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Published: June 13th 2016
Episode 1: Northern Exposure
June 12, 2016.
This trip sees us heading North, way North………to Alaska. Buoyed by the prospect of epic scenery, vast open spaces, unique wildlife, and cruising the famed Inside Passage, we eagerly boarded our flight to North America last week. As neither of us handle long haul flights very well these days, we broke the trip by spending two languid days in Hawaii, before pressing on to Vancouver, Canada, where the cruise was leaving from.
Now, we don’t normally relish the prospect of being confined to a floating mega-hotel, dodging gastro-bugs and screaming kids each day, and indeed we have never been on a cruise previously. It’s not our scene. However, in this particular case, it really is the best way to see the Alaskan panhandle as much of it is inaccessible by road, and vast bays with tidewater glaciers are obviously best seen from the sea. The cruise was scheduled to stop at Ketchikan, Juneau (Alaska’s capital), Skagway and various glacier-draped mountainous bays before arriving in Seward, some 80 clicks south of Anchorage. During the voyage, I was hoping to see whales, seals and various sea birds, along with the
snowed-capped mountains and imposing glaciers. This “panhandle” part of Alaska juts down towards Vancouver (see map opposite - click to enlarge). It is steeped in wet, temperate rainforest. After the cruise, we are planning on driving around for a few weeks.
As I said, the cruise was leaving from Vancouver. We flew to Vancouver after two days in Hawaii. Now, the only direct flight that was cheap and suitable was on Air Canada Rouge. It left Honolulu at 10pm for the 5 hour trip. I guess we did not think it through properly, because neither of us really slept at all on the 5 hour trip and we arrived to cloudy skies in Vancouver at 7am. Cabbed it to the hotel near Stanley Park in the West End and of course our room was not ready and the guy behind the desk was adamant that we could not check in until 3pm. We were totally exhausted – having not slept at all – and were at a loss what to do. He suggested we could sleep in the hotel lobby if desperate. The lobby was noisy with people coming and going, but, well, we WERE desperate. Ross curled up
on the only available lobby lounge and was soon snoring like a hibernating bear, not caring about the people coming in and out. There were no other lounges, just two arm chairs, which were occupied by two elderly women with Marge Simpson hairdos – apparently from Boston - who were bitching incessantly about their ex-husbands. Too exhausted to care, I took off my shoes and socks and just laid flat on the floor, on my back with my arms across my chest like a corpse. I used my day pack as a pillow. I really could not sleep though on the hard floor, with people milling about and, of course, the constant Babbling bouffonts from Boston. After about 2 hours of this, the clock slowly worked its way around to10am. Still could not check in until 3pm, despite me offering to pay them more. We both got up and went out for some coffee and food. The cloud had cleared to a lovely sunny day and this, plus the food, seemed to wake me up. Not Ross; he then went back to the hotel lobby to resume sleeping, while I walked down to wonderful Stanley Park. Anyone who has been
to Vancouver will know what a fantastic urban forest Stanley park is (see pics opposite). I walked a long way around the sea wall, up through forested paths, and saw numerous squirrels and birds but could not spot any raccoons that are known to hang out there. I spent some 4 hours walking around there, stopping for ice cream and taking in the views, but I really don’t know where my energy came from ! Got a bit lost coming back as I'd neglected to get a map, but there were lots of people around to point me in the right direction, and I got back to the hotel at 5pm. Ross had checked in and was ino ur room - of course fast asleep. I too then finally got some sleep. We emerged at 9pm , had a great meal at a local Greek joint and last night we set able our re-set our body clocks by getting a good nights sleep. Today we will check out the wonderful Vancouver aquarium before boarding the Norwegian cruise ship later today.
OK, bye for now.
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