Cruisin’ Alaska… Myth of the Sun and the Raven

We heard this story from a totem carver at the Alaskan Wildlife Sanctuary. Apparently it is a frequently utilized motif in totem poles and the myth is of Tlingit origin:

Long long ago, back when ravens were white, an old tribal chief stole the sun and put it in a box and the entire world was covered with darkness. However, the Raven grew tired of stumbling around in the shadows and went in search of the light. As he came near the house of the old chief, he overheard the chief talking with his daughter, and the Raven learned that the chief kept all the sun of the world locked away in a box. Predictably, he promptly devised a plan to steal the box. The Raven had the ability to turn himself into any living thing, so he transformed himself into a needle from a hemlock tree and landed himself into the river. Every evening, the chief’s daughter would ladle water out of the river to drink and unknowingly drank the Raven. Soon afterwards, she became pregnant and in time gave birth to a son — the Raven in human form. The chief loved his new grandson greatly and indulged his every whim. Eventually, the Raven worked out the sun was being kept hidden in a box, and began begging the chief to give him the box as a toy. When his grandfather refused, Raven began crying and screaming and throwing tantrums and pleading for the box. But the chief refused.

Despondent, the Raven stopped eating and i hurt the old chief to see his grandson like this. After several days, the chief reluctantly gave him the box, with the strict instructions that the boy could play with the box but that he must, must not open it. Raven gave his word that he would not open the box, but he lied to the old chief. Raven immediately changed back to his bird form, and opened the box releasing the sun. When the chief saw this he placed guards to the entrance of the clan house to stop Raven from escaping, so Raven carried the sun up to the smokehole at the top of the clan house, but the sun was too large to fit out the smokehole. Raven pushed and pushed the sun breaking off pieces of light that formed the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky, until eventually the sun burst out of the smokehole and filled up the earth. Because there were guards at the door to the clan house, Raven was trapped. Eventually he flew out of the smokehole too, where he was covered in soot and coal dust turning him black forevermore.


Cruising Alaska… At Sea

I’m gonna sleep in at least one of these days… not asking for much, just past 0530 would be nice, especially seeing I’m supposed to be on holidays and all. After yesterday’s hectic effort, I really needed a heatpack as my lower back was not at all happy with me. But for some reason our cabin steward’s supervisor had told us we needed to call Room Service staff to come and take the heatpack to a microwave for me. But when I called, I got nothing, just a call back recording and they never called me back. So I had to harass the cabin steward after all, and by the time I got myself some heat, I was nearly in tears. 🙁 Mostly because it’s so hard to ask for help, let alone ask about four times over for the same assistance. But about half an hour after this confusion, the Manager of Housekeeping came to see me and made arrangements for my heatpack to be picked up every morning by the cabin steward and bought bak to me at 0630. So hopefully it won’t be so hard to get that sorted for the rest of our stay on board… not a great start to the day.

Breakfast was the usual smorgasbord of cooked breakfast goodies – scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hash browns, sausages, bacon, pastries, danishes, breads, bagels, fruits, yoghurts… I could go on and on here. I had a bit of scrambled egg with smoked salmon and some mushrooms, but watched on as my fellow diners went back for huge plate after huge plate piled high with food. I can’t believe how much some people put away. And to think they’ll be back in a few hours to do it again for lunch!

Sea days are usually pretty laid back and cruisey (pun just for you Mr K.) so we pottered around the shops a bit checking out the duty free – everything from awesome designer brand watches for a fraction of the prices back home to Russian diamonds, Indian pashminas, Canadian ammolite jewellery, Austrian Swarovski statuettes and jewellery, ties, cufflinks, souvenirs, clothes, designer handbags. A crazy array of stuff considering you’re on a ship. Far fewer pearls than the ships cruising the Pacific, which was going to be par for the course I guess. Bought Mr K a big chunky men’s watch – and I hope he really likes it because I am going to have to drag it all over North America for the next few weeks, taking up valuable luggage space and all! 😛

I went to a talk on the Glacier Bay National Park that we are going to be cruising through on the weekend that looks so amazing. They showed us heaps of photos taken just last week to tell us what to expect, where the best viewing positions were and what sort of wildlife highlights we might catch if we are lucky: seals, sealions, humpback whales, killer whales, sea otters, bald eagles, puffins and lord knows what else! Hints for new players – sea otters are scared off by camera flashes, so hopefully *that guy* who doesn’t know how to use his camera will turn his damn flash off if we see some. Apparently we have a good chance of catching big families of rafting sea otters, that’s when they all hang onto each other and float. Yeah… rapey rapey sea otters… Mimola, if you are reading this – I have decided it’s quite okay to eat sea otters, they’re not so nice the more you research into them 😛

Other than that I’ve had a relaxing day watching some talks on the ports we are going to, and caught a movie on the tellie while watching the gorgeous view go by outside our balcony (love this balcony room thing!). Tonight is formal night so time to go get gussied up.

champagne waterfall

Formal night is always a bit of good fun on the cruise ships. Some people will go the full nine yards and wear something that looks like a bridesmaid or mother of the bride type frock, others will wear something really simple and roll out the bling and others, because you have a huge floating international community going on, will turn up in a dress kimono or a elaborately beaded sari! Beautiful outfits everywhere and the men… well, most of them remember to throw in a suit and bring a tie. Then, of course, there is always the traditional champagne waterfall, which I’ve seen about a half dozen times now. So, (even though I shouldn’t) I am willing to admit I’m really only turning up to watch it in the vague hope that the whole thing will come tumbling down! 😀

After dinner we went back to the jeweller so Aunty Mary could pick up her earlier purchase… a fancy new watch that needed a link removed (the guys in the fine jewellery store know us by name already – not a good sign!), and then came back to the stateroom for a cuppa. Just happened to step out of a balcony for a moment and was looking out at the waves (which are now Pacific Ocean blue rather than the brownish ocean we were seeing between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland) and we saw some whales breeching and throwing themselves around not far off the side of the ship. We were watching them for about ten minutes, when suddenly one jumped out of the water barely 40-50m from us and we realized they were killer whales or orcas! Smooth, black and big white bellies! So cool!

Lovin’ Alaska so far and we haven’t even hit the ground yet! 😀

cruising alaska


CRUISING THE ALASKAN PASSAGE! OMG… I literally can’t believe I am here. This is something I have dreamed of since I was in my late teens – probably due to being overdosed on nature documentaries as a kid – and it’s also somewhere I never thought I’d get to with my cactus back. But here I am!

Got up this morning stupidly early – moronic internal body clock has been deciding that 5hrs sleep is plenty since we arrived here actually – and looked out the window to see rain, rain and more rain. 🙁 Not what you really want to see when you are setting off on a holiday of a lifetime! That’s just not on. Spent most of the morning running about figuring out how to print boarding passes, deciding what we needed to throw out and what was coming with us, returning the rental car and squishing shit into suitcases. Called a taxi and got delivered down to the Canada Place Cruise Terminal and was briefly tempted to go to the other cruise ship that was getting ready to depart – the Disney Wonder which had Mickey Mouse ears on it’s logo and was heading down to San Francisco and Los Angeles, but I guess I’ll have to wait for that. 🙂


We have out little cabin with its little balcony and once our luggage arrived (Aunty Mary’s got held up by the guys downstairs… it could have been the cutlery she had on her or the bottle of wine in her suitcase, but we’ll never know because security released it before they made her open it!) and we settled a few things in, we set about learning the lay of the land – or lay of the ship as it might be. We have both cruised on Princess ships before and they tend to have a similar layout, so much so that when we first boarded and saw the decor we both immediately had a sense of ‘coming home’ as everything looked very familiar… from the timber panelling and carpets to the bars and pool decks, the Island Princess everything has a similar lay out to other ships in the Princess fleet that we were familiar with (the Dawn Princess and the Sun Princess). Only this is a smaller ship so there seems to be many more common areas, a few different bars and things that are not on the larger ships but they just don’t accommodate as many. Breakfast will be interesting with the Horizon Deck looking like it seats about half what we have seen in the past.

movies under stars

As the ship started to pull out of Vancouver the weather started to clear, and the rain ceased long enough for us to get up on the top decks and watch the ship pull out of port. Didn’t take long and the bars were thrown open and the Embarkation Party was kicked off by the entertainment staff. Now, I don’t care where you are from, but in my book, a band playing reggae and wait staff walking around offering cocktails with little umbrella drinks in them, does NOT a beach party make when it’s 19 degrees and still drizzling a bit! No matter how hard they tried they couldn’t get many people up and dancing with them and the cocktails weren’t selling so good… perhaps they should have been flogging mulled wine or rum toddy’s or something to warm the cockles. 🙂

deck chairs

We met our cabin steward, Jovie, who I found out has been working for Princess for nine years. It also turns out he worked out of Australia for a while. So we got to chatting and it also turns out that he worked on the Dawn Princess from 2010 to 2012 – the same ship we went on in 2011 for a Christmas Cruise around New Zealand. And wouldn’t you believe it? Jovie was on the Dawn Princess for the Christmas Cruise around New Zealand that year. Proving yet again that it’s a small world after all (*blatant Disney reference there for people playing at home). Such an odd coincidence but anyway there it is.

lotus pool

Tonight’s dinner down in the Provence Dining Room was interesting. We are at a table of six, I am the youngest at the table by about an easy 15-20 years. Two American couples – one from Kansas City, Missouri and the other from Southern California. And one Australian couple from Melbourne… this Aussie woman (wouldn’t you know it, her name is Sheryl) is about as loud, outspoken, brash, ill-educated, uniformed and boorish as they come. She doesn’t let anyone get a word in edgewise and speaks over her poor browbeaten husband all the time, even though he seems lovely enough. She’s anti-immigration, she’s anti-indigenous people, she’s anti-education funding, she’s anti-fucking everything and thinks ‘that woman’ needs to be voted out of office in September ‘because she keeps wasting so much money on things like education’… she actually said that – word for word. Strangely enough they think Campbell Newman is a bit of a disaster for Queensland, but that Abbott will be great for Australia. Made me wonder, are we actually from the same damn country and where is the goddamn KoolAid coming from? It was everything I could do not to yell at her, that if we spent more bloody money on education, then perhaps we’d have less ignorant fucktards travelling the world making Australians looking like backwater yobbos! *deep breath* It’s only a week and we can always get the maitre d’hotel to move us to another table. :S There’s always gotta be one, hasn’t there? Everyone else seemed lovely and had interesting travel stories and career backgrounds to share when noisome Sheryl shut her fucking pie hole long enough to let someone else talk to a minute altogether.

Anyway, had dinner and hightailed it out of there as soon as was decent to do so. Back to our lovely little balcony cabin and looks like it will be an early night here after such a long day. Tomorrow we are all at sea… literally.balcony

Cool Things and No So Cool Things About Canada

Cool Things About Canada

  • The people are lovely, so friendly and helpful, only met one surly Canadian and I can hardly blame her she was stuck in a toll booth taking money from reluctant travellers going into the National Parks
  • The Rocky Mountains are amazing! Never seen anything like it in my life, so beautiful (except maybe New Zealand, looked a lot like NZ on steroids and without any sheep).
  • Vancouver is a really pretty city, very clean and modern and so many green zones and tree lined avenues.
  • Polite traffic… four lanes merging into one – no problems.
  • Nice classy beggars… dude chalking a Caravaggio painting onto the sidewalk (much classier than the gypsies waving heather at you in London!)
  • Polishing up on my French… not speaking with anyone, but reading plenty of it. 🙂
  • Cute little ground critters… squirrels, chipmunks and gopher type things that would come right up and play around you.

Not so Cool Things About Canada

  • Couldn’t work out half the road rules… flashing green lights, four way stop signs? Who has right of way?
  • The pollen from the pine trees… it’s everywhere, a fine yellow dust that gets in your eyes, and puts a fine layer of yellow dust on everything, so glad I am not allergic to it.
  • Tax. Everything you buy is the price on the shelf, plus tax… and tax rates vary depending on what you are buying. Just include the damn tax in the shelf price and itemize it on the receipt – we all know it’s there.
  • Really, really bad road signs, even on the Icefields Parkway, a highway known for its amazing stops and lookouts… never a sign at the actually turn, it’s usually back a few kms, if at all. And hardly ever do you see distances on road signs, so you’re never quite sure how far you have left to go until a point of interest.

All up though, I loved Canada and reckon I could live here… now if I could just convince my in-laws to spend one Christmas in Canada so we could come and visit and I could see whether or not I could cope with the weather in winter!


Wet, wet, wet…

Well, we are heading out of Canada after only a too short sixteen days here. I absolutely love the place and can’t believe it has taken me so long to come visit… especially seeing I have been married to a Canadian for the last, how many years now?

But … Oh. My. God. I can’t get over how much water gets wasted here. Apparently Americans and Canadians use more water per capita than any other country in the world and from what I’ve seen so far, I can well believe it. We have seen council/province workers washing down the roads along the alpine passes and I mean literally washing down the walls of tunnels with a high pressure hoses even though they don’t look too grubby with soot or mud or anything, and also using water trucks at road works to wash down freshly laid asphalt, presumably to cool it down quicker… though I am not sure why, because given this weather surely it would cool down and harden soon enough of its own accord.

I haven’t seen a single toilet with a half flush option and depending on the cistern, they have 6L or 9L going down the gurgler every flush (and yep, the water goes in the opposite direction to the Southern Hemisphere). Many toilets I’ve seen have a ‘Flush and Hold Down Handle for 5 Seconds’ sign to make sure everything flushes away properly. It’s not that there isn’t enough water in the cistern to take away the waste, it’s just that the bowl is so large that there’s at least 2L or more sitting in the bowl so you need to hold down the handle to make sure all that swirls away first. Largest one I saw was at our hotel in Banff – the Banff International Hotel – actually had a cistern that had marked on it that it was a ‘3.5G pf /13L pf… yes, you read that right THIRTEEN LITRES PER FLUSH whereas in Australia most of our toilets are about 3L to 6L to flush!


I mean for crying out loud, I saw a sprinkler turned on in a campground, even though it had been raining half the day! Figure that one out?!?

One guy I spoke to about water, said recently it became financially viable for them to ship water to the Middle East by tanker, and bottle it over there, to sell Canadian mountain spring water in fricken Dubai or somewhere. They have so much water here they are literally shipping it overseas and have been sending it down by pipeline to California for donkeys years now. Which is fine, I guess – some entrepreneur/mogul is shipping it off somewhere to hopefully be used by people who appreciate it and need it, but it’s the waste that bugs me.

Taking the cake in the water wasting stakes, has to be the cabin we had at the Canyon Hot Springs near Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks. When we first got there I wanted to wash my hands and face so I ran the hot tap in the basin… no hot water. Checked the shower… no hot water… checked the kitchen sink… no hot water. Now, our accommodations weren’t exactly a backpackers hovel because I didn’t want to be sharing a room or a bed for the duration, so I was kinda at least expecting hot water!

Off to the Reception we went to inform them that we had no hot water… the message came back, ‘Oh, it’s okay. You just have to run it for about five minutes and the hot water will come up.’ O_o Five fucking minutes? I thought, surely you exaggerate, lady. So back in the cabin, I turned on the tap in the bathroom basin and waited. Went into the kitchen and boiled the kettle. Came back to the bathroom and checked the water – still cold. Pfaffed around making myself a cup of tea. Came back to the bathroom and checked the water – still cold! WTF. Went into the bedroom and sorted some things in my suitcase. Came back to the bathroom and checked the water – finally warming up. Yep… took about five minutes. Five minutes of a tap running on full bore to get to the hot water. Must have wasted about 80 plus litres of water, (if not more!), just to get the hot water running into the bathroom. Well, after that I decided to boil water to use in the basin and do dishes in, running the tap only to get the hot water ‘up’ to have showers and then making sure to shower one after the other so as not to have to wait for the heat again and not waste yet another bunch* of water every time someone wants to have a shower!

As an Australian who has recently lived through more than a decade of drought and has worked hard to get our entire household’s water consumption down to about 350L of water per day, with everyone having only three minute showers, and until a short while ago, having a bucket in the shower to collect the 6-7L of water before from the hot water came from the other end of the house so I could throw it out on my garden instead of going down the drain; I am absolutely appalled! Just because they have so much fresh water NOW surely doesn’t mean that attitudes towards use of fresh drinking water should be like this. :S

Oh and to put the icing on the cake… in down town Revelstoke was a huge banner hanging across the Main Street congratulating everyone for their water conservation efforts. *scoff*

(*everything in Canada comes in bunches… I’ve been trying to get used to it since we got here so I can fit in! 😛 )