Now with one night and day completed on the Inner Passage to Alaska……………………
With sheer exhaustion, I slept quite well….but, with my body-clock even more confused, with yet another time-change, it is probably not surprising to note that 4am on 3rd June saw me wide awake! The allure of the Sudoku puzzlebook was short-lived, and so I quietly dressed so as not to disturb the Better Half, and headed up on deck with video and map.
There were a number of other idiots wandering about and we briefly passed the time of day, before keeping on the move because of the cold. I took the opportunity of doing four laps of the pedestrian deck, so felt quite pleased with myself so treated myself to coffee in the breakfast bar when it opened.
Several visits to the cabin later and the Good Lady came on deck, just as we entered the narrow fjord called Tracy Arm which was to lead us to our first view of what we had come to see…..a glacier…..in this case the Sawyer Glacier. We had all been psyched-up to see this, but unfortunately the pilot we had taken on-board had decided that the environment had to be protected, and further movement up the fjord would cause damage to the small icebergs floating around
…..and so, we dropped-off some folk who had booked to go off to the Glacier by bum-boat, whilst the rest of us had to be content with heading for the restaurant for lunch.
Today was the birthday of the Good Lady. Discretion (and the threat of a thick ear) forbids me mentioning an actual number! However it was going to be memorable in that, firstly, it was to be our first land-fall in Alaska, and secondly I would not have to get her any gold for a present…..explanation in a minute!
Juneau is the capital of Alaska, and depends heavily on the sea and air, in that there is no land approach available. Everything coming to or from Juneau must come by boat or seaplane. You can see why as soon as you come off the ship when the surrounding hills become even more evident.
We didn’t really know what to expect even although I had looked at it on Google Street, so knew the general layout. But we found the inhabitants quite friendly. When walking through the main street we came upon a policeman, and had a chat. We did mention that our daughter was a policewoman, and he presented us with a sew-on badge as issued to the Alaskan Police!
Even the animals were friendly……..
However, this was just a lead-up to the main event of the day…getting the present for the Better Half. We were picked-up at the quayside and met by a rather aged-looking gentleman with a large hat, extensive tobacco-stained beard, and an unbelievable drawl.
We were then taken by an old minibus to a creek (you notice my use of the Alaskan vernacular!), where we were given a lesson on panning for gold. We each received a ‘pan’ with mud and grit already in it, and shown how to swirl it about in the water. Lo and behold, each of us found a few flakes of a bright metallic substance in the bottom of our ‘pan’! So with our combined ‘flakes’ we could have just about covered a large match-head!…so fortunes were not to be made. Anyway I think each of the pans had been ‘seeded’!
Never mind, it was all just a bit of fun! A return to the relative civility of the ship and a lovely meal in the Italian Restaurant, ended an interesting day! It was worth recording her good looks for posterity, so we hunted about for a suitable location. The following is that photo….So her birthday was recorded by a photo showing Neptune with his hand on her shoulder!
Leaving Vancouver, cruising on the Holland American ‘Hollandam’ heading North on the Inner Passage for the first time to Alaska………………………..
I’m not a good sleeper at the best of times, tossing and turning, wakening with the slightest noise, and with a body which finds it difficult to go back to sleep once wakened. But, boy, was I tired when my head hit the pillow on our first night out of Vancouver on the 1st of June…….the start of our journey to this mysterious place called Alaska!
Don’t misunderstand me; it had been a week which had been wonderful, busy, awe-inspiring, exciting, revelationery (is that a real word?), with the long flight, snow, glaciers, Rocky Mountaineer train, different food, and latterly the calming effect of Vancouver.
The senses had been over-whelmed, and we were somewhat glad to be spending seven nights in the same bed without the constant repacking and moving-on. Our knowledge of what was to come had been taken from travel books, Google, what others had told us, and a few television programmes. So all these thoughts were drifting through my mind as I tried to get to sleep. Meanwhile Lady was happily breathing with the sleep of the innocent!
I woke on the morning of 2nd June at 5.30 am (not an unusual scenario for men of a certain age!), and went up on deck (after dressing of course!) for a wander round. Although it was bright, there was nothing really to see as we were obviously some distance from land on either side. This land, and Inner Passage, was bigger than I had imagined!
Now, I have often been told-off, by you-know-who, for having my still camera or DVD camera by my side ready for use at the most inappropriate times……but no such stricture applied on this holiday as we wanted as complete a record as possible.
We had been told that this area should be a good area for spotting whales, and over a leisurely breakfast, they materialised quite a few times. However, the whales felt no need to give any advance warning of leaving or entering the water! It is only when the event has started, been spotted by someone, who then hollers about it, and I grab one of my cameras and point it in approximately the right direction, that I have a hope of getting a shot. By that time, of course, the blighter has disappeared, and I get lovely shots of empty water, only to find it re-appearing some distance away, after the camera has been set-down! Try doing this as you are munching your cereal, or swilling coffee and you can see that discontent returned to the marriage relationship occasionally!
I tried leaving them switched-on, but then either achieved dead batteries, or shots of feet or floor, and the recording of chatter…so that didn’t work. However I did get one or two classic video shots of the tails but none of the great snout coming out of the water…..but never mind…there are some lovely shots on You tube!
The ship boasted a large theatre which hosted many events. After breakfast we attended an interview on stage with the ‘Hotel Manager’ who is responsible for some 7000 meals per day, in 7 restaurants…. the mind boggles! We then decided on the shore trips we wanted (some at an eye-watering cost!)….however ‘we may not pass this way again’….
There were good areas for walking and the promenade deck was exactly 1/3 of a mile right round….so we felt highly virtuous that we did several circuits every day. The above shows us enjoying a well-earned rest after a brisk walk. The sports ‘nutters’ were well-catered-for, with a a basketball and a tennis court, and those who simply wanted to sit at slot machines could do so…with the only exercise being for their elbow!
There was also a very good library, and now that I was in the area, I was reminded of a poem my father occasionally recited when I was a child. All I could remember was the name of the hero…Dangerous Dan McGrew, and the author, Robert W Service. In seconds I had been directed to a book of his poems and had great joy in reading ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’ (who had a lady known as Lou), and ‘The Cremation of Sam McGhee’, who when he was alive, had hated the infernal cold of Alaska!….hence the name of the poem) and who could blame him!
As is probably the norm with most people, you find couples who come from your next of the woods and this also applied to us. Two couples attached themselves to us, but without suffocating the friendship. It was good to have someone else to join with or pass the time of day. We all went separately to the presentation devoted to booking shore trips, as we do not like to be pressurised by what others want to see! in the event we all did different things.
Dinner on the main Lido deck , a great Broadway show, and karaoke in the Crows’ Nest bar ended the first day out…..unfortunately, before bed we had to change watches back one hour! Would our brain and body clock ever be the same again??