Day 8 & 9. Friday 26 & Saturday 27 August.
Missed a report on Day 8 – but we’re now connected, at least for the next couple of days.
Day 8 was spent cruising towards our final ship-board destination – Whittier. A highlight was the detour into College Fjord, to again marvel and the sights and sounds of the glaciers. The ship slowly edged towards Whittier, docking just after midnight.
The morning of Day 9 involved sitting around waiting for our turn, amongst the 2500 or so fellow passengers, to be disembarked. The process started at 6.15 AM, which meant we heard the early departees moving around from before 5.00 AM. The whole cruise exercise has been an impressive demonstration of logistics – D loves it.
Travel by bus from Whittier to Anchorage, about 2 hours, via a couple of tremendous single lane tunnels (3kms)which allow access from each end on a 30 minute turnaround through the mountains and more spectacular scenery. Checked into the Ramada – another flashback in an old style motel.
Anchorage, roughly the same population of Canberra, seems to be a ‘functional’ town.
After check in, a quick walk down town. Dropped into the market for a browse at lots of tourist type souvenirs, which some locals (assume they were) were buying. While eating our halibut tacos, were entertained by a vocalist with accompanying pianist singing hymns and gospel songs, along with a narrative on how there had been some saving grace at some time. Not quite SWUC…..
Needless to say, we passed – that’s not quite right – a quilt shop and of course T ducks in and out. T is in search of the musk oxen fiber (qiviut) cooperative. Having done some pre-reading about this cottage industry which provides employment to knitters on the remote Aleutians Islands and the coastal communities in western Alaska, T was hoping to get some of the beautiful wool and start a little “road trip” project. However, the yarn is not available for sale, only a small range of knitted items(hats) and tunics and because of the handcrafted process and the design ownership, the items are appropriately (highly) priced.
Walking back through down town we came across a park with two notable features. The first was a glade of Mountain Ash trees with their distinctive red berries (which are poisonous). The season is almost over, but these trees still retained their vibrancy. The second was the planting of vegetables amongst the flowers – prolific and vigorous kale ad parsley. These plantings didn’t seem to be cropped, which is a pity because they were to be envied.
D branched off at this point to find a liquor store, eventually consulting the guide he had in his hand to discover that he’d done his recon in entirely the wrong direction. Anyway, he returned in due course with beer, wine, whisky, milk and a haircut. T in the meantime had returned to the motel, via a gallery showing some lovely watercolours and film by Amy Johnson, now into her 6th year of residence in Alaska, having driven alone, with her big blue dress, up from Seattle, in search of a personal challenge in the vast icy landscape.
A lovely touch in Anchorage is the development of an urban salmon fishing facility on Ship Creek, which runs through the city (the bus driver on the way in delighted in repeating that it was indeed Ship Creek, not the one you’re up without a paddle). It was intriguing to see fishermen on dusk trying for the elusive fish – we saw just one very big one (probably 3-4 kgs) but it was nowhere near the fishermen, which perhaps says something about relative intelligence. Some things never change! An interesting technique – reels were many and various: fly, baitcaster, spinning, it didn’t seem to matter – but all involved continuously throwing a set length of line with a lure on the end into the water, retrieving without winding in a sort of loop and then repeating. It didn’t seem to work while we were there, but who is D to judge?
Dinner was beef burgers for two at the next door café/bar – the Slippery Salmon – right into American dining now we’re not cosseted by attentive staff on board ship – and T found that the Pinot was off. The Ramada is definitely a big step down from the Coral Princess – a tired 70s motel that smells of all the excesses of that era.