Keituchan was a new port of call and we caught the shuttle up to the Totem Pole Heritage Centre and salmon hatcheries. The totem poles are carved by the local tribes and their beliefs and customs are very similar to our own Maori. I like that they are claiming back their tribal ways and identities.
After the totem poles were went to the Salmon Hatchery. As we walked along the path and over the bridge we could see the salmon in the river seemingly struggling up stream.
Inside the hatchery, the ‘farmer’ spent some time with us explaining what they do and the cycle of the salmon and the role of the hatchery. She was totally fascinating, passionate about what she does and loves to fish for her own salmon. So we mostly saw ‘pink salmon’ in the river – ready to die! They were on the last leg of the lives, trying to make it to where they hatched, so that they could build a little nest and lay their own eggs to be fertilised.
Watching these pink salmon struggle up stream, almost beaten, looking much worse for wear (I sort of had this vision of having a baby!) and they haven’t eaten since they left the sea, their only job left to do is ‘spawn or fertilise’ and then that’s it – life over! It takes up to two weeks for them to die and then the river is full of these dead rotting fish!! You could smell it, but it was awful, just a bit wiffy. We followed the stream back down to the harbour and as you get closer to the sea there are seagulls hanging out for a free feed and all these salmon carcasses in various states of disintegration.
At the hatchery the salmon that have returned to spawn, are giving an easy out – their lives are ended and the eggs / sperm gathered for the hatchery. They have about 500,000 babies – 100,000 that are kept and 400,000 taken to various rivers where they are ‘imprinted’ to that area. We had been to a hatchery in Skagway, but it was so much more interesting here in Keituchan.
Note: Never catch salmon in a river as they are returning to spawn. This is when the metamorphosis’s happen between salt and fresh water. This is when they change colour, shape and their condition from not having eaten is at it’s worst. If they are not silver, almost reflective in their colour … then they are not good for eating!
Walking back to the port we passed through the small ‘Creek Street ‘ which has had a colourful history [think women of the night!] and is now a wonderful place to wander and look at all the eclectic art and tourist shops.
So we have seen a tinsy tiny piece of Alaska, I know that I will want to return again here sometime in the future. It is so unspoilt, peaceful, wild, rugged and utterly spell-bindingly (new word!) scenic. I am not sure how you would live here in the depths of winter, when there is only 5-6 hours of sunshine, but I could definitely visit again in the summer, as it has been truly gorgeous. The ‘set sail’ from each port has been gorgeous every time, as we have had for the most part glorious weather. Being on the deck with a cold beer, with the cotton puff colds floating by on the endless blue skies has been fantastic.
Just a note on cruising: we have met people who have done 40, 50, 60, 70 + cruises and then we met Bruce from California who has done 85+. It is such a fabulous way to travel. I love unpacking and then waking up somewhere new every day. It only gives you a glimpse of each country (although not in Alaska, as every port is Alaska). Sure it can very very commercialised on the ports, but that is what a lot of people want (not us though!). If you don’t want that, then you can get out and do your own thing. We did, and have had a great time.
The staff all work incredibly hard and most that we have chatted to have been doing it for more than 5+ years. It does however get a bit tiresome with all the up-selling to the speciality restaurants, or the beauty parlour, or the art auction, or the onboard shopping. Mostly a polite no thanks is all it takes. Being expected to tip on top of the onboard daily gratuity is a bit annoying as well. But overall cruising is just fabulous. I loved being able to just chillax, watch a movie, play a game of scrabble or read til my hearts content. I am sure that it won’t be long before we are onboard again.
- Best book – Lillac Girls although not exactly a good book! (based on a true story of the horrors (and friendship) at Ravensbruck, during WWII). I have read 5 books over the past two weeks, all different and all borrowed from one place or another. I love those community libraries. I have decided to write a note in each book saying where it was borrowed from and where it has been. I wish I had done this with my first books I took on holiday (borrowed from the Ryman library!!)
- Best movie – Finding Your Feet (loved it, so went twice!). Also watched the whimsical ‘A wrinkle in time’ with Oprah and Reese Whitherspoon filmed in part, in NZ – a fairy tale fantasy.
- Best scrabble – I am a sore loser! Colin has beat me twice!! We have had three games!
- Best destination- Alaska!
- Best cruise line – well Princess was OK, but Royal Caribbean was better, although Princess had a laundry room which has got to be a plus in their favour! Colin is now doing hand basin washing ( as men only pack 5 pairs on undies – it’s true according to the comedian … also true that woman pack all that they own!!! )
So that is us from Alaska [although now arrived in Victoria, Canada]. See you in a few days.