The Iditarod is an extraordinary test of endurance for man and dog and has interesting beginnings. In the winter of 1925, the tiny outpost of Nome, Alaska, was in the grip of a deadly diphtheria outbreak. Serum was desperately needed, and the only way it could be sourced was by tough men and their equally-tough sled dogs.
They travelled regularly to Seward and Knik on the coast, interior mining camps at Flat, Ophiri and Ruby and the west coast communities Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. They took in supplies and mail, and took out gold and furs destined for Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Today's annual Iditarod began in 1973 and is a commemoration of those days. It covers 1850km of some of the world's toughest and most beautiful terrain, all under the celestial canopy of the Northern Lights. The course has it all jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra and spruce forests and kilometres of windswept coast. As if that's not enough, throw in sub-zero temperatures, blizzards often causing whiteout and offering a windchill of -75ºC, plus hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and heart-stopping climbs.
The so-called "Last Great Race on Earth" starts in Anchorage in Alaska's south centre and goes to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast in even years, and the other way in odd years. Changing the route has three reasons: the northern villages of Ruby, Galena and Nulato only have to deal with large groups of mushers, press and volunteers every other year; the race is able to pass through the actual ghost town of Iditarod; the villages of Shageluk, Anvik and Grayling are able to participate in the race.
Teams of 12 to 16 dogs and their mushers take 10 to 17 days to cover the course. Mushers come from all walks of life and a huge variety of professions. The yearly field of over 50 mushers and around 1000 dogs is largely Alaskan, but there have been competitors from 14 other countries. Each has their own reason for attempting the distance and all enjoy celebrity treatment when the race is on.
The race is organised and run primarily by volunteers, thousands of them, men and women, students and village residents. They act as checkers, co-ordinators and family supporters of each musher.
Appropriate clothing is of paramount importance. The Getaway crew was kept safe and warm in clothing provided by Mountain Designs. They have gear for every activity, suitable for everything needed in the wildest and coldest conditions on earth.
From Anchorage to Nome.
Ultimate Tours Peru has a five-day trek to the Choquequirao Ruins, starting
Iditarod is run in Alaska every March.
Alaska Bound has a four-day Iditarod package, including internal flights from Anchorage, accommodation at Winterlake Lodge, meals, activities and taxes starting at $3860 per person. They depart in early March 2007. The first five bookings will receive one night's free accommodation at the Aspen Anchorage Hotel before departing for Winterlake Lodge. Alaska Bound offers a full range of travel options in summer and winter to Alaska and Canada.
Air New Zealand has return flights to Los Angeles. Valid for sale until December 9, 2006, and for travel between July 18 and December 9, 2006. Taxes are included.
- Sydney, $1711
- Melbourne, $1792
- Brisbane, $1794
- Adelaide, $2011
- Darwin, $2219
- Perth, $2263
Alaska Airlines flies three times a day between Anchorage and Nome. Peninsula Airways flies once a day between Anchorage and McGrath. Mountain Designs has store locations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
For further information
14a/1-16 Tramore Place
Killarney Heights 2087
Ph: 1300 650 481
Fax: (02) 9453 3463
Alaska Travel Industry Association
Ph: (02) 9244 2317
Ph: 0011 1 907 243 2323
Ph: (07) 3114 4300