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Dave and Jan's travels, day 31:
Denali to Fairbanks

19th June
Up early, to the sound of rain falling on the roof of the tent. There's nothing quite like breaking camp in the rain to give camping a bad name. The sin was multiplied by the subsequent passing of four or five full buses.

Still, we did eventually get on a bus and had one last ride, complete with bears again, two hairy marmots (very cuddly creatures) and a willow ptarmigan. The last is the state bird - a surprising choice if you ask me, but I suppose when you're the 49th state a lot of the good ones are already gone.

Then we drove unremarkably to Fairbanks. Fairbanks is the nearest thing to a typical US town that Alaska has offered us so far. For the benefit of our non-US readers, typical in this context involves a dispiriting "strip" of uniformly unimaginative and ugly concrete buildings, all the same, even down to the chains that own them. To complete our anonymous experience we checked into the Super 8 motel and ate at Pizza hut.

Up the next morning, to discover Fairbanks. I have to say that first impressions were not changed at second sight: it's a grotty town. To be fair, the Lonely Planet guide specifically warns against this being the impression you'd get from a "first glance": but I did look twice.

One exception to all this is the University. This boasts a spectacular museum, which includes a fascinating series of exhibits on glaciers, the aurora borealis, and other points of interest. Fortunately for you, I choose not to share this knowledge with all of you.

The University also has a botanical garden - where they grow things like six inch radishes in those twenty hour days - and a large animal research institute, where they have reinbou and carideer. They also have musk ox, possibly the ugliest animal I've ever seen.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

A fairly unphotogenic passage this, so no relevant photographs. By way of compensation, here's a beautiful close-up of a cuddly sea-otter (well, OK, it might be Jan impersonating one, but who can tell the difference?).