Hi all Su here again.. Well after our adventurous few days in McGrath we flew back to Anchorage and the following morning boarded 'The Aurora Winter Train' to Fairbanks on the Alaskan Railway .
Known as one of the most beautiful railway journey in the world its just under 400km long and cruising along between 25 to 40km an hour it takes a lengthy 12 hours.
Sitting back and enjoying the view is the order of the day, as you meander thru 3 huge mountain ranges heading due north right through the center of Alaska.
This pic was taken as we travelled over a huge gorge and at 25km an hour the icy wind was unbearably cold hence the red noses.
As we pass hundreds of kilometres of breath taking scenery the sun sets and we arrive in Fairbanks ready to see the star attraction of Northern Alaska.... The Aurora Borealis also known as The Northern Lights..
So we check into our hotel where we plan to stay for 8 nights to give us a good chance to see the Aurora. They had an Aurora wake up call service, so we expected that as soon as the lights begin to dance in the sky (which is normally from 1am to 5am) they are on the phone to you telling you to put your woollies on and head outside to see the show. It takes a certain conditions for the Aurora to be visible, firstly you need a clear nights sky, ideally a half or smaller moon and of course good aurora activity which fluctuates nightly. Luckily there is an aurora forecast web site to give you an idea of the nights activity. Much to our dismay after 4 clear nights and lots of forecasted activity later we are still waiting on our wake up call... So the next night we take matters into our own hands and on went the thermals, fleeces, woollies, hats, scarf's, gloves, 2 pairs of socks, heavy boots, down jacket, water proof outer jacket and a few warming glasses of red wine in us, we braved the -15 Degree Celsius temperatures and stepped outside our hotel in the hope of seeing anything floating around the sky!! We trudge along in the snow freezing our bums off heading North for the best viewing possibility. So here we are standing in the middle of the garden at 1.30am in sub zero temperatures looking at what we think is long thin cloud, slightly illuminated by the city lights. "Is that it?", " No, I think it's a cloud!", " Is it moving?", "No", "Well Maybe", "No it's not", "Then again!".... So after a few minutes of, I'm sure you'll agree, a very intelligent discussion we both stood dumb struck staring at the sky as our 'cloud' snaked slowly, but surely diagonally over our heads and split into 2 long tubes of luminous green light that literally floated and danced above us for around 5 minutes..
I know the photos looks like a green spludges and very unexciting, I'm surprised anything came out at all, but we're happy to have some record of it.
We were so excited to see what we were seeing. It was truly amazing and was the very reason why we travelled so far north Alaska to the middle of nowhere. I was so awestruck that I forgot I even had a camera in my had, I didn't want to take my eyes off the sky in case I missed anything. We're very lucky to have seen what we did..
So for the next few nights we religiously donned our thermals and faced the cold only to see a big black sky above. It really made us appreciate what we saw that night and even though we only got to see it the once we were happy that luck was on our side that night...
During our stay in North Alaska we thought that a trip to the Arctic Circle would be in order. Mmm Apparently -15 Degree Celsius wasn't cold enough for us. So with all our woollies in hand we started on the 16 hour round trip to the Arctic Circle. First we passed the famed Alaskan Gas Pipeline which runs from the north to south of Alaska to be refined and shipped out to the rest of the world.
Half way there we stopped off at a Roadhouse for a toilet break. It consisted of a 'closed for the winter' Roadhouse and a few loghouse longdrop loos, similar to the one that Chris was on in McGrath. I was not looking forward the experience with all my layers on I was frozen solid so the thought to going to the loo al fresco Arctic style was not what I'd call a holiday,but you gotta do what you gotta do and you don't hang around!!!
As we drove along we clock the temperature gauge in the car getting lower and lower and the surrounding terrain getting less and less hospitable, the coldest temp we got to was -27C!!! This photo below was taken in an area where the temperature was about -20C with a wind chill factor that brought it much lower and even Pete who has a in built furnace was bitterly cold. We welcomed the warm chocolate our driver had for us when we got back to the van..
After 8 hours driving and travelling through many different terrains and weather fronts here we are, the Arctic Circle, sure it just looks like at plaque in the middle of nowhere but it felt pretty special, considering we would never willingly venture this far north again as long as we both shall live!!
We were lucky to have such a clear day and could see for miles of empty lands around us. It was very quiet and peaceful and we really felt like we were on top of the world..
Southbound again we were heading back to Fairbanks to cook up one of many wild Alaskan Salmon Dinners...
Joseph, the owner of the hostel where we stayed in Anchorage gave us a gift of this huge Wild Alaskan Salmon, it weighed a ton and fed us for nearly a week!!! Yum...We left Alaska with many happy and funny memories and if anyone out there is willing to brave the cold it is truly a holiday of a life time.
Next stop Vegas... We unexpectedly had to overnight in Vegas before flying to Toronto. On the flight we flew over the Grand Canyon and got some stunning views, which was a bonus. Vegas isn't what you would call a backpackers destination so we were pretty annoyed with the layover expecting high accommodation rates, but we hit the Internet and got the hotel deal of a lifetime. We stayed in the Tropicana Casino Resort which in on the main Vegas strip, for any one that's been there already it's just across the road from New York, New York and Luxor. Great location..
This photo was taken from our room, amazing, and all for just $40,unfortunately we didn't have time to enjoy the pool! To make up for it, we ate all around us at the hotel buffet for half nothing, great for the hungry backpacker. Both Pete and I had been to Vegas before so we were happy just to wander along the strip and soak up the atmosphere.
There's nothing like strolling past Paris on the way to New York...
We even caught the water show at the Belagio..
Before heading back to our room to enjoy a glass of wine and admire the colourful view...
Next morning we head back to the airport on the way to Toronto... Stay tuned for the final blog installation, We're nearly home....