Thursday, 6 September 2012

Day 42 - Sledding in Seward - Sept 4th

If I thought I would get a good night’s sleep, I was wrong!  Paula was up first to watch the sail in to Seward, which is at the end of an inlet.  It was misty, cool, and bleak, but charming too.  We were booked into the immigration interview for 9:20am and on our tour at 10:20am.  There was plenty of time for breakfast and for us, the immigration interview was no problem.  Although it didn’t say so on our paperwork, we did need our passports and we also needed photo ID if going ashore.  For those not on organised tours, I gather there were complaints about the process being a bit of a shambles, with long waits in the theatre, then the last in being led out first.

We dumped our passports back into the safe but took our NZ driving licences instead.  (We had to show them when returning through the terminal.  A bit pointless really, as you can’t board the ship without your cruise card, which comes up with your pic anyway, when you go through the ship’s security.)

As we left the ship, we were able to say cheerio to entertainer Tony Pace, promising that if we ever get to Las Vegas, we’ll try and catch his show.  Knowing our luck, he’d be away on a cruise ship...

We went into the rather bleak building, but inside, found a sparse, but pleasant enough shed, with a fresh coffee stall, which was appreciated by many.  Our (basic) coach arrived early to take us for our dog sled ride and the driver Joe, was a cheerful soul as he explained that the dogs were looking forward to our arrival.  We thought he was kidding.  He wasn’t!  He claimed the dogs hadn’t been fed so the last on the coach would be fed to the dogs – after they had paid for the beers of course.

We seemed to have a happy coach load - with no wheelie walkers.  Joe had to shout as there was no PA system, but this just added to the return to nature experience.

It was about a 15 to 20 minute drive out to the Seavey’s Iditarod HQ (for Ididaride sled tours).  We had been waitlisted for this and many people missed out but could probably have tagged along and would have been looked after anyway.  We were led through the forest and warned about not touching a couple of trees/plants and Mark gave us a quick talk and explanation of what sledding was all about and the important history of ‘mushing’ and how it nearly died out.  Our hosts were apparently instrumental in saving it from extinction.

We were then led through the clearing to the dogs and when Joe said they were looking forward to our arrival, he wasn’t kidding.  All 85 dogs were going bonkers – more so once the handlers started to harness them to the sleds.  Sleds is not really correct, as these were more like six seater golf carts with room on the rear platform for two more plus the driver. Like most people, we expected large hefty dogs, but as you may see from the pics, they are anything but.

Our group of 24 was split into 3 and there were 14 dogs per team.  These dogs just love to run. The ride was only about 2kms but the dogs were rested at least twice.  For them, the weather is too warm.  We were feeling the cold!   The explanations and information we gained from all this was a major educational experience and we thought our 7mph speed was probably just for the tourists, but this is their normal speed, even in competition.  Our driver explained that the cost of doing the annual Iditarod across Alaska, even with the boss loaning him the dogs and the dog truck, was about $15,000.  This guy even lived in a small cabin on site with no running water, just to be close to the dogs.  Dedication indeed. 

After the ride, we had the puppy holding – which went down very well!  Paula’s pup pooped - on her, so lucky she was wearing the plastic poncho.  Fortunately there was plentiful supply of antiseptic wipes.

Then there was a presentation and explanation of how they protect the dogs (and driver) from the extreme cold, including as an extra, a sort of fur muff for the boys – if you get my drift.  Apparently a touch of frostbite in that region isn’t so good from a future breeding prospective.   Rob asked if they sold them in the shop.   This was a great experience and an informative one, so we considered it money well spent, even though as usual, Princess would have been creaming a fair bit off the top.

Back to the ship by 12:30, but as the sanitising process was still in full swing, we knew we were not allowed back on board until 2:30pm so our drivers kindly took us into town and dropped us off there, alongside the Sea Life Centre, which many cruisers visited and enjoyed.  We went to a coffee shop which had free Wi-Fi, no needless to say, just about every seat was occupied by cruisers with lap tops, i-pads and i-phones.

I had a genuinely large coffee and we both had a biscuit or seed bar.  Very nice too.  After a walk around a couple more souvenir shops, it started to rain, so instead of the waterside hike back to the ship, we opted for the free shuttle instead.  By the time we got to the harbour, it really was raining, so unfortunately, we missed out on wandering around there and went back on board.

A warming soup went down well and the afternoon nana nap was longer than planned, but I certainly needed it.  At this rate, with about three hours sleep at night and about the same in the afternoon, when we get back home, there will be no jet lag.

Before dinner, we went to the early show in the Vista.  Lee Bayliss, comedian.  A good show but once again, poor attendance, but we’ll see his show tomorrow night (different show).

Just four of us for dinner as Alex and Teri were in attendance.  Nice enough meal as always and then we just wandered to the Atrium to relax.  Not too many dancing at all (we all miss Sue and Darryl!) and an early retirement for us.  However, the captain warned of rougher seas and high winds and even before bedtime, the ship was moving around a fair bit, so Paula took a sea sickness pill as she knows they make her sleep.  With an early bedtime of about 10:45, would I sleep?

Scenic cruising tomorrow but the weather forecast isn’t too good, so not sure how much we’ll actually see.

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