Thursday, 23 July 2015

There's a bear in there.

We were repeatedly remind of 'bear safety' on our recent trip to Alaska and Canada. Should you come face to face with a bear in the wild, here are the top tips:
  • Do NOT make eye contact
  • Let the bear know you're human (although exactly how you do this was never explained)
  • Do NOT run
  • Talk to the bear quietly and calmly as you back away slowly
Other bear safety includes being noisy when you hike (no trouble there with Sass not ever having had a volume button and the ability to talk under water) and stay together as a larger group so the bear thinks you're a big animal. (This sounds a bit far fetched to me - bears can't be that silly.)

We did see quite a few bears and I will regale you with a couple of tales.

Bear Spray.

Sort of like fly spray, this capsicum-like substance can be used to deter an attacking bear. The guides on our Alaskan cruise all carried bear spray when we regularly ventured off the boat and into the wilderness. They also kept it in a zip lock bag deep in their bag packs.... hmmmm.

Many guests had attempted to bring their own bear spray only to have it confiscated at airports - who'd have thought??

One guest (an Australian ex-pat) told us when he bought his, the cost of the spray was about $30, or you could get the can of spray PLUS a holster for $70. He elected to just take the spray until the cunning salesman said, 'Sir, if you were in a situation requiring you to use bear spray, how fast do you think you could get it out of your bag?' He left the shop $70 poorer.

The kids and the bear.
We took an excursion off the boat in the hope of seeing Black bears. It was early in the season so no guarantee. We arrived by boat to be escorted to the viewing platform by our guide. He clearly didn't bother too much about bear spray - he and his side kick just had big rifles slung over their shoulders. (Seriously, the casualness of people in America and firearms was shocking to us - but that deserves it's own post.)

Given the usual brief and strict instructions to stay together as a group, we hiked up to the viewing platform, all chatty and relaxed with a gun-totting guide, Denny, at the front and one at the back. Denny, told us how he and a group had recently startled a bear on the path and, following the calm talking and slow backing away procedure, he glanced behind him to discover the group had all racked off around the corner leaving him out there to face it on his ownsome! Yes, it sounds bad, but can you blame them?

Anyway, back at the viewing platform there are bears a plenty! I'd never seen salmon swimming up stream and they were equally as fascinating. We also discovered that when there's a dead fish up for grabs, those elegant, majestic and proud Bald Eagles are actually nothing more than a good-looking bunch of vultures.

It's almost time to leave when naturally, the kids want to use the loo. An outhouse arrangement with a small hole in the door where the occupant want wiggle their fingers when their done so someone from the platform can give them the all clear to come out. Denny decides he'll escort them, which was just just as well given a Black bear did stroll between we fretful parents and the posse of cowering kids, packed in tightly behind Denny and his gun. Although why that worried us I don't know, as within minutes we were all off the platform and heading back down the path. It was certainly a more anxious walk back!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


Apologies that I've been AWOL.

We're on holiday and the lead up was gruelling, trying to get work done before we left. Having almost packed and fallen into bed about 1am, the alarm went off at 3am and taxi arrived at 4.15 to take us to the airport. A mere 36 hours later, we arrived at our hotel in Juneau, Alaska.

I was convinced I'd packed well. I even checked average temperature in our post-Alaskian destinations.

So here we are, in Kamloops, Canada having arrived this afternoon on the Rocky Mountaineer train. In my bag I have a down parker, thermals, apres boots, wet weather jacket and pants, a North Face furry vest, two ploar fleeces, two jumpers, two long sleeve Ts, two short sleeve Ts, one pair of shorts, bathers, a possum fur oilskin cap, a beanie, gloves and ski mittens. And the weather? 35C.

And to think, I once had the cheek to pass out a few travel tips!!!

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...