Going Beyond the Arctic Circle
“Jesus Christ is staring at me. His imploring eyes glare at me from the tattered fleece blanket. His crucifixion scene is printed on…”
Blackened scars from dozens of cigarette burns pock the blanket like a gangrenous shotgun wound. Ironically, considering the scene it depicts, the blanket is nailed to the wall in a poor attempt to cover a shattered window”.
A deep, dank smell of wetness infuses my nostrils. Dozens of other once loved religious pictures and postcards adorn the walls of the derelict hunting cabin we have taken shelter in. The serenity of the scenes they portray contrasts sharply with ‘Jeb’, the name scrawled and circled in dripping blood red paint that is etched across the wall in front to me.
Two hundred and fifty miles north of the Arctic Circle, deep in the wilds of Canada’s frozen north, these are not the sights or smells I expected to be waking up to.
All night rainwater has dripped from numerous fist-size holes in the roof. The sound of flowing water has finally got to me. My bladder, beyond full, is on the verge of revolt. I desperately need to pee.
Wriggling clockwise I search hastily for the exit to the warm cocoon of my sleeping bag. Blistered hands fumble painfully with the zip. My body, still adjusting to the harsh reality of this trip, aches from deep within. The first week of an expedition takes a special kind of determination to endure, and an even more special kind of sickness to enjoy. I am obviously not that sick, because all I feel is pain.
Matt groans as I step over him and head for the door. We have long since given up any hope of making progress today. The storm outside continues to unleash its cold, wet fury. I throw on a few layers. My clothing already infused with the ‘lived-in’ stench known to adventurers and the homeless alike. The smell is simultaneously disgusting and comforting, like a warm embrace from an elderly relative. I struggle into salt encrusted raingear, cover all exposed flesh, and ready myself for the hungry hordes that await me.
The mosquitoes up here should no longer be classified as insects. They are flying leeches, the size of small eagles, with a vampire’s thirst for blood. Going to the bathroom means offering up your best bits as an all you can eat buffet to the insatiable little pricks. Needless to say, its war — and we are losing on every front.
By Cameron Webb
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