Trip Log. City of Golden, British Columbia to Dawson City Alaska.
People You Meet Books You Read
Trip Log. City of Golden, British Columbia to Dawson City Alaska.
We drove out of the town of Golden in British Columbia, sleeplessly tired to say the least. Much of the Worlds civilised areas were first pioneered by the railroads who followed the miners in the most part, but also other brave souls in search of a new life and wealth from the land. The Canadian Pacific Railway is no exception and in Golden this line is just 50mtrs from the only Campground! Golden nestles snuggly at the bottom of a deep narrow canyon in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Trains at night run every 2 hours and with each passing they shatter the air with horns to warn who ever may be close to the track (possibly migrating ants) of their coming, 3 diesel engines per train, front, mid and rear. Couple that with ever present 30 ton trucks full of beef jerky thundering down the very steep, 4 gear down change on the Trans Canada Highway 1, barely bypassing the very sleepy Golden under full engine compression braking. BERRRRR, BERRRR, BERRRR. That was only 3 change downs but you get my meaning, right?
Imagine 125 campers at dawn the next morning all looking like Albert Einstein but barely a brain between us.
We also encountered our first problem with discharging our grey and black water at the Goldens dump point. More on this later.
Onto Banff in Alberta and to our first glimpses and full encounter with the magnificent snow capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Our truck “The Earwig” (after our Registration ‘ERWEGO” now shortened to “Wiggy”), climbed steadily under flashing hazard lights to inform all other following vehicles that we’re not very fast going up mountains or any small incline really. We passed through the beautifully named Kicking Horse Pass and the Burgess Shale site closed to late season snow. Not able to visit and cross that off the bucket list was a disappointment. The planets highest prehistoric sea bed was tossed high through forces unimaginable, uncovering fossils in just about every piece of shale.
Arriving at very touristy Banff in the heart of Canada’s glitzy ski field area we were met with ice cream parlours and designer fashion stores. We did manage to find our first decent coffee in weeks and a very comfortable leafy campsite on the edge of town. Banff is at the South Eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies and only 45 minutes away from Calgary making Banff easy access for those people. 2 days later we headed north to the mind bogglingly beautiful ski resort town of Lake Louise with it’s not glitzy little town but the turquoise blue Lakes of Louise and Moraine sitting at the feet of Glacially carved Mountains. A scenic ride on the ski lift gave us our first sight of the fearsome Grizzly. 2 days later we travelled the much Heralded “Icefield Parkway” with its unique bridges soley for the use of migrating and travelling animals. Through our first Glacier fields to the huge tourist information centre at the base of the Athabasca Glacier. Tourists are ferried to the base of the Glacier by a caterpillar of buses. Onto Jasper 250KM’s North and the railhead for the tourist Canadian Pacific Icefield train with it’s glass topped carriages for a eagles eye view of the snow and ice capped peaks of the Nth American Rockies. Jasper was a place for fresh laundry and routine maintenance for Wiggy before we set out for Yellowknife in the North West Territories.
For 3 days, 1200 km’s. We travelled North East through Beautiful, British Columbia. Resource rich Alberta with it’s landscape raping gas fracking and rich fertile farming acres. Across the significant 60th parallel and in to the increasing wilderness of the North West Territories. We travelled northwards parallel to the “Great Slave Lake”. Through the worlds largest (fire ravaged) bison sanctuary and into Yellowknife and the summer roads end. Ice roads appear in winter that mining trucks travel to ship goods to Northern Mines (I can only assume that during summer these same goods are shipped North by sea). Yellowknife was a joy for us with it’s bay homes sitting on water in summer and accessible in winter by ice road. Yellowknife is a City of some 30,000 ex pat peoples who are closely knit because of this fact. It was here that we became increasingly aware of many of the local indigenous population burdened almost identically with the same drugs, alcohol and social issues of our own Australian Aboriginals.
While in Yellowknife yours truly “Global Travellers” were spotted by a reporter from the local daily newspaper who did an interview with us that appeared in a future edition with picture!
If our Nth Canada first phase completion was Yellowknife our next phase was West and North. So onto the Yukon and Alaska.
There is only one road that leads to Yellowknife and it’s that road that we have to take to exit also. So southwards we headed back through the fire ravaged areas. We now possessed explanation as to why many vehicles and people were camped by the side of the hwy through the fire area. These people were mushroom pickers and the mushrooms were Morels, a variety that thrived in fire ash and were pretty expensive when purchased in cities and city restaurants. We gave a ride to one picker from Montreal who had come to make some money during the University summer break.
We took the only right turn on this road in over 1000km’s that swung us to the East. In a further 800km’s we would join the Alaska Highway at Forth Nelson that would take us into the Yukon. We bush camped for 2 nights. We weren’t totally self sufficient as we would have like as our Black/Grey holding tank discharge pump was still not working. We either had a blockage or our fairly new pump was “dead”. So, it was off into the bush with shovel for the necessaries.
We are carrying 210 litres of Diesel fuel between 2 tanks when full so distances we had to cover never became a problem and there was always a little “Bush” town with a trading post that had a diesel pump.
The Alaska Highway is the part of the Pan American which goes North to South (or South to North!) which we are likely to meet many times on our journey into Sth America and to the Southern Tip at Tierra del Fuego.
In Whitehorse we were lucky enough to be there during National Cultural Annual Festival. Celebrations were held in the Cultural Centre which itself was built with Nth American Timbers and its design was based on Indian Tribes meeting “House”. Indian Tribes represented in their own traditional dress presented us with Dance, song and food. It was an excellent annual cultural festival to witness but even that couldn’t hide the obvious problems these peoples have and was so evident at street level! We’ve witnessed the same problems in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Weipa in Australia.
No fix was possible in Whitehorse for our toilet pump but we did learn something. The sometime huge Trailers (Caravans) and 5th wheelers (hook on the back of pick up trucks) that Nth Americans love and that could never travel along the simplest of Australian outback roads all pump out into sewerage drains that they connect to onsite. Just like a house but in campgrounds. We, on the other hand have the design of a marine vessel where we hold our grey and black water in tanks!! We can hold but need to pump out, they do not. What a smart idea!! But alas, no marine parts for holding tanks in the Klondike, no sir, and not until we reach Anchorage some 2 million km’s away! Well, a long way anyways.
Perhaps Wiggy’s makers could send a replacement pump along with the new clips that hold our cab to the living quarters that have failed due to metal fatigue? We couldn’t get that organised. Best practical way was to send clips from Brisbane via DHL to Anchorage. Trivia question. Who has a fleet of six 737 transport aircraft at Anchorage airport? Answer DHL, how incredible is that? So, it’s Anchorage for clips from Australia and a discharge pump from West Marine. Pick up both in 2 weeks! Back to the bush with shovel.
Swinging Nth West we leave Whitehorse and the Alaskan Hwy. and head to Dawson City on the banks of the mighty Yukon River. We pass through Carmacks where the local and only cafe is an official timing stage for the famous 1000 mile annual dog sled race. This cafe also boasts the worlds largest Cinnamon Bun, made on the premises on an as required basis, (they don’t get too many people out here you see). They were big though.
Dawson city is straight out of the late 1800 gold rush retaining many of its original wooden buildings reminiscent of Ballarat’s’ Sovereign Hill Historical Museum. Many of Dawson’s miners arrived from the exhausted goldfields of Australia. As we were later to see, Skagway was the Port of entry for most of those miners and as usual opportunists were ready to relieve the miners of cash and worldly goods as soon as they stepped off the boat.
Through a connection at home in Australia we were able to visit Adrian Hollis, himself an Aussie, at his gold mine on the Dominion loop, about 60 miles out of Dawson. HIs ingenuity has made him very successful. He mines in the summer with his two men Froggy and Dave driving the heavy machinery for many hours a day. There is no night. In 6 summer months he pulls enough gold out of the permafrost to live in Thailand and New Zealand the rest of the year. Adrian was a wonderful host and showed us all the ins and out. It’s rough and it’s tough and he is very smart!
The Discovery Channel have crews everywhere in this remote region filming “working gold mines”. They fund projects and make up the story as ‘reality’ as they go along. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, holds true here! The locals think its a hoot. We drove around spying on them with Adrian to see what they were up to!
Accommodation at Adrians’ mine is a demountable thats seen much better days, a washing machine covered in plastic outside and a stove. But great steak and onions!
His friend Tim, also a gold miner from Vancouver showed us mammoth tusks, and a sabre tooth tiger tooth they had found while mining. Gold Mining at this level in the Yukon seems to be the final fling for the ‘ordinary man’ to make his fortune up here. There’s nothing ordinary about these guys! Tough as nails.
PEOPLE YOU MEET
Since we landed at Long Beach, California we have met lots of lovely generous people. In supermarket carparks, on and off street parking, Campgrounds and many other places. Not a single day has passed without someone coming up to us to ask about “Wiggy”, our Global Tour Vehicle and our travels in general. In fact it’s fair to say at least 5 people a day would be asking us “How did you get that here?”, “what an amazing vehicle” “can I have a look inside” “how many d’yer get to the gallon?’ “how much did it cost?” . We have many offers to visit folks when we pass through or close to where they live, We even have one offer to contact someones brother when we are in Vladivostok!!. Many now follow our Facebook page to see where we are. You are all lovely people and tales of your travels are very encouraging and always entertaining and encouraging for Pen and myself.
She’s travelling well is “Wiggy”. Albeit ISUZU have voided any warranty we may have had remaining. Apparently as soon as we left Australia we lost any claims re warranty. Apparently, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, ISUZU can call it an Elephant!!
She had her 30,000km’s service in Anchorage and continues to purr along like a contended pussy cat.
She has her steering on the “Wrong” side of course and we drive on the “Wrong” side of the road in Nth America. But we have a little giggle with this. So, the passenger (on the USA’s drivers side of course) holds a large map in front of them while who ever is the driver waves at other drivers, or especially traffic controllers at road works as we either pull up or go slowly past. They think we are driving “Blind”, wide open mouths and stares we get!! Funny what!!! At least it gives us a smile.
We are collecting SIM cards, different SIM cards for the same phone or iPad even from the same company for the same phone or ipad. We are totally perplexed and mystified why we should be beset with these problems. We put one Countries SIM in when we should be inserting another. Service shops have put out a National warning about us and cringe when we near, staff take stress leave or enter therapy when we leave. Fellow travellers we meet may call out, “Yep, the Aussies are here” when “Wiggy” pulls into a campground or supermarket carpark. Unfortunately Telephone Service shops now do the same.
But we are confident we are learning and learning very fast indeed. In all fairness I think the situation would be dire if we hadn’t have enrolled in that 3hr course at the Senior Citizens Club before we left Australia.