Wednesday 5 June 2013

Anchorage afoot

I'm glad I've been in training for this trip. All those brisk morning constitutionals have stood me in good stead for days like today, when I've been on my feet from the beginning with only brief respites: hard streets, stairs, museum corridors, footpaths... It's been tiring, even so, although very enjoyable and productive. Remember, this is not a holiday. I'm working, gathering material and images for stories, and looking for angles and ideas all the time. But it's also fun, of course, and interesting.

The first bit was actually seated, and fun, and interesting: the trolley tour of the town with Jaden who was local, bright and funny. He took us into the suburbs to Earthquake Park where 77 houses disappeared on Good Friday 1964 - we saw one of the owners describing her amazing experience yesterday at the Visitor Centre - and then to Lakes Hood and Spenard that were thickly edged with parked Cessnas, Beavers and Cub floatplanes. You can get a pilot's licence at age 14 here, you know; but have to wait until 16 to drive a car.

Then we went out to the Native Heritage Centre and were shown around typical homes of some of the native tribes, many of which were dug into the ground, as there were no trees where some tribes lived, and the winds were fierce. Imagine: no wood, so no fires, no cooking, no hot water. Just bodyheat. Me, I'd have lit out for another sort of territory, something less hostile, but then I'm soft. And I did have to hand it to the Indians - they knew what to do with a ground squirrel skin and a few lengths of seal intestine. Very impressive. They had a great display of those sorts of artefacts at the very flash museum back in town.

There was an excellent display of Alaskan Aviation there, too: boy, those bush pilots were a tough breed, I decided at the Snow City Cafe as I worked through my stuffed French toast and gallons of maple syrup. Then it was out to the Alaska Zoo for some just-in-case animal spotting: wolves, foxes, a surprisingly solid lynx, a lazy polar bear hardly stirring, some brown bears ditto, and a couple of very active black bears climbing up the fence to hook out some bits of grass someone had thrown there. Lots of good views of teeth and claws there, and I was finally glad of the belt-and-braces fencing that had frustrated me up till then. Best animal of the day though was the snow leopard from Central Asia - fabulous beast, big, beautiful and so much a cat.

Then dinner at Ginger: 5-spice duck breast and crabby jasmine rice, and fireweed honey icecream. Yum! And to bed with the sun again still high in the sky, and the brain protesting. But the feet happy at last.

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