Yesterday afternoon was so much fun! During the teacher training going on at school, Nick came to find me to see if I was up for going out to where he goes chipping ice after school. It sounded pretty good, and meant I got a chance to ride a snowmobile too. Been up here a month and hadn’t had a chance to ride one myself! The school snowmobile is a 500cc Ski-Doo and was very similar to riding a motorbike, except the throttle isn’t twisting but a small lever on the inside for your thumb like a brake lever.
Was cool riding out of the village to chip ice, which is literally driving a metal stake into the ice to chip pieces off then collecting them into big plastic drums to thaw out back at home. It’s quite a lot of work, but 10 minutes or so filled up 5 x 32 gallon drums which works out to about 100 gallons or so once thawed. Do it a couple of times a week and you’re set, and will give a lot cleaner water than from the school (or 25c / gallon from the local water provider!), but the school is building a new water purifying station right next to the well sometime in the next week or two which will make things a lot better.
After we brought the ice back to Nick’s house, we headed out again so Nick could show me some of the trails around the village. I didn’t realise they were building a new airport (it’s not like the current one puts planes into holding patterns because it’s so busy!), but the runway is much longer and wider so bigger planes will be able to land, both for cargo and passengers. You won’t be looking at jets landing anytime soon, but the idea seems to be that since a lot of people pass through Bethel just to get to Anchorage, 8-10 people could get together and charter a plane direct from Tunt to Anchorage for the same price as going via Bethel, but you get there in 1 1/2 hours direct as opposed to waiting for one of only 3 flights a day to Anchorage.
Driving around some of the trails and keeping an eye out ptarmigan or foxes was fun, not so much in terms of wanting to actual shoot something, just riding round on the snowmobiles 🙂 Taking the video was pretty good, though is very bumpy riding round the edges of the lakes even just doing 20mph or so. Going along the new runway and the flats coming back into the village Nick would shoot off as his snowmobile gets up to 90mph or so, but I topped out at 55mph which is about all the school snowmobile will do – that still feels ridiculously fast bouncing along across the tundra!
But, ended up being out for a good hour or so and feel really comfortable on the snowmobile now. Was surprising how easy it was to pick up after riding motorbikes for a few years, and also how it wasn’t as dis-orientating as I thought it would be out on the tundra. When the weather comes in, sure, it’s just white everywhere, but in clear weather like yesterday you’d have to head a long way out of the village and not be paying any attention to get lost!