Sunday, 4 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 6

Sunday, 4 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 6 

After breakfast a group had the opportunity of driving to the Gomantong Cave but I chose not to go because my leg was causing me problems still. Sounds like I made the right decision as it was quite dangerous in spots – very slippery. There is certainly no occupational and health safety.   We then left Sukau and drove about 120 kms. to Sandakan to our accommodation at the Sabah Hotel. This was a lovely up-market hotel.  We had lunch and later had a very welcome swim.

In lovely Sabah Hotel pool with Chris, Rod and Estelle

It was then time to change and driven for another boat cruise along the mangrove forests. As it got darker, we were able to see hundreds of fireflies lighting up the trees around the forests and village.  After the cruise ended, we then had our evening meal at the local village. We were then transferred back to our accommodation for a leisurely night with some of the other guests before retiring for the night.

Thursday, 9th November 2018 – Melbourne to Canberra (Home)

Friday, 9th November 2018 – Melbourne to Canberra (Home)

It was up and checked out of our hotel and Christine took me to the near by Southern Cross Station for me to catch the Skybus to go to the Airport.  We said our goodbyes after a super trip to Borneo with her. I had some breakfast and a wander before it was time for me to catch Flight QF848 (Seat 9F). to Canberra, leaving at 12.00.  We landed at 1.00 and I was met by my neighbour who brought me home.

It was home after an enjoyable 15 days.  Was lovely catching up with Mary and Janice in Melbourne before Christine and I went on to Borneo.  The 10 day tour that Christine and I had on our Borneo trip was fabulous. We had 25 other people on the tour and we all got on very well.  The countryside was extremely beautiful and so lush and green everywhere and the people were so friendly and helpful.

Of course, the highlight of our trip was visiting the Orangutan Centre and watching their antics.

Both our guides were very helpful and extremely knowledgeable and our coach drivers got us safely to all our destinations.  Thankyou to the people in our group who gave me assistance. Lastly, a huge thankyou for Christine’s patience and assistance though out the time we were together. I was disappointed that I was unable to participate in every activity but my left leg was continually painful and my right wrist was troublesome.  Would have been different had it all been on one side but it was still a super trip. Making use of the wheelchair in places throughout the trip was very much appreciated but I was so pleased with what I did and saw.

Wednesday, 7th and Friday 9th November 2018 – Borneo to Melbourne then home – Days 9 & 10

Wednesday, 7th and Friday 9th  November 2018 – Borneo to Melbourne then home – Days 9 and 10.

After breakfast, we did our last pack before we were taken to the Sandakan Airport.  We had a little time to spare so looked at some information on the Pangalin. Pangolins as a genus are among the most heavily poached and exploited protected animals. Like other pangolin species, the Sunda pangolin is hunted for its skin, scales, and meat, used in clothing manufacture and traditional medicine. Scales are made into rings as charms against rheumatic fever, and meat is eaten by indigenous peoples. Despite enjoying protected status almost everywhere in its range, illegal international trade, largely driven by Chinese buyers, has led to rapidly decreasing population numbers. The Sunda pangolin is currently considered to be critally endangered.  We watched a huge amount of produce on a trolley heading into the plane to be loaded on.

We caught our Flight MH2711 from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur. (Seat 9A) leaving at 1355.  It was funny, as Christine was designated a window seat, but she couldn’t see out as it was blocked in so I had to give her a commentary of where we were.  She probably would have changed had it been a long flight.

 As our flight didn’t leave Kuala Lumpur until 2150 we spent time in the lovely airport lounge where we could have as much as you required to eat and drink – complimentary.  Nice and relaxing before it was time to then pass through Security once more and onto Flight MH0149 leaving at 2150 (Seat 32A).

The configuration was 2x4x2. Christine and I had window seats – behind each other.  After the seat belt signs went off, the passenger next to me and Christine both moved to other seats so this meant we were both able to stretch out allowing us to get some sleep.  The flight was very smooth and we arrived in Melbourne at approximately 8.45 Thursday 8th November having travelled a distance of 3951 miles.   We caught a taxi to our accommodation at the Mantra on the Park.   After we settled into our room we had lunch at the adjoining restaurant.  We had a “fashion parade” of the people who had been to the Oaks Day at the Melbourne Races.  Christine went and did some more shopping and then it was dinner time so we just ate at the same restaurant as lunch as the food was enjoyable.

So that was the end of several pack filled days of our trip to Borneo.  It was fun watching Christine trying to sort out her luggage as she had made some extra bits of shopping and she had trouble packing and repacking her goodies.  We finally went to bed after talking about our fabulous interesting trip to Borneo.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 8

Tuesday, 6 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 8

After breakfast we departed to visit the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. It was fun watching these weird looking animals leaping about and then we watched them enjoy their morning feed. They posed one minute and next thing were thumping along where we were walking.   They are the queerest looking animals with their very pronounced noses compared to the rest of their bodies.

Proboscis monkeys are known to make various vocalizations. When communicating the status of group, males will emit honks. They have a special honk emitted towards infants, which is also used for reassurance. Males will also produce alarm calls to signal danger. Both sexes give threat calls, but each are different. In addition, females and immature individuals will emit so-called “female calls” when angry. Honks, roars and snarls are made during low-intensity agonistic encounters. Nonvocal displays include leaping-branch shaking, bare-teeth open mouth threats and erection in males, made in the same situations.  They were quite noisy while leaping around. 

It was then onto the Sandakan War Memorial Park.   I didn’t go up the steps but enjoyed being in the lovely gardens.  The Sandakan War Memorial Park commemorates the suffering endured by and the tragic sacrifice of  approximately 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war held by the Japanese in the Sandakan POW camp between January and August 1945.  Early in 1945, the Japanese decided to move the POWs 260 kilometres west into the mountains to the small settlement of Ranau. On three forced marches between January and June approximately 500 prisoners died. The remainder died at the Ranau and Sandakan camps. Of all those who had been alive in January1945 by the end of August, only six – all Australians – survived. With the help of local people, they were fed and hidden from the Japanese until the end of the war.

Escape was no easy task, as all prisoners were  suffering malnutrition and wer affected by tropical diseases including beri beri, malaria and dysentery. Escapees were also at risk of being turned over to their captors as the Japanese offered large rewards for the recapture of escaped POWS.  This small group of survivors was able to testify against their tormentors to ensure that the world received eyewitness accounts of the crimes and atrocities committed at Sandakan, on the death marches and at Ranua.

It was onto the beautiful English Tea House for lunch. The grounds were immaculate and we had lovely views of the harbour. Was very relaxing.

 

We had a rest before our farewell dinner at the Sandakan Hotel. It was one of our companion’s birthday so we made a toast to Leesa.

It was a very good night – full of laughs and sad that it was our last night with a great friendly group of people.  Onto the coach once more back to our hotel after another enjoyable day.

 

Sunday, 4 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 6

Sunday 4 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 6

Monday, 5 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 7

This morning we departed for an excursion to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

We had a quick trip to the Rainforest Discovery Centre through the Botanical Gardens and the canopy walkway.

We then proceeded to the orangutans feeding platform to witness their morning feeding in their forest environment. The orangutans gave a good show swinging from tree to tree or on the ropes or hammocks. Very entertaining. We spent quite a lot of time viewing the young orangutans in the outdoor nursery.

We then visited the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre where we saw a couple of the world’s smallest bear in their natural forest environment. The vegetation is just beautiful – so green and the trees so dense. Was lovely to see how the different vines were entwined through the tall trees.

Jan and I at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

We returned to the hotel for lunch and then it was more orangutan feeding in the afternoon before we were taken to the Mango Restaurant for our dinner. Our group was in a separate section of the restaurant and in the next section there was a performance being acted out – a musical/opera. A couple of the performers came into our area and posed for photographs with our group.  It was quite hilarious.

In the room next to us, a Borneo group were performing and after they had finished a couple of the cast joined us to pose for some photographs.  We were quite tired when we arrived back to our hotel but it was a very enjoyable first day in Kota Kinabalu.

We were driven back to the hotel and had a couple of drinks with some of the group before going to bed. It was another very enjoyable day.

Saturday, 3 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 5

Saturday, 3 November 2018 – Sabah – Day 5

This morning was an early wakeup for a sunrise cruise in the long boats to search for the proboscis monkeys. Not long into the trip, I lost my unused new tablet overboard in the very muddy water.  After about an hour we headed back to the Lodge for breakfast.

It was then back onto the boats for another cruise and to watch the antics of the monkeys. While some of the group went for a short jungle walk, I stayed on the boat and the boatman gave me a very delicate wild flower – very prolific along the bank. We also checked some of the pots trapping prawns and crabs. It was back to the lodge once more for lunch.

The rest of the day was at leisure – there were some monkeys wandering around the grounds .

While at the Borneo Lodge we did lots of in and out of the long boats.  It was dinner at the lodge and then bed after another very enjoyable day.

 

 

Friday, 2 November 2018 – Sabah – Borneo – Day 4

Friday, 2 November 2018 – Sabah – Borneo – Day 4

After breakfast, we left our lovely cottage and took in the beautiful countryside and a terrific view of Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Sabah . There were tea pickers in the grounds. It was into the Tea Factory to hear about the different processes and then into the Sabah gift shop – made some purchases and received a free sample of the refreshing Sabah tea.

It was then onto Kampung Luanti where we stopped off to enjoy a fish spa (foot massage). We laughed and laughed as it was a strange feeling having the fish nibbling away.

We travelled for about 4-5 hours through the Labak and Sugut area to Sukau for lunch. Sukau is on the Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah. It is an area that’s home to 10 species of primates, 8 species of hornbills and a wide variety of other animals and birds.

It was then a short boat transfer to our accommodation in Borneo Nature Lodge. After checking in, it was down to the river bank for a river cruise in the long boats in search of proboscis monkeys and other wildlife along the river bank. We spent quite awhile watching the antics of the monkeys bounding from tree to tree.

We came back to the Lodge to relax before it was time to have our dinner.  This was a very long day driving for about 250kms but certainly had varied activities and magnificent scenic views of the villages and the beautiful Mt. Kinabalu.

 

Thursday, 1 November 2018 – Sabah – Borneo – Day 3

Thursday, 1 November 2018 – Sabah – Borneo – Day 3

This morning after breakfast we drove through the Crocker Range with amazing scenic views of Tuaran and Kota Belua. We stopped at Nabalu Village market with local hand crafts, souvenirs and snacks and then to lunch at the Nabalu Restaurant.

It was then onwards to the beautiful Kinabalu National Park. Jan and I stayed behind and rested up. The countryside was just spectacular with villages nestled in the mountainside.

While the group went to the War Memorial Park, I went to a nearby market.

It was then onto Ranau to our accommodation at the Sabah Tea Gardens. We all had different cabins and ours was the Alfred Dent Cottage. The gardens were beautiful and had lovely views of the mountains.

We didn’t have to go far tonight for our meal as it was at the Tea Gardens.  There were some nasty beetles flying around and entertained us for some time. It was then back to our lovely room and an early night to bed as it was a full day again.  

 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 – Kota Kinabalu – Day 2

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 – Kota Kinabalu – Day 2

After breakfast, we went by our coach to the Marina Jetty to catch a ferry to Manukan Island. After a short walk, we came to our designated huts. It was lovely just relaxing before I decided to put my feet in the water but the current was very strong and ripped my flip flops off. Fortunately, they were retrieved. Knew why we were warned not to go swimming in this area because of the strong rip. It was interesting watching a couple of Japanese girls in their high heels walking into the water to have about 5,000 – ha ha – photos taken. Lucky they did not get swept out because of the current. Some of the group walked further along to go swimming and snorkelling. After a super buffet lunch we headed back to the jetty to get the ferry back to the mainland.

We were then driven to the Mari Mari Cultural Village (MMCV). The village operates as a museum that preserves Borneo’s ethnic cultures, which features five different ethnic tribes in one village – including the rice farmers, longhouse residents, the hunters and fisherman, the cowboy and sea gypsies and the famously feared head-hunting tribe. Because of the difficult terrain, I stayed behind and was entertained by a lovely group of volunteers.

After the MMCV, we were then driven to the Sri Melaka Restaurant for another super meal and then it was back to the hotel for an evening of leisure and then it was off to bed. Another great full day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 29 October – Tuesday 30 October 2018 – Melbourne – Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) via Kuala Lumpur

Monday, 29 October 2018 – Melbourne to Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) via Kuala Lumpur

After breakfast, Chris and I said goodbye to Mary and Jan and we then made our way to Flinders Street Station to catch the free City Circle No. 35 and then onto another tram to meet up with Chris’ son Dion and his two little girls.

We spent time at Dion’s until 6.00 when Dion drove Chris and I to the International Airport. I took advantage of wheelchair assistance as my left leg was so painful to walk and stand. We booked our luggage through and stayed in the Old Town White Coffee restaurant until it was time to be met by the wheelchair assistant lady who took us through the necessary formalities for flight Malaysia MH0128 departing Melbourne at 00.40 to Kuala Lumpur.

After our meal, it was time to settle down for the long flight. I found it very difficult to get comfortable so was pleased when we arrived at Kuala Lumpur after 8 hours 20 minutes at 6.00 a.m. – 3951 miles.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 – Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo – Day 1

We proceeded to Zone C for Malaysia MH2610 – Boeing 737-800 Jet, Seat 16C departing Kuala Lumpur at 9.35 a.m. It was a smooth 2 hrs 40 min flight arriving in Kota Kinabalu at 12.15 p.m. (1018 miles).  We met the rest of our group on the tour, our guide, Brendan and our coach driver. We were driven to our accommodation at the Dreamtel Hotel. 

We settled into the hotel until 2.00p.m. when we were then taken on a scenic tour of Kota Kinabalu city, passing the Sabah Foundation Building, University, Sabah State and City Mosque and the Sabah Museum to mention a few.  It was then onto the night markets and then to the Sri Tanjung Restaurant for a delicious seafood meal with a cultural show.

 

Thursday, 25 October to Monday 29 October – 2018 – Canberra to Melbourne

Thursday, 25 October 2018 – Canberra to Melbourne

Neighbour Peter drove me to the Canberra Airport for Flight VA256 (Seat 18F) departing at 8.45. It was a smooth flight and arrived in Melbourne at 9.55. I caught the Skybus to the gardens opposite our accommodation, the Mantra on the Park, 333 Exhibition Street. The room was not ready until 1.30 so I just stayed in the adjoining restaurant and had lunch until I could go into our room.  Later in the afternoon Janice and Mary (highschool friends) arrived.  We settled in and chatted until Christine arrived.  (another highschool friend). The next few days were to be our little school reunion.  More chatting and catching up before going to bed after we had some dinner.

Friday, 26 October 2018 – Melbourne

I was feeling quick sick with hayfever and pain so I spent the day in the hotel and left the girls to do their own sightseeing which included the Melbourne Zoo.

Saturday 27 October 2018 – Melbourne

I was feeling much better today. After breakfast, we went to a very popular restaurant, Brunetti for morning tea. It was quite convenient to our hotel.

In the afternoon, we went to the Theatre to see the Musical – A Gentleman’s view on Love and Murder. It was a very professional performance and we had many laughs.

Because Christine comes to visit her son in Melbourne quite often, she was a great guide for us as she knew where to take us and which trams, etc. to catch. Melbourne has a free circle tram and that was very handy for us as our hotel was quite convenient to our stops.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 – Melbourne

After breakfast, we caught a tram to Docklands and went on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel at 11.00.  The wheel took off very slowly and we got a fabulous view of the city of Melbourne and its outskirts. After being on the wheel, we had lunch and wandered along the shops – Chris and Jan made some purchases.

It was then back to our hotel before it was out again down to Chinatown for a very expensive meal. Back to our hotel once again for more chatting before it was bedtime. This was to be our last night with Janice and Mary as they were flying to Adelaide and Christine and I were going on our trip to Borneo.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 23,24 and 25 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying Home – Days 28-30

Saturday, 23 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying home (Days 28-30)

I couldn’t sleep so I had my last dip in the pool.  Did go back to bed until 800 – had breakfast and took some photos of this “Home Beautiful.  Al and Anne had a tremendous builder and what really impressed me were two paintings set in the recess of the wall – one was the Great Wall of China and the other of one of the canals in Venice.  Brought back memories as I have climbed some of the wall in China and it was in Venice that the three of us were on the same tour. Actually, there was James, their 17 year old grandson as well. He is a lovely lad. I had a short chat with him while at his grandparent’s home. We laughed thinking of the night of a Cabaret in Paris.  I felt unwell so I let James have my ticket. We think he had his eyes opened a bit wider as I believe there was quite a lot of nudity

The rest of the interior has been very tastefully furnished at the hand of very talented Anne. She is a perfectionist!   After finishing my packing, we left the house at 9.30am for the Saratosa International Airport.

Al with me out front

Anne and I out front

 

I was leaving this part of Florida and have seen so many different varieties of foliage during my travels especially the palm family – there are at least 2,500 species. I will just mention a few  – Of course there is the Coconut Palm which is a universal system of the tropics.  – the Senegal Date, Christmas, Florida Thatch, Pygmy Date (commonly planted as a dooryard specimen) and the Royal (popular on boulevards and around large houses). So many of the Paurotis Palms that are down in Everglades area were damaged. But it is the Bismarck Palm that is beautiful and desirable.

 

Some of the many palms I saw in Florida

We arrived at the Sarasota International Airport and said by last goodbye to Al and Anne.  I was so very fortunate that Al, a returned Vietnam Veteran, was able to drive without too much difficulty but walking and standing causes him problems. I really appreciated that you “suffered” at times, Al when you took me to the attractions during my stay. I want to say a huge thankyou for your wonderful hospitality and welcoming me into your home. I had a very memorable week.

I booked my luggage through to Sydney and at 11.30am boarded my American Eagle Flight AA5139 to Charlotte, USA.  It was a nice smooth flight and on arrival, Kristi, my mobility assistance person met me and stayed with me all the time until it was time to boarded American Eagle Flight AA5139.  She was very helpful as I wanted a couple of postcards.

Boarding time for my next flight – American Airlines AA678 – Charlotte to Los Angeles – was at 3.45pm. It is about a 5h 40m flight.  I had about 5 hours to wait until my next flight but this gave me time to have something to eat and check on the gates.  I was very fortunate as I managed to get seating in the eating area and because I was by myself, a family asked whether they could sit with me. Of course I had no objections and when it was time for me to go to the boarding lounge, the gentleman escorted me there and carried my cabin baggage. When we got to the lounge on my ticket it had changed so we had to walk further along. People have been so kind along the way.  Boarding time was at 10.30pm for my American Airlines Flight AA73 – Los Angeles to Sydney and this is the “killer” leg of the journey – 13½ hours in the air.   When I boarded, I had a window seat and there was a spare seat next to me. A young girl, Saira said I could spread myself out. Settled down and 1-2 hours into the flight we were served a meal.  After that, I thought I would try and get some sleep and I did until we had been flying 7-8 hours we were served with an icecream.  Had some more cat nap until we hit some turbulence which lasted for awhile.  Then it was breakfast at the 12-13 hour. Because of the International Dateline sometime during our flight, it was now Monday, 25th. Lost a day coming home, but had an extra day going over.

Monday, 25 September 2017 – Flying from Los Angeles to Sydney

We landed in Sydney at 7.30am.  Was a nice feeling to get off the plane and stretch.  I then had to collect my case and go through Customs and get my flight to Canberra.  Once more my flights had been changed. Instead of being on the 11.00am flight, I was told that all flights had been cancelled in and out of the airport due to the Controllers’ computing system crashing and that it went out at 5.00am.  Do not know the real reason, as we landed at 7.30am.!! I then needed to book my luggage once more through but would you believe, it sat on the belt as Virgin’s computers went down.  Thankfully, I did not have to wait long before I could then get the transit bus over to the Domestic Terminal.  What a shock when I arrived. I have never seen the terminal so crowded. There were people stretched the full length of the terminal. This was because of the “crash” and to make it worse – it was the start of some school holidays and the weekend of a grand final in the football.  Because I was given a boarding pass for Virgin Airline Flight VA648, I was able to proceed straight through Security and board the 1.35pm flight to Canberra.  I was given mobility assistance from the tarmac through to the baggage carousel and where my son, Robert was to meet me. It was so good to see him and that I had arrived home safely.  The Virgin staff said we could take the wheelchair right to the car which we did. Having this assistance throughout the trip was very comforting and made my travelling so much easier and less painful by having to stand for long periods or walking long distances in the terminals.

Got into my little home at 4.00pm. As soon as I arrived home, my visitors – the kangaroos – were in my yard and hopping up onto the deck. If I leave the door open, one mother and her joey hop in – have on a couple of occasions but I quickly get them out. They give me a lot of pleasure watching their antics.

 

It has been a wonderful 4 weeks.  Saw such diverse country from flat terrain to the skyscraper mountains of the Canadian Rockies. Cool weather in Alaska to hot and humid weather in Florida. The weather on Vancouver Island was very pleasant. Certainly saw different foliage in the  areas I travelled and various wildlife – cranes, bald eagles, whales, dolphins and alligators. All the off shore excursions I went on were well worth it  and most of all met some lovely new friends and caught up with Al and Anne.

Cannot say what was the highlight as there were many and they were all different.  So finally finished this blog and has been rather long winded because of my right hand being very uncooperative. Also sorry about the out of focus when I send to Facebook – seems it is a compatible issue going from what I type to the “view post” part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island – Day 27

Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island (Day 27)

After breakfast Anne and I had a long swim and chatted of course.  Al is a late riser (late to bed) so the mornings are usually just Anne and I.  About 3.30pm we headed south through Port Charlotte and then to Gasparilla Island, southwest Florida  where we saw workmen clearing up more of Hurricane Irma’s damage.  On to Boca Grande, a small residential community on Gasparilla Island.  We drove along the magnificent Banyan Street lined with the banyan trees – these trees are huge.We then drove through the Gasparilla Island State Park where we saw the historic Lighthouse and then the current lighthouse.  Seemed a bit disappointing as it did not look like a “proper” lighthouse.

Banyan Drive – Huge

Workmen clearing up from the hurricane damage

Anne and I under a huge banyan tree

 

Down on the Gulf of Mexico

It was then through Placida – and yes more Hurricane damage on the Boa Grande Causeway.  We then drove down to the Gulf of Mexico Beach – of course I had to put my feet in again.

We passed through Englewood to get on a water taxi to Palm Island about 9 miles south off the coast from Cape Haze. are very few cars on Palm Island and very few roads.  There is no bridge to the island and is only accessible by ferry or water taxi.  The main reason for this water taxi ride was for me to see dolphins!  They obliged and it was fun watching them do their antics at the rear of the boat.  Hard to get the photos though. No matter how many times you see dolphins frolicking you still get excited! Beautiful creatures.

One of the few dolphins showing off

We stopped at the access point to Leverocks Restaurant where once more we had a lovely meal.    We then caught our water taxi back to the car  – said goodbye to Dave and Dale  and made our way back home.  Was a beautiful sunset. As we were near Port Charlotte we saw a wild pig wandering along.  You never know what wildlife you see on your travels.  Another lovely travelling day.

Enjoying our water taxi ride

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice. Florida – Day 26

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice, Florida – (Day 26)

Today we left for a drive to Venice, Florida north west of North Port where Anne and Al live.  We picked up Mary a friend of Anne.  Along the way, we saw more hurricane damage.  Our first stop was at a condominium that Anne and Al have and Anne wanted to check it out as tenants were arriving early next month.  The condo property was lucky as Hurricane Irma missed it.  After being inside the condo, we made our way down to the beach.  Started walking without anything on my feet, but it was like walking on fire – so very very hot – so Anne got my flip flops.  We had a quick paddle in the Gulf of Mexico  before we walked along the causeway.

Anne and I paddling

The Soda Fountain restaurant, a favourite of Anne and Mary was our next stop where we ordered a pizza and soda and then it was home.  Adjoining the restaurant is the Smallest Pizza Hut.  Was an early night tonight!

Mary and Anne with me

 

 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – Day 25

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – (Day 25)

Up and had breakfast of chirozo and toast – new on the menu!!!!  We’ve had eggs, bacon, hash browns, banana and walnut pancakes, french toast !!!!! At 12.00 we headed off to visit Babcock Ranch, 90,000 acres. Was a bit of a drive as we couldn’t find the entrance – with some instructions we double backed some way and entered the Ranch but to our disappointment it was closed – Hurricane Irma caused trouble here.  Just as we were about to leave, a chap (John) came out.  He was the chef at the Gator Shack restaurant at the ranch but apologised that he couldn’t even give us anything to eat as there was no power.  Anne explained why we had visited the Ranch – “My friend is from Australia and we were going to show her alligators”.

John told us to wait as he would go and get a buggy and give us a private tour to where the creatures would be.  We climbed in and off we went through quite thick vegetation and water marshes.  We rode as far as Telegraph Cypress Swamp and in front of us was an alligator!!  It swiftly swam into the swamp and then there about 8 others there.  At last I had got to see alligators.

Alligator there but hard to snap

Alligator watching

Another alligator at the bottom of the right hand side of photo!

 

After watching them swim about for awhile we then moved onto part of the 14,000 acres of the working cattle area in the pine flatlands.  There was quite a mixture of cattle including Andalusia,  Black Angus and the “Fire Crackers” which are descendants of the cattle brought by the early Spanish settlers.

After our fabulous ride in the buggy and especially seeing the alligators, John brought us back to the restaurant and gave us a drink and chatted.  He showed us his extra skills of riding on his unicycle.  As we headed to our vehicle we saw Lulu, a very unusual three horned cow.

It was then time to say goodbye to John and thank him for giving us a very interesting afternoon.

Our next stop was at the Kumo Japanese restaurant.  We were seated in an unusual seating arrangement but you soon learnt the reason for this.  A chef came out with his array of the choices we had made from the menu and then proceeded to cook them in front of us.  He was quite amusing and his food was delicious.  We then left for home and later in the evening went for another swim and once again, late to bed after an great day – thanks Al and Anne again.

Enjoying our Japanese meal

Monday and Tuesday, 18 and 19 September 2017 – Everglades and North Port – Days 23 and 24

Monday, 18 September 2017 – Everglades  (Day 23)

Was a bit weary this morning as only had 3 hours sleep.  At about 10.00am we set off for the Everglades, south west of Florida.  Had to make a slight detour as the road was closed due to Hurricane Irma destruction.  We saw lots of damage on the way.  When we got into Lee County the damage was quite extensive.  Fort Meyers was one of the areas that was affected badly.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented this area. Much of the business in the Everglades was out of action and were cleaning up the devastation – hence the tour boats were not operating.   You just felt so sorry for the people suffering such loss.

We left that area a bit disappointed. The next attraction to be sought out was the smallest post office in the USA.  As there was so much damage, you didn’t know what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised that the post office had not been affected.    Once more as we travelled along, destruction – lots of swamps and huge trees uprooted.

                 Outside the smallest post office in USA

                                  Plaque about Ochopee Post office

Travelling north, our fingers were crossed that the Cheesecake Factory in Naples had not been affected as Naples was one of the towns that was extremely affected by Hurricane Irma. Luck was on our side. It was open.  The Cheesecake Factory’s interior was magnificent. Anne and Al said it reminded them of when they were in Egypt.  We were seated and there was so much to choose from the menu. I chose lemon shrimp and noodles followed by a dessert of mudcake.  Just delicious.

Fingers crossed again as we were heading for the Shell Factory and Nature Park, north of Fort Meyers – another area badly affected. .

The Shell Factory  has been operating for 79 years.  In 1997, this landmark was suffering significant deterioration. Fortunately, Thomas Cronin, a developer, entrepeneur and philanthropist cast his vision, creativity and financial support toward the failing attraction. Tom and wife Pam oversee the day to day operations of this 18 acre iconic attraction and recently celebrated their 20th anniversary recreating the Shell Factory and now has a Nature Park and Fun Park.  A huge area.

The Shell Factory was closing so we then travelled back home arriving about 6.45pm.  Was a lovely day’s outing and Anne and Al were pleased that the three attractions were able to be visited – disappointed that I didn’t get to go on the Everglades boat tour.  We didn’t feel like eating after our lovely meal at the Cheese Factory.  I had a lovely dip once more in the pool.  Anne and I then tried to set up a texting system between us but after an hour of trying we gave up.  Anne went to bed and Al and I sat up talking until about 1.15am.  Al is a late to bed person. I had a nice chat to Rob who rang me that evening.

Thanks Anne and Al for a wonderful day’s outing.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 – Around North Port  (Day 24)

Today was at home until about 2.30pm when Al’s vehicle had to be picked up after being in for a service.  Anne had a medical appointment and I went and had my hair cut and then into the huge Walmart store to get a couple of things and was to meet Anne at 4.30pm.  As we met each other Anne asked me had I been waiting long as I was outside with a shopping trolley (cart).  Anne gave me a strange look when I said “trolley”.  Evidently if I had left my trolley for a moment in an aisle and ducked into another aisle and then approached an employee of Walmart saying “I cannot find my trolley” I may have been taken away for an assessment of some kind – maybe I could have been accused of being on drugs?. We laughed about the difference of some words.  After dinner, Anne and I spent quite some time chatting while in the pool.

Lounging about in the beautiful pool

                                         Anne having a dip

 

Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass – Day 22

Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass (Day 22)
 Up and had nice breakfast and Anne and I left to go to Anne’s church at St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church. 

                                       Maximilian Kolbe Church

It is named after Maximilian Maria Kolbe (now Saint Kolbe) who was born on 8 January 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland. He was a Polish Franciscan Friar who was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, located in German-occupied Poland for hiding Jews during the Second World War. When the Nazi guards selected 10 people to be starved to death in punishment, Kolbe volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Auschwitz death camp. Kolbe died on 14 August 1941 in Auschwitz. On 10 October 1982 Kolbe was canonised by Pope John Paul II and declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.  The interior of the church has some high windows and that is how some of the area at Auschwitz were during Kolbe’s interment.  From January 2013, Rev. Father Teófilo Useche was appointed to St. Maximilian Kolbe Venice parish.  The Mass was very interactive with the congregation and there was a lovely choir.  Before the conclusion of Mass, Anne was one of the people who had a recent birthday and was called up for  recognition.

                 Anne on left for birthday wishes

Beautiful stained window of Kolbe and Virgin Mary as seen from interior of church

 

  Before Anne and I left, I was shown some of the memorabilia of the church and there were copies of St. Kolbe’s name on the list of Auschwitz people there.

  Father Teó is a very “people person” and it was nice to meet him after Mass. He has spent some time in Australia’s Perth.

Father Teó and I

                                 Lovely church garden in background

We then went home and had a restful day until it was time to go to bed.  Ended up being a very, very late night for me as I managed to do unpacking and tried to cull down some of my photos.

 

 

 

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 14-16 September 2017 – Qualicum Beach/Qualicum/Vancouver/Sarasota, Florida – Days 19-21

Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Down to Qualicum Beach  (Day 19)

Another quiet morning. About 2.00pm we drove down to Qualicum Beach for me to have a dip in the Pacific Ocean.  I needed my flip flops (jangles/thongs) on as the beach had lots of stones.  It was quite cool but then got quite surprised as the tide was very deceptive – rough.  It didn’t take long before I was knocked down and off went my flip flops and I had to hang onto my swimmers.  Well, that was my “putting my feet in the Pacific” episode.  A local lady who was very brave, swam out to where my flip flops were and kindly returned them to me.

My dip in the chilly Pacific Ocean

After I dried off, we then went onto the Arrowhead Golf and Country Club for another nice meal. 

As well as liking his fishing, Bob also plays golf.  He knows several around the area and because they were trying to find me deer, that is why we have called into a couple as there are usually deer on the course.After our meal, Bob obtained a golf buggy and away we went around the beautiful grounds of the Golf Course.

A stop off in the grounds of the Golf Course

 

Two deer were there and I was quite excited that at least there were some deer in the country.  Was a lovely drive around the well manicured course with Mt Arrowsmith in the distance.Then it was back home again – yes, another nice outing. Bob had to attend a Shriners meeting.  I had not heard of Shriners – Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life.  Shriners International also supports Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is similar to what Lions/Rotary/Starlight Foundation do here in Australia?.  Each time we have been out, the vehicle is parked outside.  I learnt that the garage is full of quite a lot of provisions for Shriners  and with Bob’s kind heart, it seems that his place is a “stow it” place for friends’ equipment and his “on the spot” store. It was a joke – e.g. In conversation, I said –  “I have to get myself another watch as the face is hard to read”.  Next thing, Bob goes out and when he comes back, there he has two lovely big faced watches”.  I love them Bob and thank you for the other little gifts you gave me from the “shop”. Cheryl and I chatted for some time before it was time for bed.

The home of Cheryl and Bob

Friday, 15 September 2017 – Qualicum to Vancouver (Day 20) 

Up and after breakfast did my last minute packing as I was leaving this very hospitable establishment.  At 11.00am we drove through Parksville, Nanoose Bay, Lantzville and the outskirts of Nanaimo and at 12.00 we arrived at the Ferry Terminal of Duke Point. This is the terminal I should have arrived at when I first arrived and not at Swarz Bay (Victoria).  I purchased my ferry ticket for the 12.45pm  ferry departure and sadly said my last goodbye to Cheryl and Bob.  What a wonderful caring couple!!  I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they offered me at such short notice.  They apologised that due to Cheryl being unwell, they had not taken me out more.  I really appreciated the places they did take me so I was really spoilt.  We certainly checked out several of Cheryl’s and Bob’s favourite eating places.  Once again a huge thankyou to my good Samaritans and I am sure we will not lose touch.

Boarded the “Queen Alberni” built in 1976. Was quite a large vessel that took cars/trucks/caravans as well as walk-on passengers.  The crossing took about 2 hours and was a pleasant cruise into Tsawwassen, ferry causeway at Delta (Vancouver).  As we were approaching the terminal, Mt Barker on the USA side in Washington could be seen.  I then caught a taxi to my accommodation at Cozy South in Burnaby.  Took about an hour to go the 37 kms but we were in peak hour traffic.  The owner, Nola greeted me and took my luggage into my nice room.  She kindly made me a bowl of noodles and then I went to bed at 6.00pm as I had a very early start next day.

 

Last drive on Vancouver Island_

Leaving Vancouver Island

Saturday, 16 September 2017 – Flight to Sarasota, Florida (Day 21)

A very early wake up at 2.50am and Nola’s husband drove me to the Vancouver International Airport.  I went to see what gate I needed to go to and I saw that the flight had been delayed until 9.10am.  Imagine my face.  Headed straight to the Delta Airline checkin and I was informed that I had been transferred to Alaska Airlines Flight AS964 for the hour flight to Seattle Tacoma.  I had Seat 6D and to reach my bag under the seat in front of me, I had to actually get out of my seat to reach it – First Class!  It was a lovely sunrise. After a short while in the air we flew over the Rockies.  Was interesting to see how the landscape changed from mountains, rivers and flat country. Had to get three trains to the terminal for my next flight on Delta Air Flight DL2864 that left at 7.45 – was about 5 hours to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.  Then an hour later was on Delta Air Flight DL1297 for Sarasota/Bradenton.

 

 

I arrived at Sarasota at 5.50pm and Anne was at the carousel to meet me.  Al was parked close by so in went my luggage and we travelled several kilometres to a very well patronised restaurant for dinner.  It was Anne’s birthday.  We then went to North Port – half way between Sarasota and Fort Myers – to Al’s and Anne’s home.  It was lovely seeing Al and Anne after two years.  We did some chatting and then I had a choice of two lovely bedrooms – I went in the “Snowman” one – all tastefully decorated out in a snow theme.  I did a very small amount of unpacking as I was very tired – realised I had been 21 hours without sleep.

 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni – Day 18

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Visit to Port Alberni (Day 18)

After our breakfast we set off for Port Albernia.  We had a short stop at the Riverside Resort as I needed a couple of things. We continued on until it was morning tea time at one of the many Tim Horton cafes throughout Canada.  It was a lovely drive through pine forests in the Regional District of Nanaimo until we were then in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

We arrived at the lovely city of Port Alberni with a population of almost 18,000.   Port Alberni is a deep port city which lies within the Alberni Valley at the head of the Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island’s longest inlet.  The city sits beneath Mount Arrowsmith and is nestled amongst the vast temperate coastal rainforests and the numerous lakes and waterways that flow into the Alberni Inlet and Pacific ocean.  The beautiful mountains provide great hiking, walking and mountain bike trails.   The city is also known for its fishing especially the different species of salmon and is often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World”.Port Alberni has two quays – Harbour and Victoria Quays.  We spent quite some time at Harbour Quay taking in the lovely scenery.

Nice photo of Rob and Cheryl

We wandered along through to the little arcade of shops along the marina – on the way there was a piano asking to be played – I hit a few notes !!!!

As we were walking through, some men told us that we should go down to Victoria Quay as we may see some black bears on the other side of the quay looking for fish. Of course we didn’t see any.  It was now time for some of our own food so had a nice meal at the Boston Pizza Restaurant and then it was time for us to leave for home.

                                       Enjoying a meal at Boston Pizza Place

After our nice meal, we started our journey home.  We started to climb about 8 kms to what is known to the locals as “The Hump” – the highest point on the highway – Port Alberni Summit – elevation is about 425 metres.  It crosses from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and then into the Regional District of Nanaimo.  We wound our way through the MacMillan Provincial Park which includes a well-known area of Cathedral Grove –  a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island.  The biggest trees in the Grove are about 800 years old and measure 75 m (250 ft) in height and 9 m (29 ft) in circumference.  We skirted Cameron Lake for a few kilometres and passed near Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum National Park and then we were soon back to Qualicum.

Bob, who loves his fishing, thought salmon that he had caught, was on the menu for tonight’s meal.  He likes to catch and cook it but surprisingly he doesn’t eat it. Cheryl and I enjoyed the meal as was light as we had a big meal for lunch.

Was a lovely day’s outing.  I had a nice call from son Robert so was good to hear his voice.  Another promise of an early night but somehow it didn’t happen.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Visit to Coombs – Day 17

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Coombs (Day 17)

This morning we were lazy and after lunch we set off for Little Qualicum Falls in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park – central Vancouver Island.  It was originally established as a park in 1940 to protect the old growth Douglas-fir forest.  It was quite a steep descent but Bob made sure I wouldn’t fall down.  Was worth the walk.

We then drove to the old the market village of Coombs about 10kms from Parksville. The original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market.  With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law, Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in the world.  

Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they ‘borrow’ some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars. Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than 30 years. Each spring, a trip of goats makes their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world. There were lots of people looking up at the goats.

Had a leisurely wander through the various stalls and then saw the Goats on the roof.  I saw plenty of these sod roofs when I was in Norway. Fascinating.

Sign is for the tree not me ha ha

 

Goats on top of the building

One of the “lawnmowers”  –

After we  left Coombs we made a quick detour into Pheasant Glen Golf Course to see whether there were any deer around for me to see.  Alas, none.We continued on “home” as a friend of Cheryl and Bob, Janice was coming to see whether she could help me with my rebooking of my airline tickets.  After dinner, spent quite a lot of time on the internet and did my rebookings – was very convenient that Bob had a super telephone plan as I was on to the airline for quite some time. Thanks for that Bob.  Each night we say we are going to bed early but somehow it is quite late. I have been listening about the approaching hurricanes to Florida – José and Maria until the wee hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday – Monday, 9-11 September 2017 – Vancouver to Vancouver Island – Days 14-16

Saturday – Monday,  9 – 11 September 2017 –  Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Days 14-16) 

I woke up this morning with a start as thought it was 11.00am – Was actually 7.00am.  I tried to condense my luggage down as seemed to be getting heavier – 23.9kgs.  I booked out of the hotel and while waiting for the shuttle bus chatted to a Gail.  I left the shuttle at the SkyTram stop and then had a short walk in misty rain to catch the 620 bus to the Ferry to Vancouver Island.  While waiting for the bus, met a Marion, who lives on Vancouver Island, and was very helpful as I did not have the change for the bus fare so she kindly paid for me. Was quite a long drive to the ferry. Got my ticket and put my luggage on the carousel and Marion and I caught the 1.00pm Ferry.  We had lunch and then as we were nearing the Ferry terminal we rang Bob to let him know where we were.  Got a shock as I was on the wrong ferry.  We arrived at about 2.40pm.  I said goodbye to Marion and waited for Bob to drive almost 200 miles to come and collect me. I filled in my time talking to Jessica (worked at the terminal) and she took me out to take a photo and then I watched the hundreds of people coming and going on the ferries.

At ferry terminal

Bob arrived at about 4.45pm and we headed off.  The drive was through some beautiful forests of fir trees, huge chestnut trees and lakes – was quite foggy in places.  We stopped at Whipple Tree Junction near the village of Duncan for a coffee.  Passed through the village of Ladysmith where Pamela Anderson grew up.  Through Nanaimo, known as the “Harbour City” – is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and the third oldest city in British Columbia – Parksville and a drive to Qualicum Beach.  This area is known as Oceanside.  Prince Charles and Diana spent part of their honeymoon in this area.  We then called into the Memorial Golf Course restaurant to collect our fish and chips for dinner.  Qualicum is where Cheryl and Bob live.  Was nice to see Cheryl again.  The night was one of chatting until quite late.

The next couple of days was spent at home as Cheryl was still not well – bad bronchitis.  Talking, chatting, sorting out things on our Ipads, eating and drinking and listening to updates on Hurricane Irma.

Bob enjoys cooking so he was chief cook for our breakfasts – pancakes, waffles and muffins. On Monday he spent quite some time preparing a nice beef stew – very tasty. My nightcap each night was a Kahlua.  Was nice to have a couple of lazy restful days.

We are all concentrating  !!!!!

Looks like Bob is worn out from his stew making – thought he may have been getting a cold!!!!

 

 

Friday, 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour – Day 13

Friday and , 8 September 2017 – End of Cruise/Vancouver Tour (Day 13)

We arrived in Vancouver at 7.00am – drizzling rain.  After breakfast, it was time to leave our cruise ship and board the coach with our guide Rica and Anthony our driver for a short tour around the city.

We went through Gastown, the original settlement that became the core of the creation of Vancouver in the 1870’s.  A tourist attraction is Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 by horologist Raymond Saunders and metalwork specialist Doug Smith.  Incorporating a steam engine and electric motors, the clock displays the time on four faces. The steam also powers the clock’s sound production, with whistles being used instead of bells to produce the Westminster “chime” and to signal the time every quarter of an hour. The clock produces a puff of steam from its top on the hour. As we were on the coach, we did not hear the sounds but saw a puff of steam as we passed by.

 We then made our way via Chinatown to Stanley Park , Vancouver’s first and largest urban park.  The 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest with scenic views of water, mountains, sky, cultural and historical landmarks and majestic trees along the Park’s Seawall.  It also includes Canada’s largest aquarium. As we drove around the Park, we saw the statue of the “Girl in a Wetsuit”. This statue was a gift to the Vancouver Park Board from sculptor Elek Imredy.  Unveiled June 10, 1972, she represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea.  We had a short stop at the Totem Poles at Brockton Point in the Park.

Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Girl in Wetsuit Statue in Stanley Park, Vancouver,

These towering monuments are brought to life through First Nations artistry and are one of the most recognisable cultural symbols of Western Canada.  One of the Totem Poles was raised in 2009 and created to Rose Cole Yelton, her family and all those who lived in Stanley Park.  This pole is erected in front of the house site where the Cole family lived until 1935.  Until the time of her passing in 2002, Rose was the last surviving resident of the Brockton Community.

In front of the Rose Cole Yelton totem pole

It was time for our great tour with Tripadeal to end with most of the group transferring to the Vancouver International Airport.

I want to thank Gayle/Dianne, Kay/Phil, Gail/ Russell, Sal/Russell, Carolyn/ Rob, Andy/ Vincent, Marilyn/Paul, Kay/Jeff, Dianne/Ken, Rhonda, Joe, and Danielle, Lynda/Stephen, Maureen/Steve, Sandy and Peter for making this tour as enjoyable as it was for me. I really appreciated your assistance you all offered me when needed.  We certainly had lots of laughs.  Hope you all stay well and healthy and that we stay in touch now and again down the track.

I stayed at the airport until 6.00pm with Sandy, Peter, Maureen and Steve as their flights were not going until late that night. I then caught a cab to my accommodation at the Accent Inn. I had dinner next door at the Ihop restaurant and then came back to my room and contacted Bob about taking him up on his and Cheryl’s kind offer for me to stay with them on Vancouver Island for the week.  Guess they didn’t think we would see each other so soon!!  Had an early night.  Was very quiet being by myself after having companions for the last fortnight.

 

 

Thursday, 7 September 2017 – Inside Passage Cruising, Alaska- Day 12

Thursday 7 September 2017 – Inside Passage Cruising, Alaska (Day 12)

Got up later today and it was quite cold and misty – not much to see as we sailed so spent most of the day was spent chatting, snacking and coffees.  The food was amazing – some very creative and the chefs obviously enjoyed showing off their talents.  There were so many different eating places one could go to – would be hard to please if one couldn’t find something to their liking.

Was thinking I had to think of a plan B as heard that hurricanes were moving into Florida and I was planning to fly down there on Saturday.  While talking to a regular “chatting person”, Bob, he said if I needed I could stay with he and wife Cheryl on Vancouver Island.

Cheryl and Bob

Didn’t get to see a lot of Cheryl as she was quite ill and spent a lot of time in their cabin.  What a shame. Did the majority of my packing and in the afternoon had my last dip in the hot tub before it was time to change to go down for the group’s “happy hour”. I got such a surprise as when I arrived, several of the group had their cabin robes (ball gowns) on and they insisted I go back and don mine. Of course, I made my grand entrance!   We had a lot of fun and I thought this was a lovely thing to do with me as I was in my robe a lot of the time while on the cruise.  There was lots of joking, drinking, hugging and laughing before it was time we all changed for our last dinner on the ship.

 

 

                                                            Gayle loved her scarves

 

Some fun on the steps – 2 Russells, 2 Di’s, Gayle Sal and Gail – No, I didn’t fall down!

Listened to Ged Parker, a guitarist for a little while before I went into the Metropolitan Restaurant for dinner and sat with Gayle, Dianne, Andy and his brother Vincent.  After dinner heard the Forster Duo perform before it was back into my cabin and finished packing then bed reasonably early.

Ged Parker – guitarist

Andy and me at dinner

Last dinner on ship with Di, Andy, Vincent and Gayle

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Ketchikan, Alaska – Day 11

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Ketchikan, Alaska (Day 11)

Was a beautiful sunrise as we cruised to Ketchikan – squeezed between mountains and sea, it is hard to imagine how the town got the Tlingit Indian name – Ketchikan – “Thundering Wings of an Eagle”.  If one climbs the 3,000 foot Deer Mountain that overlooks the town – from that vantage point Ketchikan sprawls out in the perfect shape of an eagle in flight!   Like most communities in southeastern Alaska, Ketchikan is surrounded by a vast wilderness and impassable mountains.  Without road or rail connections to the rest of North America, everything must come by air or sea.  Ketchikan is a small, picturesque, rustic and busy town on the shores of the Tongass Narrows.  It also has the distinction of having the world’s largest collection of totem poles.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to see the collection.

We docked in Ketchikan on the western side of Revillagigedo Island at about 1.30pm.  I went down to see Ashley (who gave an interesting presentation on jewellery yesterday) as the jewellery set I had purchased in Juneau had a fault.  Hoped she would be able to sort something out for me.  I then went up the town for a short time until it was time to come back to the pier by 2.15pm to board a bus and go to George Inlet Lodge for our crab feast.  Eat all you can!

 

We came into the George Inlet Lodge and our hostess demonstrated how to shell a crab.  I was spoilt as no way would I have been able to manage because of my fractured wrist so I was brought two bowls of all ready shelled crab. It was delicious.  We had a nice entree, the crab and then concluded with cheesecake and coffee.  It was then time to board our floatplane.

Group enjoying our “eat all you can” Crab feast

Boarding the Taquan Air 10 seater plane  – oops sorry forgot the pilots name !

 

One of the many lakes/fjords

What a wonderful flight seeing so many lakes/fjiords, waterfalls and snow still on some of the rugged mountains.  Headed back to Ketchikan and was quite exciting landing on the water.  A bus took us back to the main street of Ketchikan and I did some last minute shopping before it was time to wander back onto the ship by 7.30pm. On my way back, passed Dave Rubin’s bronze monument “The Rock” that was unveiled at Berth 1 on Sunday, July 4th, 2010. It features 7 life-size figures from Ketchikan’s past: Chief Johnson, a logger, a fisherman, a miner, bush pilot, a Native woman drumming, and an elegant lady in her 1890s finery.

The Rock monument in Ketchikan

Had good news from Ashley as she was able to get me a replacement jewellery set. Didn’t feel like much for dinner tonight after the crab feast so just had some nibbles.  We sailed out of Ketchikan at 8.30pm.  This was another very enjoyable day.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 – Juneau, Alaska – Day 10

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 – Juneau, Alaska (Day 10)

We cruised during the night and sailed into the Gastineau Channel. At  7.15am we arrived in Juneau, the capital of Alaska  founded during a gold rush in 1880.  It is the home of the Tlingit tribe. Juneau is deep within the northern reaches of the Inside Passage and is accessible only by air or sea.  Juneau is nestled at the foot of Mt. Juneau in the Alaska Panhandle – it faces the water from the mainland side of Gastineau Channel.  The current population of Juneau is approximately 32,000 and their economy is based on government, tourism, mining and fishing.

Juneau

 

Juneau

After breakfast and after our ship had been cleared by local authorities, Lynda and I spent some time visiting some jewellery stores and collected some freebies offered by some of the merchants.  This was a way of seeing whether we would purchase their wares.  Was fun trying on some of the very expensive and beautiful necklaces.

Expensive necklace on Lynda

We didn’t have a lot of time as we booked our excursion with the huskies.

After a short bus ride to the rainforest, we met Robert Redington, our musher and his team of 16 sled huskies and 6 of us climbed into a custom designed wheeled summertime sled and set off through the lush rainforest at an almighty pace.

Lynda and I enjoying our sled ride

The dogs negotiated the left and right handed corners with such speed Lynda and I thought the sled may have overturned.  We had a couple of stops along the way to give the dogs a breather and to pat them. We then went onto our next stop at a suspension bridge over Fish Creek.

Lynda and I on suspension creek

We then heard some information by Gareth about the Alaskan equipment, dog care, training and efforts required by this sport and special mention was given to Robert’s grandfather, Joe Redington (born 1 February 1917)  is best known as the “Father of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” for his work promoting the race. It is a gruelling long distance sled dog race run annually  on the first Saturday of March each year from the Anchorage area to Nome.  2017 saw the 45th event and about 70 participants take place. The race has drawn attention to the role dogs played in Alaska’s history and around the world.  Joe has competed in 17 Iditarods from 1974 to 1997, but never placed higher than fifth. Was amazed to hear that he finished 5th place at the age of 72.  He was the honorary musher in the 1997 race, as he was 80 years old when he completed the race. Joe also organised and ran 5 Iditarod Challenges, a guided trip to Nome for paying clients, 1993-1997.  Joe died on 24 June 1999 from cancer and was buried in his favourite dog sled in Wasilla, Alaska.  What an incredible man!!!! Robert has signed up for the 2018 Iditarod race and we wished him well.

Plaque of Joe Redington

Our exciting and exhilarating sled ride ended at a refreshment stop and to see and cuddle some 6 week old little puppies.  So cute but they wouldn’t let us take any with us. We were then driven back to main town Juneau.  Lynda and I had some lunch while we waited for Lynda’s Steve to arrive and then I said goodbye and went at 2.15pm and joined a group for my next excursion.

We boarded a bus and had a short drive down town of Juneau before we headed over to Douglas Island and had a photo stop at Homestead Park looking over towards where our ship was berthed.  Laurie was our guide.

At Homestead Park Lookout

It was then onto the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway (cable car) for a very smooth 1800 foot ascent and see wonderful views of Juneau, Douglas Island, Gastineau Channel and the Chilkat Mountains.

After some of the group did a short trek, we went into a lovely little Tea House where we sampled three varieties of tea and tasted the accompanying home made jellies on crackers.  Before we left, Laurie mentioned that a 13yr old Benny Benson (October 12, 1913 – July 2, 1972) won a contest in 1927 when he  designed the flag of Alaska.  Alaska became the 49th state of USA in 1959.  Laurie then very proudly sang a song about Alaska’s flag before we then said goodbye to her as that was the end of the tour.  As there was quite a long queue for the tram, I did not linger up on the mountain but made my way down and spent some time in some of the stores in the town before it was time to join the ship.

After doing some last minute souvenir shopping, I was quite exhausted when I got into my cabin.  I took something to eat back to my room tonight.  We slipped out of Juneau at about 8.00pm.  This was a fabulous day – doing the sled ride with the huskies was thoroughly enjoyable and something I probably will never be able to do again.