Alaska – space, tranquillity, bears….
In Alaska, we were riding next to glaciers, camping with bears that were lurking around the tent, rode to the most northern part of Alaska where we froze like hell and gazed upon some of the most beautiful landscapes. Additionally, whilst riding through Alaska, we encountered much wildlife such as Humpback whales jumping well above the sea level, sea otters resting on ice floes, eagles flying above our heads, etc.. May I also add that Alaska served us with the best hamburger we have ever had, and like always, we met some exceptionally welcoming people.
Arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, and taking our first deep breaths from the outstandingly fresh air, was an incredible feeling. Anchorage was untouched by litter and filth and this certainly put a big smile on my face. We realised quickly that Alaska must be one of the cleanest countries in the world. The traffic was remarkably organised, every driver seemed to follow the traffic rules flawlessly. India and Alaska must be the two countries with most differences on this Earth; both are extraordinary countries but in their own ways.
The oversized roads and the ridiculously massive cars in Anchorage amazed us ‘big time’. Also the sparse traffic was something ‘new’ to us and after a long time in Asia we had to get used to following traffic rules again… last time we did that was probably before we left Europe, a long time ago. It was actually quite hard to get into this habit again, but the worst was that we became extremely bored by following the traffic rules. We even found ourselves begin to miss riding in India…. never thought we would miss the traffic in India, but so we did.
Most of the time in Alaska we spent camping in the wild, with bears close by. It was not only exciting but also sometimes very terrifying. We also experienced many cold and rainy nights, especially when riding up to the north of Alaska, Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay).
The shipping from New Delhi to Anchorage in Alaska wasn’t as easy as we expected. The shipping company in India had told us that it would only take five days, but it took nearly four weeks, which was very frustrating and also very costly.
When we researched shipping companies we thought we picked the best one, this was obviously not true. The shipping company kept telling us that they were very experienced with shipping motorbikes, which we naively believed. The weight of the crates they built for the bikes were probably heavier than the bikes themselves, which certainly increased the cost.
The bikes had to be tied down twice as the first time they used straps that were too fragile and snapped. Honestly when we left the bikes at the airport, we thought it would be the last time we saw our lovely BMWs, so we felt quite devastated and a bit lost for a while.
A long flight from New Delhi, India to Anchorage, Alaska
The flight to Alaska took a very long time. We had booked the cheapest flight we could possibly find between New Delhi to Anchorage, which of course comes with a few stops. The stop after London was Houston, where we of course missed the connection flight to Denver, and therefore ended up sleeping on the airport’s floor, which was a pain in the backside as it was freezing cold. Anyway, the next day we were on the way again, we had one stop in Denver before we arrived to Anchorage. ‘Brrr’ we were freezing, probably ‘only’ 20 degrees Celsius, which might not sound that cold, but being used to around 40 degrease Celsius made it feel ‘icy’ to us.
We had quite a few wow moments the first couple of days in Alaska while walking around in grocery shops. My god all that food that we had missed and RED WINE… we felt that we were in heaven. Though I love Indian food it sometimes felt that you had the same spices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We were also very surprised about the laid-back people in Alaska. They were not at all the stereotype of loud bragging Americans that we had heard of. Neither did we expect people to be so interested in us, instead we thought we would be anonymous, kind of melt in. But again very nice people approached us, when we were on the bikes.
We had to wait quite a few days in Anchorage for the bikes to arrive. One of the owners of the BMW shop let us stay in his house for free, which was incredibly kind. There were three very nice young guys who lived there and we had a great time with them ☺
At last when the bikes arrived we were ecstatic, like children on Christmas. I can’t describe how much I had missed my bike. When having the crater in front of me I didn’t know how fast I could open it. I even hugged the bike when it was out of the box and I couldn’t stop smiling for the whole day.
The Motorcycle shop had received all the spare parts sent from BMW for Anders bike and also a windscreen and two yellow Ortlieb Saddle bags from Touratech Nordic. These bags were such a luxury after our old scrappy roller bags that had been leaking like sieves when raining, especially Anders’ bag.
Unfortunately the fork seals on my bike had started to leak and needed to be sorted out, plus Anders had to replace all the stuff that was broken after his head-on collision up in the Himalayas. The Motorcycle Shop in Anchorage kindly let us use their tools and garage to do that, which we were tremendously thankful for.
Anchorage to Seward
After we had sorted out the bikes we left Anchorage for Seward, which is situated at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. The drive from Anchorage to Seward was incredibly scenic, and the road condition was just perfect. Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities so we really enjoyed staying there for a few days.
After Seward, we decided to ride to Whittier, which was not a long ride. Riding to Whittier we went through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America (2.5 miles). The one-lane tunnel is shared by cars and trains travelling in both directions.
After a very nice ride we arrived to Whittier, which is a tiny town. We pitched the tent outside the town and honestly, we were a bit worried that bears would come and eat us during the night. Luckily, we were still there the morning after. ☺
The second day we woke up to a clear blue sky and decided to take a glacier cruise. Not only did we see massive glaciers, but also Humpback whales jumping well above the water and landing with a huge splash. These huge mammals playing around in the water was an incredible scene to watch. There were also sea otters that were either floating on their back in the water or resting on ice floes.
After Whittier it was time travel North. We stopped one night in Anchorage before we started our journey to the very North of Alaska. We decided to ride the Denali Highway as people had informed us it was a great ride.
Travelling the Denali Highway is truly a path through awesome wilderness, which we love. We had some stunning views of mountains, and vast stretches of endless wilderness. Unfortunately, the weather was as bad as it could be a summer’s day, very cold and with lots of rain. Anyway, it was a good gravel road with perfect amounts of potholes, which allowed us to enjoy the day despite the rain.
In the middle of nowhere we came to a restaurant, Tangle River Inn, where we had the nicest burger ever. My boots were leaking pretty badly, so we decided to stop in order for me to change socks and put plastic bags on. The feeling of getting warm and dry feet was just awesome.
The very wet and cold day on the bikes was followed by a very wet and cold night in the tent. In the morning we realised that Anders’ panniers had leaked and were full of water, so we had to take everything out and dry it. Some of our spare parts had started to corrode such as wheel bearings, sprockets, nuts and bolts…. so fucking annoying. When at last we were ready to leave, I noticed that I had a flat tyre… A bad night sleep, leaking panniers, no breakfast, puncture, rain, cold…. we both started to feel that we’d had enough, but on a trip like ours you have to push on through, unlike when you’re at home and you can just pour yourself a glass of wine and put your feet up. However, we sorted out the puncture without speaking to each other… thought it was best not to…. Some days you just want to forget about, but for some strange reason these are the days you can’t get out of your mind, but when time passes you can have a good laugh about it.
Anyway, after a very long day we arrived, 8pm, to Fairbanks and Svens’s Basecamp, which is a brilliant place to camp and meet likeminded people. At the camp we met an American guy who had just come back from Deadhorse. Before heading there he had previously changed his tyres and chain for the trip ahead. Both Anders and I had pretty bad tyres but thought that we could do the 990 miles (1594 km) before changing them… ok stupid I know, but on a trip like this you really try to get the most out of everything. However, the guy still had his old front tyre that was far better than mine so I was super happy when he offered his old tyre to me.
990 miles (1594 km) on Dalton Highway, Fairbanks – Deadhorse – Fairbanks
Dalton Highway begins just North of Fairbanks in Alaska and ends at Deadhorse. It is Alaska’s most remote and challenging road, with little in the way of highway services. The road is mostly gravel, and you need to watch out for rocks, dust, potholes, trucks and road maintenance.
After a few days in Fairbanks, changing my tyre and purchasing food for the trip ahead we started the journey towards Deadhorse. We had been warned about the road that was supposed to be in very poor condition and very, very dangerous. We also had been told to watch out for the crazy truck drivers… Honestly, the road wasn’t that bad, and we didn’t have any problems with ‘crazy’ truck drivers. I guess after spending time on the roads in India, especially up in Ladakh, these roads felt like a piece a cake. Ok, when it was rainy it was very slippery but it was such a wide road, with hardly any traffic so we couldn’t really complain about the road.
We made a short stop at the Polar circle, where we took the traditional photo. Next stop was at Marion Camp at Coldfoot, where we camped for the night. Just before we arrived at the campsite we saw our first black bear. It just sat next to the road and looked at us. Later in the evening, I must admit that I felt a little bit worried about bears when I crawled into the tent but as usual, when camping, I slept like a baby. We only stayed one night as our appetite for remoteness had been fed, so we couldn’t wait to get out there. That day we only did 193 miles (166 km) before we stopped for the night. We had figured out that we could go from Galbrite Lake to Deadhourse and then back to Marion Camp at Coldfoot in one day 385 Miles (620 km)… if we were lucky with the roads and weather.
In the morning we woke up 5.30 am freezing like hell. We hurriedly packed the tent and set off towards Deadhorse. When the recurring pain in our fingers and toes from the cold got too bad, we had to stop. To get warm again, we put music on and danced, yes we actually danced in the middle of the road to a Bruno Mars song. This might sound completely mad, but at the time it just felt like the most normal thing we could do to get warm…. and we had a laugh which helps tremendously when you struggle.
Deadhorse has a polar climate. During the winter the coldest recorded wind chill here was -102°F (-74°C)! Luckily, we were there during summertime. The official population only consists of 25 people. However, it has a non-permanent population of 2,000-3,000 employees who works for the oil industry.
When we finally arrived in Deadhorse, numb from the cold, we found a shop, probably the only one in town. We both decided to treat ourselves to some warm socks, which felt heavenly when we put them on. We also found a restaurant, which probably also was the only in town, where we had a nice meal together with all the workers. We were advised to not camp anywhere around Deadhorse as there were Polar bears around, which are extremely dangerous.
After a couple of hours warming up in the restaurant, we finally decided to travel the 388 km (241 miles) back to Coldfoot. On the way back I hit a pothole at high speed so my rim became even more uneven than previously. The first bit of damage on the rim came from Mongolia, when I hit a big rock, ouch, I remembered the pain in my leg when I hit the ground, and managed to get my leg under the foot peg. This gave me a 300 mm long bruise.. ouch, ouch…. Anyway, this time, when hitting the pothole I managed to not fall, which I am incredibly happy about. So from that moment I had an extra bumpy ride back. That day, we were on the roads for a total of 14 hours, when we finally arrived to Coldfoot we were very exhausted. We pitched the tent, went to sleep without anything to eat, as we were just too exhausted.
In the morning we slept until 9am, which is very unusual, but well needed. We packed up and headed back to Fairbanks. The only thing that can be a little bit boring in Alaska is the lack of roads. This results in having to travel back and forth on the same road repeatedly. However, looking on the bright side is that you actually see a different view when coming from the other direction.
We stayed in a very rainy Fairbanks for a few days, waiting for better weather. But by day three we gave up and headed towards Tok in the pouring rain. Tok is a tiny little town with minimal architectural influence and identity. However, it serves the best pizzas and burgers, so who really cares about the architecture… We stayed in a wonderful campsite, which was situated in the most beautiful forest. Anyway we stayed an extra day just because I was so fascinated by this forest.
Next stop was Chicken, such a fun name, isn’t? Chicken is a community founded on gold mining; it is one of few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska. Even today people (mostly tourists) come to Chicken and pan for gold. There are only about 17 citizens in Chicken, which makes it a super tiny place. We camped one night for free behind a small pub before we rode the ‘Top of the World Highway’. This is supposed to have incredibly beautiful scenery, but again we had really bad weather, with the rain pouring down the whole way to the Canadian border. So unfortunately, we did not really see any scenic views.
Alaska was freezing cold, it was raining on and off (most on) and bears were lurking behind every bush (at least that is what we thought). Honestly, we’d been freezing a lot, especially during the nights while camping, but it has definitely been worth it. We certainly enjoyed the tranquillity of Alaska, it was undoubtedly a needed rest for our souls after spending such a long time in hectic Asia. The scenery in Alaska is just outstanding. Additionally, we both absolutely loved the fact that it never went dark. You could ride without any problem until midnight, it’s like back in Sweden in summertime, loved it, loved it, loved it.
Random photographs from Alaska