Everything is packed and is already in the car. Last night we enjoyed the last supper and sat with Jonathan in front of the fire. We crawl late into bed under the warm blankets and do not realize that we will be sleeping in the tent tomorrow. Our ski clothing is piled up next to our bed and the daypacks are next to it. We do not set an alarm, we never do that because Olivier's internal clock knows that we have to get up in time. As usual, Olivier is already awake an hour when he wakes up Zoë. With sleepy eyes she asks what day it is. We do not realize in the morning that we are really leaving. The preparation has been going on for three months, we are ready, but there is no special tension. The last two weeks were incredibly busy with all the preparations. We didn't sleep much and look forward to the long nights in the tent. The adventure can start.
At 8 o'clock we step in the car and Jonathan takes us to the start of our trail, four kilometers away. We did a test ride, but now we have all the stuff and it takes a while before we are ready to leave. Everything fits in or on top of the trailer, but we shouldn't have brought much more extra things with us. Immediately a steep climb awaits us so we stick the skins under the skis. We tie our harness, clip the rods of the sled and look each other in the eye. That doesn’t look bad at all. Zoë smiles, this is what she has dreamed of for years, but considered impossible. After all, we were born in the wrong country. Our journey taught us that nothing is impossible, that trying new things is a challenge and that we are very good at it. The smile is much more than a smile, it is the realization that we are a bit crazy.
Zoë is the first to slide forward. The skins under our skis ensure that we can glide forward, but not backwards. They have small hairs that make it look like an animal's fur, where they used to use real animal skin in the past. The slope is steep, but we can step up with the skis. Behind us we drag the weight of our sled, about 50 kilograms per person. Olivier presses the gps on start, the start of our ski adventure. Bliep bliep, training started, the GPS says. Zoë is now fifty meters away and Olivier sees it goes smoothly. It is snowing slightly and the temperature is around freezing, warm for January. We still have our jacket, gloves and hat on, but soon we get too hot. Olivier stops to take everything off and skies further in a t-shirt while the drops of sweat are already dripping from his nose.
We follow snowmobile trails because these are the only long-distance routes that we could find. A week ago we discovered that it is officially forbidden to ski on a number of these trails. It gave us a strange feeling and especially Zoë's gut feeling was not right. We received various signals from all sides. "You are not going to have any problems," to "it is extremely dangerous, those snow mobiles drive 100 kilometer an hour" But we didn't find anyone who actually did it, so the only option was to try it yourself. At the beginning there was no sign so this trail is no problem, we tell ourselves. Just when we left, a group of pick-ups with large trailers arrived, loaded with snowmobiles. They didn't look strange when they saw us and they kindly said hello. We know that they will catch up with us at some point and we are waiting for the sound of the roaring engines. We have already climbed quite a bit when we finally hear them. We have plenty of time to wait in the deep snow on the side and see them passing one by one, all waving or nodding their heads. The last snowmobile stops. 'Oh no, already a problem' goes through Olivier's head immediately. The man starts in French, but with his helmet on he is impossible to understand. He gets off his snowmobile and comes closer. With a helmet everyone looks a little more frightening and Olivier imagines an angry man behind the dark glasses. "Do you need to be towed?" he asks kindly. Phew, the body relaxes, you see, these are also friendly people. Of course we decline his offer and climb on human power.
The trail has steep parts where we have to work hard to get up, but we enjoy this. We like to see and have done this so many times. In between there are occasionally flatter parts where we can catch our breath. The steeper parts are getting steeper and we realize that the first weeks will be very difficult. We will overcome that and we will make up the kilometers if we ski along the coast, we think. Every time Zoë looks back, she sees Olivier pulling the sled up with all his strength. Occasionally he stops, looks up and she sees a slight concern in his eyes. He doesn't enjoy it yet, she knows. It is exactly what Olivier thinks. The skiing is fantastic, the surroundings are beautiful, but is this what we will do the first month? In his head the planning gets messed up and we run out of time, after barely an hour and a half. Olivier is never stressed unless he is late somewhere. We work hard until we hardly get any further. Even the skins have no grip and we keep sliding away. It is still a bit to the top, so after that a descent follows, we think. "We'll continue to the first rest day and decide if this is too crazy," Olivier says encouragingly. It is only the first day so it is normal that it is tough.
Fifty meters further on we stand completely still. It is impossible to move forward. The skis have no grip and we cannot pull the weight of the sled. Olivier stands bent over his ski poles in the middle of the trail and needs all his strength not to slip back. The trail becomes even steeper and it looks more like a white wall. We hear 'Brrrooaaammm', and for a moment Olivier is panicking. We know how fast the snowmobiles go and he can't go anywhere. Please, see us on time, that's all we think. Fortunately, the snowmobile comes down slowly, sees us on time, and comes to a halt skidding, five meters before Olivier's sleigh. Sigh, that went just fine, but this is very dangerous. We cannot go anywhere on these steep slopes when a snowmobile arrives. There are still many steep climbs to come and therefore many dangerous moments. There we are in the middle of the climb and we both think the same, we both know what to do. We aren't good at making decisions. We usually don't know what we want, we accuse each other and continue to go on far too long. This time the decision was made quickly, faster than ever before.
We are going back. We turn around. The climbs are too steep and dangerous. If this is only once, like mission impossible in Guatemala, we enjoy the victory in such a climb, but now we are served this after just two hours and this is on the menu for the next month. It is meaningless and dangerous. We turn around.
With a solid pizza tip we slide back down to the start, where the smile has disappeared. Fortunately we are not crazy and we make the wise decision. We replace the skis for the wheels and walk back to Jonathan's house. We do not say a word and the realization of the decision increases with every step. The steep slope no longer feels so steep. Have we given up too quickly, is it still the wrong choice? At Zoë, tears roll quietly down her cheeks. If Zoë sets up a forced laugh when she comes to Jonathan and says "we are back", she breaks. We are very disappointed and don't know what we are going to do. We curse our own mistakes in preparation and are angry with ourselves. If only we had listened to our feelings. But that same feeling brought us to the start here, the same feeling makes us dare to take on this challenge, without any experience. It is not fair to blame ourselves so much. While we try to explain our feelings to Jonathan in all emotion, Albert, the eldest son, turns a hole in a cherry tomato with a point of a carrot and says "Look, Daddy, I invented something." "It's all relative," says Jonathan, and we all laugh.
In the afternoon we breed on new plans and we decide to take the bus to a part where the mountains are less high. We continue to worry that we are not welcome on certain trails, but our positive feeling convinces us to try again. Our confidence has just got a bump, but not our motivation. At dinner, Jonathan asks us a personal question. "How are you going to deal with this on social media?" Of course we are disappointed that we have to change our plan and admit that it is too heavy, but we don’t have to prove to anyone that we can do this. We are happy to be able to show that we, too, have difficult moments, regret choices and have to adjust goals. We too have setbacks, and we can only learn from them. On Tuesday we will be on skis again for a new start, a new page, that's how we do it.