Posts Tagged ‘wifi’

Fairbanks to North Pole

8th November 2010 by Helen
North Pole street decoration

North Pole street decoration

Back down in Fairbanks, we found our way around and stopped for some supplies at Safeways and caught up on emails using their WiFi (but no power available).  All pretty normal stuff. 

We didn’t try it but apparently in Fairbanks you can still pay for goods in the shops in gold nuggets and there is still a bit of a frontier town feel to it. This is about as far north as ‘civilisation’ really goes in Alaska and there is still a strong culturally diverse community here.

Only real problem we can see at the moment is a modern one in that we don’t have an inverter in the car and soon we won’t be able to charge phone, camera batteries or laptops.  With that in mind we found a café called the Red Couch that advertised having WiFi and where we could charge the laptops while we were there.  It’s a fascinating little café, very homely with a couple of couches as well as tables with chairs, selling home-made baking.  The owner has found out what customers want and set out to provide just that.  And doing a pretty good job of it.

Snowman Lane

Snowman Lane

Just as well we stopped at the Red Couch because right at the last minute a new email came in telling us that Landy’s container won’t be stopping off at Japan as originally planned but going straight to Seattle, and now due to arrive in port on the 13th.  That put us in one heck of a spin I can tell you.  What it means is that we now have to go straight to Seattle, and fast.  So if you’d been following our plans to drive through the central states to Florida – that’s changed!!  First stop – Seattle.

Rumour has it that Landy’s heard we’re driving a J**p and so, with the aid of rescheduling his arrival in Seattle, plans to catch us ‘in flagrante’.

Which all means, that, rather than an overnight stop just outside Fairbanks and a planned look at North Pole (the town, that is) where they celebrate Christmas all year round, we headed straight out of town south down the Richardson Highway.

Santa Claus House North Pole Alaska

Mural on side of Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska

We paused at North Pole and took some photos in the dark of Santa Claus’ House, and some of the road names, like St Nicholas Way.  According to the various guide books the town started with the Davis family, who moved there in 1944.  When they were bought out the town was renamed North Pole in the hope of attracting toy manufacturers to set up there.  When the Millers moved there from Fairbanks in 1952, Con Miller, who had previously lived in Fairbanks and been in the habit of dressing up as Santa and known to all the local village children, was recognised by one of those children who asked if he was building a new house there.  And so the idea of Santa Claus’ house was born.  What can I say.  Apparently the locals are all proud of their town and celebrating Chritmas all year round.  The serious guide books give it little mention.  I don’t think I could live there!!

We struck lucky for our campsite tonight when we found a summer season site by the edge of Birch Lake.  Although closed now for the winter it’s still possible to get down there and use the facilities, and so we did.

Route travelled: Fairbanks / North Pole / Birch Lake campsite

In the footsteps of the famous

4th October 2010 by Helen
our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Well, after our departure from Khilok we headed off to Chita, as you know.  We’ve spent about a week here, camping alongside various lorries outside a cafe just outside of town.  It shows up well on the route map if you zoom in.  We’ve been told by one of the young women working in the cafe that a few years ago Rosie Swale-Pope (www.rosiearoundtheworld.co.uk) camped outside their cafe when she passed this way during her five year run around the world.  In the footsteps of the famous, eh!!  And we’ve introduced the cafe to the idea of lemon and sugar pancakes.  It took a bit of miming and they had to watch us eat them as they’d never heard of this combination before!!  Pancakes are usually filled with either savoury (meat – see also below) or a thick stodgy jam or served with mayonaise.

 

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

our campsite with the lorries just outside Chita

Sadly, we’ve had to call of our Road of Bones section.  After the delays in Kazakhstan, then Mongolia and now Siberia, our visa times have got tighter and tighter.  We have to be out of Russia by 27th October and it’s just not possible to get to Magadan and then down to Vladivostok in the time we have left available. 

Paul in particular is gutted, it was his primary reason for travelling in this part of the world.  However the incident with the horse was the final straw.  Hopefully he will have the chance to try again in a couple of years time.  Only trouble is, with the new road having been built the old road is getting more and more impassable with time and we don’t know for how long this will be achievable.

We’ve divided our time between our ‘campsite’ and the city centre, catching up on writing sponsors reports, working on our next round of sponsorship negotiations, refining our schools project to take into account what we have learned so far (and expanding to include additional schools who want to take part), taking a look at some of the sights, such as Lenin Square, and doing a bit of shopping for a second pair of warm trousers each as we head off into still colder climes.  Doesn’t solve my general misery at finding myself clumping through a fashionable city in my hefty walking boots though!!  Young Russian women have got keeping warm and stylish down to an art.  The older ones look more stereotypical though, so maybe I should just accept my age and go with the flow!!

We have been delighted to find a Coffee-Mall with free WiFi.  The food’s not particularly cheap but it is good quality and for once it is possible to order a meat dish and get something that hasn’t been chopped up and processed into something else.  Paul is also delighted to have found decent coffee as well.  Unfortunately the service is largely desultory, but, hey, you can’t have everything!!

We have had many conversations along the way about our different approaches to food: Paul enjoys good food well cooked and lovingly presented.  He is surely the darling of the true chef, fully appreciative of their art.  I enjoy this too but as Paul will point out I have a much higher tolerance to the whole Central Aisian ‘food is fuel’ approach: meat (don’t ask what sort, the answer is usually ‘meat’, they don’t know), processed into some kind of burger, possibly wrapped in pasta, often served in some kind of stew (goulash), often with assorted arteries still visible in between the gristle and fat – served with either pasta or mashed potato, and a couple of slices of cucumber and tomato.  Virtually everything comes served with mayonaise.

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

one of the preserved old wooden houses in Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Cathedral, Chita

Anyway, even if the food isn’t exactly cheap the free WiFi makes up for the cost as we’d have to pay even more for the amount we’ve been using in the local Post Office provision.  At least we can use our own laptops, which is usually quicker than the ancient computers otherwise available, which makes updating blogs, sending emails, etc, etc, so much easier.

We did have a bit of excitement on Friday.  We were approached by a young man called Simon on Thursday asking us if we would be interviewed for a Russian TV programme about extreme travel.  Simon is involved in www.baikaloffroad.asia and www.club-diversant.ru – we could probably have done with knowing them when we were stuck

view through Lenin Square, Chita

view through Lenin Square, Chita

in the forest!!  One of the staff, Julia, at the station speaks good English and acted as an interpretor for us.

The weather varies between very cold and almost balmy.  In the city it can reach mid 20’s.  Outside the city: overnight it can drop below freezing and

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

feeding the pigeons in Lenin Square, Chita

sometimes we have woken up having to scrape the ice off the inside of the tent.  Reminds me of the days before central heating when my mother used to coax me out of bed to look at what ‘Jack Frost’ had painted on the inside of the window!!

We’ve been told (by Julia) that although English is the official second language, here in Siberia Chinese is much more useful for business and trade.

Through numerous emails and phone calls Paul is currently negotiating to ship Landy out of Vladivostok, probably to either Vancouver or Seattle, possibly via Japan or not.  Our plans to ship straight to Anchorage have been foiled by no-one shipping to there at present (it varies year by year).  Either way Landy’s journey will take about six weeks and so he will arrive sometime around the beginning/middle of December.  In the meantime we will be flying (we are not allowed to travel on the boat with Landy) to Anchorage, from where we will make some kind of combination journey using public transport and the ferry down to Billingham (just north of Seattle), from where we can get to the port so we can be reunited with Landy again.

I’ve missed my proverbs so had to slip one in, just in case some of you haven’t got anything better to do than ruminate on the meaning of these things!!  Rational animals of the genus Homo who have ceased to exist also ceases to recount connected narratives.