Friday 1st August 5:00 p.m Juneau, Alaska
I ran out of road for hitchhiking! Skagway forms the terminus of the road system, and to continue further south, you must use the Alaska Marine Highway- ferries. I am now in Juneau, six hours ferry ride south of Skagway. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, the only state capital in North America that is inaccessible by road, in fact I challenge you to find too many state capitals anywhere that have no road sytem in or out. Juneau also holds another title that you wouldn't expect from this city of around thirty thousand people. Do you know what it is?
Skagway home hostel was a new experience for me, being asked to leave my room while my roommates, two old grey-haired women and an equally ancient man, prepared for bed. They called me back in when all were suitably tucked in. That night tested my zero tolerance policy on snoring. Ordinarily, my mantra is that if I can't sleep, the snorer won't sleep either. I've been known to wake the same snorer six or eight times in a single night, each time simply to let them know they're snoring. One day no doubt, a burly snorer will take exception to being woken so many times and belt me, but until then my policy will stand. Usually, they get sick of being woken and move to the television room, or some other suitable location. But how do you wake an eighty year old woman to tell her to stop snoring like a chainsaw? You could give the poor old dear a heart attack. So I lay awake, staring at the ceiling just a couple of feet above me, and wondered how tired I'd be the next morning.
The next morning, my elderly roommates commended me on being such a good 'partner'. "We didn't hear a peep from you all night," they said.
"Well, how could you while you were making noises like sick farm animals all night!" I replied, but only in my head. I smiled my sweetest smile, and made my way to the door before someone got hurt.
I had an eight o'clock dog sledding ride lined up, but on the condition that there was a spare space for me. It had filled up overnight. I went and had a big cooked breakfast and came back in time for the eleven o'clock ride. It was full too. Damn! There was a two o'clock session as well, but that wouldn't get me back in time for my ferry, and I didn't really want to stay another night in Skagway. I went for a couple of drinks at Moe's. Homer wasn't there, but Barney was at the end of the bar, in his usual good form.
The ferry was a little late departing, but I wasn't bothered. I was more concerned with controlling my coughing fits. It was starting to make me self-conscious, especially coming hot on the heels of the SARS crisis. My bottle of cough syrup was almost empty; I'd have to ration it out to make it last the whole trip. A couple of dozen passengers scrambled to claim a deck chair and we all placed them against the rails, as close to the back of the ship as possible. It wasn't long though, before every single one of us gave in to the cold, and dragged our chairs into the shelter of the covered area. The scenery in the first hour or two as we pulled out of Skagway and headed across to Haines, was just stunning. Tall steep ridges towering over us on every side. The low cloud added a mystical quality to the whole scene, and every now and then, the brown and white landscape broken by a flash of blue from a glacier. The water was an unusual opaque greenish colour, suddenly turning murky caramel where a glacial river runs into it from the side. Glacial rivers always carry suspended particles and are usually a pale grey in colour. I remember the same distinct colour contrast in Dawson, where the Klondike meets the Yukon.
After a while, the cloud closed in. I climbed into my sleeping bag, and fell straight to sleep. We docked in Juneau at about 11:00p.m. The ferry terminal is about twelve miles from the town centre, so I stuck out my thumb and at exactly 11:22, I was knocking on the door of my host, Peter. Peter is a friend of Casey, my host in Anchorage, and is a member of Casey's very cool *and frighteningly exclusive* 'club' of CouchSurfers. Peter was still up. He gave me a quick tour of his seventh floor apartment, and orientated me with Juneau and what there is to see and do. It was past 1:30a.m. when I hit the sack, and I hoped my uncontrollable couching wouldn't keep Peter awake.