After weeks of cycling and wilderness and rain, taking ferries along the Inside Passage of SE Alaska offered us a rest and a chance to regroup and take stock of the cycling we had achieved so far. The time on and off the ferry proved to be challenging in its own way – more torrential downpours with a broken tent wasn’t quite the relaxation we had in mind, but it offered a chance to see a beautiful part of Alaska in a way we simply couldn’t have done on the bikes.
A selection below of some of the sights we saw along the way…what we can’t include are pictures of humpback whales – their tail fins disappearing before we even thought about getting the camera out – and pictures of just how heavy the rain got, but believe me, we were wet, seriously wet…those marigold washing up gloves mentioned in the last post did indeed get used and I can highly recommend them to anyone searching for a waterproof solution for their hands!
Hanging right over our campground just outside our first ferry stop of Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier is an impressive and chilly sight. We know from our maps that we passed by many glaciers as we cycled through Alaska but most were only visible and accessible by air, so it was a treat to have this one so close to our campground…
…even if it was a reminder of just how chilly Alaska can get!
Our first sighting of a black bear…this young cub had his pick of the Sockeye salmon desperately trying to swim upstream to their final resting place; he did his part to ensure that at least some of them didn’t make it. Shortly after this picture, we watched him bag a monster fish and crunch his way through it.
Through the rainforest and up a height to view the Mendenhall Glacier, we saw lots of beautiful icy clear waterfalls and dripping moss.
Getting into the spirit of travel by boat, James and I get all naval….
One of our stops on the ferry was at Sitka, a port occupied at various points in history by the Tlingit natives, the Russians, the British and the Americans. A mish-mash of history is everywhere; Russian street names and graveyards nestle alongside American tourist kitsch.
Treating ourselves to some local Alaskan fish was a good plan; this hole in the wall café served up the most delicious fish and chips.
Marking the spot where native Tlingit people fought the Russians for control of Sitka is a beautiful totem park with totem poles dotted amongst the trees from where they were carved…very atmospheric and in fact one of the few places that possibly looked better with a bit of rain.
Looking up at the awesome carvings gives appreciation of how much work Native Americans put into telling their stories through wood.
Next ferry stop was Wrangell, a sleepy town unaffected by cruise ship tourism and totally deserted on a rainy Sunday. Perfect time for us to walk on the beach and catch sight of two bald eagles close up.
Searching for petroglyphs on the beach at Wrangell.
Ketchikan, our final ferry stop, proved to be the wettest. According to locals, there was record rainfall on precisely the two days we happened to be there. A great excuse to hide in a local pub and play cards then…
Bikes and cyclists totally dwarfed by one of the colossal cruise ships that we saw along the Inside Passage. Cruise ship tourists are now essential to the survival of these former fishing towns. For us, it was a culture shock to be confronted by all 2000 passengers disembarking in matching jackets with an Alaskan tick list of sights to see in half an hour.
A group of shots from our 36 hour ferry journey between Ketchikan and Bellingham. Sleeping out on deck under the stars, experiencing our first proper sunshine for over three weeks, seeing whales and watching the sun rise were all fantastic highlights of a great trip.
Sun rising as we approach Bellingham and the moon’s still out too. A beautiful end to a great Alaskan adventure.
Arrival in Bellingham sees the announcement of the winner of the Great Alaskan Beard Competition 2011. Despite my best efforts, James roared to success sporting a fuzzy ginger/brown entry – affectionately known as “The Grizzly”.