Tuesday 7 June 2011
Highlights: Nine hour scenic train trip, white water rafting (class 3 & 4)
Early start day. I had a 8.15 am train to Denali with a 7.15 am check in this meant I needed to catch the 6.45 am hotel to the train depot transfer, long story short I needed to get up before 6 am so I could enjoy the free buffet breakfast, and I did enjoy it – eggs, sausages and little potatoes.
This is a rare full long distance passenger train service in the USA. The train stopped at Wasilla (Sarah Palin’s home which I could see from the train but I couldn’t see Russia!) and Talkeetna. As this train is designed for tourists (May to Sept only) you get a lot of information during the journey including that 1 in 7 Alaskans hold a pilot’s license due to the remote nature of this state. The train ride offered some great views and I took quite a few photos which I posted on Facebook.
I didn’t really dine on the train, the prices were typical “tourist who has no option” prices but I did buy a very nice chocolate cookie. Now these cookies are everywhere, I think it is the main state food. We arrived a little late at Denali due to the train losing power at one point (I thought freezing at night in summer might be on the cards). The moment I stepped off the train I was on a transfer to the Bluffs Hotel, I have to say everything is very well coordinated and I’m not even on a tour or boat package.
The Bluffs Hotel is more of a cabin arrangement with the hotel located on the edge of this very small town which took about 20 minutes to explore. By the time I got back my bag was waiting for me in my room, great service and they didn’t even want a tip (rarer still).
Now the real highlight of the day was going rafting on the Nenana River which has ‘class 3 and 4 rapids’. The company made us put on a couple of extra layers, a sign a lot of waivers, the dry suits being very warm and tight. I was surprised by this as I’ve done a few white water rapid rafting events around the world and the suits seemed a bit much but I was soon to find out why they were needed.
Also of interest was the company I was booked on didn’t issue helmets, again a first for me and I noted we were the only ones without helmets. The suits had a head slot which the called birthing slots, very hard to fit my big head through.
Now the reason for the suits? The water is freezing, it might be summer (so 12-14 degrees) but the water comes from glaciers and there is ice on the banks still. My exposed hands actually turned a couple of different colours, blue, than red, than finally purple and I didn’t even go into the water just had to cope with a lot of water ‘hits’. A very enjoyable 1.5 hours even if it took another hour for my hands to regain some feelings and their natural colour!
Another good aspect of the rafting adventure was meeting a few fellow travellers including Ian & Helen from the Gold Coast and Rohran from Houston. They are also on the same wildness adventure tomorrow so it will be good to see some people I know (especially to get them to take photos with me in them!).
Returning to the hotel I checked a few e-mails and moved some money into my credit cards and before I knew it I was sitting in the lounge area and it was after midnight – damn sunlight did it to me again. And I have a 6.30 am departure for the wildness tour tomorrow – god I am getting no sleep on this trip I’m going to be wrecked when I return home 🙂