Today My bus is going to Alaska.
Hyder is indeed a secret place in Alaska or rather in USA. Not many people know about it. It is the easternmost town of Alaska. Hyder is at the head of Portland Canal that is the second largest fjord on the earth. It took us 2 days of driving from Prince George and 4 days of driving from Vancouver to get to Bear Glacier Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. At nights we slept in our tents at either campsites or just in the wilderness.
I and my friend Rajan from Vancouver arrive at Bear Glacier Provincial Park. At the gate we are asked by the park ranger to drive around the campsites and choose any unoccupied site that we like. Campsite rules say to keep our food locked in our car after cleaning up all traces of food that we may cook.
Put all the garbage in the animal proof bins those are situated at various places. Ranger also told that some bears and wolves are just not afraid of humans and they always hang around campsites; so do not do anything to provoke them. You mind your business and they will mind their business.
They gave these instructions to us twice because all other campers were staying in their recreational vehicles that is like a small home built on the wheels; and fully equipped with bathroom and kitchen.
Our campsite was near the lake. We had some provisions like daal, rice and some vegetables to be cooked. Luckily we bought a frozen bread from the only grocery store we passed at the road otherwise each store or petrol pump is at least 500 kilometer apart. We set up the tent at our campsite. A swarm of vicious mosquitoes is following us relentlessly. We both always keep a loincloth with us for our river baths; so we cover our whole head with loincloth.
We can still see through the thin fabric of our loincloth (lungi). But this turns up ineffective because hundreds of mosquitoes are still biting us through the fabric, many mosquitoes’s stinging apparatus is stuck in between the threads and they are trapped can’t go anywhere now, so they are struggling to get out and making a nasty noise. Anytime we take our hand out of pockets, they bite us in tens at once. There are some other campers around but they all are in their recreation vehicles; well within the safety of their vehicle’s walls and roof.
So finally we start our small gas stove and begin making tea. In the marsh at our other campgrounds I found rare marsh tea Ledum Palustre, it is a variety of Aromatic Rhododendron. This is a famous herbal as well homeopathy medicine. Natives use to make its tea so we also boil its twigs. Hundreds or thousands of mosquitos are around our tea pot and many more are attracted to the steam. Many many are entering in the steam of our tea but never to return, may be in hundreds. Rajan is worried and wants to throw away that tea but what next … it will be impossible to cook just anything. So we decide to give it a try. Anyway we are not in the sane state of mind because hundreds of mosquitoes bit us and still biting us. Mosquito are now also biting us through our socks also.
We filter our tea in the sieve; to our horror we find hundreds of dead mosquitoes in the strainer. It is as we made this specific tea with mosquitoes. We try drinking this tea but then insult to injury two wolves come, they begin sniffing and licking us aggressively with their wet muzzles. As I lower my cup, one aggressively put its tongues in our tea and drink it up all. Other wolf is now about to attack at the cup of Rajan and Rajan puts it down and that cup is also gone to wolves.
A camper from far away shouts at us, “Let’em do what they want or they will tear you apart.”
So we still swallow some Ledum tea. But we are in very bad shape because we are constantly tormented by mosquitoes. Area is very beautiful, we are surrounded with towering snowy mountains and we go out for a walk along with a cloud of thousands of mosquitoes, each is keen to bite us first. Lake is extremely beautiful and many swans are swimming there.
Some are very handsome black colored. A variety of swans that is called Trumpeter Swans also resides here, they make trumpet like sound and that is the only sound here in this peace. Swans mate for life so each is in a pair. There is couple of more walkers but they are wearing mosquito proof head gear. Mosquitoes are now biting us through our clothes and many are now trapped in our clothes all over us.
We want to walk but mosquitoes are tormenting us so we begin our return. I look at my watch and it is 8PM but at these latitudes it is still sunlight in the June. We are very hungry but are afraid to cook food due to those two aggressive wolves and mosquitoes. At least we were able to filter out tea but what about our daal that we are going to cook. We give up the idea of cooking daal because it takes time. We decide to cook vegetables. This time we lit up campfire so smoke may deter the mosquitoes and start our gas stove. As we fry vegetables, mosquitoes return with full vengeance and only one wolf returns. He is aggressive licking our hands with his wet muzzle. Now he tries to eat the food that is being cooked and his saliva is falling in the fry pan. He is not deterred by the hot surface of the heat of the stove. He is licking at the rim.
An idea comes to my mind while putting spices in the vegetables and he licking the pot, I put some on his muzzle and it takes a while to feel the sting and he yelps and backs up. This gives us some poise to stir our subzi. Mosquitoes are jumping in the stew and doing suicide in dozens at any given time. We can see many dead mosquito in the pot everywhere like it is kali-mirchi. They are also biting us in hundreds at any given time and we have accepted out fate. Our faces and limbs are double of their usual size. We both look scary. My main struggle is to not let any mosquito in my eyeballs. We both have inserted tissue papers in our ears because many mosquitoes went in and bit us there. Then they are entering in our noses. Mosquitoes are in our hairs and they bit us at our scalp in hundreds. Rajan is balding so his suffering is greater than mine.
Finally subzi is ready and we begin eating our food. We make all the effort to find and remove dead mosquitoes from our subzi. Now both wolves are here, they are aggressively trying to snatch it from us so we leave aside some for them but they eat very hot food in a single shot. So we also eat this very hot food very fast without worrying about mosquitoes in it so to have some food for ourselves.
Then suddenly wolves run away and we are wondering why? Now Mr. Bear comes. It is a huge grizzly bear, famous for its viciousness. He comes near us; we freeze and hold our breadth. He makes a thorough inspection of us and everything around us. Then he takes our bread and sits near us and eats it up. Then he sniffs our subzi pot but he is not interested in it. We are vegetarian so he is not much interested in vegetarian subzi.
Some sugar sachets are lying at the camping table and he eats those and then makes strange noises and walks away. Wolves returns but in a rush we try to eat subzi because most of our bread is gone to and we are still very hungry. Wolves win and we leave our pot there for them and they lick it up clean. Wolves are still hovering around in the hope they may get more food so we go out for a walk but they stay. Mosquito are tormenting us so we cut short our walk but return and now wolves are also gone away. I take pots to the lake to wash these and Rajan packs up all cooking gear back into the car trunk.
First day in Alaska does not go well and we are very hungry in the wilderness.
We are not in the physical shape to do anything else but only to retreat in our tent and many mosquitoes have made their way inside. It is 10PM and still afernoon here. An old lady comes to us all wrapped in the mosquito gear. She saw from here recreational vehicle about what happened to us. She invites us in her RV for some food and we gladly accept.
She gives us their leftover food, some chicken, bread, roasted potatoes and we gladly accept anything that is vegetarian. Their RV smells heavily with mosquito repellent. She and her husband are camping here for a week. They say that is it a mosquito territory but Stewart and Hydra are mosquito free. Each day they go to some rivers for fishing and those places too are mosquito free. Otherwise Alaska is famous for low marsh mosquitoes and they are known to kill many people.
When we leave to return to our tent, a small wolf pup appears and he is constantly barking at us and following us. Lady gave us bread and we offer it to pup and it eats it very fast but still following us. We enter in our tent and pup is ceaselessly barking outside so we get out and take another walk, pup is still following us and barking. Luckily mosquitoes are less aggressive at this time.
We take a long walk to get rid of barking pup but it is following us and also ceaselessly barking. May be he lost his mother. Finally we return to our tent and pup is outside barking for hours. We don’t remember when we fell to sleep. We were very tired because we drove 1000 kilometers that day.
We wake up next morning and we don’t dare to make tea. Rajan goes to lavatories but mosquito almost killed him there so he aborted his attempt and ran screaming. We pack up our belongings in our car and wolf pup reappears and begins barking.
We run from this place and pup is chasing our car for some distance till we enter on the main road and speed away towards to secret town of Hydra.
Rajan’s wife calls him and he informs her that we ate Aaloo-Gobi-Mosquitoes-subzi and it was delicious. They must try this in their home.
There are still hundreds of mosquitoes in our car and also in our clothes and time and again they bite us.
I slap at my face to kill a mosquito.
Rajan says, “Man, have some self respect. You always slap at your face.”
“You always eat mosquitoes.”
“You look like potato.”
“And you,” I say, “You look like sweet potato.”
“Why you were doing Pom Pom dance, outside the bathrooms.”
“Oh! that was not dance; I was killing mosquitoes on my butt and head.”
“I don’t think so.”
We drive towards Hyder along the lake and a wall of huge glacier at the other bank of lake..