6:20am, the alarm goes off. It’s still pitch black outside but I wake up filled with excitement even though I don’t know how the day is going to play out. I put my thermal underwear on over my CK’s, then my ‘outdoor’ trousers I bought from a second hand shop in Denmark. Then I put 3 pairs of socks on, my thermal long sleeve shirt I also bought from the second hand shop in Denmark, followed by my cotton black T shirt from an H&M store I bought in Bangkok, followed by my long sleeve shirt I bought from a second hand shop in Germany. I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth then go back to the room to give Eb a kiss and say – have a good day. I go downstairs and throw on my waterproof Jack Wolf Skin jacket I bought from a second hand shop in Germany, lace up my gore-tex hiking boots and put my cotton H&M gloves on. I’m thinking to myself – I hope I’m warm enough for the day. I put my backpack on filled with ham and cheese rolls, a couple of muesli bars and a water bottle that Eb had prepared for me the night before. I go to the garage and grab a spare shotgun and a belt filled with cartridges (bullets), then I go outside in the snow to wait for my lift. It’s cold but I’m thinking that I’m ready. Martin, a friend that I’ve made whose half Aussie half Faroese, comes with a friend to pick me up. We drive on the icy roads slipping and sliding on the way to another of their friend’s house where there’s five other friends and two quad bikes waiting for us.
We are waiting for two more guys to show up, so Martin asks if I want to have a couple of shots with the gun – “sh*t yea, I do!” We drive a couple hundred meters away from the houses to a dam. He shows me how to load the gun, how to cock the gun, turn off the safety, aim and unload the cartridges after firing. He then shows me how his gun works and fires two shots into the dam. BANG, BANG! It’s so loud but so cool. My turn. I do everything he taught me in those short five minutes. I hold the gun tightly and close to my shoulder then aim, even though there’s nothing to aim at but water, plus I can’t see anything because it’s still dark. I pull the trigger. BANG! I cock the gun, aim, BANG. I’m a little deaf in one ear but adrenaline is flowing through my body I don’t even care. I want more but Martin says the fellas are waiting so we go back to meet them.
I look at what the boys are wearing, and some of them are wearing what look like warm polar suits and gumboots while some others are wearing Adidas trackies with big coats over the top. I’m thinking to myself – Well some of these guys are well prepared, while the others think nothing of the cold and must be used to it. It’s minus 1 degrees Celsius and it’s meant to be minus 5 up in the mountains. Damn, I should’ve worn more layers.
The quads are loaded with guns, rounds of bullets, backpacks and plastic bags for the hares. Secretly I don’t really want to shoot them, I just wanted to shoot the gun. The first load of boys go up the mountains as Martin and I wait in the cold for the second trip. The quads come back and we head on up. It’s absolutely freezing as we climb the mountains. The boys had to make tracks through the snow earlier for the quads to get up, otherwise we would have had to walk a long way. The snow is so much thicker up here than it is down below. It’s snowing and I think I’m losing feeling in my feet. We’re up in the mountains and it looks amazing up here. Photo opportunities everywhere but I can’t get out the Gopro as one hand is holding onto the bike and the other is holding on to the gun.
We get to the top as far as the bikes can go. The other boys are waiting. I hop off and it feels like we’re in another world – It’s white everywhere, the mountains are covered in snow, there’s snow-flakes falling and hitting me in the face. It’s such a surreal feeling for me as 2 days before I’d never seen snow! (Apart from one time at Perisher ski resort when I was younger, but that was from the snow machine because it was a crap year for snow). The boys are all talking Faroese and laughing. None of them have introduced themselves or said hi to me yet, or even acknowledged that I’m there. I’ve learnt whilst being here that some of the Faroese aren’t very open. If this was in Australia, and someone brought a friend, I’d always introduce myself and be friendly. Most of my friends would do that. Oh well… I notice Martin trying to make me feel welcome but I don’t want him to feel like he needs to be around me all the time, so I try to inject myself into the conversations but it’s difficult injecting myself into a conversation when it’s a different language. I’m not bothered by it and forget about trying to interact unless spoken to. I’m super stoked to be there anyway as I’ve never had an experience like this before.
We start by walking up the mountain in ankle/shin deep snow, sometimes its knee deep. We get to a point where they’re all talking Faroese which Martin later tells me they’re setting up a game plan. There’s 11 of us and we form a long line over the mountain, being 20-30 meters apart from each other. Martin shows me where I’ll be positioned and says we don’t shoot if the hare runs between us. We wait until the last person is in place and then hand signal down the line to each other that we’re ready to start walking. Here I am, gun in hand, walking in the snow whilst being on the lookout and in stealth mode, trying not to fall down these unforeseen snow traps. I felt like I was in one of those action movies that are set in the snow when it’s a gun fight.
About 45 minutes in, I’m walking, then all of the sudden, a hare runs from behind and straight beside me running between me and Martin. I make a bit of noise which grabs Martin’s attention. He’s so quick and quickly fires two shots and misses. The hare gets away from us. Adrenaline is pumping and I’ve forgotten that I’ve got a gun in my hand and I’m meant to kill this thing. Such a golden opportunity and I did nothing! Martin yells out – “you have to be ready at all times”. At that moment, I realised just how much of a city/suburban boy I am. It’s ok, I admit that, but I’m always down to give anything a red hot go. Twenty minutes later, I have no sight of Martin as he is at a lower position on the mountain, I step over this part of the snow that collapses and reveals water flowing under me and as that happens, I can see out the corner of my eye a hare running. I quickly turn off the safety button, cock the gun, pull the gun tightly to my shoulder, close one eye, positon my eye to the end of the gun and aim the gun towards the hare and fire. I’ve missed and it’s now too far away from me to shoot a second time. I hear the guy to the right of me who is about fifty meters away fire his gun. We both missed. Lucky hare. It’s weird, I didn’t even feel like shooting hares in the first place, but all I want to do now is make contact with it. It’s a strange but exhilarating feeling.
We all come back together to regroup and eat some snacks. A couple of the fellas have nailed some hares. One guy got three, and two other guys got one each. One guy is even wearing one like a shoulder bag. He has some hessian material strapped over his chest, shoulder and back with the hare tied to the ends of the hessian, wrapped underneath his arm.
We set out to our next spot which is all of us spread out like a big circle. Some of us are up high in the mountains watching over like an eagle, while the others are down in the valley. The game plan is to make the hares run up hill towards those of us standing up high so we can pick them off. A waiting game, awesome… I don’t like this strategy because all I’m doing is standing still freezing my ass off. I get hot when I’m walking but once I stop it gets too cold. My toes and finger tips are freezing over. It’s the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced. I walk back and forth, do squats and wiggle my toes and fingers constantly. We do this for half an hour or so when some of the other boys start complaining it’s too cold. We call it quits and go back to our first strategy on a different section of the mountain. The terrain on the mountains vary and I’m finding it difficult to walk on the steep side of the mountains, especially where it’s icy and slippery. I fall down numerous times and slip down the mountain uncontrollably. I feel embarrassed but notice it happens to the other guys also. I’m walking and see Martin get into shooting mode and he’s aiming towards what could be a hare. I quickly get myself into position and I see Martin fire one shot, miss, second shot, miss. The hare is just out of range for me to even try, or so I think. That was the last hare I’d see all day.
We walk back to the quad bikes and we’re all absolutely knackered, at least I am. We’d just spent 8 hours walking through the snow. I can’t feel my feet or my hands anymore. The fellas have shot a total of five hare’s. They’re most likely going to cook them for dinner. Martin said it was a bad trip today. He said that they’d normally get more, considering the conditions were perfect but that there just weren’t any hares about. I’m gutted I don’t get to shoot the gun any more so I do a couple of happy shots at nothing. We get back on the quad bikes and go back down the mountain. I really can’t feel my feet, hands or my face! All I want is a hot shower and to jump into a nice warm bed. I go home and do just that, then go to sleep.
This is one of the best experiences I’ve had on this trip so far.
I love immersing myself into other cultures and learning about them. A goal of mine is to live with an Inuit family. While I was up in the mountains I was trying to imagine myself in the arctic, wondering, if I had the right clothes and equipment, would I be able to last in the arctic… I feel like I had the slightest sniff of living in the arctic, even though it’s much much warmer here than in the harsh conditions the Inuits live in. I hope I get to experience that sometime.
Being out of my comfort zone is one of the best feelings, and I love living like that. I hope when (or if) Eb and I go back home that we don’t fall back into the trap of people’s perception of “normality”.