Dienstag, 18. Februar 2014

day no. 27/28 - Viva Italia! ...overnight Safari


winter wonderland, -3°C speechless
Pasta, Mafia, temperament, a lot of fun- Italians are supposed to be quite loud and chaotic, charming and cheerful; a reputation which at least partly seems to match the truth. But “dolce vita” at any price? …for sure not if the dogs have to ‘pay’ for!


I had my first and so far last overnight Safari (‘so far’ because unfortunately my time here is going to end in a couple of days):  30 dogs, 5 Italians and annoying surprises.
I was looking forward to that trip since it was mentioned that it is going to happen. Since I was the only one able to communicate with the Italian guests I was invited to join this Safari. I didn’t wonder at all that seemingly I was the only one who was really excited about that challenge. I love Italians! I would even say that I spent my best years in Italy, learning, laughing, loving, eating, feeling the sun on my skin and joy in my heart.

My 5 elder Italian gentlemen arrived later than expected, no trace of enthusiasm or motivation in their faces and of course at least 2 cell phones per capita. Actually I thought a lot about how to do the riding lesson-the easy-going attitude, that empirically is a characteristic our Southern European neighbors have in common, requires to lay the emphasis on security issues ,which at least seemed to be obvious to calmer nations, but according to our experiences often turn out to be a problem  with our more sultry guests . To be clear everything that distract from concentrating on the dogs such as taking pictures, doing strange stretching that should look funny, answering phone calls etc. while riding the sledge leads in 98 % of the cases to avoidable complications and not anymore funny crashes and accidents. The main problem seems to be the braking. It doesn’t require a lot of practice or mental qualities-all you need to do is to step on the brake. Actually even the lightest adults are theoretically able to stop a sledge in a minute without bigger problems, but still …there is always one in every group who did not get it.

Riding lesson . foto: Mirja/Erä-susi Huskies

But to come back to my Italian group-knowing about the difficulties I focused even more on all the things they should NOT do and even offered to take pictures of them myself sitting on the snowmobile in front in order to avoid stupid incidents concerning the distraction because of the usage of electronic devices. My plan didn’t work. It happened one thing after the other. Chaos! They lost their dogs, fall of their sledges and felt even angry, when we told them at least the tenth time to stop calling, to remember to brake and to make sure that they won’t lose balance and team again, holding tight with at least one hand on the sledge.  It was ridiculous! It could have been funny, if it would not have been dangerous for our dogs. One managed to strangulate one of the dogs-both, dog and tourist, survived (I have never seen  my companion so angry before). We were both happy when we finally arrived at the cottage where we were planning to spend the night.

Did we forget someone..?!
Actually the trip can be great. We went first around 18 km to get to the traditional tent and have lunch there as like we do on 30km Safaris, too. It was a light grey morning with the potential to become even sunny and the new snow fallen over night covered the big pine trees and birches and made them become snowy sculptures of an abstract icy beauty. Under the load of the heavy snow their branches bent themselves forming tunnels touching nearly the ground.  I love to go out there following the snowy paths deeper and deeper in winter wonderland. It is mesmerizing-I felt so small in that wide whiteness!

wintry art
After the break we continued for another 10km climbing up slowly some hills. The panorama is spectacular and the world looks from up there so peaceful and somehow timeless, nearly eternal. The sight over the gentle hills covered with dark forest and staying in contrast to the bright white of the snowy flat valleys fascinates me and makes my mind wandering. I'm getting better and better in daydreaming...

Rela needs to cool down in the snow
The first day ended on a place in the middle of nowhere. Three cozy cottages and a nice restaurant with indoor fireplace and comfortable sauna were waiting for us. A tasty dinner was already in preparation.
But before relaxing in sauna we had to take care of the dogs. All guests were invited to help if they are interested in, but in that case we remained unassisted-maybe it was better like this…
The dogs spent the night tied alone a long chain which has to be tensed between 2 trees. Everything including food and straw for the dogs, equipment to clean after the Huskies, tin bowls, firewood, additional ropes and snap hooks to repair eventual damages on the sledges, first aid kit etc. has to be packed in a sledge and to be brought in the sledges there. So we arranged everything for the night, fed the dogs and checked if they survived that busy day unharmed. Among our Huskies we had a lot of young dogs; for some of them it was the first night spent in a totally new location with their team mates who are not necessarily also their fence mates back home. It seemed that they enjoyed it. They were tired after that long day and so after dinner they rolled up on their straw beds and slept.

survival sledge 
bivouac
We, instead of going to sleep, too, as I wished I could have done, went first to sauna and then we had dinner with our Italian guests. Not standing on the sledge they were really nice and friendly. To my surprise soon a lively discussion developed, almost all cell phones were shut down and we enjoyed the dinner together.  But still I was worrying about the next day.

in the heart of the winter
The next morning began early-the dogs had to drink, a breakfast had to be prepared, a cottage to be cleaned up a little and of courses we had to clean after the dogs and put all our stuff back in the sledge. It was my last harnessing dogs for this winter and that was a sad morning for me. We took a shorter route back home as originally planned according to the customers’ wish. They had learned from their mistakes and I guess I had earned their respect the evening before, because finally they started to realize at least partly what I was yelling at them whenever we had a tricky situation.
We arrived in the early afternoon with everyone and everything in good conditions. What a trip!
But I want to mentioned that according to my personal experiences most of the Italians I got to know are not like those gentlemen…and despite of some unbelievable stupid annoyances I had still a lot of fun and thanks to my nice companion I could enjoy it.
happy dogs
I had the pleasure to guide another group this afternoon. Some really smart and interested Germans came to try the sledging and learn about the dogs. It was the biggest contrast ever-from “thanks God, it’s over!” to “yess, I love my job!” in just a few moments…:)

Knowledge of the day:  Trust your eyes and your heart! 
Never underestimate cultural differences! But I’m sure in this extreme case personal ignorance is not necessarily related to the cultural background.

foto: Mirja /Erä-susi Huskies

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