Sunday, September 19, 2010

To the Land of the Midnight Sun: Heading north to Alaska (early July '10)

Jules and I had a few days before we had to catch a ferry all the way up to Alaska so we used the time to visit Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). The first night we camped in an awesome rustic campsite overlooking a small bay, and celebrated the start of our trip with a bottle of wine.
We definitely didn't have long enough to do the islands justice, but we enjoyed cycling the quiet island roads, Bald Eagle spotting and having dinner on the beaches. We had our first scary black bear encounter... Jules was riding in front and halted suddenly. With great panic in her voice she whispered “bear” and pointed up the road. We both quickly rode back the way we had come a little way, Jules got out her bear-spray and her whistle and we stopped to wait for some cars to go by and scare it off. We waved manically at the first driver who looked at us strangely and kept going, this happened a few more times and finally I said “umm Jules that bear appears to be wagging his tail at us”. I rode on past him, but Jules was still nervous and tooted away on her whistle the whole time she was riding, while still trying to wave down passing cars. When we got up to the “bear” Jules had to admit sheepishly that yes he was a friendly black dog.
Haida Gwaii is also where we gained our obsession with cinnamon buns. We had The Best cinnamon bun in a bakery in the middle of nowhere, oh my god, warm from the oven, dripping with syrup.. we were in sugary heaven.... ever since there we have been chasing that same orgasmic combination of syrup and bun and sultana..mmmmmmm.... and we have actually rethought the purpose of our trip- it is now to taste every cinnamon bun from Alaska to South America. A new life ambition.
When we arrived back in Prince Rupert after the overnight ferry from Haida Gwaii we stocked up at the supermarket and went onboard the Alaskan Ferries with the equivalent of our own body weight in food. Obviously all we planned to do for the next three days was eat.
Our tight budget did not stretch to the luxury of a cabin so we joined the rest of the budget-travellers in the solarium on the top deck of the boat (”It's just like being back in jail” one guy declared as he was setting up his camp). We marked ourselves out a little corner where we could unroll our sleeping mats onto the sunbeds and watch the water go by through the windows... we got a little bored of watching the water after an hour or so and went to find the bar.
We actually did not end up spending much time in our solarium/bed-room but cruised the decks looking for whales (no luck), read in the 'lounge area' and attempted crosswords and jigsaw puzzles (well one jigsaw, which was huge and was a picture of trees, all of very similar shades of green. We lasted about 5 minutes and managed to piece together about 3 pieces before Jules announced “let's go get a beer”). We had befriended two English boys, Thomas and Michael, on the boat who also appreciated “beer o'clock” and we spent more time in the bar, with cards and trivial pursuit. Still no whales. Even the beer didn't help us see any.
Everyone on board the boat was very friendly and it felt like a big cheap cruise, minus the karaoke. However, towards the end of the three days everything started getting a bit strained, kids were getting antsy, and us without cabins were starting to smell. Jules and I were pretty happy to finally arrive in Whittier, to reunite with Norma and Betty and ride onto Alaskan soil.

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