In episode three, Alexander begins the final leg of his journey by flying over the Canadian arctic over the Yukon and Klondike regions, which experienced a gold rush at the beginning of the 20th century. At Canada’s Great Slave Lake, he boards a 1956 Bombardier with tank tracks and skis, which transports him to the settlement close to the north shore of the lake.
Alexander meets Daniel Gillis and Monique Robert who came to the lake five years ago from Ottowa, to run a floating B&B. In addition to running the B&B, Monique has a successful side line as a painter.
Monique explains: “Work is very good here. Jobs are more plentiful than down south. So people have more income to spend on painting and the arts in general. There are people from all over the world here. They want to experience the north in as frontier a situation as possible, so they’re off grid mostly except for the cords running to their shacks.”
After being taught how to ice-skate by Daniel, Alexander heads off to Dawson City, at the heart of the region. Checking into the infamous Bombay Peggy hotel, a former house of ill repute, he is given the key to the ‘Lipstick Room’.
Alexander says: “Dawson is a bit of a revelation. It is, in every detail, exactly what I was expecting a gold rush town to look like. If you listen hard, you can almost hear the ghostly piano playing downstairs and maybe a few chairs being broken over people’s heads. I think I’m going to have a fantastic time here.”
With the price of gold topping $1000 an ounce since 2008, the city is experiencing a second wave of gold fever and Alexander meets Denys Sevigny, who has been prospecting in the hills for 12 years. Alexander is surprised at the high value of the gold when Denys shows him a small amount in the palm of his hand.
Denys says: “Well this here, I would say is probably close to a quarter ounce, maybe ten grams. So close to $600 bucks.”
Alexander then climbs into the deep shaft Denys has dug to find some gold and has a go on his jack hammer.
Alexander says: “This is very addictive Denys. I tell you, I’m happy down here, if you want to go and get a bite or something I’ll just keep it going.”
That evening Alexander heads into town to try the ‘Sourtoe cocktail’, originally said to have contained an amputated toe from a frost bitten miner in the 1920’s. Local, Terry Lee, pours Alexander his drink and says: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch this gnarly toe. To your lips Alexander.”
Leaving Dawson City, Alexander then heads over to Alaska to meet a couple who have turned their backs on a modern consumer lifestyle, for a way of life more connected to nature and their surroundings.
David and Jenna are trying to live as far off the grid as possible. They built their own cabin in the woods and for the last two years have hunted for their own food and made their own clothes.
Jenna explains: “I grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan, so very different from this. And Michigan is a great place I just I had something in me that wanted to live a little bit more directly involved with the processes around.”
Alexander spends 24 hours in the Alaskan wilderness with them, in a real test of his ability to survive at sub-zero temperatures without the trappings of the 21st century. During his time with them Alexander helps to skin caribou legs, eats beaver cooked on a campfire and spends the night sleeping under canvas in temperatures of minus 30 degrees, whilst watching the northern lights.
In the morning Alexander says: “I feel great, principally because I’ve made it through the night. Of the three nights I’ve spent in the Arctic under canvas this was definitely the best. It’s cold though. You don’t really sleep, and you have a nose that streams horrifically all night. It’s really hard work. I have respect for these guys.”
Heading back into civilisation and towards his final destination on the Russian border, Alexander joins Otis Roberts for a journey along the Dalton Highway, a road so dangerous that truckers frequently need to be guided by experienced ‘pilots’ like Otis. Built in 1974, the road services the Alaskan oil pipe line and is the only road in the world to extend all the way to the Arctic ocean.
Alexander says: “I’m at the Hilltop Truckers Stop at the bottom of the Dalton Highway. Behind me on the boards you can see little memorial plaques to all the truckers who’ve given their lives to the Dalton Highway. It’s quite dangerous, I’m a little bit scared. Luckily I have a Dalton pilot to accompany me.”
On the journey the two men encounter a small accident involving some tourists and a more serious one, where a tanker has broken loose from its cab and careered off the road.
Otis says: “Another day on the Dalton. Well actually just another moment.”
Waving goodbye to Otis at Coldfoot, the only source of gas, food and lodging for 250 miles around, Alexander then boards a flight with pilot Todd Mackinaw, who flies supplies to the remote mountain settlements in the area.
When asked what he transports, Todd explains: “People, building materials, food, sled dogs, dead bodies, frozen seals, just about anything you can imagine. You know if you could cram it into a truck or a van we can cram it into this airplane.”
Alexander brings a precious cargo of takeaway pizzas to the Inpupiat people, in the Anaktuvuk Pass. There are no passable roads into or out of Anaktuvuk and even vehicles need to be flown in by cargo plane.
The Inupiat have lived in this inhospitable terrain for millennia and local guide Kevin Benke gives Alexander a tour of the local pilgrim hot springs.
Kevin explains: “It was a sacred spot for the Shamans just because of the natural healing of the waters. So they felt as one to the earth the way a Shaman should.”
Entering the hot springs for a therapeutic dip with Kevin, Alexander says: “That is absolutely fantastic, it’s really hot. I was thinking this would be sort of tepid. This water, it’s got a very sulphurous smell to it. I mean it does smell a bit like sewage water, if you didn’t know better.”
Finally, Alexander flies by helicopter to the extreme edge of America, the island of Little Diomede. Just over 100 people live on the wind blown western shore and the temperatures can reach a bone chilling minus 60 degrees.
Looking over to Big Diomede, owned by Russia, Alexander says: “This is where our journey ends. Over there is Big Diomede. Geographically very close, in terms of time it is literally a world away. At the moment it is 1pm on Saturday here, over there it is 1pm on Sunday. And the channel between us is the international date line. This is where the sun finally sets.”