Cruise Day 5? Ketchikan 

22nd September 

I seem to have accidently deleted my last couple of days writing, probably trying to upload it using the woefully inadequate WiFi here. 

So the abbreviated version is that the last two days have been spent sailing between Skagway and Juneau, then to Ketchikan. We’ve missed a lot of scenery sailing overnights and having the days in port. 


Really pretty towns, but you know me, I’d rather be at sea. Not much of a shopper. I will say the towns are beautifully maintained and traditional. 

The weather has been incredible till this afternoon. Pouring now. We sail at 1730ish today, for Vancouver. Shane and I get a bridge visit in the morning, thanks to my new friend and our captain, Michele.  It’s very good of him to humour a fellow sailor. 
We’ve seen Humpback and Orca whales, sea lions and seals, dolphins and sea birds galore. 

The bridge visit was awesome. I got serious tech envy, especially over their radar. You could pretty much solely navigate from it, lol.   

Captain Michele Tuvo and myself!  

 

Cruise Day 4 – Juneau 

It’s the 21st I think, and we’ll be letting go our lines soon, leaving Juneau. We had dinner last night with our new found friends, which was more than a few laughs. They decided to watch a movie about 9pm,so I  headed to bed,to be lazy and read my book. At 1035 I poked my head out into the balcony, as the CO had said we should be passing Point Retreat lighthouse about then. Bingo, there it was, blinking happily in the clear night. Good NavO!

I did not sleep. We won’t dwell on that. My coughing kept me awake, drat it. This morning I wandered into town to hunt out some half way decent WiFi. Limited success but enough to get off a couple of blogs and, hopefully, a happy birthday to Mum. 

I returned to the ship for lunch and a nana nap, no luck again, so now have eyes like the proverbial in the snow!! Not good, as I have a visit to the bridge, thanks to our kind captain taking pity on a cheeky kiwi lass!! Should be cool.   

0600 22nd Sept 

I didn’t get my visit to the bridge with Michele in the end, as the fog rolled in and he was preoccupied with ship safety, naturally. But the bridge secretary rang me to say he’d be in touch with other plans. It’s very good of him to humour a fellow sailor! 

I had a wine with Jason, then joined Shane and the others for dinner. But my head was full off flu, in spite of the fireball Earl bought me!! It’s a spicy cinnamon whisky and damned good too!! I bailed, took a cocktail of drugs to combat symptoms and sleeplessness, and crashed. Slept till 0530 thank God, so will hopefully feel better today. 

It’s been a windy night and the ship could actually be felt to move, lol. But it’s so stable you hardly know you’re at sea. It has four huge diesel electric rotatable props, so is very manoeuvrable for such a massive vessel. We’re coming in to Ketchikan for the day. I’d rather be at sea.   

Alongside Ketchikan! Coffee in the Internet Cafe. Weak WiFi!! 

Cruise Day 3.

Tuesday 20th September. 

Yesterday was magnificent. Again. We’ve been so lucky with the weather. Apparently it’s unseasonably clear and sunny. 

I paid for my sins somewhat during the morning, not with standing I’m full of a head cold, dammit. Had a ton of fun with a very nice guy from Arizona, Jason, who was on his own too. He’s here with his mum and aunt so we exchanged stories of home over a few bevvies and danced the night away. He said he didn’t dance, so I said, I’ll teach you, knock back that bourbon and let’s go!! He did very well. I’ve no idea what time I got back to the room but Shane says I was still out at 0130. Not a bad effort! 

The whole day was clear as a bell and we cruised in and out of Glacier Bay and en route to Skagway. Fantastic scenery and interesting commentary from the rangers on board. We saw a colony of sea lions, the daft things all trying to bask in one small area, howling and barking at each other grumpily. 

Caught up with the Texans, Earl and Shanna, for lunch, then I left them in Shane’s care, haha, to meet up with Jason for coffee. They gave me a decent ribbing, not that I gave a flying foxtrot!! It’s just nice to have other company sometimes. I did a trip to the medical centre as well, for meds to dry up my stuffy head. You can buy pseudo ephidrine over the counter here, joy of joys!! We all got together again, plus the Aussies, for dinner. Then an early night for this chick. 

The major excitement of the day was the Captain waking us at 2230 to tell us the Northern lights were out. I was so stoked. That’s everything I was dead keen to see ticked off. Awesome. It’s so beautiful, surreal, ethereal. Magic.    

The ship berthed in Skagway at 0640 this morning. It’s a shore day so many people are off on excursions. We’re going to do our own thing, wander ashore and chillax. I’m feeling pretty rough, blasted cold.   

1815: We’ve had a lovely day, pretty lazy with a walk into town, which is very quaint. Old colonial houses beautifully restored, with local crafts, as well as the usual tourist rubbish! I took advantage of a special at the spa, advertised in the ships daily rag, Princess Patter. Full massage and facial. Never had a facial before. It was intensely relaxing, gorgeous.   

 

       

17.9.16 to Cruise 

We’re heading, on the train, to  Whittier to get on our cruise ship, Star Princess. Our guide tells us that in   1964 an earthquake caused the land to drop 12 feet. The town of Portage practically vanished, never to be reestablished. The quake was 9.2M. Epicentre was 40 miles from Whittier, in Prince William Sound. For those of us from Christchurch, that’s a sobering thought. 

This is also the location of the 1987 Exon Valdees oil spill. There is still no fishing because of it and therefore no livelihood for many people.  

SUNDAY 18th. Getting settled on board, having a wee explore and dinner last night was awesome. I felt a bit of a kid, dancing from one exciting part of the ship to another. Shane had made some crazy statement about abstaining from wine for the day but I said we had to celebrate the start of the cruise. First time I’ve been on a ship Not working!! And how, lol. 

Our suite is very nice, port side aft,which is perfect as we can watch the imposing coast go by. And awe inspiring it is. Huge mountain ranges all the way, snow capped, and whales showing off about half a mile port side. We have a wee balcony, table and chairs, to watch the world go by. I can barely feel the movement of the ship but I’ve met a couple of seasick passengers. 

We bumped into the Captain, going to breakfast. I recognised the rank slides, of course, about turned, bowled up to him and said “Good morning, sir. I had to say hello to a fellow sailor. I’m ex Navy.” Haha. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! He was really decent and we chatted, and I got an invite to the bridge, woop woop!!! Shanes shaking his head and grinning the whole time. 

Later, he signed my book on Alaska for me and I got a photo of us together, hehe. He’ll remember cheeky Sarra from NZ!! 

We hit the gym before breakfast, would you believe. Paying for future sins, no doubt! There’s food and drink everywhere, in fact a couple of ladies got into the lift with us at about 10am, already tiddly, lol.   

We’re averaging 17 knots. Right now, 1215, we have Mt Elias to our left, at an elevation of about 18000ft. The CO says we’ll be at the Hubbard Glacier about 1600.  The scenery should be amazing as we’ve got a superb day, unseasonably good, we’re told. Still, it’s a fresh 13°C.

The glacier was every bit as mind blowing as you could imagine. We are so close to it. I even got video of it calving a chunk of ice. 

Later we attended the Captains champagne water fall. He’s an engaging speaker. I went up and poured  the champagne into the top glass, making the waterfall flow. Such fun. I’d just rejoined Shane and our Aussie friends, John and Lee, when Mikele, the captain, walked straight to us. I have him a hug and  peck on the cheek, thanking him for a wonderful day. I introduced him to the others and he stayed to talk with us for a while, asking me to give him a copy of the ice calving. A very personable man, easy in his role .

We’re dining with the Aussies and then I’m going to the club, alone, lol!! I feel the need for younger entertainment. 

McKinley – day 4

I think it’s Friday today, losing track, which is a good sign, I daresay! We’re at McKinley Lodge and today is a much appreciated rest day. 

So I had a bit of a lie in, then went for a run. Yes, that may come as a shock to many of you. I loathe running. But after all the sitting on buses, I felt desperate to get some exercise, a decent blow out. So I waited till it was light enough to see various potential wildlife and trotted off round the park. I had gone maybe half a mile when, round a corner I came face to face with a moose. I stopped dead still and did a quick mental search of all the info I’ve learned on moose so far. The advice we’d had on face to face encounters was turn and run, hide behind the nearest decent tree. Apparently they do a hard out charge, then lose interest and bugger off. Well, a rapid assessment of the trees immediately to my right told me they were woefully short of providing any shelter. I started quietly backing up, my unfit heart still going staccato, my brain registering it was a very small moose. Not hearing any angry hoof beats coming my way I decided it was not going to charge me. Curiosity began to set in and in stead of running off in the opposite direction like a sensible little kiwi, I did a bit of a detour and wound up back on the same road but on the other side of where I’d seen the moose. I snuck towards it and there was a mother with two calves, and my god, there was nothing small about her. They are massive beasts. Close up you truly appreciate their enormity. Finally I headed off in a more sensible direction and enjoyed my run. Astonishing, I know. Disgracefully unfit, however.

Yesterday was really just getting from Denali to McKinley. A misty grey day but still lovely scenery en route. And Jack full of info as ever. We did see a moose close by the road, grazing in a swamp pond, so the bus driver stopped for us to take pics. They are very endearing to look at, for all you wouldn’t want to mess with one!! 
I’ve haven’t been a hundy, health wise, but I’ve decided it’s just a bit of a threatening cold, a wee virus, sore throat, cough at night and so on. I didn’t even feel like wine yesterday. Imagine that. So it’s nice to chill out for the day, read and write, do laundry (boring!) and drink herbal tea. I’ve nearly run out of good old fashioned drugs but I found yarrow, rose hips and, joy of joys, black willow on my run, so I’ve made tea with those!! I’m told the moose (Shane reckons the plural should be meese!) love the willow too. I wonder if they ever get sore joints!? Probably not. 

God, I’m so rambling. There’s no WiFi in our rooms so I’ll meander up to the lodge later and post this.

Oh , I forgot, we just attended a light show. A guy called LeRoy Zimmerman, a photographer obsessed with the Northern lights, made a beautiful movie of his life’s work, put to classical music. Sadly he passed away not long after completing it. I have to say it’s one of the most moving things I’ve seen in a long time. It was visceral, spell binding and brought tears to my eyes. I had to do yoga breathing to keep the emotion in check! Truly, I wish you could see it. I badly wish I could see them myself, for real, but it’s unlikely now. Tonight’s probably the last chance and at this stage it’s too cloudy.   

Last night, during dinner in the posher of the two restaurants, a black bear decided to investigate the bins right below the window. Man, everyone went nuts, practically climbing over each other to see it. Humans really are disgusting sometimes! No common sense at all. It’s a young bear, too young to be weaned probably, which is no doubt why its coming into the lodge grounds so openly.  The engineer said it’ll have to be “dealt with” once the place closes in a few days. I daresay that means with a bullet but when Shane mentioned it during the ruckus, another lady at our table went into conniptions, so I said they’d probably be relocating it!  

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being totally unreasonably pathetic, most of our tour group, whilst really nice, are about an 8 on the scale. The comments about the rough road into Denali on Wednesday and how intrepid they were, cracked me up. Seriously, the road was like a ruddy highway compared to many in NZ!! And we never came close to being at risk in any way whatsoever. Still, horses for courses, I guess.         

Denali Park. Bus day 2 

We left at 0745 to head  into Denali Park for the day. To begin with we followed the Teklanika River. The rivers here are braided, like home, in fact the area is incredibly like NZ. 

We saw a number of birds including Spruce Grouse,  Ptarmigan and  Golden Eagle, plus the relatively common Black billed magpies and white capped sparrows . We also saw Arctic ground squirrels, which are super cute and hibernate, slowing their heart rate to only a few beats all winter.  

The other river that runs through this park is the Toklat River. Denali is classified as a sub Arctic desert because of the low precipitation, 10 to 15 inches. The permafrost prevents the water soaking in so in spite of the low rain fall there is a lot of surface water. 

Dall sheep are the reason the park was set up. They are endemic, very white and have lovely horns. Their major predator is the Golden Eagle. This bird has a wing span of seven feet. 


The park is over 6 million acres, including the highest mountain in North America, Mt Denali, which used to be known as Mt McKinley. Denali is the native name. It means the high one or great one.  

1230 We’ve just joined the 1% club. Denali is visable from the end of the road!! MJ, our driver, let us off to walk on the tundra, which was nice. It’s pretty hot on the bus.

Lunch was a box pack provided by the Princess Tour. The only edible part was the crackers, cheese and hummus. Everything else was super sweet disgusting gut rot. Food here is generally way too sweet. Sugar is added to everything. No wonder they are so over weight here.    

Finally on the journey out of the park we saw one bear trekking along a river bed and another grazing blue berries on the hill side. Then not long after that, someone spotted a moose, way up a hill. Then a mother moose and a calf right by the road in the trees. Made my day, seeing the moose.   

And MJ stopped the bus where we weren’t meant to do we could take pics of the autumn colours. I did a quick visit to the info centre, then shower and dinner soon. 

One for you, Matt 

  

Princess Tour Bus day 1 

We’ve been in the bus about 3 minutes, haven’t even moved off yet, and I’m thinking Shane and I are in for a character building experience.

Our tour director is called Jack and the driver is Doug, I think. The average age is about 20 years older than me. Mmm.

Jacks just pointed out a place called Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn. Half way between Fairbanks and Nenana. Shane had alternative names but I’ll leave that to your imagination!!

We’re told it’s cold and dry in winter. Everything freezes. Rivers become roads. Only 11.5 inches of precipitation annually. There’s light permafrost year round. It is interesting having Jack tell us about the area as we go.

There’s an enormously over weight guy on board who uses clothes pegs to pin a napkin to his shirt during a meal. We nearly died laughing, seeing him last night for the first time.

J. Hammond, previous governor – book called Alaskan Bush Rat Governor. This guy was a bushman who reluctantly went into politics due to disillusionment at the encumbents. Did a good job it seems, and his autobiography is apparently worth reading.

Black Spruce covers most of Northern Alaska. They like growing on permafrost. Lots of Birch also, which are golden just now. It’s really pretty. Having got to our rooms we get a nice view over the river Nenana and can see fresh snow on the mountains.

We have the afternoon to relax and a dinner music experience tonight. If my drugs work, in my case.

The standards of hotels here are interesting. This is supposed to be a 4 star deal. But everything’s pretty basic. It’s still nice but things like glasses, bottled water, dressing gowns, fridge, mini bar, etc that we’d expect at home, are not necessarily included. It is the end of their tourist season too so the enthusiasm level is low in service, lol. Still, everyone’s pretty friendly and helpful.

Just back from dinner which was kind of like an average high school musical. We’ve got friendly with a nice couple from Sydney, John and Lee. We decided it wasn’t so much our thing, apart from being way too loud, which hasn’t helped my head. More drugs, great nurse attitude. They were sweet kids, though, doing the show, and good on them for working their way through college.

Fairbanks – a day with the locals 

We officially joined our tour group for breakfast this morning. Good feed and they seem a decent bunch. We didn’t join them for the days activity though, having arranged to spend the day with Mike and Lesley, plus young Seth. 

And a fantastic time we had. They took us to a private collection of beautifully restored vintage cars, era 1890s to 1930s. It was superlative. Again the pictures can speak for themselves. 

They also took us to a great local bar for lunch and a bit of sight seeing. Such a lovely family. Young Seth was a really good wee man. 

Sadly we didn’t catch up with Shawn and Bethany again as Shawn had to work late. So we rejoined the group for dinner, which was a wine tasting thing and very nice. Bedtime now. 

  

 

TALKEETNA to  FAIRBANKS 

11.09.16

10am – Having ascertained that we got both lunch and dinner on the train, we headed down to a light breakfast. A pile of scrambled eggs, bacon, reindeer sausage, sliced ham and coffee later, we lumbered down to await our lift to the train station. Self control seems to elude us!! 

It’s bucketing with rain today and yesterday’s beautiful mountains a mere memory. We have a nine hour train ride, getting into Fairbanks at 8pm.

2300 – The train trip was great, way better than I expected. The weather lifted enough along the way to see some of the scenery and we meet two great couples, who live here. Mike and Lesley, with their little boy Seth, and Shawn and Bethany. Both guys are military. Mike is army and Shawn is a photo journalist in the air force. We’re foregoing our programmed day tomorrow, to spend it with them. 

I’ll let the photos speak for the trip, otherwise. 

  

Alaska Railroad Ride 

ANCHORAGE to TALKEETNA 

SATURDAY 10th SEPTEMBER 

Yesterday was a much needed rest day!! We got up late, one of us feeling the effects of a very indulgent evening!! Just saying!! 

We got a cab to a laundrette and did a much needed catch up on clothes washing. The crazy machines only took quarters which meant changing notes into a ton of shrapnel just to get the required $3.50. While it was washing, then drying, we walked the local area, not wildly exciting but exercise at least. That’s something that’s been in limited supply so far, lol. 

Brunch was at a local alehouse, recommended by the hotel sommelier. So far the foods been amazing, which is both a good thing and a bad thing!! Pretty lazy day otherwise, and an early night. I didn’t sleep well though, which I’m paying for right now!!

So today! Truly fantastic. The train, Alaskan Rail Road, is super cool. Shane had booked us on the gold star service, which meant we were upstairs with a glass roofed carriage and a private viewing balcony. Awesome!! I have to keep saying that coz one of the English couples we met at Great Bear Lodge hated the way Americans talk. I like it and can’t resist a wee stir. So everything is more awesome than usual, haha. 

We had a late breakfast on the train, scrambled eggs with reindeer sausage and pulled pork, onions and red peppers. Plus, just coz the conductor, Daniel, said they made awesome bloody Mary’s, one of those too!! Yes, I know, at breakfast, really!??!! 

The object of the exercise, the scenery, is stunning. Truly like NZ on steroids. Some of the vistas could’ve been up the Waimak river, just huge, vast. We’ve had the most sterling weather today. One of the tour guides, Matt, said we’d joined the 30% club, as most people don’t get clear enough days to see Mt McKinley/Denali. So lucky. And it’s warm. A lovely mild Autumn day. Oh, sorry, faaaall. With skies like this I’ve got everything crossed I’ll see the Northern Lights tonight. I so want to. 

We arrived in Talkeetna around 11am. Shanes suggested a flight, since the weathers so perfect, around Denali. Well, you know I didn’t  need any encouragement! Thats why God made planes, to see the mountains. None of this struggling up cold, snowy and dangerous rock faces to see them. Naturally I got the co pilots seat again.


One of the highest peaks here, just to the left of Denali, in the photos, is Mt. Hunter. So I claimed it. Bound to be related!! Over 14,500 feet. Denali is over 20,000 feet. AWESOME!! 

After the flight, we cruised the huge metropolis of Talkeetna, which took a couple of minutes. It’s a very quaint little place and the museum was interesting. Man, they must’ve been a hardy bunch who settled this area. 

They even tried to domesticate moose, poor bloody animal! We had a yummy late lunch, chatting to a honeymoon couple, who got a ton of inappropriate advice, as you can imagine!! 

Now reclining, with an unparalleled view, with a wee dram, fancy that. 


 

  

         

Anchorage 

Yesterday was a travel day, with an early start to catch the 0730 flight from Port Hardy to Vancouver. We were in a wee beechcraft with one seat either side of the aisle, and one had to bend over to move along!! Cute plane though. Then a transfer to the international departures where we checked in for our flight to Anchorage. I did think a boarding pass that said Vancouver to Anchorage was up there amongst the coolest!! 

Port Hardy 

Bald Eagles 

We did security and found ourselves on American soil, in Canada, so to speak. An unusual set up but certainly made things easy at this end. Once in Anchorage we just got off, got our bags and grabbed a cab. No customs. Before leaving though,  I took advantage of the great WiFi access to post my blogs! 

We flew Canadian Airways which is an Air New Zealand partner. Shane had put us in premium economy which should have been nice (and I wasn’t bothered!) but it turned out the only difference was a little more leg room!! No food, a huge disappointment for the labrador, no ear phones unless you bought them, no alcohol, possibly just as well and no pillows or blankets. On the plus side there was an empty row in front of us which I dived into as soon as we got airborne. So we got some sleep!!   

It was overcast and threatening to drizzle on arrival at Anchorage. The promised shuttle to our hotel didn’t eventuate and when Shane rang the number he’d  been given it went to an answer phone. So we got a taxi. OMG the Inlet Tower Hotel. Where do I start? The taxi drivers reaction should’ve warned us. He said the best thing about it was it survived the 1964 earthquake, which was possibly a shame after all. 

While the staff were lovely, Shane’s hackles are on high alert before we even got to the room, as fellow guests looked like they’d crawled out of a wild Alaska doco. The sight of lumpy beds and drugs on the bathroom floor didn’t further our confidence that this was where we should be!! 

As the ire level rose, Shane’s agent should expect emasculation on his return, I didn’t even unzip my bag. Shane vanished back downstairs and I looked up hotels in Anchorage on Trip Advisor!! He came back with the name of the same hotel I came up with on TA. I must say that the staff at that awful place were adorable young people who helped every way they could, even organising a free transfer to the Captain Cook Hotel. This place is much more the thing!! 

The evening was spent in an exhausted state of collapse, amid in room service food and drink!! The weather cleared to give us a glorious sunset across the bay. 

This morning we’ve woken to a beautiful view of snowy mountains across the sea. 

Today will be relaxed, as it’s been pretty full on so far. Plus laundry to be done!!    

Good bye Bear Lodge  

It’s 0650 on Thursday 8th September and we’re on a small plane flying back to Vancouver, before a connection to Anchorage later this morning. 

Yesterday, our last day at Great Bear Lodge, was marvelous. Shane didn’t come on the morning trip to the hide and missed the best viewing of the trip! A mother bear came with two cubs, and totally showed off for us. It was a gorgeous spot with an island in the river. She did a lap round it, walking right in front of us. Needless to say cameras were clicking madly. I sat next to Marcus and he told me so much more about them than I can remember, lol. 

Then a bigger female came out and got too close for the mumma bears liking. They had a bit of a show down, baring their jaws at each other and growling, before the mumma bear backed off and disappeared with her cubs. We saw quite a few other bears as well. A truly awesome morning. 

Shane had enjoyed his rest though, and had seen a couple of Orcas that cruised into the bay. After lunch we went out in the boats again. This time I didn’t have the least twinge of worry. Bizarre. It was bucketing rain so we geared up in water proofs. 

It was beautiful out, in spite of the wet, misty and pouring waterfalls by turn. We saw seals, bald eagles, a peregrine falcon, a raven with its stunning blue black plumage, the every present gulls  and crows, as well as spawned salmon a heart beat from death. I felt rather sorry for them. Marcus picked us some wild crab apples, which were  tart but tasty. I think I was the only one who really liked them. 

Back to dry off and pack, ready for the Geese to fly in at 1530!! Amazingly they made it through an easing in the weather. I was flying with Ryan again but let someone else have the co pilots seat, lol. Such sacrifice, huh!! There were hugs all round saying goodbye, such neat people. Marg runs a tight ship and should be proud of what they do. I stole a couple of boy hugs from Marcus, in the absence of my guys!! He put up with it very sweetly. 

The whole crew was staying the night in Port Hardy, so we met for dinner at Sporty’s bar. I had halibut, which was raved  about. It was very nice but not as good as tuna, I don’t reckon. With an early start this morning, Shane and I didn’t stay late. I hope we get a visit from the guys we met on this trip. I’m pretty sure we’ll see Dan and Dani or Tim and Mandy in NZ sometime!!   

I managed to check messages from home and tried to ring Matt on messenger but the WiFi isn’t strong enough. Sounds freezing at home. We’ve found it much milder here than expected, so a real bonus! 

So ends  phase one of the trip! Next stop Alaska!!                       

6.9.16 –  Tuesday I think!! 

Everyone has gone off on the morning bear watching safari. I’ve decided I need time to myself.

Shane hasn’t been sleeping well so last night I gave him a temazepam and it knocked him out beautifully. Unfortunately he also snored like a trooper and I didn’t get a wink!! In the end I took my bedding down to the lounge and slept on the couch!!

But this morning I just want some space, peace and quiet. So I’m catching up on writing and will do some yoga later. It’s still raining so a nice day for resting up.

This Lodge is owned and operated by a great Aussie woman, Marg, who really followed her dreams, giving up a good job in IT to come and do this. She is in partnership with a local guy, Tom, who we haven’t met yet. Brave girl and I think they’ve done an awesome job.

A few hours have drifted by! I’ve read my book, done some yoga and showered, made an entry in the guest book and am expecting the troops back any minute. Lunch smells amazing. The chef, Julie, is spoiling us again. The day is now misty overcast with that moody, ethereal feel that makes one believe in the fey! There’s not a breath of wind. I’ve taken some photos of the reflections on the water. I hoped to see an otter while I sat imbibing the spiritual goodwill of the bush. None obliged, however.

I hope the bears came out to feed, for the watchers. They’re quite entertaining. Sometimes it looks as though a bear is simply so full they can’t really be bothered putting in the effort to catch another salmon. Others just look pretty useless fishermen! They like to dig for roe as it’s so full of fat and goodness for them. Ditto the skin and belly of female fish still to spawn. We saw an old, injured male eating the dead and dying salmon that had already spawned. Other bears ignored those. Marcus and Sarah said it was a risky habit as those fish are less nourishing and full of parasites.

Well, we’ve had a fabulous afternoon. The morning watch enjoyed their stint at the hide. After another sterling meal we headed off in the boats. Don’t ask me why but my subconscious did a dive into the past and I got a bit twitchy about going. The thought of tipping overboard in a hundred layers of clothing freaked me out. I dug my toes in and refused to wear all the over gear. Just took my gortex raincoat and put another over my lap. It felt fine and I was warm enough. Once I was in the dingy I was totally comfortable. It was just the idea of tipping in fully clothed.

The first item on the list was a Humpback whale. It was cruising right into our part of the inlet. Marcus was skippering our dingy and was a wealth of information. Another walking encyclopaedia, like Fan in Africa.

Then we putted round the bays checking out waterfalls and bays. There are a lot of Bald Eagles, which is spectacular. Also spotted a young bear in a beautiful corner of the inlet, doing its going, and pretty curious about us. Marcus said he’d like a wee cabin there, and I could second that notion.


He’s an adorable young man, reminds me of my boys and I enjoyed having him around. I’m missing you, Matt and Danny!! You’d love this so much!! Actually, all the staff have been wonderful and made our time here very special. I’m going to leave a card for then, so I hope I remember everyone’s names when I write in it!!

Vancouver to Great Bear Lodge 

Ok, this will be the abbreviated version. I had been writing  as we went, and somehow, today (5.9.16) I’ve managed to delete the lot. I think maybe while I was putting it in and out of my pocket in the rain. 

So yesterday we had an early start, not feeling quite the lark,  after another indulgent session at Chewies. More oysters, followed by crocodile , which is very satisfying to eat, somehow!! Not to mention a few margaritas, served by a lovely lad who submitted to a hug at the end!! This is the cool chandelier in the restaurant. 

  • We hit the airport at 0645 and our flight left at seven. Arrived in Port Hardy to find we couldn’t get a transfer to Bear Lodge till 3pm. As you can imagine, Not Happy. Six hours, on a public holiday  with everything shut, in a tiny blip of a place. The local cafe ladies were lovely and let us commandeer the reading couch. I even managed a few zeds. 

Eventually someone  collected us and took us to the airport. We found we were flying in a remarkable old plane called a  Grumman Goose. It takes off on wheels, retracts them  and lands on its belly, with floats that come down from the wing tips and balances the plane as it lands on the water. 

I decided I really wanted the co-pilots seat and was uncharacteristically quick in coming forward and asking!! The pilot, Ryan (a very nice and good looking guy, fortuitously!), said to go up then, as he needed a co-pilot!! I was stoked. 

It was amazing. AWESOME. Actually my highlight so far. All the instruments are above you, not in front like a Cessna. I had a great view and, since I was the only one with head phones, could chat with Ryan the whole way. He told me a ton about the area and the wild life which was grand, and I relayed it to the group later. He also told me three  of the biggest inlets in the area are fed through a narrow 400 foot entrance from the ocean. The tide fall is 34 feet and the slack tide lasts two minutes! Incredible. 

There’s 16 of us staying here. A lovely Aussie couple, Mark and Dana,  who are really hard case and play tag team with us, keeping the others laughing. The good  old Kiwi /Aussie routine!! Dan and Dani are an English couple who are in the marketing /tourism and zoo industry. There’s two other English couples, a German and American pair and a couple from the Netherlands. It’s a good group, interesting and social, with no clashes, a rarity I would’ve thought, in a bunch of loopies randomly thrown together. 

Or first days bear watching has  been a huge success. In fact the first trip to a hide, last night, was astonishing. We’ve seen so many animals. Big bears, little bears, males, females, young and old. To see them in their natural habitat, fishing the salmon, digging up roe or just opportunistically grabbing the dead fish as they float by, after spawning, is a real treat. I’ve learned so much about them. This environment is incredibly abundant. Plants, birds, fish, other wildlife and no water shortage!! If you got lost out  here, you’d have to be a few sheep missing in the top paddock not to survive, I reckon.   

Our guides so far have been wonderful, passionate, articulate and generous with their time and knowledge. Marcus is Canadian, Sarah is English and Allie is from Ontario. Marcus and Sarah took us on a walk between bear watching trips. They carry bear spray in cans, which is really strong  capsicum. Marcus also had a serious looking machete knife and they had two way radios. There’s no Internet out here. Shane stayed behind and relaxed, just as well as we did a decent hike. I loved it though. They told us so much about the local ecosystem and found different berries for us to try. I tried everything. Good too.   

The lodge itself is beautiful. It floats on the inlet so we are out of reach of bears unless they get really nosy and swim over. We are not allowed ashore without a guide. That’s the only rule!! It sits  in the environment in a very complimentary way and is as self sustaining as possible. Solar power and a wee hydro plant supply most of the electrical needs, with a diesel generator as back up. 

The food has been divine so far. Dinner tonight was kiwi lamb shank and I’m pleased to say, only added to our awesome reputation. We had one each, and it was so good I was wondering what had happened to the other three off my lamb!! This carnivore is a happy carnivore. Coupled with an unlimited supply of very nice Canadian wine, I’m off to bed entirely replete.      

 

                  

VANCOUVER 3.9.16

Today was our first full day in Canada. Neither of us slept that well, though the hotel is very comfortable. 

After arriving yesterday we went for a bit of a walk to get the blood flowing and check out our surroundings. It’s so weird arriving before we left, so to speak, gaining more than a day! 

It’s also much warmer than I expected. We are not far from the harbour and it’s seriously pretty. I was captivated by all the sea planes. I’m so looking forward to going on one. 

One of the hotel guys told us about a great restaurant close by, called Chewie’s. It was fantastic. We had oysters as an entre and they were to die for. Massive too, and we really didn’t need anything else. Of course, being a couple of labradors, I persuaded Shane to try the jambalaya, which was equally fine. Didn’t take much persuasion, just saying, hehe. 

The music was superb and there was the coolest chandelier made of wind instruments. Some lovely ladies chatted to us, there for a 40th, and invited us to their after dinner party. We went briefly but the mind was willing and  the body weak, by that stage. Bedtime. 

So today we had a tour arranged, first to Capilano, a massive gorge in an impressively treed Valley. It had a cliff walk and a cool swing bridge which had the faint hearted sqeaking, not me, of course!  

We saw their Great horned owl, and  Harris and Coopers Hawks which the guys had on leather gloves. Beautiful birds. 

Next to GROUSE MOUNTAIN, via a gondola. Unfortunately it was foggy so we didn’t get the view which would’ve been awesome, but we did see our first bears. 

Home, suffering jet lag, for a wee relax before going out for dinner. Just watched a cruise ship to out. That’ll be us in a couple of weeks. 

Footnote : We seem to have established a few nicknames. I won’t tell you which ones belong to whom, but they include scribe, packhorse, labrador….. 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD XXXXX

 

Alaska Here I Come! 

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself, and Air New Zealand!! I was on the 1730 flight to Auckland this afternoon and had a pretty tight connection to Vancouver. So Dad and Mum dropped me off earlier than I needed and I had a shot at getting on an earlier flight. The lovely lady at the Air NZ desk, Lynette I think, not only got me on the 1600 flight but it cost me nothing at all!! Sweet. 

I’ve had nice catch ups with all the family in the last week which is awesome since I’m unfortunately missing a bunch of birthdays and other significant events. 

Happy Father’s day, Dad, on Sunday. You’re the best Dad a girl could wish for. Aren’t I the lucky one. Love you past the stars xxxxx 

Promise not to sink or swim this time!!