Fairbanks

What a day! Another ‘mystery tour’ surprise day. We were collect at 8.10am after a cooked breaky in our hotel. The bus took us to a big steam ship boat tour. Now we were thinking we were going to be cruising along another quaint river tour. However we were so surprised by all the action and activities that our full 8 hour tour entailed. I tell you what, Alaska has such a captive and massive audience from the cruise ships they have got their tours maxed with a five stars gold from us.

As we are cruising along at various locations there are events and activities just ready and waiting for us. Each is wired via radio contact to the boat and talk with us over the PA system. It was incredible! All is organised to give us an idea of how Alaskans live, work and play. The first was a famous local with his vintage float plane who took off and landed a few times for our enjoyment. It was eye popping stuff.

imageNext was a working dog sled farm. Our boat just hangs off the bank while the girls gives us a very informative talk and demonstration so we learn all about sled dogs. It is just so amazing watching them race with their summer training ‘sled’.

The houses along the river log houses are beautiful. People have their little river deck chairs out, a boat, jetty, some a float plane, jet ski or ski doo.

Then we come to a native Athabascan village. The girl was waiting on the bank to show us how to traditionally fillet a salmon, hang and smoke it all with her traditional Eskimo Ulu knife. Right on cue a herd of reindeer come running out to the river bank. Our boat was filled with ooos and arhhs it was such a sight.

imageWe got off at the village for a couple of hours where we were herded through three informative talks about clothing, food, housing and native life. We met more of the dog sled team.

These tours happen twice a day. A big paddle steamer loaded with a couple of hundred tourists! So they come out and wave and become a part of the Alaskan show. The steamer we are on has been operating for generations and the 75 year old Grandma comes out with her big wagon of freshly picked veggies, shows us her biggest zucchini and waves us on by.

Next is a yummy long table lunch we are served a hot soup, hearty stew and treated to a talk to local dog musher legend Lance Mackey. Could it get any more action packed? Yes!

We chatted with Lance and brought his signed book. Bailey was fascinated that he had lost a finger to frost bite. He also used to be a deep sea king crab fisherman in the Baltic Sea for ten years.

We went into a room they have set up for us to experience what an Alaskan winter is like – minus 40′. imageSo the first thing that happens is the hairs in our nose froze and went uncomfortably crispy. Gracie was worried she couldnt breathe as the air was sooo cold. Five minutes was our limit and we had to leave. Our skin was icy and feet frozen. We went in again and had another go for a bit longer playing with the dry snow. image

Back on the bus and we are taken off to learn about the oil pipeline that pumps around 10% of Americas oil from the North Pole to America. Sounds crazy I know. Who would think its okay to mine such a pristine environment. The pipeline is massive. The oil revenue takes care of Alaskans by way of infrastructure and also the reason why Alaskans pay no tax. I dont understand this tax ‘deal’ they talk of. Something to do with the pay off for getting out the oil.

Next we are loaded onto an old train and taken though a old gold mine. Complete with staff dressed up and working the old mining equipment. The whole day has been designed authentically as possible and they do such a genuinely good job of it.image

We pan for gold and strike it rich. Between the four of us we weigh in with $53 of gold. We put it all together in a memento locket to take home.image

Geoff and I both declared at the end of the day this was probably our best day tour EVER! We brought a caribou antler Ulu and wild smoked Alaskan Salmon to bring home. Arhhh, I know, more weight in our backpacks!

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