Simran Gill is journalist who woke up one morning and decided to go to Alaska. It was party whim, a lot of gumption and just this dire need to find oneself. Her is the Part2 of her piece on her Alaskan sojourn, complete with scary and scintillating stories
We began our day at 6 am, at freezing 3 degree Celsius; wore 3 layers of warm clothes, wind proof jackets, waders and shoes to protect us from the ice cold water. Nikhil and myself carried 10 kg bags on our back and set out in a seaplane to Katmai National Park and Preserve, south of Alaska, home to more than 2000 grizzly bears. We were ‘well-prepared’ to photograph the grizzlies enjoying a feast of Red Sockeyed Salmons.
In Alaska nothing is waterproof. You are never too prepared.
As the plane entered the creek, the mirror lake soaked in red colour with salmons aplenty looked surreal. There was a heavy downpour; the wind lashing at 55 kmph making it difficult for Jerry to land the seaplane in the lake. The plane landed on the angry waves and I jumped off into the ice cold water immediately feeling severe pain in my legs. Our group of 9 people, wearing waders began crossing ice-cold lakes and streams. Is this what I had signed up for?
Jerry warned us before flying away that we may have to spend nights in the wilderness if the weather didn’t improve. The sea plane flew away, our only chance to reach civilizations was gone but strangely I was calm, in a way eager to not go back, get lost in that space for the next 10 days. We were given tents (to spend the night) and grizzly sprays incase someone like me acts adventurous and gets too close to the bears. A red bottle with a spray can read, pepper spray. “Are you sure this will make the grizzlies run away?” I doubted. Young Caleb, didn’t seem amused, “ This is your best bet.”
I retorted, “ Well! In India we use this to protect ourselves from unscrupulous men.”
Crossing the lakes was a daunting task with all of us being pushed and swayed by the winds. With all our might we ran towards the spongy green carpet full of blueberries which seemed inviting and a much easier walk. But just 2 kms into the walk we realized walking on it was a living hell. While some of us were getting sucked into the Tundra’s spongy floor, I was worse off, my wader shoes were big for me and with the wind throwing me around, I ended up spraining my right foot right in the beginning. And the trek to the creek had just begun. “We are in Alaska, baby.” exclaimed Daryl Balfour (a wildlife photographer and our trip organizer).
Crossing the lakes was a daunting task with all of us being pushed and swayed by the winds.
45 minutes into the walk there was no sight of bears. My walk became a limp and eventually I sat down crying. The rain was slapping me hard; the wind had made me fall innumerable times. I was a wreck! But this was an adventure I had always wanted, I didn’t want to give up just on the first day.
I gathered my strength, popped an energy bar given to us by Jerry and started dragging my way to the river. And voila! we spotted 2 mother bears with their 3 cubs. The limp changed into a run and I was rolling down 30 feet to reach the bears. The rain made it tough to get some good shots, but the bears were having a ball. They would catch a salmon, swing it around and throw it in the air. The babies would try to ape their mothers, play and swim with them and that made the most adorable sight. Surprisingly, they were indifferent to our presence, and we were insignificant to their world.
But the most challenging task was yet to come, 2-hour walk back to the seaplane. Despite the waders, we were all soaked. “What was the point of being well prepared and shopping so much,” I yelled. Caleb smiled, “ In Alaska nothing is waterproof. You are never too prepared.” The day ended with a number of beautiful photos and timeless memories captured. “This was the toughest trek of my life,” said Caleb. Despite our broken bodies, we felt a sense of pride, if it was tough for him we were conquerers.
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