Sitting next to my girlfriend Shipra, as she was driving us to Girdwood, I gave her that look “If I wasn’t dying to sledge with the Alaskan huskies tomorrow,
I would have killed you for planning this sleepless and pause less holiday to Alaska.” I officially disapproved of her logistic planning but what can I say to this crazy friend of mine who almost enjoys getting bullied by me. Anyway she read through my look, and I obliviously looked back out….
It was 10 PM in the night, my eye skull was loaded with sunglasses from more than 15 hours, and I was still battling the sun screeching into my eyes. That Alaskan summer of 2014 I was totally puzzled and guzzled by 20 hrs of day light, no night and barely 3-4 evening like hours. I had lost track of when I should sleep and when I need to sleep….. Anyway, Shipra’s planning was hardly giving us a chance to sleep…..lol!
Living the zombie state, I was open eye dreaming about dog sledging in the Punch Bowl Glacier. For me it was one of those things you think you will only see pictures of, until I actually did it the next day and remains the most overwhelming, unique and impressionable experiences of my travels. Shipra, you are forgiven ; )
Early morning we reached the office of Alpine Air Alaska, who organized the tour for us. We were packed up with glacier friendly suit and shoes and we were all ready for our helicopter flight passing through the Chugach Mountains, to meet the Alaskan Huskies who live on the Punch Bowl Glacier three months every summer to keep the Alaskan tradition of dog sledging alive.
As we were about to land I was curious to know what were those black spots on the white clear ice… The pilot said “a patch of white ice is as dark as darkness, there are no landing pads on a glacier, the black spots are my light to land”.
Punch Bowl Glacier, Alaska
As we landed I felt 2 degrees (that may be several degrees less feel temperature on a frozen glacier) in my body. In spite of the chill through the body I was awestruck by the sight of 60 frozen huskies and 20 frozen people. I wondered what would make these men and women want this job every year, to freeze 3 summer months of their life on a glacier….
Alaskan Huskies on the Punch Bowl Glacier
Well I wondered only until I met the man leading the pack, James, he told me he loves travelling. I asked him how he travels….. He answered my question with a question “What is your favorite place you traveled to?” I answered Cape Town…. He answered back in Hindi “mai ek din cape town zaroor jaunga (One day I will certainly go to Cape Town)”.
I was amazed that he spoke to me in Hindi. Not just that, then he spoke back to me in 5 more languages, which I obviously did not understand….. I shot another series of excited questions to him and now he answered my first question “how he travels?” – “The world travels to me on this glacier, to meet my handsome huskies”.
James is a true traveler but a distinct breed. He is living his passion of breeding the young huskies from 30 years, training the huskies through their growth years, making them winners at Iditarod, the Last Great Race competition and proudly presenting them to the travelers… He travels in his life in his own distinctive way.
I am sure he has forgotten me like the uncountable travelers he takes on a sledge, but I haven’t forgotten him and his story! The life story of an Alaskan glacier, 40 huskies and 20 frozen bodies!
When I landed on that glacier I wondered what kept these people warm…???
Through those 3 hours I spent with the pilot, James and the team, I realized that they were 20 frozen bodies but the warmest people I ever met. Their warmth made of….
Love to nurture those huskies away from a complacent life,
Mad passion to live that chunk of an ice life 3 months every year and
Self-less compassion to create unforgettable memories for travelers, in spite of the toughest situations.
That Alaskan summer, in the chill of a glacier and warmth of those huskers I truly felt – what is travel worth without great stories of people and places?