Alaska & Canada
We're quite lucky here in the UK because there's not a lot of wildlife critters that want to eat us - or just kill us for the fun of it. Australia has it's crocodiles, poisonous spiders & snakes, etc while Africa / Asia have their big cats and reptiles. America & Canada of course still have cougars & bears roaming free in their wilderness despite man's best efforts to kill them all off and recycle them into fancy coats and rugs - or daft hats for the Coldstream Guards.
There are the rattlesnakes too of course, so it's fair to say that walking the trails in parts of Canada and Alaska can involve some risk. The warning signs at the areas where the trails start, are kind enough to inform us of the manner in which we're likely to meet our demise should we choose to venture forth into the long grass. From the information provided, we could seemingly come face to face with a cougar or an 8 foot tall grizzly bear at any time out there - as happened to No 1 child's partner not so long ago. He lived to tall the tale but then again - although it does happen - wild animal attacks on humans in North America are pretty rare, or so we're told.
We walked one or two trails on this trip, and we saw lots of wildlife which presented us with no real cause for concern - but chipmunks and deer are pretty harmless. The only bears we saw were from the safety of the car or from a good healthy distance away, but they are out there - lurking and ready to turn the unwary traveller into the bear version of a Macky D's happy meal. (If that's regarded as product placement then make mine a years free supply of Chicken McSandwich and vanilla milk shakes - hey, healthy eating is so overrated)
So, It was with a little sigh of relief that we were heading back to Vancouver at the end of our road trip having survived the dangers of the Canadian wilderness. After a few walking excursions and covering 1000s of miles by car it felt reassuring to be back near the relative safety of civilisation once again where we weren't likely to be eaten, or have a rockfall the size of a small dormer bungalow land on the car roof .... Oh, yes! I forgot to mention the rockfall areas, there are lots of those too.
It happened on a wide main road just outside of the large town Kamloops. We were pootling along minding our own business when from nowhere a deer appeared right in front of us, but Instead of carrying on across the road and out of harms way this one spotted us heading straight for him (her?) and decided it would be a good idea to turn around and go back. Which, in the milliseconds I had to react to the thing probably wasn't the smartest of choices, but the look of sheer terror on it's face suggested it may have been a knee jerk reaction.
Thankfully we managed to miss it by mere inches and the moment of drama passed without either of us coming to a messy end. It got me to thinking though, the dangers that wildlife can present out here aren't always from what or where you'd expect. You could survive an encounter with a grizzly bear or a cougar out in the lonely wilds, yet be toasted by a deer with a death wish on the outskirts of a big town. Just one of life's strange little foibles that can pop up from nowhere to bite you on the arse sometimes ..... Maybe literally if you're unfortunate enough.
We said we'd never do another cruise after our first one to Norway last year as it was far too regimented and restrictive for our liking, but in the words of Robert Burns, "The best-laid schemes o' mice and men" and all that...........
.... We'd planned this trip as a month long one, and the original plan had been to drive up to Alaska from Vancouver, but the distance / time involved would have carved far too much time out of the Rockies road trip which was to follow.
We decided the best plan would be to just jump on a cruise ship heading up to Skagway. This was a similar scenario to what we'd done last year for Norway when we discovered there were no ferries anymore to get us anywhere near and the drive would have taken days, and that's how we ended up going on our first ever cruise. Cruises suck but as a means of getting somewhere worthwhile that would otherwise take ages to drive to, they are handy. As it turned out this cruise up to Skagway enabled us to see bits of Alaska that we'd never have seen if we'd gone by road. Juneau (the capital of Alaska) and Glacier Bay for instance have no road access anywhere near them, so we'd never have got to see either - well Juneau maybe but only by a lengthy ferry crossing from somewhere else.
Enough blabbing - here are the photos >>
Canadian Road Trip Alaska
Almost there - flying over the Rockies
Waiting to leave Vancouver aboard our ship the Nieuw Amsterdam, this is Coal Harbour taken from the balcony of our cabin before we set sail.
Fueling the ship
EEarly evening and just about to leave. Coal Harbour is a busy float plane airport, the couple of small airlines that operate here serve
the outlying areas where there's little or no road access, they also operate the mail planes and fly schedules to Vancouver Island.
Our cabin on board the ship. a bit nicer than the 2 wee portholes we had on the Norwegian trip and we had a balcony which was good
Early evening and we get underway, passing under the Lion's Gate Bridge which crosses the Burrard Inlet.
We'll rarely lose sight of land on the way up to Skagway,
This was early morning, cruising through the Queen Charlotte Sound - it's a tad nippy out here in yer Jim Jams!
Juneau, Whales & Mendenhall
The ship anchored offshore at a cloudy Juneau, we had to use the tenders to get ashore here which was organised chaos
Alaska is like Scotland, even on an overcast day there's a lovely clarity and ambience to the light
We wanted to go see some whales in their natural habitat whilst in Alaska, but rather than go with the ship's overcrowded shore trip we'd
booked on this private charter boat, there were about 12 of us aboard. The boat may have been tiny but it was rapid and the owner
took us for miles to find a whale pod.
We found this pod of Humpbacks in a small inlet, they're quite easy to spot when they're blowing their water spouts.
Once we'd spotted the pod, I was surprised just how close the boat owner got to them. These magnificent creatures are huge.
We were quite close in places and my telephoto lens was too long so I was in the process of changing it when this Humpback popped
it's nose out of the water. I'd given Miss my little Olympus to use and she was quick enough to get this shot.
Getting the classic "Whale Tail" proved to be elusive though, it was probably too shallow here for them to dive deep and raise their tails as
they do out in open sea, this was the best I managed here, but I did get a better one a day or so later from the ship.
Back at Juneau, our whale boat is the little fella on the left of the photo, I did say it was tiny!
When we got back to the harbour we didn't go straight back to Juneau, but instead jumped on a bus which was
going to the Mendenhall Glacier a few miles away. It was early evening now and the light was fading
We were the only two on the 50 seater bus so we sat up front and got chatting to our driver a really nice lady called Peggy. She waited
at the glacier for us while we went for a walk, then she took us all the way back to Juneau and dropped us off at the ship.
Juneau's nothing special, it's a small outback place with it's industry centred mainly around the port, There are one or two tourist shops which
look a bit out of place but they'd be daft not to try to cash in on the cruise ship custom that frequently lands here. There's no road access
to the town from the outside world so everything comes and leaves here by sea or air.
Click for Next Page