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PANGEA ONE WORLD EXPEDITION

An overland journey from the Arctic to Antarctic

by

Akhil Bakshi

Watso, a half native Alaskan Indian, drove me 20km through the Prudoe Bay oilfields to the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Hearing of my four-month Pangea One World Expedition that would take me overland from the Arctic to Antarctic, he quipped: "Are you pioneering another wave of migration from Asia to the Americas?" -  referring to his Mongoloid forefathers who came, unknown thousands of years ago, in waves from East Asia, crossing the Bering Strait, when it was dry land, to inhabit the Americas.

Where the land ended, at latitude 70 degrees north, at the rim of North America, I was 500km further north of the Arctic Circle. Forty km of shallow, frigid waters separated me from the Arctic Ice Cap. Though the wind was at rest it was bitterly cold. Wetting my hands in the Arctic waters made them instantly red and swollen. Turning my back on the Arctic, I commenced my 36,000km journey to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America.


On
a wet September morning I hit the Dalton Highway, a 662km track, mostly gravel, incredibly built in five summer months of 1974 to access oil that was discovered in 1968 at Prudoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope. The raised track, made slushy by rain, ran through an endless expanse of tundra dominated by the grass-like sedge. Here and there, some geese, swans and seagulls sailed or waded in the innumerable ponds and water bodies that dot the frozen land. Giving company to the road was the Sagavanirktok River and the elevated pipeline that, now and then, disappeared under the tundra.

After a night's sojourn in Fairbanks, I left by Alaska Railroad's glass-domed Denali Star for the spectacular 200km journey into the Denali National Park. It was rutting season for moose and caribou and Denali was full of energy. Driving over 200km in the broad expanse  of the park, it's floor carpeted with wild flowers and berries, and black and white spruce and yellow birch glowing in blazing autumn colours, and glaciers sweeping down snowy, shimmering mountains, my eyes feasted on nature's living tapestry.

From Homer, on the western coast of Alaska, a local ferry took me, over six days, to Bellingham, near Seattle, through spectacular fjords. In stormy weather the Gulf of Alaska was heaving and sighing. On most days the vessel was rolling and pitching, rising and falling, diving into the troughs and leaping over the waves. The rough sea gave us no respite.

 

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