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Barrow Bullet Points
Sunday 09/30/2007 10:33 PM
NOTE: If you are strictly a weekday reader of this blog, be sure to scroll down and click Previous Week to see the stuff I posted late Friday.
Here's the quick list of Barrow events I wanted to type up on the plane:
- Arrived in Barrow late Tuesday morning. Checked in. Called Daniel (our tundra tour guide, not to be confused with Tundra Tours, his company is Northernmost Tours).
- Had to skip lunch to make our first tour out to Point Barrow. We had budgeted on the high side because it looked like it was going to be just Bobby and me going out each day. Turns out there was a UN meeting at NARL (Naval Arctic Research Laboratory) and Daniel had almost a full load of scientists. There were seven of them and Bobby and I made it a complete nine in the van. We even got a free lunch! In addition to Daniel's standard narration about the Point, we had an archaeologist (I think her name was Laura) who works in the area who provided tons of historical information. The researchers were from all over the world and I sat next to a very friendly Norweigian. No bears.
- Daniel went out a second time immediately after , but didn't have room for us. We had budgeted $300 for two days worth of tours and the first one only cost us $40. When I called Daniel from Anchorage on Monday, I had offered to bring supplies and he asked for Huggies diapers, sizes 3 and 5. We spent $60 on diapers in Anchorage (still saving him at least $40, see below for Barrow prices). So since he had a full van and we brought diapers, he only charged us $40.
- Ate dinner at Osaka, a Japanese restaurant catty-corner from the hotel. Expensive but good. I had sushi, tempura vegetables and teriyaki salmon. Bobby had roast beef (they had American food as well). Sixty dollars.
- We slept well and got up ready for our only full day in Barrow. Breakfast at Pepe's North of the Border was pretty good (about forty dollars). Went to the Inupiat Heritage Center and saw lots of beautiful sculpture and informative historical relics. If you ever go there, bring a tripod, because the lighting isn't that great for hand-held photography. Stopped by the barrow grocery store first (across the street from the museum) and were stunned by the prices: $8.99 a gallon for milk, $6.65 for a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, $10.35 for a 12-pack of Coca-Cola.
- The original plan had been to go back out to the Point on Wednesday if we didn't see bears on Tuesday. The second tour Tuesday didn't see bears either, and they also got stuck due to a flat tire. This is Daniel's first year in business and he does what no other tour in Barrow does: offroading in a customized four-wheel drive van. It is awesome, but the terrain is rugged and unforgiving. He drops his PSI to ten when he goes off road and that proved to be an aggravation for everyone, because he was having trouble with flat tires.
- I asked Daniel if we went out to the Point again on Wednesday and didn't see bears if there was any place else he could take us. We were way ahead money-wise and wanted to spend whatever it took to maximize our chance to see ursus maritimus. He said that he had heard there were some walrus carcasses west of town near what he called "Monument" and that both brown and white bears had been spotted there. He'd have to charge us to go that way because it was rough and further than Point Barrow and we said OK and started getting excited. Late lunch was at Arctic Pizza (fifty bucks) and my T-bone would have been better if it wasn't pre-frozen (probably asking too much in Barrow) and had been cooked to medium rare like I asked instead of the medium-well that I got. Bobby had something called a New York Steak. I didn't bother warning him about ordering a cut of meat with a non-standard name. He seemed to like it though.
- It was Bobby, me and a wanderlusted 22-year-old named Zach. Daniel brought Mona, an Inupiat woman to ride shotgun and we headed west. It was very rough going. I'll save the surprises for other posts, but the short version is we got stuck ten miles from Barrow, about eight miles from the nearest road in the middle of polar bear country. We had to wait an hour-and-a-half for rescue and in the meantime Zach, Bobby and I climbed the twenty foot tundra wall to have a look around. It was awesome.
- By the time we got back to the hotel, it was too late to eat any where. So dinner came from vending machines. Yum! At about 1AM, Bobby and I wandered out to look for northern lights. With the full moon lighting up the sky our chances weren't good, but when we looked north across the water, the space of clouds and stars above the horizon had an eerie pallor of green. Like the sky was lost in dream, sleeping off an absinthe bender. Too subtle to show up on film, but our eyes could see the glow.
- After seeing no bears, we were bummed, but got up the next morning to fly back to Anchorage. Breakfast was at Pepe's again (forty dollars). I screwed up and we got to the airport too late and we lost our seats. So we got to enjoy one more day in Barrow! Bobby was pretty ticked off, but it meant we had one more shot at seeing a bear.
- With our boarding passes in hand for the evening flight, we waited impatiently for Daniel to get his tire fixed so we could go back out. Lunch was at Pepe's again (forty bucks) and the French dip wasn't anything to write home about. It wasn't until after 4PM that we went back out to Point Barrow with Zach and a high school exchange student from Germany named Leia. Daniel even brought his oldest son Joe and his 1-year-old pure-bred mastiff named Mabel. I got to ride shotgun (AWESOME!) and Daniel tried a new tip from his tire guy and kept the PSI at 20 and worked hard to keep the engine "in step" (something to do with the transmission/engine/4x4 that I never did quite understand). We had a great time, found some cool bones on the beach and looked/waited for bears. After striking out for the third time, Daniel dropped us off at the airport and we headed back to civilization.
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