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    T r a v e l R e p o r t-S e i t e  5
M e n u e
The Yukon: In the Footsteps of the Gold Rush
As we're getting ready to start, we realize with dismay that the seam on the right air chamber has opened up in the blazing sun. Because we can't really spend the night in the village, I try to fix the seam provisionally with glue and apply a Leatherman tool to act as a clamp. This holds during the short ride to our camp site.
  While Peter is preparing our salmon dinner, I reopen a large part of the boat's seam, strengthen it from the inside with a hemming strip, sew it all up several times with strong thread, and finally seal it with two layers of rubber patches. We're both engrossed in our work, the boat is in pieces on the beach, and the whole camp smells of simmering salmon, when a black bear suddenly comes down the beach on the other side of the flat, sandy island. To avoid an unpleasant surprise, I call out early to warn the bear. But instead of turning and running away, as I'd expected, he now turns towards us and slowly moves towards our frying pan with the salmon. In order to defend our meal, Peter quick-wittedly grabs my red bivouac sack, which we'd used as a sail the day before and which is now drying on a tree trunk. A gust of wind seizes the bivouac sack, and thus the bear is unexpectedly faced with a four-meter high, bright red opponent. That stops him in his tracks. He at once beats a hasty retreat and disappears into the undergrowth.
Russian Mission is the first Inuit settlement we visit. The two Russian Orthodox churches are a reminder that for a long time, this area was dominated by Russians.
Pilot Village is a vibrant place, and you quickly notice that the transition to the modern age has been a lot easier for the Inuit than for the Indians.
From the top of one of the few hills, we catch a glimpse of the flat, marshy countryside with its countless watercourses.
During the few rain-free days, we seize the opportunity to do our laundryin the murky water. The clothes dry quickly in the steady wind, even thoughthe thermometer now rarely rises above 10 degrees Celsius. Our circulationhas gotten used to it, so we are able to take quick baths in the riveralmost every day, despite water temperatures of just 8 degrees Celsius.
The islands become flatter, and we keep getting the feeling that we can already glimpse the sea on the horizon, even though it's still several days' journey away. One night, we are surprised to discover that we've already reached the tidewater region. We had left the canoe on the beach before the tent in the evening, as usual, and during the night, we are startled to find it bobbing on the waves of the incoming tide.
The delta is 50 kilometers wide, which makes it hard for us to get our bearings. We can't identify the individual sandy islands anymore and, when we meet a fisherman by lucky chance, we ask him for directions. He explains that the islands shift every spring because of the melting snow, and that you can only navigate here with a brand new map or, better still, by using sat nav. Since our map is almost 30 years old, we put it away. From here on, we follow the fisherman's directions and make it safely to Alakanuk.
  In Alakanuk, we arrange our return flight to Anchorage via Bethel. We have two spare days, so we follow a 12-kilometer long channel to the coast. Here, our river journey ends after 72 days and 3.345 kilometers. Now we have to say good-bye to the Yukon, which has become like a second home to us.

As a farewell, we take a last bath in the freezing waters of the Yukon. It hasn't changed since the White River joined it 2.500 kilometers before and is as sandy as ever, and it seems to have hardly mixed with the salt water from the sea.

We are sad to part from the river when we let the air out of the boat and get everything ready for the return flight. Our inflatable Canadian canoe is totally unsuitable for the open coast, but had the Yukon been 1.000 kilometers longer, I would have gladly gone on.

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Last update: 03/14/09
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