I had the opportunity to travel to Bethel this week to teach at a youth camp. Bethel is a larger village about 340 miles west of Anchorage that is only accessible by boat or plane. There are approximately 6000 residents in Bethel but many more live in the 56 surrounding villages that lie along the banks of the Yukon-Kuskokwim River.
After waking up at 5am and having my flight delayed 3 hours (due to fog) I arrived in Bethel ready to teach 10 high school kids about rocks, minerals and mining. They students weren’t as excited to see me as I was to see them. The thing with the Native culture is this… they don’t speak, they don’t make eye contact and they sure as heck don’t want to wake up at 6am to listen to me blabber on about the importance of rocks and minerals in their lives. Regardless of this little setback, I brought them out of their shells and had them doing some fun activities. After about 3 hours, they had to get ready to leave for Donlin Creek Gold Mine where they were to spend the rest of the week learning about a gold mine and the careers associated with the mine. I said my farewells and wondered what the heck I was going to do with myself for 5 hours until my flight..
As I was pondering where I could possibly take a nap, Kurt (a man I met months ago who has since joined my product development committee) told me to pack my bags because I was going to Donlin too. He told me it was a 50 minute flight one way and I’d go up with the students and then come back with the pilot. I was assured I wouldn’t miss my flight to Anchorage so away I went.
I got in our little 9 seater plane and sat in the far back seat – later to be learned was a BIG mistake. For the first 30 minutes I was in awe of the beautiful landscape and river systems that wove their way through the tundra. I had my camera readily available and was just taking in the wonders of Alaska.. until… my stomach decided it needed to be sick.. yup, I got motion sickness. As I willed myself not to throw up I felt myself getting hot and cold, hot and cold and I knew the flight wasn’t going to end soon enough. The girl in front of me did not have as strong of will as I and ended up getting sick (luckily puke bags were available). That added to my misery and I continued to count to ten and praying that the flight would soon end.. it did, with no puke bag for me!
The dirt runway that made my butt pucker and my stomach do somersaults.
(Donlin Creek Gold Mine)- it’s in permitting phase now..
After about 20 minutes of being on the ground, the pilot informed me it was time to go. I informed him I wasn’t quite ready and it would be beneficial for him (and his plane) to give me a few more minutes. He laughed and told me he would fly higher on the way back to keep out of the wind. Thank God… So away we went and it was a nice and easy ride home.
Look at the river systems through the tundra.. absolutely amazing if you ask me!