With the visa problem sorted out it was time for high priority todo item number 2. Just before leaving I noticed that my left front tire had basically no profile anymore and even had some of the metal sticking out already. This is weird because the profile on the other three tires is more than fine. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m sitting above that tire and I have gotten too fat… The front right tire had a nail in it so I decided to replace that one too. Luckily I was in big city Anchorage so that should be an easy fix… Nope… Apparently this is not a standard tire size here in the US. But luckily the second shop I went to was friendly enough to call all around town to their competitors until they found one with my size tires on stock. 2 hours and 300 dollars later I was good to go again. I always proudly claim that I don’t do jet lags. Well apparently the fact that it doesn’t get dark makes me have to take that back. But this made for a good opportunity to put the van in a campground with power to charge the batteries after not being hooked up for two weeks. This was the most overpriced campsite ever. 40 bucks for a spot in a gravel parking lot. And it didn’t even have proper toilets… Just a DIXI like on a construction site. Well I made sure I used as much power and internet as I could.
Before heading north I wanted to make another stop on the Kenai Peninsula. That meant driving the same road down from Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm towards Seward that I had already driven twice. But it’s pretty and the second time it had rained so that was no problem. Driving through the Kenai Peninsula I noticed that the Salmon fishing season had clearly stared. The Kenai river was filled with people almost standing shoulder to shoulder fishing. And the bits where people couldn’t stand had boats on them. Driving down I got lucky because it was quite clear driving into Homer (something that doesn’t happen very often), which meant I could see Homer and the Homer Spit (a long sandy stripe of land sticking out of the town into the ocean filled with campsites and restaurants) lying in the ocean with mountains 360 degrees around them. I found a camping spot near the end of the Spit and spend the evening walking around the fishing boats and the beach.
From Homer you can take a boat across the water to some nice towns or just spot sea animals. But the weather decided differently so when it was raining next morning I decided I should explore the rest the Kenai Pensinsula some more. Driving back up I passed the Eastern most bit of my trip (151.84 degrees west) but I didn’t think about this until later, so no happy pictures. I stopped at an old fishing village, Ninilchik, with a nice little Russian Orthodox church on a hill overlooking the village. The church is over 100 years old, which is ridiculously old for Alaska. The village was filled with old, partially ruined, wooden houses in tall grass. Great for some pictures. At the middle of the Peninsula I found a dirt road zigzagging along a bunch of lakes that would join the main road some 30 km later. There are basic campsites and hikes at many of these lakes. I tried the campsite at Engineer Lake (yes, just because of the name) first but it had too many mosquitos. The campsite at Skilak lake was much better and the walk along the lake pretty nice too (by now I have seen hundreds of forest lakes).
Rain was predicted for the next day so the plan was to drive up past Anchorage in the direction of Denali. Luckily the weather disagreed in the other direction this time and the weather was perfectly sunny. I first made a stop for a quick walk to a viewpoint over the Kenai River Canyon. The activity for the day was the Fuller Lake Trail. A 11 km hike going steep up the mountains towards again two pretty mountain lakes. It was a nice hike and I spotted some bald eagles. On the turning point of the hike I met two American couples who were also on their way down. Best quote: “I can hear from your accent that you are not from around here… Are you from Anchorage?”. We stopped back at the first lake for lunch. One of the guys had just bought a fly-fishing-rod so he tried that out on the lake while the rest of us commented on how to do it better. At some point he noticed he had lost the hook and the bait, probably in the bushes behind him, probably more than 5 minutes earlier. This ended up filling most of the day so I spend another night at the Kenai Penisnula at another campground at another lake.
I had also decided it was a bad plan to not push the van too much with mountains. If it wasn’t going to make it I’d better figure it out near a bigger city (Anchorage this time) than only when I’ll get to the Andes. Here I can drive around the mountains, there I won’t be able to. I had heard there was pass north of Anchorage that you could take as an alternate route on your way to Denali. So I gave it a go. Good news! The road gave up before the van did! Turns out the last bit of the pass was closed for construction. As the famous saying goes here: In Alaska there are four seasons: early winter, winter, late winter and construction season. Anyway, the bit that I could drive was steep but the views were great. No problem for the van. By now I had not had a shower in some 4 days (the campsites didn’t have any) and it was getting pretty smelly in the car. Campsite with shower it is. Well… turns out the shower was an additional 4 dollars… in quarters… But you get 12 minutes of hot water. I don’t need 12 minutes. I can easily shower in three. But the shower refused to give me any water for less than 16 coins. So I showered for 12 minutes.
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