Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alaska Omnibus Part 9

Alaska Omnibus

Water Airplane at the lake
Teddy offers us our previous campsite where he has not erected his tent yet but we invested a substantial time to setup our home here at this new place and it is a big nuisance to fold up the tent and everything again so we decline.
Fat girl comes on her motorized golf cart to collect the daily rent.
“Hey guys, last night food was yummy. Hope you won’t mind teaching me how to cook the eggplants in your Indian way like the last night. I bought eggplants from Haines Junction.”
Now Teddy is even happier and he leaves us singing.
And those eggplants we cooked were not even close to Indian way, but may be Mediterranean style but I don’t mention it to her.

A Marsh
So we have party that night in the swooshing camp fire. We need not to scavenge wood from the forest because Janie brings us tons of leftover wood from other campsites on her golf cart. This time we make proper baingan bhurta. We first roast the baingans on the fire and then remove all the soft pulp. We fry onions, garlic and ginger paste, tomato puree and then add baingan pulp and let it cook for some time. Janie is watching it all with hungry eyes but wants to eat it prematurely but we prevent her in vein.
We are cooking while drinking.

Store at the Alaska Highway
Teddy takes just one drink and he gets drunk and begins stammering.
He asks to me, “Eddie, have you ever killed something in your life?”
Eddie (I) says while raising his (my) both hands, “What do you think, these hands are made of cotton candy?”
“Come come Eddie, tell me what you killed?”
“Couple of thousands of mosquitoes; just 2 days ago.”
Teddy roars into a laugh.
Fatso also takes a light drink and I and Rajan share the rest of the bottle and we are drunk.
Teddy and fatso eat all the baingan bhurta even before it is fully done and without any bread and we all are still hungry.

Abandoned cars in Wilderness
Teddy tells us the rest of his story. His wife died and he buried her, bought a newest model Jaguar and set off to Alaska. He drove 14000 kilometers so far to get here. His car broke down twice. Once it was the problem with engine; a piston ring blew. Then he hit a pothole near Dawson City while driving at 100 km/hr. Both towing and repairs cost him more than seventeen thousand dollars. He envied us that we were using a beaten down Toyota Corolla that already had more than 3 hundred thousand kilometers on the odometer. He only wished; had he brought some inexpensive car that he could have ditched in the wilderness and hitch hiked to the next place where he could have bought another used one.

A lake near Fairbanks
So we begin another round of cooking. Teddy brings us canned beans, avocado and breads. We make a grand tadka of beans and this time we put lots of spices to deter Teddy and Fatso but that proves ineffective, that too is gone.
They think it is the appetizer and real course of cooking will still have to begin. Anyway it is now nine o clock of night but it is like noon here in Alaska. We have nothing left except daal and rice. So we make daal again but this time I fill up the pressure cooker with water so it becomes soup. I also add Ledum in the daal; Fatso says that it is called wild rosemary in Alaska and they use it to marinate the meat as seasoning.
Result is a great daal-soup.

Boats in a lake
We only have only 3 pots, one pressure cooker, one small pot to make tea and one is small frying pan. So we wait for the daal to be cooked then we will use pressure cooker again for rice. After eating watery daal and rice, Tun Tun leaves us to have a proper supper of bear meat at her RV. She says she will be cooking the liver of the bear and we are invited us but we decline.

Lake
It is difficult to sleep in this sunlight at night so we take another hike in the serene mountains, lakes and rivers, and effect of liquor wanes out in walking in the cold air. We walk among the many huge muses and bisons, once a while we hear the howling of a wolf. Around midnight it appears that sun is about to set so we return to our tent and try to sleep. Finally it gets dark and we see the dance of northern lights in the sky. Sky fills up with colorful lights. Lights form and vanish and change colors at these latitudes.

We wake up in the morning to find that our kitchen wares are all in disarray because we forgot to lock everything in the boot of our car. Bears broke the plastic containers with sugar and tea etc. Teddy is gone, he had very long journey ahead. He was to go to Fairbanks and then to Purdue Bay, where Alaska oil pipe line originates from frozen seas. From there he was to charter a ski-plane to Nome and then return to Purdue Bay and then he was to come to Anchorage and then back 20,000 kilometers to Key West Florida. Teddy took the whole length of I-95 from Miami, entered in Canada after crossing St. Lawrence River near Montreal. From there he took Route 1 within the Canada to all the way to Alaska. Route one passes through the back of great lakes amidst the untouched pristine wilderness that spreads for thousands and thousands of miles. On our next trip to Alaska we did the same.

Road near Denali
We have no sugar or tea now so we walk to the elderly couple campers and ask them for some sugar and coffee powder; they give us gladly. Nothing else is left to prepare breakfast so we pack up our car and leave behind the wilderness for the further expanse of wilderness that is spread for thousands of miles around us.

View before Whitehorse
We arrive at Haines Junction at 9AM and there we have breakfast in a restaurant, we but some provisions from a small supermarket there and then leave towards Fairbanks in Alaska (USA) that is still 800 kilometers. We drive 350 kilometers and enter in USA without any event. We stop at several lakes but we are always apprehensive that car may not start again but it starts after we cooled starter with water. At one place car stall after a long climb and our water bottle is empty so we let the engine cool down for a while and then we aim our own water on the starter and it too works.

Alaska Highway near
At USA border, there is a huge 18 wheeler truck parked pending inspections. Insignia of Khalsa is printed in the back. We are cleared to go but then officer asks us if we mind helping someone who speaks our language. We agree and park our car.
Mr. Harjit Singh, 5 feet tall, a fat Sikh wearing a yellow turban, a Khalsa Khanda (half sword) hanging from his waist greets us with a smile.
“You can call me Khalsa,” he says.
He knows only Punjabi and is hauling a load of oil rigging machinery to Purdue Bay at the arctics. We become his translator with immigration officers and everything goes smooth. In 25 minutes he too is cleared to proceed into USA. He slowly hauls away his huge rig.
After some distance we see a cafe and stop there to have a coffee. A plump girl who appears Punjabi is running this small cafe. I try to start conversation with her in Punjabi but then I realize that she is not Punjabi because she is not understanding what I said to her. Same thing happens with Rajan then we concluded that the girl is Hispanic. As we are sipping our coffee outside and looking at the snowy mountains, Khalsa’s truck also arrives and he cames out from his huge truck.
He is barely 5 feet tall and walks magisterially like a bear.
He waves us and goes in and buys a coffee and joins us.
“That girl looks Punjabi,” he says.
“Well we tried Punjabi but it turns out she is not Punjabi after all.”
“I also tried but I think she is Punjabi.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Want to bet 10 dollars,” Harjit asked.
“OK, man. You will lose.”
Khalsa enters in the cafe and we follow him. He asks the girl in Punjabi is she has fresh milk for the coffee, but girl shows no symptoms that she understood what he said.
Then Khalsa uses some juiciest derogatory Punjabi abuses at that girl.
Now this girl explodes and in return she stars shouting abuses in Punjabi … “You dogs from some place in Punjab ….”
We cannot not stop our laugh and ran out, behind us Khalsa also came running out because this girl was threatening to call the police.
Khalsa didn’t take 10 bucks from us. He gives us 4 aaloo parothas that he himself cooked in Calgary.
This Punjabi girl was also ashamed of her Indian Origin.
Khalsa arrived in Canada after Operation Blue Star. He gunned down several (he said, at least 20) Biharies day wagers in Punjab. He was against all the people who come to Punjab to find work. He was proud of what he did but when I asked him that Punjabi people are all over world so others should also kill Punjabi people there that includes Canada and USA. He had no reply for that. He only regretted that he only killed about 20 bhaiyas with AK-47, he would and should have killed many more. He arrived in Canada on bogus passport and visa because in those days passports were hand written and visas were just colored stamps. Cleaver people found trick to duplicate both. He applied for Political Asylum in Canada and was granted. When India government presented proofs of his crimes, his Asylum status was revoked and was under appeals. His HAZMAT (Hazard Mateirals) driving license was itself a visa to USA and Mexico if he is accompanied with a legitimate truckloads across the border.
After 100 kilometers in USA, we see a huge bush fires in the north and airplanes are sprinkling up water and some red powder to quench the fires. We spend some time and watch it from the height of our road. Airplanes put down that fire in 2 hours. We are hungry and we have parothas given to us by Mr. Khalsa but after listening to his story and prejudices we don’t even want to touch that polythene bag. I throw it away lifting with a wood. There we take a small diversion in a jungle path and make our lunch.

Alaska, near Denali
Now area is rugged with low rolling hills. It is all permafrost and bogs. Trees are even smaller and stunted. Time and again we are seeing herds of Reindeer and Caribou. Foxes and wolves are all over. Muses were in the bogs, swans and geese in the lakes. Salmon fishes in the cascading rivers, woodland bison on the grassy slopes.

Lake by the campsite
At night while it is still noon like; we stop at a gold mining village and buy provisions and then camp in the wilderness.
Next day as we arrive near Fairbanks, we pass the City of North Pole by a very scenic river. The biggest attraction here is a gift shop named Santa Claus House, the modern-day incarnation of a trading post established in the town’s early days.
While the real North Pole is inaccessible so many travelers discovered this town as an ideal way to finally visit the home of Santa Claus. This revelation made this small town in Alaska a must visit during the holidays causing the town to create more and more Santa Claus themed attractions. Prior to Christmas each year, the USPS post office in North Pole receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus, and thousands more from people wanting the town’s postmark on their Christmas greeting cards to their families. It advertises the ZIP code 99705 as the ZIP code of Santa.
We arrive in Fairbanks at noon there we have pizza at Pizza Hut and from a telephone directory there we find a NAPA auto parts store that is not far away. They have the car starter that we want for $60 but we must trade-in the old starter. So I replace the starter at the curb and car is now perfect again.

Lake by the campsite
We drive in the streets of Fairbanks. It is a scenic city with a pretty river and views of the mountains. Northern lights Aurora fireworks dances are visible here at each night. After our days in wilderness, city is not much appealing to us now and we again want to return to wilderness so we drive towards Denali National Park.


Snow starts falling and temperature is dropping.
After some miles snow is getting thicker on the road surface.

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