Hi-ho Hi-ho it's to Alaska I go! travel blog

The flight over was truly lovely. The skies were clear and the scenery to die for. A few whisps of clouds appeared every now and then with a hint of burned liquid gold from the sun. Closer to Anchorage the clouds became layered, the first a clean surreal blue, the next a pretty mauve and the very top blood orange. We flew in over, almost next to, the imposing mountains, their sharp black ridges blanketed by soft sparkly white snow. The bay was glistening a strange green colour with waves that appeared to freeze upon contact with the land. Touched by this work of art, I had a realisation that Alaska is going to beckon an adventure I 'll be telling in years to come.

Today I had planned to go to the heritage centre to learn about the native people of Alaska. Though after having my first real nights sleep in 4 days - even with squeeky spring frames and plastic sheeting, I had first of all to find breakfast. Asking around City Snow Cafe seemed to be an interesting choice. All health food, free wifi and good people watching. Heading out the door I was slapped in the face with Artic winds - I say this at home all the time, but here they really are arctic. To boot it was cloudy and rainy. Where on earth did all the beautiful mountains disappear to?? Off I trod down 4th avenue for what I was told would be a 15 minute walk that turned into a hour plus some due to the impossible nature of forcing my way through a certain stereotypical crowd there to celebrate the summer soltice.

I must admit though this was entertaining. The first thing I saw was an umpire on his stand presiding over a game of "bomb". The state troopers against the fire brigade. Each team had 6 people on either side of a volley net. Each team member held a corner of a blanket on which a water bomb was placed, thus the name. The object was to fling the water bomb over the net to the opponent for them to catch and fling back, and so on until some one missed and it smashed on the road. The next thing my attention was drawn to was the beautiful smell infecting my nose yonder, once I found the source though I almost threw up.... Moose eyeball soup. OMG.

By this stage I had totally forgotten about my breakfast and the ride I had organised to get me to the Heritage Centre. I did my olympic speed walk grabbed some takeaway oatmeal and sped back the way I came to the ride. Alas, with all my effort I missed it, the alternative was a taxi bu that would be $40 or a bus but only getting there 30 minutes before close I realised I had to give in and forfeit my plans. Upon returning back at the hostel with cold oatmeal in hand and slightly soaked clothing, the manger took pity on me and offered a lift. Yes, I was back in action.

The Heritage Centre introduced me to native traditions and customs of both the past and present. There is a "Welcome House" a celebration of contemporary Alaskan Native cultures holding up to $11 million worth of native treasures, while the outdoor sites allowed exploration of ancient tradition and the presentation of stories from the past. It was a unique opportunity to experience Alaska's many diverse Native cultures all in one location. I think in facilitating the transmission of Alaska Native knowledge, heritage and tradition, the center must do no more than promote self-esteem and pride among Alaskan Natives, as far as I've researched a much needed support to a battered peoples. It improves understanding and encourages appreciation of Alaska Native people and their traditions, history, and contributions to Alaska.

I watched native dances, joined in to learn to make arts and crafts such as drum making and rug making (made from spun red cedar and sheep fibre, saw totem carving and was taken on a journey through the on-site villages of 6 of 11 native tribes. Some highlights were - black fish that can be caught and frozen for 3 - 6 months, when thawed they re-animate, therefore the natives always had fresh fish to eat, and learning the games played to condition themselves for the elements. They made red cedar hats to keep away the mites and used seal intestines to make rainjackets. These were a seriously well adapted and a smart group of humans. I'm now getting ready for bed, I only got to have my oatmeal breakfast two hours ago, it's 11pm and still daylight out, so out will come the block out mask, and as I am at a hostel, so too the industrial earplugs to deafen out the songs of drunken happiness from downstairs.

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