Saturday, August 25, 2007

South from Alaska

Well it seems like ages since I've done an 'update' so will try and be brief. After getting down to Fairbanks, I decided it would be a good time to change my now totally bald tires. And with a brief stop in Anchorage (where we got refused getting into a bar cos we didn't bring our passports!) we went to Tok which is at a bit of a crossroads so everyone goes there. And sure enough we bump into Bob and Angie again, having not seen them since Nicaragua so it was good to catch up. We were staying at the Sourdough Campsite, which in reality is more of an RV park. At least it had Wi-Fi but owner Ken's nightly 'Comedy' show was a bit too much to bear though the pensioners in their RV's seem to enjoy it.

We tried to book the inland passage ferry south but couldn't get anything for 5 days so decided to go to Valdez, which is where we had to pay for the most expensive hotel room on the trip ($90!). After a brief look around, including a bit of a ride up a dirt road, it was back to Tok where instead of enduring the painful Sourdough Campsite evening 'comedy show' again, we camped at a biker friendly campsite nearby for half the price. The owners, Brian and Vanessa have a 1968 Shovelhead Harley called Hazel and the campsite includes use of their sauna. They call each other from across the site by yelling 'Yo Mama!' or 'Yo Papa!'. Really nice couple and a very chilled out place to camp.

Dawson City on the 'Top of the World Highway' was next on the list, though its not really on the top of the world is it? It's one of those gold-rush town preserved for tourists and we find a campsite on the other side of the river, for which theres a regular and more importantly, free ferry to to other side. We take in Dimond Tooth Gerties show which is set in a old style casino. It consists of a few dancing girls and the singing Gertie who likes to get unsuspecting old men up onto the stage to remove garters from the dancing girls with their teeth. All good, clean family fun. On the way back to the campsite, we bumped in to another overlander from Switzerland called Werner on a well stickered Africa Twin who's also come up here from Argentina. I was pleased to hear that he didn't enjoy the Galapagos Islands as much as he had enjoyed the wildlife on the Valdez Peninsula in Argentina as we couldn't justify the huge cost of getting to the Galapagos.

We then aimed for Skagway to catch the ferry down to Juneau. The town itself is again one of those touristy places geared up for receiving regular cruise ships so you'd be forgiven for thinking that all the shops here only sell jewelry because they pracically do. With relief we got out of there and spent a few hours on a mini cruise of our own down to Juneau, Alaska's capital which a little bizzarely, is not on the mainland. We would only be in Juneau for a night so checked out a nearby glacier, which was receeding and although nice, not a patch on Perito Moreno. We just had time to go to the Alaska Brewery for a quick tour and to sample some of their wares. I reckon the IPA was the best as the rest all seem a little watery to my tastes, but hey, I wasn't complaining, it was free beer after all.

Early the following morning, it was back to the ferry port to catch the ferry for the 2 day trip down to Prince Rupert in Canada. Amazingly, the crew on the boats don't stock tie down straps for motorbikes so instead you get given a ball of string and are told to get on with it. Once the bikes had been thoroughly secured with the equivalent of garden twine, we got ourselves up to the deck. We had been planning to sleep on deck as the cabins were a tad pricy and had been talking to a couple of bikers from the US when one of them said he was just popping down to their cabin. A couple of minutes later, he returned with a key, and said 'there you go'. They'd only just gone and paid for a cabin for us for 2 nights! Yet another example of the incredible generosity of total strangers we have met on our trip. The guys were both ex-racers from the 70's and apparently had a great collection of around 30 bikes at home. So with our new cabin, we were able to stick our gear in the room and enjoy the next 2 days. The ferry goes down whats called the Inland Passage so you have islands on both side of the ship while it calls in at various ports. We stopped off at Sitka (they called out 'Sitka by the sea' on the PA) where we jumped ship for a few hours with a few people we'd met and went straight to some fairly lively pubs before having to get the bus back to port. The following day we only had 45 minutes in Petersburg or Little Norway as its known due to the colourful houses, which we put to good use by having the best cinamon buns we'd ever tasted from the bakery there. We manged to see a few whales etc from the ship but unfortunatelly nothing on a par with Valdez in Argentina. We did manage to see a couple of quite spectacular sunsets though in addition to some amazing scenery.

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