Picture : Husky safari in Finland
Find a movie or TV series set in a polar location and watch it while everything around you melts slowly into the tarmac. This really works.
I discovered this fact many years ago when Northern Exposure was shown on SABC. It was called Goeie More Alaska (Good Morning Alaska) because for some inexplicable reason it was dubbed into Afrikaans. Not that inexplicable, because dubbing provided a lot of employment for the connected luvvies that roamed around the SABC back in the eighties. Anyone who thinks the SABC only recently became a jobs-for-pals racket is missing something.
But anyway, despite the surreal experience of seeing Maurice and Maggie and (god help us) Marilyn Whirlwind speaking the taal, it awoke a lifelong fascination with Alaska and the icy wastes at the edges of the earth. A book from the library called The Quest led to an obsession with dog sledding. The Quest is a dog sled race, much like the Iditarod, but quite a bit more difficult. The Quest allows fewer dogs, has fewer rest stops. The Iditarod is more glam and attracts the big money and famous mushers.
So this week, while the temperature rose to disturbing heights, I watched the Iditarod. There’s a big difference between reading about it and watching it. For instance, there are people who think it’s cruel on the dogs. Running in a pack across the snow is cruel? Let me show you a husky sitting behind a suburban fence with nothing to do in the boiling heat but kill random cats straying into its territory. That’s cruel. By contrast, the dogs in harness waiting for the signal give every indication that they can’t wait to be off. The natural instinct of a husky is to pull, just as a retriever … retrieves. If you look carefully, the harnesses are slack, and exert very little pressure on the dog once momentum takes over. Mushers depend on their dogs for their lives, and no reputable musher would run a dog that is sick or injured. Injured dogs left at checkpoints to be returned home, suffer what they call “doggy depression” as the pack leaves without them. Watching a working dog do its job across a fabulously bleak and beautiful landscape is a wondrous sight to behold, and you’ll likely end up with a trip like this on your bucket list.
If you don’t fancy mushing, there’s always the famous Scandi-noir. The Scandinavians make absolutely great television series that are very different from the usual bland American fare. Start with Bron and Forbrydelsen, then go to Iceland for Trapped, then Norway for Dag and to have a laugh. You won’t be sorry, you might well become addicted.
And as a bonus, you will feel very very cool.
Word of warning, just in case, like me, you’re ready to pack it in and move to Alaska, read this blog to see how very difficult it is to live in an environment of extreme cold.
Taking the plane to buy the groceries? Bears rooting through the freezer? I’ll stick with the baboons, at least they’re not going to eat me. Basically I’m a candy-ass, a sweaty candy-ass but at least winter is coming. Eventually.