29 January 2008

Husky Adventures

After weeks and weeks of mild temperatures and rainy weather the winter finally arrives in Tromso with lots and lots of snow! On the last weekend of January, my brother Jan and I organize sledges and dogs and prepare for a weekend in the wilderness. Jan has 3 huskies himself and from friends we receive another 11 dogs. Food needs to be prepared - 14 dogs eat loads of stuff, especially when they work out for several hours every day. We also pack the tent and our sleepingbags. In the dark early in the morning we select the dogs and off we go...

Once we arrive in Kvaloya, an island west of Tromso, everything has to go very quickly because the dogs easily become very excited.They know that we have a great day ahead!

First we attach the sledges to trees to avoid that the dogs just run off with them. A group of 6 to 8 huskies has such immense power that it is impossible for a human to hold back a sledge by himself. To secure the sledges we ram specially designed metal anchors into the frozen ground and then attach the dogs one by one.
On the picture below you can see how impatiently the lead dogs look at Jan as if they want to say: "When are we going to start...? Hey! Come on, what takes you so long messing with that sledge? Let's go!"

While we wait, there is a lot of noise, barking and howling! But as soon as we leave, the noise quiets down and the only thing we hear is the snow crunching under the sledges and the breathing of the dogs... wonderful!

After an hour of riding, we arrive on a small ridge. There is a little cottage with a stove up here. Very cozy - but not for us this time. We plan to go on for at least another four hours and then set up camp somewhere in the middle of the island, maybe on the shore of a frozen lake?

The day is really beautiful. We are very lucky with the weather. Since a couple of days the sun is back over the horizon in Tromso. But because of bad weather conditions we both didn't manage yet to see the sun after those two long months of polar winter up here. But then...

It is unbelievable how it feels to see the sun again after such a long time! It is some kind of a magic moment for me to feel the sunlight tickle my skin. I close my eyes and enjoy and forget the barking of my 6 dogs who just don't understand why it takes me so long again... "What is it with these humans and the bloody sun? Can't we just keep running now?"

In the late afternoon we find a nice little lake inmidst a forest. We decide to stop and set up camp here. It is getting dark again. Huskies have a thick fur and don't need any shelter for one night in the open. They curl up into a hairy ball and doze off quickly. Sometimes you find them under a cover of snow in the morning.

Jan and I build up his tent - also a Hilleberg tent (see my equipment overview). After feeding the dogs it's time for a soup and a cup of hot tea.

During the night there is heavy snowfall and in the morning we cannot see our tracks from yesterday at all. The dogs are all well and so are we. Breakfast for them is a mix of meat, fish and fat, for us it's fresh hot coffee!

It is hard work for the dogs to get through the fresh powder snow. It takes us much longer to get uphill again and into the valley on the other side of the island where the truck is parked. There is also a lot of wind today and we first fear that we have to spend another night out here despite the fact that we all have to be at work tomorrow morning (including the dogs who are scheduled for a trip with a group of tourists).

Well, in the end it works out. After a tough day we arrive back at the car. The huskies deserve a fat dinner now and Jan and I enjoy a hot sauna. Yippie! Until next time...

24 January 2008

Verdenstheatret - World Theater

Verdenstheatret is not only a cafe where people pass by to snatch up a coffee to go... people come here to hang out, read newspapers, play a round of Chess or Backgammon and listen to vinyl-music. Jazz, blues or swing dominate during the daytime while evenings are usually filled with classic rock. On weekends the place is packed with party-people dancing to live-DJ-music; everything from electronic to reggae.

I work a lot in the night and usually finish around 4-5am. At the moment my days are kind of inversed: I get up around 2-3pm and have eggs-and-bacon for breakfast while others have their afternoon tea-break. Then I normally go to work around 6pm. After work I often read or watch a movie until 7am in the morning because my metabolism is just not ready for bed. It happened more than once that I greeted bemused customers with a cheerful "Good morning!" at 8pm... :)

On the pictures you see some details of Verdenstheatret plus me and my friend Charlotte working behind the bar. During January 2008 Tromso features TIFF - the biggest film festival in Norway. Being attached to a cinema the Verdenstheatret has a busy week with lots of parties, almost no sleep and lots of fantastic films!

My personal favorites:
Dry Season (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, France/Chad 2006),
The Band's Visit (Eran Kolirin, Israel/France/USA 2007),
Full Metal Village (Sung-Hyung Cho, Germany 2006),
Little Moth (Peng Tao, China 2007),
No Country For Old Men (Ethan & Joel Cohen, USA 2007).


Hot New Year Tub

Holy heavens - it takes a painful while of arguing with your "innerer Schweinehund" (german, lit. = inner swine-dog) until you finally scrape up enough courage somewhere from the walls of the inner caves of your soul and undress at windy minus 5 celsius. But once you are inside this cozy hot tub, with 10 others and several liters of cold beer it takes even more to get out again!

This is actually what I do for New Years Eve far out of Tromso in the middle of nowhere with my brother, his girlfriend and a couple of husky-mushers. The water in the tub has cozy 40 degrees celsius and is fired by a small wood-burner inside the tub... ahhhhhhhhhh!
From inside the tub we are able to enjoy magnificent fireworks on the hills surrounding the Tromso-Fjord. From their boats, fishermen fire expired emergency amunition into the air - little rockets that unfold mini-parachutes once they are airborne. The bright red lights are hanging in the sky for a very long time like a whole galaxy of dying stars... fantastic!

In the end we spend 4 (four!) hours inside this massive wooden tub simply because we can't imagine exposing our wet skins again to the icy wind while running a 100 meters through the snow to our warm tent. As a result, our skin is so rinkled that we resemble a flock of alligators when we finally manage to get out of the water and stand around the open fire to warm up.