Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alaska Omnibus Part 6

At night our car sank in the permafrost by its own weight. A wolf bit my right foot and dragged me several feet on the ground.

A lake on Alaska Highway
So we empty our trunk again and remove the jack and other tools; and try to raise front driving wheel of the car but instead the jack is sinking in the ground now. We make a bed of pebbles and rocks that we found in the river and now jack holds and we raised one wheel at a time and fill up the gravel underneath each tire till it is level with the ground. It takes us 3 hours of hard labor and successfully our car moves. We park our car and reload everything in it and drive off.

On the way to Haines Junction
It gets stuck in permanent frost several times on the ramp to the Alaska Highway. Somehow at 11AM our car’s all four wheels are on the firm pavement of Alaska Highway. We speed off. We haven’t had any tea or breakfast since morning but worked like donkeys to bring the car to the highway. Moreover my right foot is swelled up and I am unable to wear my shoe but no pain yet.

Alaska Highway
After two hundred kilometers we find a restaurant; we have lunch there followed by coffee. I inquire from the patrons if there are any rabies cases around due to wolf bites. They say rabies is very rare but nobody takes a chance but get the treatment. I take my chances and avoid any treatment. Car refuses to start and we pour cold water on the starter and then it starts.

Brook near our campsite
We resume our drive and I stop the car at the marshes and luckily find Ledum there. We make another cup of Ledum tea and harvest more for our next teas. Starter again needs water treatment but we are sure that we will get to Whitehorse.,_Yukon
We arrive in Whitehorse at 4pm. It is a small town midst wilderness. Whitehorse (population 23,276, 2011 Census[1]) is the capital and largest city of Yukon, Canada. It was incorporated in 1950 and is located at kilometre 1476 on the Alaska Highway in southern Yukon. Whitehorse’s downtown and Riverdale areas occupy both shores of the Yukon River, which originates in British Columbia and meets the Bering Sea in Alaska. The city was named after the White Horse Rapids for their resemblance to the mane of a white horse, near Miles Canyon, before the river was dammed. Because of the city’s location in the Whitehorse valley, the climate is milder than other comparable northern communities. At this latitude winter days are short and summer days have 20 hours of daylight.

Whitehorse Yukon, Courtesy –
We go to a mechanic and he asks 1000 to install new starter. $500 for the starter and $500 for the labor. Starter costs less than $80 in Vancouver or New York and this price is outrageous. We check with second mechanic and his price is 1200. We find one autoparts store and they don’t have the starter but price is $475 second dealer says that he may get us starter in 3 days for $375. Third and last dealer in the town has the starter and asks for $500 + 25% tax. We refuse to buy starter for this outrageous price and give up. It is 9PM now, I see a Pizza hut and we have a superb dinner there. It is still like afternoon here because Sun is at the horizon.

Near Our Campsite
We leave Whitehorse and resume our drive towards Anchorage. We cross the mighty Yukon river. Near Haines Junction we see the signs of a designated campsite towards Haines (Alaska, USA) Kathleen Lake Campground, National Park. We buy groceries from the store at the road junction; luckily this store opens 24 hours a day. We arrive at the campsite. As usual there is no reception or office, most of the sites are vacant so we take a vacant spot near a clean water brook and put campsite use fee in an envelope and hang it at the hook on the pole as it is written in the instructions. This indicates that this site is taken and also the fee is paid. Whenever attendant will come, will take the money and issue the receipt. At 11pm it is evening and we go out to find wood to burn in the wood stove. We find lots of wood and pine cones and make fire. My foot is almost normal and no pain at all. I squeeze the wounds to drain out the contaminated blood and then apply turmeric on the punctures.

A small airplane on the road
Although this area is mountainous, full of giant lakes, crashing waterfalls and bubbling rivers but trees are stunted here due to the intense cold stress. It is unlike the Hyder area where huge spruce trees grow. Sitka Spruce can grow up to 300 feet and average tree is about 150 feet tall. Here are mostly black spruce trees and paper-birch (bhoj).
We brought a whiskey bottle from Hyder; we relax and enjoy by the campfire. Mr. Bubbling brook is the only guy making some noise. Every creature is sleeping even thousands of bald eagles who live on the trees around us. For the last 4 days we drove 4000 kilometers in the wilderness and another 4000 to go (at-least). We’d been harassed by mosquitoes, wolves, bears, Punjabi Girls, permafrost, bad water, Huge Salmon fish with mortal fangs (one almost bit off my big toe), car starters and what not.

Near our Campsite
There is no need to use our little gas stove. We make food on the wood stove. We bought 2 huge eggplants (baingans) and Pita bread from the grocery store at the Haines Junction.
We run out of wood but we steal more from the vacant campsites. We roast both baingans on the grill, fire is so severe that it takes minutes to cook the baingans. We scrape off the burned peel and add chat-masala over the mesh and make sandwiches on pita bread and it turns out the most delicious dinner one may ever get.

Views from our tent
We are drunk and we sing:
“Jaaaaanie and Mary. Weeee aaar single.”
Campground Official, a fat girl wearing brown uniform comes on her motorized golf cart.
She announces, “Hi, I am Janie and my big sister is Mary. Which ones of you want which ones of us or you wanna toss the coin?”
She eats or all leftover food and issues us the receipt for the camp fee and drives away.
We have a night walk and then fall to sleep when it is still evening at 12 midnight.
We wake up at morning and another surprise is waiting for us here in this wilderness.
Alaska Omnibus has more stops to make.

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