- The flight Brussels - Anchorage
was arranged by United Airlines.
It was the cheapest we could find that time (May 1996 : about 29000
BEF). We had two stops (Washington, Seattle) and the connections between
the flights were good. A direct flight from Frankfurt to Anchorage
exists, but is unaffordable and you need to get in Frankfurt as well.
- The period can be important
for the success of the trip. We wen the first three weeks of June when
the mosquitoes aren't very active yet. Also, the (mostly American)
tourists arrive in the second half of June. That difference was clearly
visible between the first and the last day in Anchorage.
- The weather is of course not
predictable, but the Interior is clearly warmer has less rain than the
costal regions. But we had also rain in Dawson and sunshine Prince
William Sound, so...
- The lodging was all arranged
in advance by a Belgian tour operator (Divantoura). Nobody could
garantee us that we could find a room without reservation on the spot.
The offer of motels and hotels was in fact higher than expected and
moreover, the high season only starts around June 15th.
- With a creditcard (we had VISA)
you can pay almost everywhere. The few places where we couldn't
use a creditcard was i.e. the remote hamburger snack near Stewart
- Camping was not our
intention (except for the canoe trip). We were also told that
reservations had to be made for a campingsite, but those we passed were
not really crowded. Camping outside those sites was dissuaded (bears !!??).
- We found a lot of practical
information in The Milepost. This yearly almanac is really worth
its price. Every little village of Alaska and Yukon is described (see
& Links ). Buy it when you arrive, so you can make the
most advantage of it !
- Eating is for Americans (and
Canadians) generally an elementary necessity, nothing more.
Of course, the restaurants are good, but don't expect 'haute cuisine'.
Dining habits are different than in Europe, i.e. an empty plate is taken
away even if not everyone at the table has finished. Prices are
acceptable (for European standards) if you don't ask an exotic dish.
- Don't stay too long in Anchorage.
The most important are the two Visitor Centers on 4th Avenue. In
general, it"s worth to take a look in the visitor centre when you
arrive somewhere. A chat with the person in charge can be very
- Talkeetna is worth the
detour, just to feel the vibes of the expeditions to the Mt.Kinley that
start from here. If Alice is still in the museum, say hello from us !
- Denali National Park is of
course a must, provided that you can do it on your own. Buy a
ticket for the green 'shuttle' busses that drive between the park
entrance and Wonder Lake. You can get on and off whenever you
want, so you can walk a part when the weather is nice. Leave early
in the morning, when the wildlife is the most active. Besides,
time goes fast when observing the animals. Information can be
found in the Denali Visitor Center at the park entrance. Pay a
visit the day before visiting the park, so you don't waste time.
Your ticket must be bought even a couple of days before (look at the Reservations
page of the Denali Summer Times or the Denali
Bus Tour Information of the Denali Website Visitor Center).
- The rental car was booked at Alamo
through the travel agency in Belgium. We choose a 'mid-size' car,
which is slightly more expensive than the 'compact' level. By chance the
'midsize' was out of stock and we got a 'fullsize' : a Chevrolet Lumina
(comparable to an Audi A6). They tried to sell us some supplementary
insurances, but they can't force you.
- If you drive long distances (and in
most cases you have to), than air-conditioning is not a luxery. And
most cars have it anyway.
- The highways are mostly
wide, asphalted 2-lane roads where the maximum speed is 55 mph (about 85 km/h).
This is fast enough to enjoy the landscape. We didn't try to drive
faster to see what could happen ...
- The less important roads are
smaller and only hardened, so called 'gravel highways'.
Anyway, you drive slower as bumps and holes are abounded. In dry
condition these roads are very dusty, so keep the windows closed (air-conditioning
will help a lot when it's warm that day). Most car rental
companies don't allow you to use these roads. The fact is that the
insurance does not cover damage incurred on those roads. Unless
the car breaks down on such a road, no one can prove that you got the
damage on that road.
- Make a habit to refuel every
morning at the first gas station you find. So you won't get that
annoying surprise ! The Milepost indicates most gas stations but
this doesn't mean that they are open.
- A canoe trip is really a
once-in-a-lifetime experience. We hadn't done it before, but after
a one-day instruction we could start on a Class II river. A guide
is not necessary, but it takes the stress away : he takes care of the
preparations, he looks for a good camping site, he knows the place and
what to encounter. Meanwhile, you can enjoy nature in every aspect.
- A canoe makes it possible to
cross a relatively large area and is not as tiring as backpacking. A lot
of luggage can be put away : we had a quite large gas stove, some
coolboxes for food and beverages (even wine), drinking water, camping
chairs, etc ...
- Always take along drinking water,
how unspoilt nature can look, water from the rivers is NOT drinkable or
it is at least dissuaded to use it. Giardia Lambdia, a
parasite can cause a lot of trouble (stomachache, diarrhea, nausea, etc...)
and should be treated as quick as possible.
- If you are interested in the Goldrush
then you should visit Skagway and Dawson, the starting point and the
final destination of the sourdoughs from the 19th century. Skagway is
interesting if you don't arrive between a load of cruise ship tourists ...
- Wildlife is everywhere, but
patience and luck are necessary. It implies that you need to be on
the right place at the right time. You may walk around for days in
the 'bush' and never see an animal, or you can see a bear crossing the
street from your car.