Svalbard. Even in the Summer ice and snow cover this island landscape. As the Norwegian-Americans land at the airport the hunting videographer can’t wait to kill his first polar bear. Monica Christensen Solaas, a true Norwegian explorer, was overseer of the challenges, the first being a long distance ski trek to a ‘North Pole’ (a sign sticking out of the wilderness). Team A was the opera singer, the gay games medalist and the surfer. The hunting videographer, the priest and the wrestler were team B. This was the hunting videographers first time above the Arctic Cirlce, first time in the snow and first time on skis. He was very nervous about the challenge. First up was training. ‘Holy crap! I’m attached! was the first words out of the hunting videographers mouth when he clicked on his skis. With a whole bunch of side-togethers and slides the troupe practised skiing up and down. The hunting videographer was really good at falling over from just standing to cries of ‘timber!’ The hunting videographers defence: ‘I’m not used to being so graceful or having the wind in my hair’. Soon the race was on. The surfer on team A, being both the navigator and scout, took his team off course to the first marker. They had to back track and lost time. The priest on team B did the same on the second marker, losing time. The hunting videographer stopped ‘Does anyone see a gas station we can stop for directions?’ (Ah, not on the way to the North Pole, unfortunately.) The wrestler and hunting videographer plonked themselves next to the priest swearing about their misfortune. They suddenly realised who was in their presence and became very penitent. In a meek tone the videographer said ‘pastor?’ Not looking up from his map the priest said ‘You’re forgiven.’ ‘Wow!’, the videographer was impressed. The preist replied ‘Yes, I knew what you were thinking’. Soon they were on their way again. Team A was the first, just 12 minutes ahead, to base camp. The surfer fell onto the sign with an exhausted hug but they weren’t safe yet. The team needed to pitch the tent. When done team B arrived.

After midnight, the surfer and the hunting videographer were freezing, enjoying the midnight Sun. The videographer slipped out a bottle of whisky from his snow jacket, ‘What keeps you warmer than whisky?’ The surfer quickly answered, ‘Spooning and whisky?’ The videographer looked at him twice and laughed. Pop. The opening whisky bottle made the most excellent sound in the frozen wilderness.

Later to the camera the videographer gets all nostalgic ‘In one hand a bottle of whisky and the other hand a gun. It doesn’t get any better than this.’ He started writing in his diary in front of the Arctic mountains ‘I hate the snow, I hate cold weather but this is like the coolest thing I’ve ever seen’.

It was morning, even though the sun hadn’t gone down for night. Team A was given a 12 minute headstart back to the starting place to finish the race. The gay games medalist complained about the opera singer (again) for being so slow at skiing. But the opera singer never complained and soldiered along. Even though they took the long way around a snow hill, team B couldn’t catch up, and so they won the race. The gay games medalist said ‘Svalbard has officially broken me’. The winners were taken on a boat trip with a guide around the abandoned villages and learnt about the history. The medalist was speechless, ‘I’m looking for the right adjective to describe Norway’. He spoke a string of compliments but my favourite was ‘awe-inspiring’.

Even though Team B had to fight it out to see who was going home, they had a treat doing it – dogsledding. It was the priest against the wrestler (the hunting vieographer had won immunity the week before). They only had four dogs to pull them and had some time to get to meet the lead dog – the most important who will guide and set the pace. The challenge was to do a mock search and resuce of an avalanch victim buried in the snow. During the race the priest couldn’t help himself singing ‘Who let the dogs out – who, who, who, who?’ With a beeper the priest located his victim and dug him out of the snow with a shovel. The wrestler knew very well what he was up against. His dogs would have to tow twice as much weight so he scootered along to help his pack. Reaching the avalanch site his strength worked against him. With gloves off and sweat on his brow, his spade snapped from the heavy digs. With just the head of the spade and red raw hands , the wrestler dug his little heart out and finally pulled out his avalanche victim. All his efforst paid off as he won the challenge by 30 seconds. ‘My strength and size keep getting in the way. Things break in half… little tiny dogs pulling me…’ – the wrestler certainly earnt his place in the last five.

This week no Spirit award was given out so everyone can compete on a level playing ground from now on. The remaning contestants were treated to a special dinner – seal! On looking at his meal the gay games medalist said, It just looks like a bad cut of beef.’ 

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