Alaska: the dream has come true
As the Athabaska say: “when we travel, our soul follow us at the same speed of when we walk on foot, so when we fly or drive, our soul remains in the dust. To let our soul reach us, we have to kill time“.
In the last 5 years, thanks to my elopements in Alaska (yes, elopements: I consider Alaska as my lover!) I let my soul travel with me.
July 1977, 11 am, Materot Valley: “Marco, be careful, put your feet where I do”. My father screams: “Beppe, keep the rope tight and slowly raise Marco”…
March 2009, 3.30 am, Little Mc Kinley Pass, Alaska: “Marco, be careful of not losing the feeble trail in front of you, or you’ll be in real trouble, I warned you“. This voice is not my father’s, it comes from the other people who lives inside of us, and most of the times rows against us.
32 years and 10000 km of distance, but one thing in common: the desire for adventure.
The Iditarod is a 1770 km race across Alaska, a wonderful world even when you are on your last legs: aurora borealis, breathtaking panoramas, wolves’ footprints following you… All of these while you are hundreds of kilometers far from everything. At the same time, you feel adrenaline through your veins because you’re in the middle of a race: it’s the best of the two worlds.
Here we go, after a 20 hours flight, the plane lands in Anchorage, two years have passed: I missed you, Alaska!
Only when the wheels of the plane touch the ground I manage to stop thinking of what i left in Italy.
Yes, in this race you are the striker, the rest of the team has remained at home. So you have to be calm and focused to go through difficulties.
Indeed, in 2007 a dear friend of mine was fighting against a bad disease: I was in Alaska, but just with my body. My mind and soul remained near to Sisco, and so everything I was doing seemed trivial. Everything was too heavy for me: the wind, the snow, the cold, and Alaska is impossible to face only with your body, especially in winter.
My experience in 2009
This year everything seems going for the better, my hard training sessions all over the year make me feel ready and confident.
March 1st 2009, this time I can’t miss my goal; as soon as the race start, all of my tension disappear, and I find myself walking alone in a wood: what a good feeling it is to be once again among the trees which protected me from the frosty wind.
The sled I pull along the race is very heavy, but I feel better if I have everything I need to face any emergency. On the other hand, I have to carry 20/25 kg: it’s not a pleasent experience, and to make the matters worse, Alaska’s ground is not flat.
It took 7 days and 9 hours to pass through the 560 km between Anchorage and the intermediate goal, McGrath: unfortunately there has been strong snowfalls, and so I had to travel most of the time with the snowshoes. The famous Rainy Pass has been really hard, I even had to sleep in a hole in the snow to avoid a very strong storm.
After McGrath, only 4 athlets have been left, me and 3 americans: 2 on foot and 1 by mountain bike. The remaining 1300 km look like a pilgrimage to me. The families I meet in villages are always ready to welcome you at every hour of day and night to give me food, warmth and simpathy. In those moments you realize what are the real important things in life: to hug a man, to see the lights of a village after 3/4 walking in cold and wind, make you cry.
Arriving in a village is a huge joy, in addition to feed and rest, I can communicate with my family in Italy. Sometimes I spend 6/7 days without hearing them. I choose not to bring my sat phone, because I prefer being completely focused on my trail.
I know that I have to be alone and I don’t want pressure from the outside, no one can help me: with no way out, you are way more careful.
Tiredness is the worst thing, you may find yourself thinking “What was I thinking? Why did I do that?”. You can imagine how many times I think of that; but if you know that one day you will rejoice at all of this, you can go through the tougher obstacle.
While I was approaching to the goal, my only thought was “I’ll never do this again”, that’s why I left some of my stuff at Nome: I didn’t want the temptation to repeat the Iditarod. However, I changed my mind just a few days later: “maybe in a few years…”.
Of course, for an experience like this you have to be motivated and now I’m not. Next year I’m sure I won’t be here.
But I can not say “never more”, Alaska is like a lover and I think of it every day.
I feel the need to challenge myself, to look for my limits, but honestly I’m not sure of what I’m looking for. Every day I find a new motivation that push me to do that.
The first time I went, I wondered if I would have been able to be alone and win my fears; then I realized that nature is honest, the wolves do what the wolves are supposed to do, and so is the wind, the cold, etc… In our society, everyone wears a mask and you never know whether you’re facing a wolf or a lamb… That’s not fair!