29th of May, 1997
to nowhere. A dream's road for a traveler, ending at the arctic ocean,
still half covered with ice. To the west, just a Bering Straight's distance
of Alaska to Siberia, and the whole Eurasian continent. Up
here, planet Earth appears like a soap bubble - light, fragile, gracious,
colorful under the brightness of the sun.
Things happen like that. You end up one day in a tiny place called Deadhorse or Prudhoe Bay (already two names to describe it), your eyes trained by the immensity of the tundra covered by a paper fine trace of snow, surprised by an unexpected number of airplanes landing and taking off from this point, visible 20 kilometers before you reach it.
After about 4OO miles of gravel road, nearly 900 kilometers of distance from Fairbanks, the Dalton Highway ends abruptly . Call it mile or kilometer 0 , almost everything starts here. The vastness of the landscape tells you the real dimension of time, but the modern human chapter of Alaska takes a short cut : rush. Rush for fur, rush for gold, rush for war, rush for black gold.
The trans-Alaskan pipeline was a strange presence, always showing its profile never it's face and yet faster than I, filling its long snake's body with a 7 to 8 miles per hour black , hot, multi-million dollar old substance giving, on its way south, birth to almost everything, starting with the tires of my bicycle.
She slightly tips her vessel to point out some caribou. The white tundra crossed by curves of black rivers looked like an old gravure. In a few weeks, it will change dramatically into a blossom of fresh colors.
We landed on a small airstrip called Nuiqsut, a few 9O grade paved roads, some electric cables and inside, ugly houses (not fancy but practical due to the harsh winter conditions), linked only by air and radio to the outside world. We brought some "junk food" and sodas, extending the worldwide network of unhealthy habits to this end of the world. Today, I believe I could better understand caribou than humans.
Yes, things happen like this, the road to nowhere brought me to the essential. The fragile silhouette of the yak, braving the rain, the wind, the snow, the fog and the cold over the Brooks range attracted the truck drivers, the very first tourists, some people working on the pipeline, like they would attract the mosquitoes in a couple of weeks.
Truck drivers were the most unpredictable species on the road, haunting my cold nights under my tent by their terrible stories. "The grizzly bears have just come out of their long hibernation, they are very hungry !" Though a cyclist is a skinny animal, it would easily make a grizzly's picnic, a good change for his diet. I hoped The Grizzly bear would be as kind as the Yeti in Tibet, like a legend, adding a sweet sensation of fear (enough to make you appreciate suddenly the unique value of life), instead of suppressing humans beings. Enough good to be never seen.
|Truck drivers also stopped for
a chat or to feed me. Not knowing, along with the bears, that I was carrying
14 kilograms of food.
The first person I was to meet in Deadhorse was the right one. Strangely enough, call it karma, destiny or chance, she was reading the same books as I was and soon said "follow me!"
I pitched up my tent in front of the airstrip. Pearing through the zippered opening let me appreciate the ballet of the tiny airplanes - dream machines.
"The little prince" was somewhere around. I met Diana, not the princess, the other one. She just brought back from San Francisco a bunch of books about Tibet , the Yak's country, where of course, she intended to go. The most remote places on Earth, like strong magnets, bring people in search of nothing to everything simply together. And like a snowball, the miracles become the most natural phenomena. Traveling develops your intuition incredibly, your instinct.
Looking for a truck to hitch-hike back the road to nowhere and also finding finally a suitable place to write my travel stories, slow like always, I was to forget that Alaska still meant "rush'. "You can fly tomorrow to Anchorage for free, even to SAN FRANCISCO if you wish !"
The answer fell down from the sky, faster than an E-mail. This was no hallucination, just true reality, something chemical between people on the same wave, without any logical explanation. "Please, draw me an airplane !" said the little prince !. Diana was drawing, and it seemed good enough to add wings on the yak's wheels.
I was, perhaps for the last time in my life, to see the airstrip of Deadhorse without knowing really if I was landing or taking off . Probably there was only one place on Earth called Deadhorse. It was snowing outside, I could feel the bellows of the airplanes, turning in a round sound like a primordial pulse, perhaps this of the bull of soap.
The yak has to pack his bags, and bags of emotions, turning definitively his back to the Arctic ocean, heading to Patagonia, the other extremity of the continent. Full tilt. An enigma to arrival. Some more 15500 miles to the South. "To the South !" But tell me : Where is the South of nowhere ?
Home | About the YAK MAN | Writings from the Road | Photo Gallery | Map
|This page designed and hosted by Redfish
Visit us for more China-related pages.