Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2006-07

South of Anchorage

I awoke nice and early at about 7, got myself showered and dressed and headed down one floor to the Club Lounge for a nice and healthy continental breakfast. I was keen not to spend too long pottering around as the sun was shining beautifully, just as forecast, and I wanted to get out and enjoy it while it lasted. I hadn't had time to freshen up on my research before leaving home at the start of the trip, but I decided to drive in the direction of the Portage Glacier and just make it up from there.

The Seward Highway south of Anchorage is a stunningly beautiful drive in the right conditions. I found that I was pulling the car over every few miles to admire the views. Here are a couple of shots that I took in this way soon after setting out, together with another that was taken later in the day.

I soon found the turn-off for Portage and, ignoring the signs for the visitor centre, proceeded directly to the lake itself. This proved to be an excellent decision, because the next lake cruise was ready to leave in just 15 minutes. I bought a coffee to take on board. The cruise was excellent, taking us up close to the glacier. We perhaps lingered just a little too long - there are only so many views to see and photos to take - but maybe I'm a bit impatient. When I felt I had seen enough, I went down below for some heat and was pleased to find that the views there were just as good.

We got back to the little pier at about 1pm and I decided to drive the short distance to Whittier to get some lunch. Of course, it's no ordinary drive, requiring transit through the Whittier Tunnel. This tunnel is shared by road and rail traffic and, subject to any trains requiring passage, it opens for 15 minutes in one direction, closes for 15 minutes, then opens for 15 minutes in the opposite direction and closes for 15, and so on throughout the day. After a short wait, I was able to drive through and found an unassuming little cafe-type place to have a welcome helping of fish & chips, which seems to be a local favourite. Most unusually, the fish was red snapper, and very nice it was too. After lunch, I had a little stroll around the village, which struck me as vaguely Nordic in appearance. I made sure I was ready in time to catch the 3 o'clock tunnel, if you get my meaning. We were delayed by 10 minutes to let the most enormous freight train that I have ever seen pass through.

I wondered whether to head back to Anchorage or make the fairly long drive to Seward. It seemed crazy to set off on such a long detour so late in the afternoon, but the weather was still glorious, the forecast still poor and my head was full of carpe diem thoughts. So when I reached the end of the spur road, it was a left turn for many more scenic miles of Alaskan countryside all the way to the port of Seward, on the Prince William Sound. I didn't hang around too long - just enough to take some pictures and get hold of a coffee and a banana muffin to keep me going for the long piece of backtracking now required.

I made it back to base well before 8pm and ordered a room service dinner, spending the rest of the evening reviewing my many photos of an excellent day out.

Tuesday 29 Aug

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