I got up this morning, threw open the balcony and out I stepped – into water! Yuck!

So this morning’s shot was taken from the carpet inside the cabin.

The ship was moving more markedly than usual and Megan decided she’d forego breakfast. She’s been having a bit of trouble when the ship moves too much. We’re both seeing bird tours today, though different ones.

The first place we went to was a bird sancu=tuary, which was much the same as the one Martha took us to in Canada, at least in spirit. This one had far more money thrown at it.

This is a glass sculpture of two Bald Eagles in a mating dive – they basically grapple with each other in mid air and if the female decides that he’s not the one, she’ll land on him on the first floor, then fly away. The females are bigger than the males.

Like the other place in Vancouver, they also have permanent residents who aren’t able to be rehabilitated back into the wild. When I bought a fridge magnet from the gift store, the woman behind the counter said, “Oh, this is the first eagle you saw when yu went out to the cages.”

I hadn’t been outside yet, so I made it my first priority to meet the eagle who’ll soon be living in front of my veggies and small goods.

Look at how light their eyes are!

They also had outdoor cages with no roofs, so that large birds who can’t fly anymore can still come outside and feel normal.

Our tour leader was an amazing woman. She and her family were from here for generations and she knows a lot about the native medicinal plants ad the like. She has 17 kids – 5 were her biological ones and the rest were either her husband’s or they were adopted.

No wonder she sneaks off to go fishing on her own!

“I’m a bad mother, I admit it,” she said. “ I don’t want to take the kids on the boat with me. I just want to go out, catch my fish and be happy.”

After we went to the Bird Sanctuary we drove to the forest outside of town.

She said she has not been given permission to tell the stories of the totem poles, but she could tell us that the totem poles always face out to sea. Traditionally that’s how people travel, and anyone coming to the village would be able to read the poles and know who they were about to be dealing with.

“I will only tell you about the plants I personally forage,” she said. She then proceeded to tell us of about half the plants in here.

No wonder the people settled here so many years ago. They had everything they needed.

The following paragraphs were recorded. Devil’s Club sounds like an amazing plant:

“I used to go into the woods with my great-grandmother to pick Devils Club. She didn’t want any that were wonky like this one. She wanted them when they came straight up out of the ground and they grew nice and straight. She would take the knife and she would score the bark and she’d get as much of the green stuff on the underside of the bark as she could with it and she put it all in there and mash it together.

“Then she takes some of those double club things, you know, she wanted it kind of thick and then she would cut some of them into sections. You have to cut it before it dries because after it dries, you’re not gonna be able to get a good cut on it because it turns into a nice solid piece of wood.

“She would make drumsticks out of them to beat the drum with and then she would also put beadwork and feathers on the really tall ones and she would give it to the men so they could use it as a dance prop for Ceremonial dances to keep time with the drum.

“She used to take the bark. She would separate some that she wanted to dry out and she’d make a tea with it. Then she would separate it to where she had some that she could make a brew with some spruce pitch.

“Now I wish I would’ve paid closer attention on how to make it, because now I have to go out and harvest and then barter and trade. I have to take it to somebody who knows how to make it, once I’ve gone out and I’ve got the pitch. I’ve got the Devil’s Club and they get to make as much as they want for themselves, as long as I can get at least six containers of Devil’s Club.

“I remember that she’d take some and she’d throw it in a bowl and dump some hot water in there and she’d put her feet in there to help relieve the pain of arthritis. It’s a pain reliever and she also used lip balm, on mosquito bites to help relieve the itch, for psoriasis and she used it on all her joint pains to relieve arthritis. I use it on my knee to help relieve the pain of my torn meniscus. It is just an all-round wonderful medicinal plant. It smells good. Tastes good too!

“My nine-year-old daughter just ate my last 3 jars of Devil’s Club, so I’m out. Luckily it won’t kill her!”

Her great-grandmother was 100 years old when she died. She kept harvesting plants like the Devils Club until she was 94.

When we were on the bridge, we saw this little fella, a mix of a husky and a pomeranian.

He was born without eyes. He was a perfectly delightful little man, though.

When we were back on the bus, our tour guide passed around a sea-otters pelt. It was the softest fur I think I’ve ever felt in my life.

When the Russians were here, back in the 1700 and 1800s, they nearly wiped out the sea otter population. One pelt was fetching the equivalent of $1,700 in Europe at the time.

(I still haven’t seen a sea otter. Or a hummingbird. Or a grizzly…)

We briefly visited the Community Centre, where this art is prominently displayed.

I’m slowly getting used to the native art, but I loved this display!

I found my Alaskan Art in the shop next door to this one and I was feeling terrific!

It was totally different to what I thought I’d be buying. The artist is called Karen GET HER LAST NAME and she lives in Alaska. She uses driftwood and other found objects to carve her art. She’s married to a native Alaskan but she doesn’t use any motifs from their art – hers is completely modern.

I respect that.

This is carved from a moose antler and the top part of its skull. The top part of the antler is the eagle’s wing, and the skull is the salmon she’s grasping in her claws.

I absolutely love it. Since we crossed the border into Alaska practically the only wildlife I’ve seen has been Bald Eagles. The whole artwork screams “Alaska!!!” to me. Trust me when I say that the photo doesn’t do it justice.

I got so carried away that when the gallery owner told me the price, I haggled a little but I forgot to do the conversion rate into AUD. This thing is far more expensive than I thought.

I’d better still love it when I unwrap it back home…

The shopping’s slightly different in Sitka. For a lazy $2,000 USD, you can bring home a bear pelt to drape yourself in when you’re feeling frisky.

And look! They’re still using Devil’s Club!

After my wonderfully unexpected find, I wandered around Sitka for a while, eventually deciding to go down to the water and see what’s down there. I’m so glad I did.

There was an enchanting little island with a house on it. I sank down onto a bench facing the water and unwrapped a couple of Aldi nut bars from home.

Then the magic happened.

Three Bald Eagles started flying over where the house was, swooping out over the bay and then returning. They were talking to each other with wild cries.

There must have been a nest in the tall trees.

Instead – it was an eagle holiday. The correct art had found its way to me.

I sat there for ages after the eagles had successfully brought my attention to the purpose of my holiday and were now quiet again. The scene was so serene and quiet. There was the lapping of the waves into the little bay and the occasional cry of a bird.

I was happy. It was time to find my way back to the ship.

The town of Sitka also has a church with architecture reminiscent of when the Russians owned Alaska. The Americans bought Alaska from the Russians for 7.2 million dollars. Of course, no one thought to ask the native Alaskans what they thought about the deal.

I tried to go in for a look. I’ve been to every church and cathedral in Europe, so why not here? But it was closed on Saturdays. That’s how I found out which day of the week it was.

I remembered that the guide from earlier in the day told people who wanted to go back to the boat to turn right, so off I set.

I saw these beautiful Poppies and thought of my girl.

I walked along a road by the river.

It started out looking ok, but then derelict houses and canning factories started to pop up. I didn’t remember seeing these from the bus this morning…

I saw a bait shop and decided to go and ask for directions. Surely it’d be filled with capable, practical guys with a good working knowledge of this town?

I walked in and there were 3 men and a dog talking together. I explained my plight and one of them said, “I’ll take you to the dock.”

I turned to his mates and said, “He isn’t an axe murderer, is he?”

They laughed and one of them said, “You don’t have to worry. Everyone knows Rico.”

“The police… my schoolteachers…” said Rico.

Bloody hell. Absolutely no one knew where I was – NO ONE. I wouldn’t be missed until the ship wanted to leave at 5:30 PM, and by the time they started paging my name over the loudspeakers, I could be dead in a ditch. Look, he seemed ok – but a serial killer WOULD seem ok, wouldn’t he? Otherwise he’d never get any victims.

“So do you know where I need to go?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Rico.
Jesus!” I said, and the men laughed. “It’ll be the blind leading the blind!”

I followed him out to the car park and hopped into his car.

He took me straight to where I needed to go. What a great guy!

A great guy with a real Alaskan-style truck.

I was so happy to see the Silver Muse as I jumped into the tender that was taking us back to the ship. I told everyone all about the adventure I’d just had.

I finished off the day with a lemon meringue pie with edible gold dust.

Dad joke of the Day: