"The ferry is not sailing today", Dave announced after we made it into Valdez ferry dock. We've already packed everything from tents to pots and backpacks. All we were hoping for was getting on that boat, sail to Whittier and drive to Anchorage - in the process completing a circuit of southcentral Alaska. Unfortunately, we were subject to the vagaries of weather. Up north in Alaska (and in the same way down south in Patagonia), weather is at its most fickle. We were told the waters were rough. I was so disappointed.
Since we couldn't stay another day in Valdez, Dave activated Plan B. If we couldn't use the fabled Alaska Marine Highway with the ferry cancellation, then we're using the other highway. This meant driving all the way back to Anchorage 305 miles away. We're talking about a whole lot of seat-in-butt driving taking almost 7 hours. Some guys in our group were scheduled to fly at 6 PM so it was still questionable whether they could fly or not. As for me, I was staying one more day in Anchorage.
|Viewing the Cook Inlet in front of Capt. James Cook's statue.|
From Valdez, we took Richardson Highway all over again to Glenallen, taking 2 hours. After a brief stop - refueling, rest room, lunch - we were back on Glenn Highway, officially part of Alaska Route 1. This was the longest part of the journey that took us 4.5 hours before finally reaching Anchorage. The good news was that we made it just in time for those in our group flying that evening to check-in for their flights.
Before Dave sent the guys to the airport, I was dropped off at the hotel I was staying for the night. It was a great group I was with and like most group travels I've done in the past (GAP, Intrepid & Gecko's), we all ended up exchanging e-mail addresses and promised to update each other on Facebook. From complete strangers to new friends, what can I say? Dave was a guide that truly went beyond my expectations so he deserved more than a pat in the back - I'm sure he's pleased with the tip we all gave him.
Using points I've earned on WelcomeRewards program of Hotels.com, I snagged a free room at the Inlet Tower Hotel which otherwise would have cost me $200+. Hotel rates in Alaska do skyrocket all summer long so I was pleased to finally get something out of booking previous accommodations through there. That being said, the hotel itself didn't impress me; in fact I couldn't see anything to justify its expensive rate. The lobby was so small and the elevators so slow. My assigned room on the 12th floor, while having all standard amenities, was so uninspired and tired-looking. If there's any consolation, I got a commanding view of the Cook Inlet.
|View of Cook Inlet from my hotel room|
It was already late in the afternoon but daylight in early September is still plentiful. Not wanting to lose opportunity to see more of Anchorage right away, I got out of the hotel and walked straight for the downtown area following the map I got from the lobby. While those staying in the hotel - mostly septuagenarians on a pre/post cruise stay - took advantage of the free shuttle, I reckoned it was better to walk especially after sitting on my arse for most of the day on the van. The walk took only 15 minutes anyway.
Like a typical mid-sized American city, Anchorage dances to the tempo of orderliness and urban planning - there are buildings and parks and commercial enterprises. What makes it unique is its location fringed by vast wilderness. Anyone doesn't even have to go so far to feel the pulse of the outdoors. The city's locals dress themselves more like they're always in the outdoors - no Prada or Hermes or high-end fashion, rather functional clothes that's able to withstand the whims of an unpredictable weather.
After that Pinoy meal on my first day in Anchorage, I wanted to eat one again on my last night in the city. There's another Pinoy restaurant down Minnesota Drive but my quest to find the right bus to bring me there was in vain. I walked past the tourist shops and found a table at the Alaska Salmon Chowder House instead. The salmon was good, the chowder even better. But I'm hankering for good ol' adobo. I finally found that Pinoy restaurant the next day - and my adobo - on a bike.
(Note: Trip was arranged by Get Up and Go!, a locally-owned adventure tour company based in Anchorage, Alaska)