Amazing Ketchikan

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June 19th 2019
Published: June 21st 2019
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What an interesting day! We watched as we moored in the most scenic town (in my opinion) in Alaska. Mind you, this was the first time we’ve visited Ketchikan because it wasn’t on the itinerary of the 1999 trip. We met some lovely people from Devon at breakfast. After breakfast in La Terrazza we wandered to the deck above, to the Art Cafe, where we found a trivia quiz and a sudoku, and I drank my second coffee. Then we prepared ourselves and went ashore to check out the souvenir shops before our shore excursion. Unfortunately we didn’t find what I was most hoping to buy, so we will have to keep on looking.

Tom took our purchases back to our suite while I chatted to our tour guide who was a high school English teacher until the recent end of their school year. Now she works for a tour company. When we were all assembled we boarded our coach and headed off to a marina, via a quick tour of town.

Our coach driver, Peggy, used to drive school buses in Nevada and works up here every summer. Peggy was telling us, that with one high school in each city along the coast, they play tournaments for sport. For this they do fundraising bake sales, car washing etc. and they are billeted out, they stay in each other’s homes to keep costs down. This also means that they behave themselves, and by the end of high school they have so many connections with families up and down the Alaskan coast. Years 7 & 8 go on wilderness survival camps to instill knowledge and skills for independence.

We drove about as far north as you can on the island, and were then transferred onto a large craft with 3 jet engines. It would probably hold 50, and we had 24 people. Before we boarded the boat, the tour guide from the fishing lodge gave a certain whistle and then threw a dead fish into the water. Out of nowhere, about 8 bald eagles started flying around, with one of them successfully grabbing the fish in it‘s claws and taking it away to eat. This continued until each bird had been given food. Then we boarded our boat and headed out, stopping to look at a bald eagle’s nest along the way (about 4 ft in width). The bald eagles mate for life, and can die of a broken heart after their mate dies. They return to the same nest each year and keep adding on to it. Sometimes these nests can get to the size of a small car. They usually lay three eggs, and most of the time the chick that hatches from the first egg will destroy the other two eggs.

We also saw an oyster and kelp farm, and an American naval base. The naval base is there to test their nuclear submarines - across the width of the inlet they have a very particular cable laying on the seabed. When testing the submarines, the submarine just motors along it, and the cable “listens” to the sub, helping them to identify how they can make it quieter, so it can’t be heard by enemies. At night the cruise liners often pass over it as well, giving them a chance to listen for any faults. While he was explaining about the subs, four whales were spotted, so we jetted over to their vicinity where we were able to get some good shots. Then they were getting mighty close to us and the captain of our boat started up,the engines and we left the scene post-haste.

Our tour guide said people often asked him the name of the lake we were on - he said it’s a very big lake, stretching from the west coast over to Japan! The Pacific Ocean!!

When we arrived at the fishing lodge we disembarked to find that someone had caught a huge salmon this morning and was having it weighed. Our guide also explained that all of the wood carvings were done by a sculptor who uses a chainsaw and frequently stays at the lodge free in return for the carvings in red cedar.

We were then taken for a walk along a boardwalk into their rainforest. They get 14 feet of rain each year, and everything is covered in moss. There are 5 different types of moss and you have to be careful when hiking because the moss that grows on the floor of the forest is also happy to grow on the surface of a 5 feet deep hole of water! We stuck to the boardwalk! We saw a cedar tree over 1000 years old, and it had a yellow cedar growing out of the back of it. You can run your hands up a red cedar trunk and not get splinters!

We then returned to the fishing lodge where our lunch had been steaming in big pots. All of the tables were covered in newspaper and the pots were just tipped out onto the table - piles of steaming dungeness crab claws, mussels, clams, potatoes, corn, garlic cloves and sausage slices. We all had a pair of tongs and a crab cracker thing. We were seated at a round table with three other couples: one from Germany, one from USA and an English couple from Kent. I emailed my whale pics to the nice lady from Pennsylvania- she didn’t get her iPad working in time. We realised that the guide, the cook and the hostess were all Uni students from Utah on holiday. When we then returned to the marina and back onto the coach, that driver was a student from Utah too. He said all of the lodges come down and heavily recruit staff from Utah, because they are non-drinkers. They won’t tie one on, wander off and get lost in the night, or drink heavily and then have to drive a boat with 50 people on board.

So we returned to the ship, had a nap, woke for canapés and champagne (it’s such a hard life!) and then prepared for dinner. It was an informal night - not formal, and not casual, but we didn’t expect to see an American at dinner wearing a red T-shirt!! We decided to dine at Indochine tonight - just for something different. I had a seafood soup as a starter (Tom had Pho) - it was so so hot and spicy! Tom says I had sweat dripping off my forehead! For mains I had beef with lemongrass and Tom had Malabar Chicken. We decided to split the two desserts - we both wanted the sampler platter and the banana fritters (I grew up on a banana plantation - they weren’t as good as my mum’s). Just as we were eating our dessert the lovely couple from Devon came to the adjoining table. They don’t do shore excursions. They miss out on background information and just get retail.

We then returned to our suite for Baileys, M&Ms and the movie “The Green Book” based on real life, so good!!


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