Remote wilderness, towering mountains, never-ending glaciers and the feeling that you might be the first person to walk or camp at this very place. My nine week trip in Alaska was all of that and more. It consisted of two weeks in Wrangell-St Elias National Park where we hung out, hiked on glaciers, scrambled up mountains and camped in bear infested surroundings. It was stunningly beautiful; everything is huge but also where you have to literally sit on mosquito coils and dowse yourself in 30% deet just to have your breakfast.
Then we were down to the Kenai Peninsula to paddle in the Kachemak Bay State Park in search of puffins. No puffins to be found but we saw many of the shy sea otters and I was fascinated by curious harbour seals.
We also caught and ate our first salmon here - delicious.
Journeying north we past Denali (Mt McKinley) and travelled onto Fairbanks. We hired a Canadian canoe and then set off on a three week, complete wilderness canoe trip along Beaver Creek which flows into the Yukon. This is true wilderness. Once you start on this journey there is no way off the river unless you need to crack your trusty locator beacon. No people, no roads just plenty of moose, wolves, black bears, fish and those never to be escaped from - pesky mosquitoes!
Throughout the nine weeks there was time to sit and contemplate the important things in life, (under your mosquito net!). There were opportunities to feel insignificant among the hugeness of the landscape. There were opportunities to be incredibly remote as well as other opportunities to be surrounded by the bus-loads of tourists wanting to 'experience' Denali National Park. There was time to just 'BE' which in an essential ingredient for every good holiday.
Back to New Zealand
Did I have an amazing time? Yes I did and as with most holidays the memories will linger long in my memory bank. As I was boarding the plane to come home it was with huge regret and a few tears. Maybe that was me having to face up to the reality of life and a visa bill. I have been home for about three weeks now and it is good to be home. Now I just want to get back out and about into the wilderness areas of my own backyard. As a kiwi I appreciate New Zealand even more now. Those wilderness places, remote trails, towering mountains and those spiritual retreat experiences are right here on my backdoor step with a couple of glaring differences.
We are predator free and although we have sandflies. They are absolutely nothing on those annoying, ever present and seemingly huge mosquitoes. Here you can sleep in your tent at night without sitting bolt upright because you have, 'heard a noise' or be worried that you are about to be tracked down by a hungry wolf pack (sorry to misrepresent these amazing creatures, but fact is ruled out in this case by an over active imagination).
I can’t wait to dig out my hiking boots and put my pack on my back and head off to the wilderness and BE. No bear spray or mosquito coils needed here!