The generosity of Americans towards travelers is well documented but when you experience it first hand it’s still like being in your own Disney film. We hit up the Seward music festival, which took place in a giant hall on the quayside in between piles of coal and fish factories. All the locals were penned in the ‘beer garden’ to the side of the stage, where a bunch of hairy people played folk and rock music. Those that had escaped the pen were dancing like Thunderbirds with their strings cut. It was brilliant. The beer on offer, indeed the beer we’ve drunk all over the state has been pretty exceptional – microbreweries are everywhere, with the most popular drink being a ‘Scottish Red,’ which bares no resemblance to anything I’ve consumed in Scotland but goes down like a well-greased otter. At the festival we got talking to a couple of teachers called Marc and Letty Swanson. Marc obviously liked the cut of our jib and promptly invited us and the Germans round their place for breakfast the next day. We’re not sure how much of a say Letty had in the matter but first thing the next morning we were puling up their drive on Lancelot Lane (all the streets in Seward were King Arthur orientated) and tucking into freshly caught salmon and pancakes. Before we could dab our mouths clean, Marc announced that he was going to take us on a little hike. And so up to Exit Glacier we went, scrambling above the huge mass of ice and up to the Harding Ice Field from where it spilled from. By this point, Marc, with top off, bandana and shades on and becoming more and more like Alaska’s answer to Rambo, exclaimed his astonishment at how much the glacier had receded in just a year. “Global warming?” I proffered. “Ya, but this baby’s been going backwards for over a century, however now there’s not even any fresh snow up here, it’s gonna do well to last another ten years!” Feeling a little lucky to see such a phenomenon in it’s final throes, we traipsed back to the Swanson pad for salmon and beef burgers, beer and more stories from Marc and Letty, who are pretty typical Alaskans in that they have seemingly done everything ever and faced certain death several times. We left in high spirits but feeling a little guilty; this guy had just given up his whole day to feed and entertain us! All we could offer in return was a promise we’d look after them if they ever visited Scotland. Seeing as Alaska is basically a massive, more stunning Scotland I’m not sure how likely this is. Here was the view and here’s the family:
So onwards to Homer we went, where a wee documentary film festival was kicking off. The whole village seemed to be into it so we obliged and checked out a couple of flicks, one on a bloke who travelled round the States recording street musicians and the other about the last days in Saigon in 1975. I would happily grant both of them 4 stars. The worst thing about the cinema experience was seeing what they do to their popcorn over here. I asked about flavours and the guy said their “Yeast Extract Flavouring was unbelievable!” Yes it was unbelievable. It tasted like rotten soap. Each colonel was coated in this stuff, which was clearly overspill from a redundant bakery. The popcorn would have tasted better with road grit.
Things are definitely closing down for winter now. The only hostel in Homer had shut up shop so we stayed in the Heritage Hotel, which felt a bit like staying in a closed down leisure centre. With the sun still beating down from a cloudless sky (I laugh in the face of the ‘Alaskan Winter!) we took the very long walk along the Homer Spit, which juts out for miles into a vast bay ringed with mountains.
Sea otters drifted by like furry lilos (seriously they just float on their backs all day) and we grabbed some elk meatloaf at the Land’s End Restaurant. Well G and Zabrina did. G said it was one of the best meals he’d ever had. I took the advice of the waitress and went for the buffalo chicken burger, which tasted like every other chicken burger I’ve ever had. Minimum tip for her! That night the bar we were in closed down temporarily so everyone could rush outside and see the Northern Lights. Just a flicker this time but we’ve been promised the real deal in Tok, which is where we’re heading for now, via Anchorage. Incidentally, another guy we met at the Seward music festival is putting us up in Anchorage – this generosity thing’s a good gig!