I’m not sure where I’m going with this particular blog. I could easily come across as a moaning, deep, reflective old goat whilst trying to confess a point that’s been bothering me more and more over the last few weeks. The subject of my increasingly frenzied frustration is Mickey Mouse.
Like everyone I loved Mickey when I was a kid. I watched Mickey and Minnie and I watched the others too. Many years later, the previous Mrs Ungless and I took our daughters to Mickey Mouse’s heartland in Florida and, totally overwhelmed, I booked the same trip the following year too. We had a marvellous and memorable time. I was a Disney convert and eagerly sang along with the Mickey Mouse chorus loving every minute, riding ‘It’s A Small World’ over and over again with my own adoring kids. Somewhere since then everything changed…
Along the way I lost my marriage and maybe I lost my kids too. My little girl I didn’t understand died and I set off on my adventure on my boat, to escape, finding time to meet and marry my Marie along the way. We’ve had a magical time together rebuilding our shattered lives. We somehow morphed into lonely adventurers and hardcore sailors, travellers always seeking something strangely elusive. Old map makers used to say there were only dragons and demons at the end of the world but, having been to the very edge, there’s Mickey Mouse too.
Last year Marie and me left New Zealand to make an incredibly hard journey. We’d already sailed halfway around the world to get there but, this time, we decided to sail the world’s largest ocean both west to east and between the two hemispheres as well, south to north… over nine thousand miles. The pacific gives everything, exotic islands, desolate landfalls, powerful storms and the mythical edge of the world. We set off to find our way home knowing there would be every chance we’d never make it at all.
We learned we had a tough boat and somehow we got ourselves north. We got to Alaska. The land of hard men, rough women, intrepid explorers, the Klondike gold rush, grizzly bears and wolves and icy high mountains. Alaska is the edge of the world when you’ve sailed nine thousand miles, just the two of you, to get there.
We always kept going, determined to find the land of dragons, to see if they existed like old maps say. We did find cold winds, tall seas and incredible beauty. We found a place where strange beasts do indeed live, forcing our way into Tracy Arm, through misty fog and massive rip tide currents, through grey whirlpools, torrential rain, glaciers with snowy mountain tops hidden by black clouds. This, I thought, must be the very edge of the world where you find monsters and demons and the devil himself.
And then, through the horrible damp and grey mists, Mickey Mouse. There he was, plain as day. The Disney World is the third largest cruise ship yet built and Mickey is painted along the funnel and down the sides. On the decks were thousands of absurd tourists wearing their bright yellow free issue plastic Mickey Mouse capes to protect them from the rain and wild weather of the arctic north. Of course, I don’t know if the capes were free issue or not.
Here was my demon, just as the map makers drew on their ancient charts, where they said they would be. I was in the right place. The last time I saw Mickey Mouse I was laughing and jumping with my own three kids who loved their dad like nothing else. That love goes away when life twists and turns and kicks them in the guts. When you do stupid things you wished you’d never done. When the young girls and women you’ve hurt smile a knowing smile…
There are thirty two of the world’s largest cruise ships plying the fjords and wild inlets of south east Alaska. There’s a second big Disney ship somewhere around with Minnie Mouse. The wilderness here is not our wilderness and it does not belong to us. There are no gold diggers who pan the wild rivers, no more explorers or raw adventurers making their way through deep snows, hunting critters to eat a night-time campfire meal. They are long gone. Those who come nowadays sleep well in their beds every night.
But there are beasts and demons hiding in the grey mists, marked for all to see. They’ll never take up and leave and let you be.
Dave & Marie Ungless are currently sailing their boat Sänna around the world from west to east. Their nine year voyage so far has taken them into the North Pacific and to Alaska where they are now located. Dave is a freelance writer and journalist writing about their travels and the social aspects of their journey.
You can also Like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sv.sanna.