August 01, 2007 GMT

Well - it has started!!!

I left Joburg on 19th July, and finally Brisbane on 25th July - after a great rousing farewell at Jeff & Susan's in Joburg and the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane - thanks all who managed to come along, I had a ball & hope you did too.

I guess these few photos say it all.
I really appreciated the thoughts & will try to comply!

This one captures the feeling - thanks Bern:
I will wear the tee shirt often (ps one of my riding colleagues used to work for Fcuk!) - small world.

I have now spent about a week in Alaska - bottom to top & back again. This a HUGE and magnificent part of the world. Enjoy the ramblings & images.

A few days in Anchorage to get organised, meet the group I will spend the next 5 months with, and see some of Alaska around this area.

One day going south to Portage along the coast of the inlet & my first glacier. A real taste of things to come.

The group numbers about 18 at present - 11 will go all the way - some doing the North America leg. Suprisingly, I am not the only Australian - 2 others and a New Zealander. The rest are from the UK, and it has been a pleasure to be re-introduced to that wonderful dry pommy sense of humour. It will be fun with lots of cutting jibes & a great willingness to laugh at oneself!

On Saturday, one of our group (Dave - a North American indian, a doctor, and a "native healer") honoured us all with a sweat lodge ceremony at his house in the hills. The ceremony is about expressing your feelings & praying. It is performed in a sweat lodge:
with about 8 people at a time, some rocks heated on a fire, steam, some herbal burning (to free your thoughts) - in the dark - with a circle of people each expressing their thoughts / prayers in a number of rounds. Boy was it HOT!!!!

Dave sang some chants / songs handed down by his forefathers & we were priveledged to be invited to join in. It was an honour to participate.

Sunday morning - all keen to go:

I am glad there is someone here with more gear than me - he is nicknamed the Astronaut (more likely - Go Go Gadget!)

We left Anchorage as a group - everyone excited about our journey - heading north to Fairbanks. A coffee break at a wonderful log cabin type place:

Just north of Fairbanks we visited a display introducing us to the Alaska pipeline (1200kms long - from Prudhoe Bay on the arctic cost to Valdez on the southern coast) - the lifeblood of oil for the US - about 1/3 of all US oil consumption comes through this pipeline. It was built during the oil crisis of the 70's, and is a real engineering marvel. The road we would travel for the next 5 days was built to allow this pipeling to be constructed and operated.

This has been such a critical installation for the US, it has only been the last 10 years where travellers can move along it for most of its length, or in fact visit Prudhoe Bay itself - the massive oil field on the Arctic Coast.

The pipeline itself, and the road winds through the most brilliant mountain range - the Brookes Range for several hundred kilometers - giving us an exhilerating motorcycling experience.

It was good to get on the dirt - and with some rain & roadworks - get DIRTY!
The start of the famous Dalton Highway - the dirt road to the top:


My pace quickened with the sheer joy of the ride - but I managed to contain the exuberance & keep the shiny side up. Lots of work on the road during the short summer season (about 2 - 3 months) - and we often had to stop & be piloted through the more intense work:

I loved this sign at some patches - it really meant something!

At a high point on the road (Atigan pass) - I found an arrow from the only type of hunting allowed in this area - bow hunting. It now is mounted on the bike as a real souvenier:

The views from Atigan Pass are breathtaking:

Thats Dave on the right and Jeff - from NZ.


Some more teases of the scenery - we enjoyed for several days along the pipeline route:

We stayed at a typical construction camp at Coldfoot, and then at Deadhorse (the town at Prudhoe Bay - there are no houses there!).

We did the mandatory swim in the Beaudord Sea - to join the Polar Bear Club. A new definition of "Lion Cold" - ask Craig & Roche!

We were told our group of about 15 who did the swim (including the 2 women in outr group), was the largest naked group to have done it - fantastic - what a first!

Across what is called the Northern Slope (the Tunra to the coast) - my roomy Mark found an interesting remain - as we had stopped to boil the billy:
A Caribou skeleton - maybe from a bear, or from the hunters.

Some real micro beauty in Alaska as well:
oddly nicknamed - Alaskan cotton.

Even the grasslands are beautiful:

There has been lots of wildlife - moose, caribou, even a bear and a wolf - lots of birdlife - even had a large seagull (2m wingspan) cruise along the road just above my head for about 3kms (I slowed down to about 30kph) - I think he enjoyed the company.

I am really enjoying the history of Alaska - real frontier stuff - the log buildings have really hit a chord:

a barn

a tack room (now a museum):
notice the sod roof

and a great house - quite famous:
build at the delta of the Chenna river - we had breakfast at Rikka's roadhouse - just next door.

One enterprising fellow near here was selling prebuilt log houses:
It is free standing - I guess you pull it down & reassemble like a jig saw puzzle on your mountain hideaway site!

Well that's it for now - just crossed into Canada - the Yukon - vast, wooded, lakes, mountains - ho hum - will just have to cope!

keep sending emails - I really appreciate them.

Posted by Ron Markiewicz at August 01, 2007 09:37 PM GMT

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