To land in Anchorage, Alaska… dreamt and imagined landscapes for long time… and suddenly, here we’re!.
From the plane we can see glaciers, snow, rivers, the coast and the sea, white summits… The heart beats stronger, the gesture becomes a fixed smile that nothing can take away from us, not even the neck or the bottom pains, caused by so many hours in the plane.
Alaska we have arrived!!
Again we pack and re-built everything in the airport… the bicycles, the panniers… then, with everything done, with everything again in the proper place: we feel at home!!.
Home? what is home?
Already for us “home” is not a place, even is not a country. Clearly is a inner feeling, wich can appear through the sensation to ride the bicycle softly through a natural place, and also from camp in the nature.
The World is home…
Mooses in the city. Anchorage is surrounded by sea and high and beaked mountains crowned by glaciers. Sage, a touring-cyclist has hosted us. We stayed three days in which we made a trek to the mountains and we stocked up with what we need to keep on in our way, while allowing the body to adapt to the sudden change that just happened: we have flown from the tip of one hemisphere to the other, diametrically opposite.
Light, constant light, all day and all night… light!.
We have to get used to that, there isn`t even a while when light disappears; the maximum is an attempt of sunset that hardly differs from the rest of the day.
Here to go to bed is something that you must decide looking at the watch, if you neglect, already it is 2 or 3 in the morning and you’ve not even lying down.
People have thick and dark curtains at home, which avoid totally the light to come in for being able to sleep.
We left the city in North direction without really knowing where we were going, someone have recommended us a track that is much more to the Northwest, and according to it, is remote and spectacular but… the girl that has hosted us recommends us another different route: the most direct to Canada and, without really knowing what would be the decision that we would take, we began to “make the way”.
The first night is like a film: in front of a supermarket and just when we were leaving, a military couple approached us; strong, very correct and smiling, inside on a huge, huge American”pick up”. Asked us about the trip and then invited us to his home, which is not far away, to eat grilled salmon and spend the night. We accepted, of course.
Interesting this first meeting and to see the other side of the coin that never before we had contact with. Unexpected reality of these men and their ideas, their way of seeing the world, and of course: anecdotes, laughter and… arms!!.
Starts the forest, beyond where you look at, where the gaze reaches… forest… 360º pure life.
Finally, and already at the crossroads, we decided for the road in the Northwest: there is no rush to get to Canada, and there is no reason to look for the shortest route. If we have to choose we prefer the more remote, real, wild, the one which has less traffic and… since we are here… we want to know the country before leaving it!!. So, given all this… no doubt, the Denali Highway is our choice and “turning the rudder” we cycle towards the North, willing to ride the 212 miles (350kms) that separate us from the access to it.
Here the mesures are different, distances are measured in miles and not in kms, the height is measured in feet, not in meters, weight is measured in pounds and not in grams, and even the temperature: here it ismeasured in degrees Fahrenheit and not Celsius. So… there are two options: or you start making counts (in which Aitor is a real “machine”) or decide (like me), in a manner directly proportional to the amount of work that is going to cost calculate every thing; forget completely about any data and… Presto, that`s all!! no problems!!!n(which is perhaps the laziest option yet… equally worthy).
We are again invited in a small town to spend the night with an interesting family with which we again eat grilled salmon and learn much more about the bears.
Yes, the bears. That’s something new for us but that here is so normal a daily thing; they walk everywhere and we must learn to deal with them because… an encounter can result in total disaster if you don’t know certain rules of behaviour.
Alaska, is the country in the world with more population of them,
especially Grizzly Bear which are Browns, the “big guys” and certainly are not the cute and friendly bears of the cartoons, but, wild and unpredictable animals which must be dealed with care. We must learn to respect them and, this family teaches us in an interesting way: we do among all a theatrical representation of as it would be an attack.
-Like this – tells us David, the man–if it ever happens you already know what to do as we have already done it and is recorded in our memory, so you will not have to think. As I have said, the most important thing in case of attack is never, never run, because if you do so, it will attack you for sure is his instinct, when he sees you running becomes predator automatically.
We know that we have to hang every night the saddlebags from the high branch of a tall tree that is well away from our tent; all that contains food or anything scented (including toothpaste). We can`t also cook close to the tent so it doesn`t take food`s odor, with all of this, we try to avoid them to come close to the tent when we are sleeping. The bears have overdeveloped a sense of smell and can smell over long distances. It is why we add something personal to the precautions, not knowing if it will work or not: when we wanted to pee, will do it each time in a different place, around the area in which we are camped, to spread the “human smell ” in the area.
-The important fact – tells me Aitor before going to sleep that night – is that we are not their meal, no fear, just take precautions and do not low the awareness.
-Yes, that´s it. Because even if we are not their food, they want our food, and as we were told up to now… If they are frightened… they attack so, well, we have to give them their space and, as David said, if we see them on the road, we must stop, and talk to them so that they can realize that we are humans, or touch the bells of the bicycle so they leave.-I replied to repeat it again what we learned in these days and that same evening – ah!, and move the arms up in the air to appear taller than we are. Well… we’ll see.
So we have been doing. Camping with all these “extras” to do, requires much more energy than ever anywhere we have been so far, but even like this, it is worthy by the fact of being here, to see, cycle, and experience these amazing lands.
The option to explore the “Denali Highway” was finally a success but hard, especially after New Zealand and have been writing the book: I’m out of shape and the fact that these lands are barely inhabited, makes us having to carry food for many, many days so, the bike weighs even more!!. We had carry food for 6, 7 even (10 days!).!!
The “Denali Highway”: a track surrounded by huge, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, rivers and infinite plains planted with pines at times, others, with just tundra. The lakes appear so often that they become habituals, here and there; beautifying the landscape with its tones and reflections and light, always light, and active birds throughout the evening humming nonstop. The night here, is an eternal sunset.
We often stop and contemplate this raw nature in which our imagination, we can see perfectly the tipis of the Indians that, as we know, long ago, inhabited these lands. They lived by hunting Moose and reindeer that are the main inhabitants of these areas together with the bears, beavers and piles of birds that appear again in the summer.
Silence and peace but something more… mosquitoes!! … oh God!! as many mosquitoes as we could not imagine!!!.
There are lots of them that surround us and attack without mercy even when pedalling (if the rhythm drops for some reason) they follow us on the slopes above, are around us; they just bite us in the back, ass and legs, while, we’re giving it everything to move forward on the slope… they take out our unger cursing them!!, a nightmare.
We bought in the capital city upon arrival, nets for mosquitoes wich are like a bags made with net, that you place on the head so, you do not get bitten on the face or neck and… it helps, a lot!!.Also, we learned some conduct rules in order to avert hundreds of stings: when stopping for anything that is going to take more than a few minutes to dress, although it is hot, we must dress long and get thick clothes: double socks, double pants, and even the winter gloves to prevent to be bitten in the hands, imagine!, and… of course: the headnet, we look like… more than touring-cyclist, astronauts!!
The truth is that the mosquitoes take out much of romantic part of these lands because, when it comes to camping, cooking… even going to pee… you have them there, lurking and it is tiring, so tireing!!!, much more than the slopes or gravel tracks. In the autumn as we are told, again lowering temperatures disappear so, if one day we return… It will be in the fall.
Days and days of eating only rice with garlic and olive oil… provisions are running out and there is us not more than that. Scarcity makes you appreciate more all again: to savor an apple or something as simple as a piece of bread, has come to be a time to celebrate, a real celebration.
We drink water from streams and filter of the Lakes.
Bathing?: in rivers but by parts!… the water is cold, the water descends directly from glaciers and although not take the scab, awakens and relieves in a delicious way the intense itching of the heaps of bites that tattoo our skin.
Legs scratched from walking between shrubs and stones, bushes and fir trees.
The body, with the passage of days and weeks missed the feeling of sleeping on soft, or the wish to have hot water and then… then one stands everything!, can cope with everything!, this feeling!!!… this is the most pure, deep and gratifying that we have tastedt in aaaall the years of our lifes.
To live wild and to be surrounded by wildness… by free animals … no traces of humans!!.
sometimes, looking quietly around… we say to ourselves….
“so it must have been the world one day”.