ALYESKA TO ANCHORAGEJune 4 in the United States
This land part of the trip is not as efficient as the cruise. The speakers on the bus didn't work well yesterday, the toilets were closed on the first wee stop as they couldn't be pumped out until the spring thaw (best not to dwell on that one!) and the driver can't handle our surname so tends to pass over us on role call! The hotel is lovely but the front desk seems to make up any information they don't know, when we asked about using the bikes they told us the rental shop was open 10 am - 6 pm, in reality it is open 8 am - 8 pm! Also there was a 20 minute wait to be seated for breakfast in the dining room so we opted for the Star Bucks cafe. Our co-travellers (using the US term) are not very tolerant of poor service and are getting their dollars out of their pockets less than usual for tipping.
We collected our cruiser bikes and set off along the bike path, passed Moose Meadow (unfortunately no moose spotted yet) into the 'town' of Girdwood. Another very small, rural town which hasn't changed in years. We went into a little cafe and observed the locals, everyone seemed on 1st name terms and we were definitely the only tourists present. There is a much higher percentage of native origin people here than in other parts of the US but 'out of season' life must be tough up here with heavy snow falls, very little day light and limited supplies etc. so only the real Alaskans are up to the challenge.
We boarded the bus and sampled true Alaskan weather for the first time, it started to rain. Our driver had mended the PA system which proved to be a bit of a mixed blessing! He told us some bears had been scratching at the bus during the night. We only had a short journey to our first stop at Portage Glacier where we went on a boat ride out to see the glacier. One of the crew spotted a bear so we stopped to watch him on the hillside. All the bears are quite thin this time of year and very hungry as they have just come out of their winter hibernation. We had a quick food break at the visitors centre then went onto the Alaskan Wild Life Conservation Centre where injured animals are looked after. We saw black and brown bears, moose, elks, reindeer, wolves and a porcupine.
Our journey took us along Turnagain Arm. Captain Cook was trying to find a north west trading passage and when he reached this area he kept having to turn again as there was no route through. Cook never returned to England as he was killed in Hawaii. George Vancouver was on Cook's expedition and when he returned to this area he named the bay Cook Inlet. This area has one of the biggest bore tides in the world reaching up to 10 feet.
We arrived in Anchorage around 6 pm, it is definitely the biggest city we have seen with some smart residential areas, a few skyscrapers, parks and some shopping malls. It felt a bit like when we were in New Zealand and we arrived in Wellington and suddenly there were modern malls and shops instead of the original style settler buildings. Anchorage also is surrounded by mountains (and active volcanos!) as well as being an earthquake zone!
We had a quick supper then went on the trolley bus tour. Like many other towns Gold played a part in the first settlers coming here, followed by the construction of the rail road, then the military were posted here and finally the discovery of oil caused another influx of people. In 1964 Anchorage was hit by a 9.2 earthquake which lasted over 4 minutes and land dropped by several feet in parts of the town. A significant rebuilding programme was required. Our tour guide pointed out where the earthquake hit, we visited Earthquake park where houses were buried. We saw the old railway station, Captain Cook's statue, the meadow area where the urban moose are often seen, the lake where the floatplanes take off and the land planes runway which crosses the road!Read more