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Finnmark 2007 Diary » Blog Archive » Recapitulation on the Tana River

Recapitulation on the Tana River


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To recapitulate a bit. If you can find a map of the top of Scandinavia, from the Russian- Norwegian coastline border (East), to Narvik and the Lofoten (West), it will be easier.

After an exploratory day in Pasvik valley running along the Russian border, we started from Grenze Jacobselv , moving round past Kirkenes to Neiden on the border, and then a huge day (94.5 kilometers) travelling past Sopnes into the Tundra and through to Varangarbotn on the Varangerfjorden. This is an ancient Sea Sami centre, and they have a small, and magical museum of international quality on the Sea Sami. Here we met a number of herders, before turning West, and a long day’s mushing towards a small community called Sirma. The dogs are indefatigable, and it’s only after a couple of hours that you discover that together you’ve acquired a rhythm and an average speed that they seem capable of maintaining for ever. They have hearts like houses! From Sirma we pushed on another 70 plus kilometers with the dogs North of Utsjok to the outskirts of a hamlet on the Tana called Leavvajohka, and then today to the Norwegian side of Karigasniemi, where we’ve found a cabin for the night. We’ve now been travelling for three days along the Tana river, sliding beneath the Tana Sami bridge, a place a profound significance to the Sami who have always revered this river for its riches in fish, for its natural splendour, and as a place of spiritual significance remembered especially in their haunting sung music ( Yoiking).

Tomorrow we’ll be pushing hard again in order to pass Karasok to Jergol which we’ll make our base for a couple of days to meet a number of herders, and to go up into the Tundra/Taiga to see their herds, and most importantly, to be able to spend time with these people in a context that doesn’t seem like an artificial interview. For we all talk differently when we’re talking about what we know and love - with the object of our affections and knowledge close by - and the Sami are no exception. This to the extent that they’re justifiably suspicious of our rational, scientific, linear ways of getting or nicking ‘facts’ or ‘information’, because their wisdom and knowledge isn’t always open to words…

Then I started thinking again about why we’re making this journey across the top of Scandinavia. For us all oddly enough - for Dr Dess the social anthropologist, for Euan Cameron, the writer and publisher, for David Sington the film-maker, and Ellen-Anne Siri our young and beautiful reindeer-herder too, and for your diarist today, this journey is about facing an urgency that we all feel, concerning the future… The urgency is to do with a search for quality I suppose, and simplicity, and with the uneasy feeling that our debts are being called in. A great and awesome debt to the breathing space, the environment, that gave us existence.or simply a place to be, that we’ve always taken for granted. We need to understand more, and to do so we need to ask the help of those who live in the wild and hard and unforgiving and beautiful places of this world..like the Sami!

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