Tuesday 8th July midnight, Whitehorse, Yukon
No room at the inn! Both the hostels in Whitehorse are full. Fortunately, the owners of this internet cafe have agreed to let me bunk down here, in exchange for a little help with their current renovations.
Incredibly, I scored a lift all the way to Whitehorse, about 1000km's. A young guy in a beat up old pickup truck picked me up about mid morning and we shared the driving, stopping only for fuel. He works in the logging industry, mostly operating heavy machinery. He has built his own house on six acres on one of the islands off Vancouver. With both of us interested in timber, and myself also with experience on heavy machinery, Nathan and I had plenty to talk about. He had driven all the way from Vancouver yesterday and had slept in the truck last night, so was getting pretty tired. He was glad to have someone to do a bit of driving, and I was happy to get behind the wheel. I'm proud to say that I managed to keep to the right hand side of the road... almost all the time! This is one long long road, and considering the remoteness and the sparse population, it's in surprisingly good condition. Interestingly, even though it runs through Canada, the Alaska Highway was built by the US during WWII, in case of a Japanese invasion from Alaska. Even more interestingly, it was designed to be incredibly winding, even in areas where it would have been simpler to build in a straight line. This was to minimize the damage that attacking forces could do with bombing raids. Cool, eh?
People have been really friendly- this morning in Fort Nelson I asked a guy where the nearest payphone was *to call Gail, and let her know I'd sent the keys* and he handed me his mobile. Truck drivers too; even though they don't- or aren't allowed to- pick up hitchhikers, they're always happy to return a cheerful wave. One thing I've learnt is to always be friendly to motorists who don't pick you up. George from Prince George yesterday, and Jean on Saturday had both driven past me, before deciding to turn around and pick me up. Jean noticed the orange man on the back of my World Nomads Tshirt, and suggested it would make a great hitching symbol if it was on the front of the shirt. I agreed, so modified the shirt with a pair of scissors.
The highway crosses from British Columbia into Yukon Territory, then dips down into BC again before re-emerging into the Yukon and crossing the 60th parallel at Whitehorse. The handful of 'towns' along the way generally consist of a dot on the map, a gas station, a souvenir shop and a cafe; usually all in one! The one noteworthy exception is Watson Lake, which boasts a 'forest' of 22 000 road signs, a bizzare sight along this remote highway! So the story goes, the first sign was nailed up in 1942 by a homesick US soldier by the name of Carl Lindlay, while he was working on the Alaska Highway. 'Danville, Illinois' it read, presumably his hometown. Others added their own signs and it just sort of 'took off'.
The twelve hour drive from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse was of course beautiful. Along the way, we spotted bears, elk, moose, and even had to stop to let some buffalos cross the highway. We drove through a few heavy showers, but they were brief enough that my backpack stayed dry in the back of the truck. I'm disappointed that I haven't been able to capture some of the most spectacular scenery. As a hitcher, you can't really ask the driver to stop every time you see a snow capped mountain. But be patient, I'm sure there'll be plenty more photo opportunities in the coming days.
A BIG THANKYOU TO WANDA AND ROLAND FROM WIRED CABIN INTERNET CAFE, CORNER OF 2ND STREET AND JARVIS STREET, WHITEHORSE!