Well, believe it or not, they parked this “tank” without us even knowing it. We rose at 6.15 am and went onto our balcony to see the bank opposite Ketchikan township. It was overcast but not raining. The hills were heavily wooded and quaint little cottages were scattered along the waterway. Several other cruise ships were in port. We ate breakfast and headed for the wharf to meet our tour to Saxmen Village.
Our tour guide drove the bus and gave us a running commentary about the Ketchikan’s history on the way to Saxmen. Once we arrived we were shown a video to give us some background on the Tlingit tribe. Their language is one of the hardest languages to learn in the world and only a small part of it has been translated to English. We were supposed to learn two phrases but I think our group failed miserably.
We took a stroll through the temperate rainforest, chewed on the pine needles which apparently Captain Cook chewed to get his Vitamin C intake. Ross and I discovered this fungus that was growing on the ground. The young guide informed us that it was new to the area and apparently has been brought in through bear droppings.
At the community hall we were privileged to see the traditional dances of the Tlingit people. The hall has been replicated on the lines of the original village that was some 80 miles south, an area still held scared by these people. No nails or screws were used to construct it, leaving the floor boards to move when walked on. The totems from that original area were also raised outside the community hall. Our tour guide explained that there are many types of totem poles, some for burial, some to tell stories, some to indicate clans who lived at a house and some to sham people. Totems, carved from cedar, are only ever painted once and are never added to. Once erected, they are allowed to deteriorate with the weather and usually last 70 years.
A wood turner with over 40 years’ experience showed his skill during a presentation by a young Tlingit lad, who described the process used for the use of bark and the painting of totems. He talked about how the Tlingit women made the paint, adding spit to the mix. He said that for some reason the women don’t want to make the paint anymore so then men have to make do it. He then pulled out a tin of paint from the local hardware store! How cultural traditions have been taken over by technology!!
The Tlingit people are encouraging their young ones to learn the traditional ways of their people and have them involved where possible in this tourist attraction so as to not lose the skills and traditions of the past.
Back on the bus, we were dropped at the main township to do some souvenir shopping. We found a lot of cheap replicated stuff and we also came across some beautiful soaps and candles. We also came upon a local artist who provides artwork for screen prints and his artwork is also incorporated into blankets.
Lunch was ready for us on board when we returned at 1pm and we set sail for Juneau at 2pm. Ross went to the gym and I rode the bike six kilometres to nowhere. I then completed 4 or was it 5 laps of the promenade deck. The current in the sea flowed rapidly by and the wind was quite strong.
Following our exercise regimen, we met the Scenic group in another bar. Well what a night it was! We were having a quiet drink in the bar when the Captain announced that we were going to experience some bad weather on our way to Juneau, in the form of storm and in fact the wind was worse than he had first thought. We were told to expect wind of up to 60 knots and we had to “batten down the hatches”. As we were on the port side of the ship we were instructed to not open our balcony door as the wind was blowing from that direction. We thought that it safer to retire to our bed after dinner. The Captain’s Log is transmitted via TV in our room so we were able to watch how the crew navigated this ship through the straits. It also gave a report on the winds, air pressure, seas etc. The wind was force 9 and air pressure was 930 and falling. Yes we actually know now that the photos they put in the travel magazines are fake!!