Saturday 18 September 2010

Best friends

Daneborg, paradise! At least for those who come back from the endless journey through the frozen world of Greenlands National Park. They lost 10 kg or more on this incredible ride, have been longing more than once to be in one of those airplanes that go miles overhead (going to warmer places with comfy seats, warm water, different food and stewardesses…!), seen the most amazing things, beauty and danger, maybe bumped into polar bears, spent nights of sheer survival at minus 60 degrees, welcomed the lemonade in the depot like a treasure, and made and made and made their way with great endurance. Two men and their dogs, for weeks or even months. If you go along well, if you brave all this together, you become friends for a lifetime. And Daneborg is their headquarter, the place where they meet, a realm of team spirit. We are greeted warmly upon arrival, although watched carefully by the "Einar Mikkelsen" of the Danish Navy. (Well, later on they pay us a visit on board, it's certainly a little less than formal here.) The members of Sirius are just ready to give us a guided tour on the premises. Apart from the small museum and the old trapper's cabin we learn what life on the Sirius team is all about: Dogs and equipment that hopefully never fails. They build everything themselves, from riflebag, to tent, sleeping bag, clothes. They can sew, repair, build, splice, take care of wounds - and cook. Mothers-in-law, stop sighing! These guys are out and about for years…
Then there's the dogs. The subtitle "man's best friend", here it is doubtlessly true. Every team has a pack of 13 dogs, each of them with a distinct character, place in the hierarchy, and unique qualities. Man and dogs are a perfect unit, and they obviously love each other. A lot. And here lies the unavoidable dilemma: The dogs can go and work for 8-9 years maximum, getting bred and fed and trained and healed by their proud owners. Until the day comes when it is time "to say good-bye". Our guide looks to the ground as he explains, carefully avoiding any other term. There is no alternative, they cannot stay behind or brought to some other place (maybe except one or two that go to Mestesvig). It is a dark day for the team, it means loosing a true and loyal friend, no less. These men are doing one of the toughest outdoor jobs in the world, but as they all agree - this is the most difficult part of it.
On a happier note we get to know about the sleds. These are also built by the team, from scratch, no pre-cut parts involved. It takes 80 hours of work and getting one ready is a big event. This is your vehicle, your transport, your key logistic item. You don't want to be sloppy here. The final act is the baptizing. Look at this one: it's got the name of a Berlin hockey team. Die Eisbären, how appropriate!