Diamonds May Not be Forever
03.09.2015 - 06.09.2015 11 °C
So having been stunned by those amazing cathedrals of ice and snow that are Alaska’s glaciers in the earlier part of our Alaskan cruise, for the next 3 days on the boat (sorry Martin I keep forgetting it’s a ship) we visited a new port a day.
Skagway is a town that reminded me of Sovereign Hill, the pretend goldfield town in Ballarat. Lots of Alaska’s European settlement history revolves around the Gold Rush to Klondike, where they got out heaps of gold for small numbers of people. But the traumas of passage, and then access to the goldfields were like logistical nightmares on speed for those unprepared fortune seekers. Skagway sets itself up as the town that looks like an old late 19th century town complete with (temporary) wooden boardwalk in front of the shops down the main street. The rest of the town looks perfectly normal, if a little rough around the edges, thus befitting a small town on the Alaskan coast.
(Note the sign in the window about the brothel tours! It gave P a chuckle! Apparently, it was a brothel in goldrush days, but we hasten to add - not any more!!)
Fortunately, Phil and I had booked a photography tour and only meandered for about 90 mins in Skagway. Our tour was 3 hours with a German magazine photographer who took us up to see glaciers waterfalls and stunning scenery and teach us how to best use our cameras, compose our shots, and improve our skills. Me? I was far behind the 8-ball but even my photography has improved since then. There were only 5 of us, so we got to see such beautiful places in peace. The sound of snow melt running down the mountain was like taking a peace pill that just filled the soul. And the Inuksuk symbol was a really powerful piece of First Nation symbolism that I personally was fascinated by. It pointed a follower in the right direction, by looking through the hole (between the legs) to the next symbol and that was the path to follow!
To make up for the ho-hum of Skagway's main street, that night at 1030 we decided to attend an organised event on the ship. As P went to collect our jackets for rugging up for Exploring The Stars on the Top Deck outside, he met a woman running down the corridor squealing that the Lights were out! All talk of exploring stars by the entertainment crew was quickly abandoned as Mother Nature turned on one of her glorious Northern Lights spectacles. Even now as I type and recall the sky that night I have goosebumps! It was ALL we'd heard it could be. Amazing colours, swirling action, and just a few of the 1000 passngers and crew there to watch it. The Bridge turned out the lights on the top deck to help us and we just stood in wonder, maybe 60 or 70 of us! It lasted less than 30 mins or so but eclipsed what we had seen the previous time by a 100 times!! Truly magical! And this old Oma did a little dance of excitement on the deck at her good fortune at seeing this wonder!! Photos just do NOT capture it. It's weird! Like it has to be seen in reality to really get it's wonder! So two happy little campers took to our very comfy cabin and watched for longer from our deck but nothing more was to be seen!
The other two ports, Juneau (Alaska’s capital) and Ketchikan were sadly underwhelming repeats of Skagway (only without the wild west boardwalk). All three had a small shopping area OVER-RUN by diamond and semi-precious stone sellers that are gone in a few weeks once the summer cruise season is over and winter sets in. They were beside the occasional First Nation gallery, with some Alaskan handiwork, and then the inevitable cheap souvenirs’ shops that all had variations of the same things mainly made in China!
Don’t ask me why people would buy diamonds from Alaska but seemingly they do. I think it avoids a sales tax but even so, you wouldn’t feel confident that Mr Dodgy Bros had even sold you a real one!! Some looked reputable and others claimed their integrity with cheap tacky signs with the predictable spelling errors. But when the sales staff are leaning in the doorway trying to lure you inside, you want to run a mile! It reminded me of the worst of Lygon St on a Saturday night!
In Juneau, I went to the sled dogs summer camp and learned some more about Alaskan huskies which tend to be bitzers bred by mushers for particular qualities. I nursed some 9 week puppies, met some others, and got dragged around a track in a wheeled enlarged golf buggy pulled by a team.
Then I was silly enough to wander around town only to make the discoveries about the repetition of shops. See dear reader, I went and did all that for you! I call it Research, whatever you might call it!! So I could report back. General consensus across the people we talked to, was that the ports were disappointing, and no-one ever wanted to see a diamond seller again! But then the shop onboard was doing their best to persuade jewellery purchases too.
Meanwhile Phil went to Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau for more glacier action and a salmon hatchery watching the salmon swim up some steps. They need to have done the whole swim upstream and fight their way upwards to allow some unexplained biochemical process happen and allow them to hatch. he's captured a great shot of the glacier wall which i have put here! And also the waterfall that went with it.
By the third day I’d had it and just meandered instead of touring anywhere, while Phil went off on an underwhelming tour that didn’t deliver anything thrilling except a bit of a drenching. So he returned a little peeved, and we sat on our deck and drank wine instead. That improved our humours and we were ready for a final day of sailing. That doesn’t sound like us at all does it?
Of course not all sailing is exotic and luxurious. If you're like us you get your washing done and hang lines all over your cabin so you can hang you jocks and knickers and shirts and pants all over the place. However there were some lovely moments on our own little deck where we shared wine and watched for whales - WHICH NEVER BLOODY APPEARED! I'm convinced it's all BS, all this wildlife in Alaska business! We saw bugger all but I guess that's the luck of the draw. But in the scheme of things those Northern Lights will do it for me more than bears or whales, so I'm happy!!
My next post will be about a princess. Tell you more then!