When I first told my friends and family that I would be traveling to Alaska in June, their response was always,”Alaska? Isn’t it cold there?” I might as well have said “Antarctica” or “the Artic” for the reaction I got. Indeed my voyage to The Last Frontier taught me a great deal, all the while clearing the many misconceptions that clouded my mind.
When I stepped out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the air was cool and the sky was grey. Being in the northern hemisphere, Alaska experiences summer when South Africa experiences winter, and vice versa.
The following day, we exchanged the concrete jungle(minus the skyscrapers) of Anchorage for the picturesque, snow-capped mountains of Valdez. We departed on a cruise of Prince William Sound to the famed Columbia Glacier, and it was certainly worth the ride when I laid eyes on the glacier, in its icy blue glory. On the way we encountered a few humpback whales, who demonstrated bubble-feeding and their majestic fluking dives, Dall’s porpoise, who enjoyed riding along the bow of our moving vessel, cute sea otters, who watched us with mild curiosity, stellar sea lions, horned puffins and bright orange jellyfish. It got colder as we neared the glacier, but it was the cruise of a lifetime.
Next stop, Fairbanks! It was a quaint little town. I visited Gold Dredge 8, where I had the exciting opportunity to pan for gold, just like the Klondike gold miners! I had a blast on the Riverboat Discovery Cruise, cruising down the Chena River and visiting an Athabaskan Village. I indulged in delicious grilled salmon and deep-fried Bering Sea cod at the Salmon Bake. It was a true adventure for my eyes and my palate!
Denali National Park was a conglomeration of sights to behold. A fearsome grizzly bear, serenely grazing, a mother moose browsing with her twin calves, a soaring golden eagle, a nesting bald eagle and several caribou were but a few of the natural wonders that we had the good fortune to view. Not to mention whitewater rafting down the Nenana River, getting drenched by the ice-cold glacial water. I was grateful that I was wearing a dry suit, but it didn’t totally prevent me from getting wet.
In Big Lake, we paid a visit to Happy Trails Kennels, owned by 4-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser, who told us about being a racer and caring for dogsled teams. The highlight for me was when I got to cuddle a 1-month old Alaskan husky puppy!
Then, full circle back to Anchorage, where shopping for gifts for friends and myself awaited. I enjoyed the scenic Anchorage Trolley Tour immensely.
My visit to Alaska was fabulous, and I deem it the best holiday ever! It expanded my horizons to be in a place so vast, and so different to my homeland and the other states in the USA that I’ve visited. It was a thoroughly invigorating and enchanting once-in-a-lifetime experience.
By: Relashini Munsamy