It is Transborder Cafe in November 2014 and Karoline bumps into a fellow trønder, Magnus Gorter-Voie. Before we know it, we are driving down Pasvik valley for an overnight stay at Magnus’ husky farm.
A larger than life dog and Lene Ødegård Olsen greet us with a big smile and dinner at the door of a sweet wooden house. Perfect strangers in the night! Magnus is working at the Syd-Varanger mine until late and we get to chat with our delightful host. Lene worked in galleries in Norway and London and moved to Kirkenes in 2011 for a steady job and a more dog-filled life. She now works at Pikene på Broen, a notorious cultural institution promoting dialogue across borders and lives with 21 huskies and 2 puppies. She describes it as a perfect balance of screen time and physical natural world, sounds like a success rate of 100 to us.
Another young woman comes in from the cold in a hardcore winter overall. Silje Gilde has been out tending to the dogs in the kennel. Last spring she wrote a note in social media forum for mushers and Magnus got in touch offering work experience. ‘Silje is a big help with the feeding, training, cuddling, poop-scooping and walking of the huskies’, says Lene. Silje spent a year dogsledding and musher training in folk high school in Alta and fell in love with mushing and the winter. ‘I wanted to experience a large and slightly alternative kennel to see how it is like and found these people who love their dogs so much and treat them with respect.’
There’s rumble at the door, Magnus has landed. His five shift rota; two weeks off during a five week period fits his mushing passion perfectly. ‘It gives me energy and time to dedicate to the dogs better than if I worked nine to five’. I was living in Trondheim and one day I just found out that I wanted to do something else than live in the city. I missed the forest.’
Magnus has been living in Pasvik since 2011 and has had his huskies for 10 years. ‘To be a musher means you’re also the nurse, doctor, priest and a psychiatrist. When you do all these things, it becomes very clear that it’s not the final destination, but the journey that counts. The annual Finnmark race is much like an exam to see how well we have been training and how good we are at communicating with the dogs. The ultimate goal is to have happy dogs with wagging tails.’
A true renaissance man with philosophy- and psychology studies, travels, jobs in bars and harbours, as youth worker with asylym seekers, postman, santa at Ikea, etc. Magnus now drives a motor grader at an iron ore mine in Bjørnevatn.
The mine has some of the oldest bedrock above ground in Europe. ‘3 billion years ago there were no living creatures on this planet, so the bedrock has sat undisturbed until us humans arrived like some mechanical hell fraggles. We’re eating away a large, deep hole and in this grey, barren landscape where trees are disappearing you occasionally see a fox or a rabbit that has wandered there. I can only imagine it must appear like hell for them. On the other hand, if you like metal in your daily life, and I do, I don’t have a problem doing what I do.’
Magnus finds it really important that people who have lived their whole lives in the area and have their entire family here, know how much respect he has for this place. ‘Without them it wouldn’t be what it is and I am very grateful for them and all their different cultures that have shaped this place. The horizon is open up here, both mentally and physically. Most importantly there are a lot of great people here, which is the reason I live here.’