May 30, 2007
Fourth day and Juneau day. Our day began with the ringing of the telephone signaling the arrival of our breakfast in bed. Room service, I noticed, every time on port day comes in earlier than requested. We turned on channel 23, which covers the boat’s front. We noted that it is a cloudy day in Juneau. It was raining quite heavily in Ketchikan, why would Juneau be any different. What we thought was a drizzle was actually a heavier downpour. Our boat docked a ways out this time around. There were three others docked in Juneau and another one was spotted as we were getting back to the boat.
We caught one of those Alaska Gray Line buses, which apparently been commissioned by NCL to shuttle cruisers back and forth. On the way to downtown, we spotted the tram up to Mt. Roberts. While I always thought we’d try this ride, the weather was not cooperative. I know, I know that there are still some sights to be had despite the gloomy weather. It was quite beautiful though. Cruisers descended to the downtown area like ants out for feeding. Every one looked eager to taste a bit of what this Alaskan capital had to offer in all this “liquid sunshine”, which I thought was humor borne out of desperation?
We were dropped off at the tram station, which is located coast side. Here along this road are the main tourist traps, overpriced smoked salmon (which I will not buy, it’s much, much cheaper at Costco), ubiquitous souvenir stores plying t-shirts, thimbles, mugs, pens, stuffed toys, postcards (which I had to have at each place I go), etc.
Also, lining up along the coast are different tour booths. We were going back and forth with a city tour/glacier tour or simply a glacier tour. Actually, it’s more of a city bus ride to Glacier Park. Glacier Park is 8 miles away and costs 6 dollars one way. We did well with saving money. Once there, Mendenhall Glacier Park is such a sight to behold. It is awe-inspiring, too beautiful and too magnificent for words. It is both big and beautiful, amazing as a matter of fact. It was of course still pouring. Despite that minor inconvenience, every visitor was more eager to savor this experience of a lifetime and with no regards to one’s safety trekked closer to the glacier, as close as the park service allowed.
I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime. I have never in my wildest dream ever thought I would be lucky enough to see it. I have seen this in magazines and mostly in calendars, but seeing it in person is beyond words. I once heard someone say, SOME VISTAS DEFY PHOTOGRAPHY. This is one of those very few vistas. That did not deter us; it even made us become voracious photographers. We captured it in various angles in as many different lights as possible.
We climbed up to the visitor center, which was the first visitor center to be built in a national park. This point was courtesy of our very Southern driver, who claimed he couldn’t get away from Alaska. He loved it so much he just had to come back. I don’t blame him.
I bought postcards at the visitor center. Then followed the trail called Photographic Trail, where one can get a closer look at the glacier. Now, there are floating icebergs on the lake. Some are bluish; others are just white. We found out that white is snow and blue is ice so some of those floating in the lake are glacier ice. The whole time we were there – which was about 2 hours – the rain had continued to pour on with a very brief moment stoppage. It was not a thing to be bothered with. We had come this far to be bothered by rain. By the left side of the glacier is a roaring waterfall, which signals that there is melting glacier somewhere to have caused this.
While savoring the moment of watching the glacier along the banks of the lake, a little girl from Dallas with her sister collected some chunks of ice, a large one, and carried it with her. She wanted to take it home with her. Of course, I did what I came to do – gawk at the incredible scenery and take pictures, both of the natural wonder before me and of my fellow onlookers whose cameras were working double time. Thank heavens for digital camera. Hubby was busily taking footage of the beauty. It was a misty, cold, wet, gloomy day in Mendenhall Glacier Park, but it was a very, very good day.
By chance, we got into the same bus on the way back to town. Again he pointed out some places of interests. After being dropped into the Mt. Robert’s Tramway parking lot, where all the buses drop off and pick up cruisers, we managed to do a little shopping for our loved ones back home.
Juneau is the capital of the great state of Alaska, but it was disappointing in a way that very little of this capital city was shown to us. Sure, there is a city tour, that we did not take, but from where we were, all that were available to us were stores, jewelry stores, and souvenir shops.
Our little time in Juneau went by quickly. After freshening up a bit, we went to lunch at Seven Seas again. The restaurant was getting full and we had to share our table with a charming young Chinese couple from Hong Kong, who decided to take the cruise at the last minute. They were visiting some family in Vancouver and saw the cruise ship and somehow decided to do it. What a fun thing to do. They were very nice couple that was both into IT.
After lunch, we had to take a little nap. Except that again, hubby had nap and I had Law and Order. During the commercial break about half an hour or so later, I checked what’s happening with the ship via channel 23. There I saw the captain explaining that we are in Tracy Arm, a fjord, and floating icebergs were all around the ship. I immediately woken hubby up and we went to level 6, and there it was glorious scenery before us – chunks of ice of varying sizes floating all around the ship, the mountain range in the background all shrouded with mist and fog and cloud, the weather gloomy and gray, the wind slapping our faces and body with icy whip, and the rain continues to come down. But the cruisers were all vying for a good position to watch and shoot. Watch and shoot we did for a very long time. Long enough to make my camera battery lose juice. I went back to the room to see if I packed extra batteries, other than the rechargeable set that I brought just in case. Yet, these ones I failed to charge. They needed to be charged prior to first usage. Afraid I was missing too much as it is, I went to the galleria store to buy four double A batteries, they only had two left. All were sold out (we found out later from some guy in the elevator that he too needed battery change and had to immediately get some from the store, which probably happened to more than one guy since the store was left with only 2 double A batteries).
We were supposed to go sail to Sawyer Glacier but the captain made an announcement that there was too much ice floating for us to get through and that we needed to turn back. Well, they did issue statement in the bulletin that passage through Sawyer Glacier depends on ice flow. I guess, it was not our day to see it. The view however was breathtakingly awesome. There was a part of the scenery that reminded us of Rivendell, except that Rivendell is a digital creation and this is naturally existing, here with all its grandeur and mysticism for every one to enjoy and experience and hopefully to be able to capture in some way digitally to bring home and share with family and friends. I have plenty to share in my blog.
Dinnertime was at SEVEN SEAS. We had the window seat, fortunately. As always, it was a good meal, but I was not really hungry. At 7 pm, we had our usual daily tapas at LAS TRAMBLAS, where we managed to catch Rick Stickney’s 7 pm performance. We brought the syrah that Roy picked up in Juneau and had to pay 15 dollars corkage fee. I really hate paying corkage fee. I see no sense in this rule.
We finished dinner in time to catch the start of tonight’s performance called Que Noche, song and dance extravaganza, much like the ones my students at CHS perform for the whole student body. They are as good as these performers are.
I was really tired and getting under the weather. After the show, I decided to forego my nightly shower in favor of a good night’s sleep. I was having a good night sleep when after an hour or so, I woke up with an upset stomach and had to use the bathroom. It was not enough, I also vomited, which I hated to do and I very rarely do. Now, here I am doing this because I am waiting for my stomach to settle down.
Tomorrow is Skagway day, all day. The advertised tour are all very expensive and way beyond our budget. We were told that Skagway is just one big street and all that you needed to see was in that one big street. I have seen photographs of it and I intend to take a lot of photos because I intend to enter a Skagway photo contest, one I saw in the Internet.
Well, I may stay up a bit more as my stomach is still sour. I have been eating too much. Well, more from Skagway tomorrow. I hope it clears up a bit. At least not too much rain