking steps across this frozen landscape.
I loved meandering along the trenches of the watercourses and wished the day and the gullies just kept going. I quickly found a rhythm of walking without actually looking directly down to where I stepped – even with my knee not completely strong again I felt a comfort in my stride.
I was able to casually scan as I walked and so many fascinating things intrigued me; the geology, plants, animal remains, historical archaeological artifacts, the snow, the ice, the waves, the light. Everywhere I looked was interesting.
Walking the land helped me to construct in my thoughts the environment and circumstances early explorers and settlers had to contend with, in the times of early exploration; with those times but a speck on the timeline of Svalbard’s history.
I was able to hold stones in my hand, perhaps from the Permian age, which were fossils from a time I just can’t wrap my head around. Svalbard was once situated near the South Pole, around 600 million years ago, and it felt like the places I walked have remnants of the geological history of the earth taunting further exploration.
Seams of coral fossils; stacks of layered rubble and boulders of scattered rock .. I wanted to explore them all and find out more. I wanted to ask Frigga (our fabulous guide expert in Geology), so many questions about the rocks and landscape….and the history of Svalbard… but there just wasn’t time. I was captivated by the geology of this incredibly diverse landscape.
Stones cracked under my boots as the water crinkled with ice or the waves swooshed along the stony shore.
In the snow dusted spaces gouged out by glaciers from a different time, I felt a sense of spaciousness and a remarkable sense of calm after Michele guided us to experience the Arctic silence for 5 minutes. There was no wind. No sound. Even my breath sounded noisy after a couple of minutes; so I slowed it too – so that I could experience the expansiveness of this cold silence even more deeply.
Walking in the snow was such fun. I loved the feeling of my boots sinking into the soft powder. Stepping and sinking. Stepping and sinking. I laughed to myself nearly every step as I felt the joy of trudging through the snow.
Walking the landscape enabled me to feel as if I was part of it, rather than a voyeur from a ship in the distance. I wanted to experience myself being in this extreme cold environment and feel what it was like to expose myself to the elements. On one of our hikes I was privileged to be able to do that and whisked my clothes off and truly felt what it was like to be part of the landscape. I recognised I needed to protect myself by wearing my boots.. and accept that now perhaps I need some support and kept my walking pole… but could feel what it was like to feel the elements in this raw and extreme frozen world. It was exhilarating!… and so very, very cold at -8 degrees with wind and snow!
I would love to go back to Svalbard and feel the rhythm of walking the land again.. and to feel excited by not only the geology and history of the land there… but to just feel what it is like to walk in this extreme raw environment.