Gold, pure Gold
After Dave had bored the Canadian customs officer with his answer to why we wanted to stay in Canada for 2 months by giving a detailed list of all the canoe, climbing and hiking trips we had planned, our passports were stamped and we drove onto The Highway at the Top of the World, an undulating, winding, muddy dirt road that cuts across the Yukon. We were well above the tree line so the views went on forever across the tundra, we reached the furthest point North that we will travel on this trip - 64 degrees North. As we looked North it was an incredible feeling knowing that there is not a settlement or town between here and the ocean nearly 1000km away.
We get our first glimpse of the Yukon River way down in the valley as we begin to descend, a wide, brown sludge of a river winding it's way North to the Bering Sea. Alongside the banks we spot small settlements of prospectors who are still searching for gold, just like the men and women of the Klondike Gold rush in 1898, except now they have dredgers, pumps and sifters that run on generator power, not sweat and muscle!
We eventually reach the river and drive onto the ferry that will transport us across the swiftly flowing Yukon to the infamous town of Dawson City which was at the centre of the Klondike Goldrush. At it's height there were 40,000 inhabitants, today around 1,000, but it is a year round community and the town has been well preserved with many original buildings. It had a nice feel to it and we had lunch in a café owned by a French guy, he’d been there 18 years and had built the café and his house without any prior experience, he said he had just asked the locals for their advice. “How do you stop it sinking and moving as the permafrost melts and refreezes,” we ask, pointing to the neighbouring buildings that were sitting at very peculiar angles. “Oh, the foundations are built on hydraulic jacks and I just adjust the levels as I need to.” he replied - simple!!!
An evening stroll took us upriver a short way and we find 3 derelict, beached stern wheelers slowly collapsing into the mud, only recognisable by their rear paddle wheels and steam chimneys. These were the lifeline of Dawson City before the road was built in the 1940s and people stopped relying on the river for their supplies and transport.
It had been a long intensive drive, we were bushed, so back to Red for a cuppa and to relax. Good bye Alaska, thanks for a great month, hello Canada.