Reindeer are herded in Swedish Lapland. For the untrained, it is difficult to distinguish between male and female reindeer. Unlike other cervids, female reindeer also grow antlers which they use in spring to defend their young from predators.
Alaska – Fact Check

How viagra impacted the reindeer market

Photo by Top-Pics TBK

Alaska – Fact Check How viagra impacted the reindeer market

When I travel to Teller, one of Nome’s outlying villages inhabited by the Inupiak people, I take Richard as my guide, a man who is knowledgeable about Alaska and a real character. His wish to be an actor is evident in the dramatic way he tells his stories.

Kate Eshelby
Kate Eshelby Travel Writer

“The far North saved my life. I restarted my life in Alaska, as many do. I bought a one-way ticket to Anchorage and from there headed to Nome. At first I was a salesman, before setting up my tour company. I’ll never forget my grandma’s words flooding back to me – she once told me I had such a gift of the gab that one day I would end up selling freezers to Eskimos and years later that is exactly what I was doing.”

We walk through the summer tundra, which unrolls a carpet of wild flowers. “Over 2,000 species of wildflowers grow on the Seward peninsula,” Richard says. The tundra is a botanical world in miniature, made up of numerous shades of green, colors that are beginning to turn as autumn paints its hue. While we walk, I observe its beautiful intricacies: a pattern on a rock or a small flower pushing through the ground. It is alive with Arctic poppies, purple dwarf fireweed and Eskimo potato plants. The light is strange and mystical, shrouding the beckoning mountains, streams rush through and the vast openness beyond is soothing and alluring.

We drive to Teller, passing tors and uplifted mountains carved by glaciation. There are next to no man-made structures, the road is remote and self-sufficiency is essential because there are no shops or gas stations. Brooks babble, and pink salmon leap from rivers. Birds are everywhere; ptarmigan, blue throats and Arctic warblers. Coastal grizzlies and fox prowl this land, beaver lodges perch on lakes and we pass an abandoned pen for reindeer herding. “Reindeer are not native here, they originally came from Scandinavia. Their antlers were used as an aphrodisiac and sold to the Chinese but viagra has impacted the market,” Richard says.

Teller is a small town of 260 built on a bleak spit. We visit Norbert, an Inupiak who lives with his sister, Sarah, the village postmistress. Their home, built of wooden slats, has no flushing toilet and they use ice melt water for their bath. “We used to live in the village of Mary’s Igloo but bears kept breaking our house so we moved here,” says Norbert. Children cycle along the rough track between the weathered houses, and boats, old pick-ups and barbecues sit outside.

Teller is surrounded by beach, along which fish hang to dry, ready for the winter ahead. One woman walks along searching for tusks from dead walruses, which she will carve and sell. Alaskan natives are the only people who are still allowed to hunt walrus, seal and whales. Jo, one of Alaska’s most famous husky dog trainers, lives in Teller. His beautiful dogs strain on their boxes, keen to get out on a run.

The following day I walk through the Kigluaik Mountains, with views of glistening rivers gliding through vast plains and snow-capped peaks, and steam rising from hot springs, blissful to sit in despite the cold outside. That evening I go to Breakers, one of Nome’s saloons. Nome is known for its epic drinking, intensified by its extreme life. As one local jokes: “This is a drinking town with a mining problem.”

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