Thomas Waerner won the Iditarod Trail sled dog race this year in March, but is still waiting to return home to Norway.
Waerner and his 16 dogs have been stranded in Alaska due to travel restrictions and flight cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, The Anchorage Daily News reported on Saturday.
“I really like Alaska,” said Waerner. “It’s sort of the place of my dreams. But I have a family. ”
Waerner, whose official biography indicates that he was born in England but lives in Norway, has five children and 35 other sled dogs in the Torpa countryside. He missed the 10th birthday of one of his children and misses morning coffee with his wife, Guro, who left Alaska in March shortly before health restrictions continued to travel.
The 47-year-old plans to return home in early June on a DC-6 to the Air History Museum in Sola, Norway.
Fairbanks’ Everts Air Cargo sells the historic aircraft, and Waerner said the museum is expected to finalize the deal this week.
“We are hitchhiking,” said Waerner. “The plane is going to Norway and we are going with them. We are so lucky. ”
Before the trip, Waerner should undergo a Covid-19 test and collect his dogs from a kennel in Salcha belonging to his compatriot Arleigh Reynolds.
Waerner said he has friends in the Alaskan towns of Ester and Salcha and that he often spends a few days around Fairbanks after the Iditarod. This year, a few days have turned into more than a few weeks and Waerner is ready to resume his normal life.
“My wife takes care of 35 dogs, children and works as a veterinarian,” he said. When he got home, “yes, my dear,” will be the answer to everything, “he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, this can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Running in just his second Iditarod, Waerner traveled nearly 1,000 miles across Alaska in nine days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds to become only the fourth non-American to win the race after quadruple champion Martin Buser’s Switzerland and the Norwegian mushers Robert Sørlie and Joar Leifseth Ulsom.
He first competed in the Iditarod in 2015, when he finished 17th and won the rookie of the year honors. In 2019, he won the 745 mi (1,200 km) Finnmarkslopet, the longest sled dog race in Europe.