Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alaska Omnibus Part 8

We are in Yukon, Canada. Near Haines Junction.
We are camping in the wilderness of Kluane National Park.

Birch Trees
Well, since a dead bear is in our neighborhood and probably they are going to butcher it soon. Eagles, ravens, crows and vultures are already gathering around us so we decide to get the hell put of there.
I tell to Teddy, “Hey Teddy, you can take our spot and we will move to some other spot.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes Sir.”
We pick another spot far away and pack up our car again and drive up there. We set up our tent and kitchen.

Near Denali
On the wood fire we make egg bhurzee and then make tea. On our camping, since we have limited pots and limited provisions so we make simplest of the things.
Another thing that we have learned on our long driving trips, that if we wrap up some vegetables, potatoes etc in an aluminum foil, with a little cooking oil and attach this foil at the exhaust manifold with the help of some wire etc. Things get cooked up very well in a couple of hundred of kilometers of car running. Then all we need is some chat masala and salt. Or we can lightly fry it at a campsite or day use picnic area for further enhancement of taste. This works excellent and we did this cooking several times in Alaska. We experimented with many things and all came up fairly well. We made aaloo gobi, arbi, bhindi, baingans etc. etc. on our running car exhaust manifold.

Near Denali
I again got drifted from our Alaska story. So we have a hearty breakfast and then go out for a very long walk in the wilderness. I always keep a small backpack with a small wood burning stove, a small can sized pot to make just 2 cups of tea, tea bags and sugar etc. I made this wood burning stove with an empty coffee can and works well. With a handful of twigs we can make 2 cups of tea. It is a joy to have a hot tea in this cold tundra. This also serves as an excuse to stay at a place for a while. When we stop then our mind too stops for a while.

Near Anchorage
We walk by the lake and thundering rivers surrounded by snowy peaks. Cold air was whistling. To our west were the endless peaks, at their other side they converge down into a huge glacier and it slams into the Pacific Ocean in Alaska Panhandle in between Skagway and Haines. Trees are dark colored, mostly spruce and birch and stunted due to the stressful cold climate that stays in below freezing for the most of the winters. These trees are not robust as their cousins in the south. Dense forests and tundra bushes are still in abundant because of long sunlight hours of the summers.

Before Fairbanks
We cross many rivers at many dangerous places and we are wet because of slipping several times in icy waters. These rivers were too high for the salmon fishes to get up to here and all bears were busy catching fishes at the downstream. Long hours of sunshine in winter make the ice melt and so rivers roar here. This ice is replenished in the winter when sunlight is almost zero. At this latitudes summer is a one long day here and winter is a one long night here and animals go to hibernate. Bears dig burrow in the snow and there they go for a long several months sleep. Of-course they gain 100 kilos of weight in summers by eating salmon fishes and that weight they shed off when they go to sleep. When they wake up in May, they are very hungry and dangerous.

Birch trees
We burn a fire in the forest, plenty of spruce needles and cones to burn. We warm ourselves and also dry our clothes, shoes and socks in the fire. In this cold sitting by the fire gets very addictive but we build up courage and put out the fire with the water because it is illegal to have unattended fire.

A brook
After walking for hours on the zigzag trails in the mountains we lose track of the markers and then decide to return so not to get lost. Our path is spongy and mossy because of moss on the permafrost. At a place we gather Ledum (Marsh Tea) growing in the bog, a herd of muse is present in the bog but they mind their own business and ignore us completely. A strange thing about muse is that it is a huge animal but their droppings are tiny; even smaller than goat’s droppings.
We are walking in the Kluane National Park and Reserve (Yukon, Canada)

Glacier near our campsite
I make a mush of ledum on a rock with a stone. We gather many dry tree cones and make a fire in my little wood burning stove and it is bright and smokeless and we make tea and drink it while sitting at a rock by the lake. There is no other presence of man or its noise. We wash the stove and pot and pack it back in the polythene and follow the same trail to return. After a couple of hit or miss markers we find the trail and then the river we followed here. From far away we see our campsite and make our return at 3PM and we are very hungry. We cross the river and enter in our campsite and see that the dead bear is gone, Teddy and his car is also not present but his tent and gear is there. Vast campsite is almost empty; we only see an elderly couple making coffee on a little propane stove, they arrived on their little RV. They are goofy and friendly and ask us about the trails around us. They offer us coffee and we accept it, lady makes coffee for us.

Lake where we camped
We have no bread, but only rice and some daal, one onion, canned ginger and garlic pastes and tomato puree. So make a wood fire on the camp grill and begin preparing lentil and rice. While Rajan is tendering the food, I go to the central facilities to take a hot water bath. They have coin operated hot showers and I insert 4 quarters one by one and have a decent bath. Rajan goes to take a bath upon my return because it is illegal to leave unattended fires and one must stay near the fire.

In the Park
Food is ready and superb while we are eating, Teddy comes to our site.
“Hey! Eddied and Freddie, my main men. Howdy!”
“Shalom. Where is the bear?”
He greets us back excitedly, “Shaaa-Looom! Well, this girl called her brother and he and his buddy came here and took away the bear. He will drop off its head to a taxidermist in Whitehorse. I paid them on the phone and they will prepare the trophy and ship it to me in Florida.”
“So what’s cooking?”
“You can join us? It’s all vegetarian.”
“Is it Kosher? Did you use any butter or diary things?”
“No butter or diary, only rice, lentil, corn oil and spices.”

Alaska Highway after Fairbanks
Teddy is a strict Jew and he accepts our food but initially eats with great caution, sorting rice grains with his spoon as if he may find some bug in it but then he begins devouring it. He claims that it is the most delicious food he ever had on this journey.
He says, “I have a very good friend from India, his name is Chamanlal Charlie.”
“Wow! So you are not new to Indians.”
“Oh no, not at all, I have many Indian buddies. I love Indian Cuisines.”
We ask him if he will join us for dinner and he readily agrees.
“Well folks, is there anything I can do for you guys; or do I owe you anything for this great lunch and following dinner.”
We tell him that he does not owe us anything. He gives us the news that he has a bottle of Jack Daniels that he will bring at supper time. This is a good news because our bottle was finished last night.

After Haines Junction

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