Sunday, 8 July 2007

Tomorrow has come at last ....

Sorry about tomorrow being almost a week later - things have been busy and complicated in the FleaPa household.

So, today we fly all the way to our final destination, Fairbanks, Alaska to visit Eero. And Yes! I have been to Fairbanks - in 2005. Grandpa Flea and I had a wonderful trip via the Alaska Marine Highway - ferries to the uninitiated. We started in Bellingham and stopped at so many places along the way - Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world, where 40 jewelry stores opened overnight when the first big cruise liner arrived (we'd arrived a few days before); Petersburg, where we didn't have enough time; Sitka, the old Russian capital where the Russian influence is still very visible and there are many wonderful forest walks, parks and an interesting raptor centre; then Juneau, capital city of Alaska. Juneau is the place where we fell in love with the bald eagle - they were everywhere and we got some magnificent photos; we caught the local bus and then walked to the Mendenhall glacier and saw for ourselves how far the glacier has retreated in recent years - on the way we passed beaver dams, a new experience for us; and we also went to the Tracy Arm Fjord and the Sawyer Glacier in a small tourist boat. On the way we saw icebergs, whales, and seals and the glacier calving - what an experience. The operators of the charter boat were bits of cowboys and in my view went far to close to the glacier for safety - and I was not alone in my concern, but Grandpa Flea thought it was all fine (men!). Then on to Skagway via Haines (where we didn't stop).The scenery is magnificent - snowy mountains everywhere and all sorts of wildlife to see. In Skagway, the ferry docks at the end of the mainstreet - it's as though you are going to sail up the road.

At Skagway we said goodbye to the ferry and caught an old-fashioned train on the "WhiteHorse Pass and Yukon Railway" - across viaducts over huge chasms, through miles of forest, over Dead Horse Gulch on an amazingly insubstantial looking steel bridge, through the White Pass and the summit with several feet of snow outside the train, then on to the end of the line at Fraser, where we transferred to a bus which took us to Whitehorse. In Whitehorse we saw an old "skyscraper" - a three storey wooden building of just one room per floor, bulit for workers on the Alaskan Highwy, to minimise heat loss. Amongst other things we visited the MacBride Museum and Sam McGee's cabin where a young person in dress, recited Robert Service's ballad of Sam McGee to great effect. I was so impressed I bought a book of the poetry to give to our oldest little Flea who was about 15 at the time. Robert Service's poetry reminds me of the poetry I grew up on - the poems of Banjo Patterson, an Australian bush poet from the early 1900s.

After a visit to the "Frantic Follies" and the paddle steamer "S.S. Klondike" we joined the Dawson City Courier for our trip to - you guessed it - Dawson City in the Yukon in Canada. In Dawson City we stayed at a B&B run by a young woman who played "Diamond Tooth Gertie" in the casino's music hall show. Again, we did walks around town, through the forest (such as it was), and along the the Yukon River, visited Robert Service's cabin, the Jack London Cabin and Cache Museum, and the casino to watch the show.

Then we joined another minivan which took us across the Yukon River on a small vehicular ferry - apparently in winter the river freezes and the cars etc just drive across the ice - and heavy movements are left until then. Then on to Top of the World Highway - an amazing experience across the barren landscape of the permafrost - the Arctic Desert. Back into the US again, through a place called "Chicken" and into Eero's home town - Fairbanks. Our hotel posted a notice each day - a typical day was "High 71F, Low 50F; intervals of cloud and sunshine; sunrise 3.41am, sunset 11.57pm; length of day: 20hrs, 16min, 2sec" - we had had long days in Dawson City too, and is it hard to sleep. I like to sleep with the curtains and windows wide open and that was impossible, of course. Thank heavens for sleeping pills! So more walks around town, along the Chena River, and a trip on the riverboat to the Chena Indian Village. I was so impressed with the beautiful traditional clothing - the embroidery is magnificent.

While in Fairbaks we took a light plane trip up through the mountain range called the"Gates of the Arctic National Park" , across the Arctic Circle to the Nunamiut Inland Eskimo Village at Anaktuvuk Pass. This was supposed to be a "mail run", stopping at a number of small settlements along the way, but as it was a weekend, there was no mail to deliver. So we flew direct to the village, landed, got out of the plane, gawked at a few kids who arrived on bikes and gawked at us, got in the back of a pick-up truck which took us to a large hanger type building where we could use the toilet then returned us to the landing strip, got back in the plane and went back to Fairbanks. I have to say it was not my favourite activity on our holiday - it seemed to be a lot of money to pay for an uncomfortable flight over a long distance. Sure, it was interesting to see the country from the air, but we were disappointed in the experience and do not recommend it.

Leaving Fairbanks, we travelled by the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park and that is where we shall leave this long extended story which has no doubt, bored you to tears. I hate long texty blogs without photos and as our photos are not stored in the computer I can't post any - easily.