150514 Fairbanks

I need to mention that the word I was wanting to use in the last post for frozen ground is ‘permafrost’. The ground is so cold that the oil pipeline couldn’t be laid in it, and the possibility of earthquake could shatter the pipes. The whole pipeline ‘rides’ on a cushion of rubber to withstand any earthquake of over 8 on the richter scale.

Now for today and what a glorious day it is too. Blue skies, no wind and a little warmth.

After a quick continental breakfast (not as good as a normal Scenic Tours breakfast), we filed into a ‘motor coach’ for a short transfer to a wharf where a paddle steamer was waiting to carry over 500 guests on a cruise up the Chena River. There were many surprises coming our way. The Discovery III is a 4 level old style paddle steamer that takes tourists on an adventure and an education of things that happen in Alaska. Available on boarding was free coffee and blueberry donuts.

After a U-Turn, we ventured downstream for just a short while and to stop and have an interview and demonstration from a sea plane pilot. The sea plane took off from the river in a very short distance to get into the air and fly over us and land again in the river. The pilot was a well known Alaskan and the interview with him was innovative and informative. At the main Fairbanks Airport, there are two parallel runways, between which is water for sea planes to  land and take off. The sea plane is a major form of transport for many of the residents in the frontier of Alaska. The number of lakes is enormous.

While travelling further downstream, various houses of famous Alaskans are pointed out with some of the residents coming out of their homes and waving to us as we sail on by; politicians, sports people and just well known persons of the area. We were a moving audience floating past different stages. The Discovery III sails on towards a sled dog property. This is the property of a girl who won the marathon dog sled race 4 times before she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Her husband was there to be interviewed about the dogs that we could see very active in their kennels as well as about his wife’s achievements. He then gave us a demonstration of the power of 8 dogs pulling his 4 wheel bike around the property. As each dog was released from their harness, they rushed to the river to cool down as if it was their reward.

Downstream further, we come to another site. We disembark and walk around, listening to talks about the way the local Eskimos make clothing and prepare smoked salmon. Moving 500 people through the various little theatres was so well accomplished without a hitch. This is not the place for animal liberationists as animal skins form a major part of the clothing of the people. It was interesting to learn that the hair of the animals are filled with air and the animals’ temperature warms the hair and becomes insulation for the animal. This also enables the animal to be buoyant if they need to cross a river.

Coming back to our departure point, we were treated to a snack of family made salmon dip. We didn’t try it. I am a hater of fish and seafood and the smell nearly makes me &%^&*(%$. On arrival back at base, we file 500 of us at once, into a large dining room and are served a 3 course buffet meal. All done without waiting. An achievement indeed.

Of course, the common gift shop is just outside the exit doors of the restaurant where they also have a room to experience -40F. We tried it and within a few short minutes, the clothes became very cold – why would anyone live in that temperature for 6-8 months of the year?

Our afternoon is a visit out of town to the Gold Dredge 8 site for a gold panning experience. After a talk about the oil pipeline that goes through the property, a train took us to a large 64 bucket gold dredger for an informative talk about the methods used here for gleaning gold from the ground. We were then taken to a large area where we were each given a sack of dirt to experience panning for gold. Each participant was guaranteed to find gold in their sack of dirt. At the completion of the panning, our ‘find’ amounted to just $14 worth of gold, which Lyn had put into a little fridge magnet. So don’t go stealing from our fridge if you ever come to our house.

Some of the fellow tourists have been very friendly and want to know more about Australia. Some have it on their bucket-list so we may see them again one day. It’s interesting here that you normally pay for your meal as you finish rather than having it charged up to your room account. I suppose that’s to enable the ‘American tip’ to happen for the table servers.

Friday, we are off to Denali Park where wild life is supposed to abound. I hope you come along with us.

Author: Colin Spain

The Official Blogger for Yarra Travel Junction Group Tours

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