Nature is Calling – Alaskan Wilderness
With a strange glare the taxi driver asked…” you’re not giving me anything extra??” “Geez, just give me a second, I’m just looking for the few extra dollars ($5 to be exact) somewhere in my bags”….. I arrived in America.
American arrival, bike setup, waiting for Canada visa, making new friends, learning more about beer and getting back into routines was the first month back onto the road as I make my way north towards Fairbanks. The Alaskan wilderness was laying towards the North and was about to enter yet another exiting part of the adventure. This will be the forth continent, which means I’m getting closer to the halfway mark.
Arriving late in the small city of Anchorage (but the biggest in Alaska) and my arrival was quite funny as I made my way to my first American hosts, Brian and Amy. I took a famous yellow-cab American taxi from the airport to their house and according to the description I thought I was at the correct house, but turned out I was wrong. Making my way through the side gate (wrong one), greeted the dog (wrong one) and arrived at the back door with a guy that looked extremely surprised/shocked/terrified seeing this stranger greeting him after 12 at night. Explaining who I was but quickly realised this was the wrong house, but he send me off in the direction of the correct house. Walking to their house I saw Brian walking down the street towards me 🙂
The stay in Anchorage was really great and met tons of great people around town. First of all my hosts were awesome and had lots in common, secondly lots of their fiends and thirdly met many people in the bike world up here in Alaska. I was fortunate to meet the owners and managers at 9:ZERO:7 Fatbikes and Fatback. This is two of the best fatbike companies out there and two of my main choices when I’ll be looking at bikes for Antarctica. Was great testing these two fatbikes!
I received my bicycle that was making its way separately from China via some courier services. When I saw the box I got a sicking feeling, as the box was bent at a 20degree angle. The bicycle got badly damaged and lots of things were missing out of the box. Somewhere along in transit (probably at American customs) they opened the box, took everything out, removed everything and just stuffed it back in. It took around 4hours to pack the box and I’m convinced they did not spend that time.
I started to rebuilt the bike, got the last things needed for the road and did the last bit of planning. I had a great talk one night with a few friends of Brian and Amy. Was nice sharing my adventure with a bunch of other people in Anchorage. I as now geared to take on North America!
The first leg of Alaska would take me from Anchorage, over Hatchers Pass, Denali National Park and the last little stretch to Fairbanks. The number one concern at the start was all the fires across Alaska. Alaska normally have huge problems with fires during summer seasons, but this year its even worse than some of the previous years.
Making way up a green Hatchers Pass and close to the top, I pitched my tent for the first time in Alaska. Being in Alaska was just awesome and enjoyed drinking straight from the rivers as I moved up the pass. Moving over the pass the next morning, people warned about the fires which I could see in the distance. I made a decision to turn back and took another route through Wasilla towards Willow. This road was closed 30 minutes before I got to the stop, about 5km from Willow. Waiting for 12 hours before they opened the road, but still refused to let me through on the bike. After 20 minutes of some kind of stupid negotiation, I walked into the bushes and pitched my green tent. It was already 2am and decided to sleep a few hours before trying again.
At 6am I made my way to the stop and talked to other state troopers and I got the clear to go. I grabbed one of their smoke masks and started to cycle. Some parts were really smoky, but it looked like the fires was not close to the road anymore. It was hard to breath at certain stretches, but the smell that got stuck in my clothes was worse. At least I got through, able to move forward and by the end of the day camped next to a river, where I rinsed all my clothes properly.
Most of the road towards Fairbanks was covered in smoke, which was a pity as I was really looking forward to some great views over Alaska. But unfortunately some things we cant control. The other irritating thing was all the road works. But don’t get me wrong… it’s not the roadworks itself, it’s the people working on the roadworks that think they own the road. I can take alot of shit from people (I think), but people that can help but don’t want to, pisses me off to the deepest cell in my body. At one roadworks, I approached this one grumpy looking woman. I smiled, greeted her (without one from her) and started to explain what I was doing, but I did not made the sixth word in my sentence when she kept interrupting me… “No, No, No” I asked her nicely that I can just complete my sentence before she gets rude and scream. Well, that did not help. “You wont cross this 2mile section on my watch” she replied with the attitude of a woman that have not had sex in 20 years. “Ok cool, no worries, I have all the time in the world” I replied and pitch my tent 5 meters from the stop. I went into my tent, reading a book, taking a nap and waited for 8 hours before somebody else helped me to cycle past this section.
I kept cycling towards Denali National Park and then got to see perfect view over Mount Mc Kindley, the highest peak in North America.
I decided to take a two day side-cycle through Denali National Park and it was the two most beautiful days on the road on this section. It was clear and could see further than any of the other days on the road, but now the heat was playing a little against the favours of seeing animals. The sweat was steaming down my face like a river making its last few miles into the ocean. I talked to other tourists on the tour busses and they also have not seen many animals at all. I spotted some Dull Sheep just before I jumped into my tent at 23:00 and watched them on a mountain far away as the mosquitos ate me for dinner. The next day I’ve seen two Caribou just before I left the park and that was when the rain started to pour down.
One of the biggest problems with the starting of wild fires are the thunder and I experienced I personally as the thunder hit the mountains around me. Denali had a few fires after that thunderstorm the next few days.
I stayed at my second hosts in Healy, a small town 15km from Denali National Park. I met Dana at the Subway outside Denali NP and cycled to their house. It is a beautiful wooden house which Dana’s husband Paul build with his own two hands. Paul was not at home when I arrived, so Dana and I headed over to their neighbours, Shawn and Jenny, for dinner. Man and we had a fun night! Jenny was from South Africa and moved to Alaska (I want to say 20 years ago, but don’t want to lie). The awesome thing is that they spend the summers over here in Alaska and return to South Africa every year for the summer in Cape Town. Everyone one of us was very similar kind of people and the chats never stopped as we sipped away delicious red wine.
When we got back home, Paul and their little boy Bryce came back from a father and son fishing trip. When I met Paul I quickly learned that we are very alike and he has lots of boy toys, which well… every man will drool about! On a trailer hooked up to his Pickup truck was one of the coolest side by side’s I’ve seen. I can just imagine how much fun that thing is to drive and go whenever you want to go. On the side of my room was his KTM 450 and in the garage the two big boys… The KTM 990 and KTM 1190 Adventurer! Paul and I also enjoyed a few great beers before going to bed each night.
It was yet again hard to leave, as I made really good friends in a short amount of time. I already stayed a few extra days, mostly because I truly enjoyed their company. I made my way over the last small mountain range (more than big hills) and cycled into Fairbanks. The way was yet again filled with smoke and could not see any of the Alaskan beauty around me. I now made my way to my third hosts… before heading toward the most northerly point I will go to on this adventure.
At this point I was still waiting for my Canadian visa! I was hoping to have it by the time I get to Fairbanks, that I can just continue my cycle and do the route up north in Canada. I yet again had to make decisions and my routes.
The days past and my new host was yet again was awesome. This is one of the most open houses I have seen in a long while and I love a house like this. Mike & Becky is awesome people and helped me with everything I needed.
I was getting frustrated because of this problem I was having with my visa. Being through 31 countries on this adventure, I did not expect to be struggling with the Canadian one the most! I was once again considering changing my northern route back to Alaska… and I did.
So I started to get everything in place to take on the Dalton highway and a few days since arriving in Fairbanks, I jumped back on the bike towards the Arctic Circle.
Cheers for now…
NEXT BLOG: INTO THE ARCTIC ON THE DALTON
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