13 July, 2012

Day 8, 645km: As north as I'll go

Woke up to that
Ha the joy of camping in 4.5 degrees weather! That night I tried my new sleeping bad, supposedly rated for 0 degrees Celsius. Well I'm not entirely sure what they mean by "rated". If they mean rated as in "you won't freeze to death although you'll get very cold" then I agree.

The objective today was to go to Watson Lake, Yukon. The northernmost point of my trip, and gateway to Alaska.

It was about 6 degrees C here
The road started with a construction site. On some, they allow only alternating single lane traffic, so we sometimes wait for pretty long. 30 minutes here. Well that gave me time to make coffee for everyone.

There were lakes like this one literally at every corner of the road
There are not many cities along this road, most being simply "outposts" with a gas station and convenience store. So the day went by with me taking photos and catching up with Arturo on the gas stops every 100 or 200 km.

Most bridges are like the one above
With a "mesh" road/bed/whatever it's called
Bridges like the one above make for interesting drives when on a motorcycle. Just look straight ahead and hope for the best.

How cool is this island?
Stops were welcome, to warm up with some coffee. Most of the morning was under 10 degrees. I stopped a few times along the way just to be in the sun for a few minutes to warm up. At one stop, I think in a place called Iskut we met constructions workers originally from the area, "First Nations People" as they are called here. They had rockstars haircuts and were really cool, I should have taken a photo. They told us there was around 600 people in the area. They were building an ice rink so they could play ice hockey all year round. Budget: $1.8 million or $3000 per individual. There sure is money in this area. Gold, silver, copper, methane, the region is starting to be heavily explored and mined.

Long drives across the forest between two outposts. There was a motorcycle  or a truck every 15 minutes or so.
The northern part of the highway 37 the road started to open up a bit and lakes grew bigger. One of them in particular, Boya Lake.

If I remember, that was the southern end of the lake
And that was the northern end. Water as clear as it gets!
I'm not really sure what they were doing in that plane. I saw one guy in his fifties with 3 teenagers probably doing a summer job go up in the plane. The conversation went this way.
- Hey there, where are you going?
- Flying.
- Well I wouldn't have guessed!
- * enters his plane

So I guess some people don't like tourists in this area! I had no idea what there were doing. But after a few kilometers ...

I guess they were watching for wildfires
So his answer of "flying" kind of made sense, assuming they would do reconnaissance flying over the area.
There were just a hundred kilometers before Watson lake, and very long stretches of the road were burnt like this. On some creeks, I think I saw people/tents along the river, I guess mining for gold?

Entering Yukon!
I met Arturo for the last time at the junction between the HW37 and the HW1 (Alaska Highway) where I would go west (and eventually south) and he would go north (and eventually north). Have a safe trip! It was nice having a buddy for two days.

Northernmost point of my trip, 60deg 03min (same as Helsinki so not that high) and precisely 4000km ... haa feels nice
Watson lake was certainly the biggest town of the region, several roads, multiple gas stations and even a few hotels. They even had a fun place for tourists.

There were signs like this on an area the size of a football field
So I naturally looked up for Boulogne Sur Mer, Paris, Bangkok. Without success so I decided to get back on the road. I'm not sure why but I didn't want to stop in that place. Maybe because I just left my riding buddy, maybe because that was as north as I would get, maybe because there were so many tourists. I just wanted to be into the forest again.

I got a bit more courageous and took that photo of a bear...
Well forest I got! I was heading for the next city eastward of Watson lake which would be (according to Garmin) Fireside, 40km, away. In fact there was no more city in Fireside, just a few abandoned buildings. Oh and that was 40km if I could have flown but turned out to be 140km on wheels. I was tired and pissed.
But I had just fueled up in Watson Lake and knew there was a lodge and gas in Toad River, 200km away as I met some riders who slept there. So I thought I would rather continue and stop at the first opportunity rather than head back to Watson Lake.

Oh you wanted to see the forest? Well I put more forest in your forest!
Eventually I would arrive to Coal River after seeing 10 black bears, 3 brown bears (or maybe black cubs?), 8 bison and 6 horses. That was quite impressive.
Coal River was something too :-)

Picture is not from me, it was sunny
The place, 164km away from Watson Lake and 60km away from Toad River. So basically nothing around in a 60km radius.

Setup camp in 30 minutes ... improving!
I stopped there because I saw a sign "Bison Burger". I didn't eat in a restaurant for 7 days and thought eating bison wouldn't be too bad to celebrate reaching Yukon. So I went into the restaurant/lobby/lodge/gas station office/tourist shop/convenience store/ok I stop you got it.

Picture is not from me. Imagine it with 4 Harley Davidson riders, 2 girls form  Alaska, the 4 staff and me
The staff escaped from American Gothic I think. With the exception of the cook who was basically Crocodile Dundee.
The oldest member of the staff moved towards the door, opened it quickly and told us all "come outside! ma dog is fighting a bear!" and surely enough, their dog was actually chasing a bear away from the property.

One of the Alaskan girls there asked "what if the bear comes back?" in a playful way. "Then ma bear will chase him back again young lady, don't'cha be scared, now let's have diner".
So I sat and ordered diner. Above the counter I noticed a sign "We don't call 911 here" with a gun pictured.

I ordered my bison burger and it was excellent, although I'm wondering if that really was bison meat. Whatever, it feel great eating something decent. I tried to make use of the internet there "sure we got wifi here boy, with internet too" but it was just too slow to do anything.

It was 9pm by that point and I was exhausted so I thought I'd better just go back to my tent and sleep. The staff were having dinner at the table next to me and in a heated discussion.

The oldest: Did you take the 239 dollars or not Jimmy?
Jimmy (the cook, crocodile dundee): No I didn't! 
The oldest: Then were did they go?
The two others: Yeah right where did they go?
Jimmy, unsure: Well I 'ont know, I didn't ... Ok maybe. Maybe I took the 239 dollars but they gave it to me!
The oldest, angry: Gave what for ??
Jimmy, in a low voice: For camping their RV! I told them 239 dollars for joking and they gave me the money so I took it.

While Jimmy was getting shouted at, one of them noticed I was looking at them so I asked for the check.
That was a $16.95 burger. I had precisely that amount in small change so I gave it to her.

Her: Oh but I have to add the taxes on top.
Me: Well I have precisely this amount ...
Her, after looking out the window, leaning forward and whispering: Ok then we'll forget about the taxes.

So I left to my tent while Jimmy was still getting shouted at and fall asleep almost immediately. Long but fun day!
I recommend the Coal River lodge and camping to anyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment