Friday - Seward to Anchorage
Following the cruise, we toured Alaska travelling between stops on the Wilderness Express, with two special coaches reserved for Royal Caribbean tourists.
After disembarking the ship, we joined the coach we would stay with for the entire tour. The coach would take us to the station and to hotels and our guide Betty would travel in the train with us.
After a rest top with sensational views and what we found were standard Alaskan Public Toilets (restrooms), we went on into Downtown Anchorage.
Alaska Mint made money, nice job.
Alaska Native Heritage Centre
This was a great place with this strange totem style sculpture at the entrance. Inside they were performing Native Gymnastics. There were different encampments around a central lake, representing different styles of Native American structures.
We liked the rear entrance through a tree trunk to one...
...and the central fireplace in another. Whales featured heavily...
with a whalebone arch, similar to Whitby...
...and a complete whale skeleton
Back in the car park, while we waited for the coach to return, we spotted this classic Rolls Royce.
Saturday - Anchorage to Talkeetna
At Anchorage station, we had first sight of our Wilderness Express coaches.
Once aboard, we were greeted by the on-board staff, including Sally the host/tour guide. Betsy joined us too (white jacket).
Sally informed us that houses on the hillsides here are very expensive, but avoid flooding when the snow comes.
Since this was an early morning leg, we had breakfast on board, both of us having Hearty Miners Breakfasts.
Soon after we got in to Talkeetna, the Hurricane Turn train came in, with a guard that Betsy knew!
Snack Lunch and back to the Train Station
...for the Coach to the Hotel.
They have a novel wooden design for bike parks here.
For a snack lunch, Christine and I had what we thought were Danish pastries.
Hers was which she had with black coffee.
Mine was more of an Apple Pie, which I had with Earl Grey! Then we walked back to the station, just in time to see the Holland America train, the McKinley Explorer (background image). Then Henry our driver for the trip (complete with daily stories - extremely funny) arrived and took us to the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.
Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
The lodge has spectacular views. There's photos of the Alaskan Range of mountains, identifying what you can see beyond the photo, given good weather conditions.
For dinner, we both had Alaskan Cod and Chips, with Tartare Sauce.
Christine's chips were longer than mine.
For dessert, I had Key Lime Pie...
...and Christine had Ice Cream Sandwich, made with giant cookies!
After Dinner Activities
While Christine read magazines and played games on her iPad, I went to a lecture by a Mountain Ranger, who helps people climb Denali - aka The Mountain.
Until last year, it was known as Mt. McKinley and is the tallest mountain of the Alaskan Range.
This is a rope grip and the kind of ropes used for mountaineering as shown on the background image.
There was a terrific sunset that night and I put in a Northern Lights alarm call. I got the alarm and although I tried hard with both CSC and Compact cameras, this is the best photo I could achieve that night (quite a lot of processing!).
Monday - Tundra Wilderness Tour
This was our tour through Denali National Park and Preserve in a School Bus! There was a hope of seeing wild life and we were told by our ex-military lady driver to shout STOP if we saw any.
She had a movie camera with a large zoom lens and would photograph anything we saw. This would appear on a DVD of the tour.
The first wild life we saw were two Moose, who began rutting while we watched them.
After stopping to look at a massive rock which had fallen into the river below, we stopped at some Restrooms which featured seating with Caribou and Moose antlers!
Next we saw a bear, not too far from the bus,...
... then another.
Tundra Wilderness Tour Part 2
Next, we saw some Caribou, quite a way off but managed some reasonable photos. Then, to the surprise of the driver, we saw a Wolf walking alongside the bus.
After a rest stop where we saw this tundra wheeled bike,...
we saw a femail Moose.
Then it was back to the lodge where Christine noticed this house shaped window!
Cabin Nite - Dinner Theatre
This was an optional activity we purchased which also served as our evening meal on the second night of the Denali stay.
The scene was a Saloon of the early Gold Mining era, with proprietor,...
...two 'barmaids', a pianist (see background image) and an old friend of the proprietor.
After a few songs and serving our dinner (see menu in the top photo), they started singing...
... and acting out a story of the Gold Rush days (with help from audience members).
Tuesday - Denali to Fairbanks
This was the Dinner Course on the evening train.
Christine and I both had Prime Rib, which came Medium for Christine and Medium to Well Done for me.
For pudding, Christine had a chocolate brownie and I had a summer fruits pie, both had Ice Cream.
We had spoken to this couple during the journey and the atmosphere was very convivial.
Alaska Oil Pipeline
Alaska built an enormously long pipeline
Betsy took group photos on the bus on the way there.
With the soil often being permanently frozen (Permafrost), they had to keep the temperature of the supports down. See the cooling fins on top.
Here is an old 'Pig', so called because of the nose they make when coming down the pipelines.
Christine's standing next to a cutaway model of a recent one.
Group photo and ours (below) by Betsy
Wednesday - University of Alaska Museum
Our favourite part, when Betsy described this museum was the sound room, but it was being updated by the original engineer when we were there.
However, the Pterodactyl replica exhibit area was good...
...as were the bears!
We developed a theme of 'bear bum'!
Christine played with a microscope, examining several specimens.
I loved this photo of stampeding caribou.
Betsy had explained the purpose of these funnels on the Coach. There is an underground tunnel for heating the city and the thirteen vents are all decorated to blend in with their surroundings.
We found a food court with this interesting clock near the Eastern Asian food place we chose to eat at.
Christine chose this huge wrap with chips.
I chose this Moussaka. Both were quite delicious. As you can see several soldiers were back from Iraq.
Christine found another bear friend, who, like me, is fond of Fudge. Actually the shop sold fudge!
Riverboat Discovery III Tour
There was more than just travelling the river aboard a Stern Wheel Paddle Steamer (now diesel) and coming back.
Before setting off, we visited the Alaska at 40 Below, a subzero experience!
Soon after setting off, we were treated to a seaplane fly-past.
There were several stops along the way and we all got off at a Native Alaskan village where we were shown many traditional crafts, including salmon catching, smoking and animal skinning.
We passed and were told about Discovery I and Discovery II and their current usage.
There were some incredible properties along the river banks, which all cost many millions of dollars
Presenters on the shore either had radio mikes to talk on the boat's PA or once we were ashore, they had their own radio mikes and speakers.
Dog Sled Mushing and Smoked Salmon
We met David Monson, husband of famous female dog musher Susan Butcher, who died of cancer recently. When there is no snow, they use a quad bike with the engine taken out to train the dogs. David showed us the dogs taking off (rapidly!) and the difficulty of stopping them, as they like to keep going once started!
This woman on the boat had a white jacket which attracted huge dragonflies which landed on it.
We were treated to a Salmon smoking demo...
...and later saw the simple wood fire used.
This is the result!
Animal Skins Demonstration
We disembarked the Discovery at this point and a young Native Alaskan girl explained the different animal skins to us.
Some were hung out to dry,...
some had been made into garments like this coast, which would cost approximately $20,000, if it was sold.
Then it was back past the reindeer, where Discovery docked.
Reindeer, Salmon Catcher and Dogs
Back where Discovery docked, I got some better shots of the reindeer, one of which had new antlers and was cleaning the fur off them.
We saw the self-powered Salmon catcher they'd made at the edge of the river and had a good look at the Stern Wheel Paddle.
I took some video of it in operation!
Once we boarded, David Monson arrived with a few dogs and boarded too,...
...then it was back to Discovery III"s base and our coach.
Thursday - Hotel Departure and Fairbanks Airport
On Thursday, we had a few hours before our airport transfer, so we parked our luggage in the Sophie Station Suit Hotel and walked to Fred Meyers (like a Walmart)...
...where after perusing the very strange foodstuffs, clothes and electronics,...
...we snacked in their Starbucks.
Then we transferred to Fairbanks Airport
From Fairbanks, we took a small plane to Seattle, for our onward transatlantic flight.
Friday - Seattle Airport Mariott
Due to the weird flight planning by Royal Caribbean / British Airways, we ended up having an overnight stay in the Seattle Airport Mariott. Christine was unable to sleep very well, so was Sleepless in Seattle!
In the morning we opened our bedroom window to find we could walk out into an Atrium!
The hotel had its own small Starbucks too and we lunched / snacked there, before the airport transfer.
Then it was onto the shuttle bus to the airport.
Seattle and Heathrow Airport
At Seattle Tacoma Airport, I found the perfect crisps for Christine...
but she went for Lay's plain crisps, like proper British Potato Crisps.
On the plane, we had this delightful chicken based meal.
At Heathrow, we concentrated on finding the gate fro our Newcastle flight.
Once we got to Newastle Airport, we collected our luggage, yes all of it and caught the suttle bus to the car park. I had the wrong number for ghe bus stop, so we went round a second time once I'd found the right number. But it then wouldn't let us out automatically, as I thought it would, but wanted the ticket the machine gave us at the start! I couldn't find it but the attendant in the office printed me a copy and we were off home.