Thursday September 11
While we downed breakfast this morning, the Statendam cruised gently through the waters of the Tongass Pass and docked in Ketchikan. This cheerful, colourful fishing town sits at the foot of steep forested hills, and its numerous boardwalks, cafes, bars, jewellers and souvenir shops are supported on wooden pilings. (Our bus driver explained that the steep hills surrounding the town act as weather barometres: if you can see them, it’s going to rain … if you can’t see them, it’s raining already!)
Ketchikan’s name supposedly comes from the native term ‘Katch Kanna’, which roughly translates “spread wings of a thundering eagle”. We didn’t encounter any bald eagles thundering along on spread wings, but we did spot one from the windows of our coach – it was guarding a huge nest high up in a roadside tree.
Although the town is small (pop 14,000) is makes several bold boasts. Firstly, it’s the salmon capital of the world (thanks to numerous canneries that have operated around the mouth of the Ketchikan Creek since the late 1800s). Secondly, it’s got more totem poles than anywhere else in the world (if totem poles are your passion, then this is the place to be). And thirdly, it used to be the home of Alaska’s most notorious red light district – a row of (now spruced-up) cottages built on a zigzagging boardwalk known as Creek Street. (Our bus driver reckoned that babies born on Creek Street in its heyday were known as “brothel-sprouts”.)
Twin highlights awaited us today. The first was a visit to the Saxman Native Village where we sampled the culture of Alaska’s Native Americans, the Tlingits. Some of our mad midlifers even joined in the dancing on stage – which helped put us in the mood for our second attraction: the rip-roaring Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show!
PEOPLE NEWS: Two more Midlife Madness Awards will be announced tomorrow:
* The ‘Fire Brigade Award‘ to Peter Burley – who, during dinner the other night, mistook a lump of hot-hot-hot green wasabi for a nice cool slice of avocado, and gulped the lot down – only to almost have the top blown off his head.
* The ‘Nearly Deported Award‘ to David (Gordon) – who accidentally dropped his passport in a clothing store and might’ve well got thrown in jail, had the kindly store-keeper not returned his lost passport to the ship’s security staff.
TOMORROW: Our final full day in Alaska (sob) will be spent relaxing on the ship and (hopefully) doing a bit more whale-watching – as we steam south for Vancouver. So don’t change channels, folks …
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!