Craig and Ross in Alaska

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June 22nd 2016
Published: June 23rd 2016
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016.

Episode 3: Glacier Bay and then on to Anchorage.

Hand railings, door handles and salt and pepper shakers.

Theses are apparently the main sources of spreading gastro bugs and/or the norovirus around cruise ships. There were sanitation stations all over the ship, where you place your hands and a pleasant smelling disinfectant squirts out. Everyone happily did this before and after entering eateries and bars on our cruise ship. There were also staff around with little spray bottles of the same stuff, constantly exclaiming “Washy, washy” and spraying your outstretched hands every now and then. They became friendly faces that we got to know. On the last day of the cruise, one of them was on guitar and they were singing. We noted that their repertoire included this corruption of a Beatles song: “I wanna spray your hands….. I wanna spray your hands.”

The last two “stops” on the cruise were Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier (you don’t actually leave the ship). They were absolutely awesome. Glacier Bay is a world heritage-listed marine National Park and it’s easy to see why. It was unbelievably gorgeous – some of the finest scenery I have seen anywhere in the world (see attached photos). It was no doubt helped by the fact that we had another glorious blue and sunny day. In Glacier Bay, the ship slowly eased its way through a narrow fjord, parting turquoise-green water sprinkled with small icebergs, surrounded by a backdrop of jagged snow-capped mountains. It then arrived at the massive ice blue Margerie Glacier. We saw the glacier calve a few times (i.e., shed large chunks of ice the size of cars or houses into the water). As an added bonus, we encountered several humpback whales. Kinda by accident, I managed to catch a shot of a whale that was breaching a fair way off (see pic). While at the glaciers, there was a park ranger on board providing a commentary across the ship’s PA system. He indicated that there is evidence of human-induced climate change everywhere in this part of the world, which is damaging ecosystems. Disappearing glaciers are one of the most obvious effects. He ended by saying:

“I don’t know exactly where we will end up due to global warming, but I can tell you this - Alaska will be the first one to get there.” Depressing.

After the ship exited Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier, it dashed across the Gulf of Alaska to Arrive at Seward early the next day. The seas were quite rough on this final leg (open ocean) and I felt a little seasick, but most of it was during the night, thankfully.

During this final day of the cruise, we passed the town of Valdez. When most people here the word “Valdez” they probably think of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, which ran aground and tragically tragically split over 30 million gallons of oil across a vast tract of pristine wilderness along the Gulf of Alaska in 1989. The catastrophe generated the world’s worst environmental disaster up to that time. Thousands of sea birds, otters, seals, etc died and even today you can apparently “strike oil “ if you scrape a few inches below the sand along the affected parts of the gulf. The Exxon Valdez was forbidden from ever setting anchor in Alaska again, and it set the tone for much political and enviromental debate in the state ever since.

Overall, we had a very good experience on the Norwegian Sun, our first ever cruise. (And thanks again to you, Liz Govier, for your good advice.) However, I do think that the weather can make or break a cruise in this region of the world. We were blessed with great weather basically the entire time. (Days were mild or even warm: 20 – 25°C during the day. Probably due to the afterglow of the strong El Nino this year.) So, the ship arrived in port of city of Seward and regurgitated its human cargo. We then got a bus up to Anchorage, which is where we are now located, in a pleasant Airbnb property. (We have been increasingly using Airbnb of late, where you stay in an ensuite room of someone’s house. Always significantly cheaper than a hotel, often centrally located, a great way to meet the locals and so far we have had positive experiences). Here in Anchorage, our Arirbnb host is a 30-something guy with a beard and pleasant manner, called Jo. Turns out he works for the Department of Alcohol and Marijuana Control. Did you know that Alaska has legalised marijuana use? Only the third US state to do so (for medicinal and/or recreational use). I was surprised, as I considered Alaska a red (conservative) state. Jo said, no, that is a misconception. They are not so much conservative as libertarian. People don’t care what others do, so long as they do so in their own homes. Hence, both Democrats and Republicans carry guns, and the majority now actually support same sex marriage and the right to smoke dope (I suspect Jo himself may partake in the substance!). While chatting, he said to me:

“Oh, you might be interested to know that it is gay pride week here in Anchorage. There are queer films showing this week, a bear night at Mad Myrna’s pub, and a parade next Saturday.”

Like Catherine Tate’s “gay-but-in-denial character”, Derek, I could have said to him:

“I beg your pardon? What on earth are you insinuating? “Gay Pride Week”? How very dare you.”

No, all jokes aside, he is a cool guy.

Anchorage seems a pleasant enough place, with some great murals on local buildings. We spent a few hours in the Anchorage museum, marveling at the anthropological artifacts from the Eskimo/Inupiat native people. Their traditional subsistence way of life was incredibly resourceful, extracting everything they could from the frigid climate in which they lived. We saw parkas made completely of seal intestine, carry bags made of entire seal skins, coats of polar bear fur and feather jackets made of many individual puffins, with their beaks as ornaments! Of course, these days, the indigenous people of Alaska tend to get about in cars and snow mobiles, using mobile phones and satellite dishes, etc.

Today is the Summer solstice in Anchorage - the longest day. The sun “sets” at 11.43pm, but even then there is no “night” just a murky twilight period that then turns into the next day again at 3.40am. Last night, we found ourselves at a roof top bar in the city, and were still having a beer in the sun at 10pm. Weird experience. Happily, our room has a purposed-built blind that blocks out all light for sleeping.

While Ross pottered about the city today, I hired a bike and cycled the popular Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that runs around the edge of the city by the water. I tried to convince Ross to join me, but he said:

“The Tony Knowles trail. Oh, no, I’m not doing that. Do you know who Tony Knowles was? I would not support anything associated with his name.”

“Who was he?” I asked. “…….You have no idea who he was, do you?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, yes, he, um…He tried to outlaw bacon in America .”

Nice try, Ross.

But Ross missed out because I passed a swampy area while cycling and saw a female moose with two calves (see pic below).

We are now embarking on a self drive around south Central Alaska.

Bye for now


(p.s. For more pics, see below. click to enlarge, then scroll through).

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


23rd June 2016
5. Bald eagle with fish

not jealous at all...
I think I need to get your itinerary sent to me. I need to take that boat trip. Great photos and I'm enjoying the stories.

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