Story 16 - Horizons of Snow.
"Thank you!" I shouted back, waving at him.
"Your taxi is waiting," he replied.
We hobbled over the loose powder like some cowboys whose legs had grown to match the contour of a horse's back. As we reached the snow cat, the driver came out and greeted us. The plane's cargo doors opened just then. We turned back and helped the driver and the plane's crew transfer the cargo. Our cargo consisted of wooden crates, some cardboard boxes and several heavy canvass bundles. The plane even carried a sleigh to transport the stuff to the snow cat. The cat with its massive weight might have overburdened the ice of the river or the lake.
I had remained at the edge of the 'runway.'
As we boarded the cat, we handed the snow shoes and parkas back to the air crew and waved to the pilots. Rostislav must have taken this as his cue, or maybe he had to wait until we had handed our snow shoes back. That's when he appeared at the door of the aircraft once more as if he would dive headlong into the snow. But he announced that his assignment was done, he would fly back with the plane. We had arrived safely. His mission was completed. After this little speech, and an official farewell, the aircraft's door was shut again.
For the rest of the journey, we drove, apparently aimlessly, across the taiga. There were no roads, trail markers, nor any landmarks that I could make out. We now had a close up view of the country we had seen for hours from the air. The snow cat drove for another three quarters of an hour through empty spaces and sparse forest of towering snow sculptures that were leaning slightly with the wind, casting bright blue shadows on the snow. At one point, on top of a bare, wind swept hill the driver stopped. He asked us to come forward and pointed towards the slope of another hill. "Look, there is a rare sight for your photo album," he said and handed the binoculars to Anton and me.
What I saw was a rare sight indeed, which however, we soon found echoed in so many ways in everything that happened up there. The hurried rush of time was swallowed up by the vastness of the place. We saw a man on the opposite slope dragging a sleigh up the side of a hill.
"That's professor Humbold," said the driver jokingly. "He works in an area where he can't afford to bring the dogs into, lest they spread diseases. Nor does he like to bring the snow cats in. You'll probably meet him tonight," said the driver while I got the camera set up.
The driver explained later, after we were on our way again, that he had made a considerable detour to show us this sight, in the hope that the professor would still be working there. "I hope that this will give you a feeling for the vastness of our land," he added.
Eventually we came upon what looked like a small village of aluminum-covered utility buildings and one lone single high-rise. These, altogether, made up the Reindeer Research Station.