17.05.2008 - 17.05.2008 10 °C
Our disembarkation was rather smooth and not too early so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast and the kids could say their good byes to the staff that they became friendly with. It was a very international crew, of various ages all on the ship for a different reason. Many of the younger staff were there to see Alaska, some for the first season, so very excited and others working to support their family back home. One of the buffet stewards that developed a friendly rapport with the kids, always looking out for them with special treats was actually working on the ship with his wife while his inlaws looked after their 6 year old son in Macedonia. A tough gig but his view was that they could earn a lot better money for a few years to be able to provide a good education for their son. They work 7 days a week for a full 6 months, mostly 10-12 hours shifts. Many of the staff were from the Philippines and a lot of European countries so I’m sure the money is very good for them compared to what they could earn waiting tables back home.
Fortunately our coach driver hurried everyone up as we got through the terminal so we didn’t have to wait for the next hour to pass through the tunnel. We arrived with about 5 minutes to spare and made our way through the long dark tunnel.
Our trip into Anchorage where we were to spend the first night at the Hilton was broken up with a visit to the National Heritage Centre where we wandered through replicas of the native villages and watched one of the groups perform some of their ceremonial dances. From there it was off to the Anchorage Wildlife Rescue Centre where we were able to get an up close look at elk, caribou, deer, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, black bears and some moose. Lovely to see these animals up close, especially the moose who even enjoyed a scratch on their nose. I was amazed at how soft and velvety the antlers were on the elk and caribou and to find that they lose their antlers every year.
Our drive into Anchorage was very picturesque along Turnagain Arm. It was one of the weekends when locals could go into the inlet and fish by scoop net for a small oily fish called Hooligan (not sure of the spelling). Apparently a good catch as all you are allowed to take per day was half a bucket load and by the number of cars lining the highway it was obviously worth it.
The tides through here are huge to the latitude, in the vicinity of 18-20 metres and as this area is all glacier fed, the incredible build up of silt makes it inaccessible to boats. There has even been reported deaths from people walking out onto the silt beds which act like quicksand. Don’t think we’ll be taking any walks out there.
Downtown Anchorage is a sleepy place however the largest city in Alaska with around 75% of the population of the state. It must be a great place to live as a lot of the people we have spoken to have visited from other states and end up residents! The main difference I have noticed about the North Americans and Canadians is how much they enjoy the outdoors , regardless of the weather as compared to us down under that retreat indoors when the weather gets colder. They all make the most of every opportunity in all weather to fish, ski, hike, dog sled, snow shoe, whatever the season, there is an activity that gets them out.
The whole hunting culture was quite amazing. If it’s furry, they shoot it. There are still hunting trips that go out in the search of bears and wolves, moose and elk and mostly for the sport. However our guide on the whale watch tour in Juneau did say he hasn’t bought meat since moving to Alaska.
The only areas that are out of bounds are the national parks unless you are a native Alaskan who can take a specific quota from the park every year. One of the signs that amazed me as we entered national park boundaries was the gun with the red line saying NO LOADED WEAPONS!
We were amazed how many people own guns and quite an arsenal of them. Up until 2 years ago when a new governor was elected, High school children were still allowed to take their guns to school because a lot of them would have been hunting before school!
It really is another world!!
Our accommodation at the Hilton for the night was very comfortable with a room each we could really spread out and enjoy a big sleep after watching a magnificent sunset over the mountains and water, we even caught a glimpse of Mt McKinley in the distance.