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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : Vancouver-Alaska-Vancouver

Canada is the second biggest country in the world, but is only populated by around 35 millions people. I entered in this country of huge spaces by the third biggest city of the country: Vancouver. Vancouver is inhabited by more than 2,2 millions people.

When we are looking at the map of the country, this is surprising to see that the majority of the population is living close to the southern border with the United States. The North of Canada seems to be a space lowly densified... Indeed, you can realize that the Province of Yukon has around 32000 inhabitants and 24000 of them are living in the capital of the State: Whitehorse. The size of Yukon is almost as big as France.


Those facts interested me enough to decide to go to have a look, trying to see why so few people were there in this area and from what they were living. My goal had been to go as far north as I could before the arrival of the winter. This aim led me from Vancouver to Fairbanks in Alaska, before to head back down to my starting point in Bristish Colombia.

Here is the tale of a way-back of 7600 kilometers in 38 vehicles.

 

In the North, that was the Gold Rush

Quickly, my question about knowing why so few people were living in the North found a quitelogical answer... this is pretty cold in winter. The local people I met on my road confirmed me the fact that the temperature of - 40 degrees celsius is completely normal around january-february.

I am been myself able to witness the difference, having reached the northernmost point of my trip with an average temperature of 10 degrees celsius above.

When I came back two weeks later, winter was just starting to arrive... and the temperature was already reaching -15 degrees celsius, so a difference of 25 degrees in two weeks!

The road in the beginning of October in the north of British Colombia


Two weeks later, almost in the same spot, the landscape had changed


The reason which led to the colonisation of this part of the world off the beaten tracks was all about this little bright yellow-ish thing called “Gold”.

Money, money... We can say that this is one of those things that motivates the human-being to move mountains, or maybe more to wet their feet in the rivers in this case.

In Yukon, the tiny village of Burwash Landing is known to have been on the “Gold Rush Trail”, which attracted thousands of gold seekers in this area in the XIX century. The seekers were using a kind of filter to try to find some gold stones in the river.

The “souvenir-filter”, used to seek gold in Burwash Landing


It wasn't easy for them to acceed to those remote places. Nevertheless, for the gold seekers, that was worth to take the risk. For me, the fact to come to this part of the world provided me also my part of gold: the right to admire a nature which has not been touched so much by the man...

 

What the nature can offer to us

Coming from France, I didn't have any idea bout what “big space” was meaning before to arrive in there: the North Canada and Alaska.

There is most of the time only one road and very few villages along this one.

What is “very few villages”?

It has been possible for me to see only one village of around 500 people between Fort Nelson and Whitehorse for example. For Nelson is far of 950 kilometers from Whitehorse...

Some service-stations are located completelety independently along the road. Try to not miss them!


Between those villages and those services, imagine a very wild nature, an a huge animal population...

 

-The North-American fauna

What the nature can offer to us in the Great North is impressive, there are black bears, grizzlis, caribous, mooses, elk or bisons, wolves and also coyotes. I had the chance to cross the path of some of them on my road, by being very careful that my driver didn't crash with on of them, because they are appearing very fast on the road... Yes! They are wild animals!

The bison, who seems to have all his time, and maybe even more than that


The chance allowed me to find a little family of caribous, who was wandering happily along the road. That was quite entertaining to watch them jumping between the herbs.


 

-Mountains, forests, lakes

Knowing that there is so few human presence in those huge space of North Canada and Alaska, it has been possible for me to admire some incredible landscapes.

In Yukon, this is not a surprise to watch this kind of view, like here in front of the Lake Kluane


In the north of British Colombia, here is a perfect example of the “Mountain-forest-lake” landscape, so common in this part of the continent.


There are many hunters in the north of Canada and in the 49th State of United States. Some of them gave me a lift, but it happened also to me to find myself dropped by them at 300 kilometers of the closest village... so really in the middle of nowhere!

In those situations, I had at least the opportunity to take some pictures.

A landscape of forest and mountain. You can see the top which is already snowy at this time of the year.


 

-The climate

“Tough” is the weakest adjective that I found to describe it. The cold can be very striking, reaching every year a temperature of 40 below. I had the chance to meet a native american who was explaining to me that in his childhood, he remembered having lived a -75 degrees celsius...

At -15 degrees, my feet were already frozen, I think I had a good idea to come back down before winter!

Beginning of October, in Yukon, the lakes were starting to freeze

 

-Some unbelievable facts

You have maybe heard about the “midnight sun”? In Alaska and above the polar circle, it is possible to witness days of 24 hours, where the sun never goes down. However, for the six months of winter, you have, for example in Anchorage (the biggest city in Alaska), an average of 3 or 4 hours of sun per day... which can be a little bit disturbing if you don't get used to it.

It was close to 11am in Fairbanks in October. The days were getting shorter...


The northern lights, you have also maybe heard of them? There are those bright green lights which are everywhere in the sky during the night. You can see them mainly in winter and often in the polar areas of our Planet. I had also the chance to witness a little one and I have to say that the colours are just incredibles.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the good material to make a nice picture, so I will share with yo ua picture coming from the web, to give you a better idea of them.

(photo coming from internet)

 

How to deal with a difficult environment?

Even in the most difficult environment, you will still see some civilizations deciding to live there. Remember the bedoins in the syrian desert or the nubian in the north of Sudan.

Here, the environment is different but the problem remains the same: how to survive knowing that in winter, everything is frozen?

It is impossible to consider to make your own vegetables there. Indeed, there is the “permafrost”, a ground constantly deeply frozen... We will forget this solution if we want to survive.

Some of them choose to work the wood, which is everywhere in this area, and to become artisans. In the little village of Chetwyn in Bristish Colombia, an artisan is showing his work


The petrol is everywhere, especially in the north of Alaska, close to Prudhoe Bay. The petrol is an important part of the american economy. The american government has built a huge pipeline going from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez (close to Anchorage), allowing the petrol to go in an easier way on a distance of more than 1300 kilometers.


Anchorage is a city where the economy is mainly based on its military and petrol activity.


To move, the cars will have some difficulties to go on the “off beaten paths”, saying the roads without asphalt. The dogsleds are today not used anymore but are still existing. They have mainly been replaced by the skidoos, that I will try to hitchhike in a close future.

A pretty draw on a wall in Whitehorse, an old mean of transport: the dogsled

 

Hitchhiking in the Great North

Hitchhiking towards Alaska in this time of the year has been very different from what I had experienced before. Indeed, as I said, the kilometers between each villages are a chance for me to find vehicles giving me long rides. Two times, I caught lifts of 1000 kilometers each one.

My sign “World Tour” also helped me to stop the vehicles, who were wondering about the quite illogical destination.

By hitchhiking, in Haines Junction, in Yukon


However, I lived the situtation to find myself stucked, because not many people are doing regularly those long distances. I beat my old record of waiting in Fort Nelson, by expecting a ride 10 hours in the same spot.

The danger, this is to get stucked in the bad place. Ten hours weren't exactly a problem because I was in a village and I could find a place where to make myself warmer. Nevetheless, to spend the night outside with temperatures often below ) degrees celsius without having the right equipment could have been dangerous.

The local population know this problem and didn't hesitate to help me when I needed it. I have been hosted at several times by the drivers who gave me a lift.

A couple in Alaska didn't hesitate to host me for the night, after having given me a ride


In the extrem situations, to prepare a fire wasn't too much to spend a warmer night, like here in Alaska... On top of that, this is good to cook!


I have also been invited to make a presentation of my project in a school in Dawson Creek, Indeed, I like to share my journey and to spread a message of open-mindedness in the educational middle.If I have the chance to open an alternative way of thinking for the youth, to explain them the difference between the reality of the media and the reality on the field, I am doing it with a great pleasure.

A little picture with the students of the school “Ron Pettigrew” in Dawson Creek, after the presentation


 

 

 

To go to Alaska was probably one of my best decisions in this tour of the world so far. On top of discovering an extraordinary wildlife, I gladly shared simple moments with a very welcoming population.

I would like also to talk on the subject of global warming. We are talking a lot about it today, but the problem is still here... In 50 years, the temperature raised of 1,6 degrees celsius in Alaska for example.

Yes, it seems to be nothing, but you have to be aware that this little raise of temperature led the american government to give a help of several millions of dollars to the inuit community of Shishmaref in the North-West of Alaska, because the sea-level is still going up.

I don't know how so much money could have been given if the human responsibility wasn't behind it.

Again, realize the danger coming in our planet. There are groups of people being active for the protection of our World. Think about the group Avaaz for example, which is organizing petitions to sign online to make pressure for the coming conference in Copenhague against the global warming, which will happen between the December 6 and 14... To not see again another protocole of Kyoto...

Click down below to watch a video, talking about the last action of Avaaz against the global warming.

Video Global Warming Avaaz

I will see you very soon, if I can escape of this paradise for hitchhikers:

Pouce Coupé! (in english= thumb cutted off)


 

See you soon,

Jérémy



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