Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Fully bloomed Bramhakamal flower

"And I have learned this - you know what, cars and motorbikes and elephants, that's not freedom. Being absolutely truly yourself is freedom." - Caroline Casey in her TED Talk: Looking Past Limits

Monday, August 12, 2013


Sunset at Waimea Bay, Kauai, HI

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Day 10 - After a yummy breakfast of fresh pancakes and waffles prepared lovingly by our hostess, we bade our hostess goodbye. We had to be in Anchorage by late evening to catch our red-eye flight home. We did a small hike up the nearby Crow Pass Trail and spent the rest of the morning wandering about the Forest Fair. 

Forest Fair - a sampling of the booths

Yummiest empanadas!

Post lunch we headed back to Anchorage. The weather gods were in our favor today. Somewhere along AK1, the sun came out and everything just looked beautiful. The same scenery that we had passed along a few days ago looked so different and spectacular with the sun shining on it. There were a lot of hikes that we could have taken along the way but it was very windy and so we decided to pass on the hikes and drove straight to Anchorage  (of course we stopped umpteen times for taking pictures).

AK1 when the sun is out

Dall Sheep - this guy had come down the cliffs and pretty much caused a traffic jam on the freeway

I had heard a great deal about the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail - a 11 mile long coastal trail in Anchorage. Once in Anchorage with a 5-6 hours to spare, I convinced V that we should bike the trail. Typically navigation and estimation is V's domain and I let that be. So once he approved, we rented  two bikes and off we were biking the trail. Now, what V hadn't realized at the time he signed up for this was that the trail was not a loop, which means time-wise he had only accounted for biking 11 miles. I had assumed he would have looked into all of that. However, it became clear to me that something was off  as he started making frequent stops and looking at the map with a look of confusion on his face.

It all worked out in the end and he managed to get us back in time, but till we made it I was anxious if we would and felt bad for not allowing V enough time to think and plan our route.


Views along Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Bald Eagle seen on trail

We didn't have much time nor many options for dinner. We grabbed a quick bite at Humphry's Alehouse in downtown and made a dash for the airport. Once at the gate we reminisced about the last ten days.....we'd had a wonderful time and everything had worked out as planned except for a few snafus ;)


Day 9 - It was time to say goodbye to Homer. Tonight, we had reservations at the Carriage House BnB in Girdwood. We had fallen in love with Homer - its quiet serenity, the view of the mountains from our BnB and the constant calming chant of the birdsong. So we took a walk in the morning to take it all in, one last time before leaving town.

Goodbye Homer!

I often like to buy an inexpensive item that we can incorporate into our daily lives as souvenirs of our trips. At the onset of our trip, I had spotted a lovely scarf  with native Alaskan motif on a fellow tourist. Upon inquiring she had mentioned that she had purchased it locally. I knew then what I wanted as a souvenir! From then on, every visit to any touristy shop had me searching for one and one thing only - a fabric scarf with native Alaskan motif. As luck would have it, my shopping jaunts so far had been unsuccessful. Naturally I was ecstatic when I found the object of my desire during a chance stopover at the Alaska Wildberry Products store in Homer! 

With the prized possession in the bag, we spent the rest of the morning browsing through some more art galleries and gift shops in Homer. While at the Pratt Art Museum, we met artist Barbara Lavallee. It was fun to meet the artist in person especially because we had seen her work at other art galleries in Homer. After a brief stop at the Farmers Market, spent some time at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center. 

Farmers  Market - More than just produce!

After a quick soup and sandwich lunch at the Two Sisters Bakery & Cafe we bade adieu to the lovely Homer and started our journey north to Girdwood.
Russian Orthodox  Church @ Ninilchik (on the way to Girdwood)

A light drizzle greeted us at Girdwood. Our BnB was a in lovely garden setting and our room small but comfortable. It was almost dinner time by the time we reached Girdwood. Rachel our host recommended Jack Sprat Restaurant for dinner. We decided to walk to the restaurant. The town was bustling with hippie tourists - we learnt that the crowds were due to the Forest Fair happening in town. Jack Sprat seemed upscale and consequently we had very low expectations of the food. Jack Sprat far exceeded our expectations - the food was exceptional - the day ended on a high note!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Day 8 - I was very much looking forward to this day. bear safari in Katmai National Park. We reported at the K Bay air hangar at 8 am as instructed. We were weighed in and assigned a group. 5 of us along with our pilot would be together as a group for the safari. There were about 20 other people in the room already. I did the math - it looked like they took about 4-5 groups on a bear safari per day. We fitted ourselves with hip waders; rubber boots that came high up our thighs, and waited for our adventure to begin. 

We seated ourselves in the tiny 6 seater aircraft after a safety briefing. V & I were assigned the emergency exit seats at the back of the plane. No there was no extra leg room and for a while I wondered if I would be able to rescue our party in case something went wrong and we had to an emergency landing. Those thoughts were banished as soon as our plane took off and we got busy admiring the views below.

View from our tiny plane

As we approached Hallo Bay, we could see numerous bears on the ground below. We also spotted some moose. Our pilot Mike, skillfully landed our aircraft on the beach. I was glad to be out and free from our cramped quarters. The two other groups also landed shortly after us. We would spend the next 3-4 hours walking around observing bears in their natural habitat. Our pilot would double up as our guide for the course of the tour.

Our plane

Mike had surveyed the area for bears during the descent and must've had a rough outline of our trek mapped out in his mind . He instructed that we follow him in a single file - there would be ample opportunity for everybody to observe the bears at length and take pictures. We were out in the wilderness and it was important that everybody follow the guide for everybody's and the bears' safety.

Hip waders coming in handy
As we started walking, Mark pointed out some fresh bear scat (poop) along the trail. He pointed to an area where the grass was flattened and conjectured that the area may have been used by a bear as his day bed. He explained that at this time the bears were out of hibernation and hungry for food. It was still early for the salmon run and so they only had grass and clams to feed on so far. 

Mike first pointed us to a group of 3 bears. They were a few hundred feet away. Two of them were busy grazing and the 3rd one appeared to be lazing around. We watched them for a few minutes, after which Mike pointed us to another group further out in the field. We started walking towards this group. Mike mentioned that one of the bears in this group appeared to be a dominant male. The other two appeared to graze and nudged close to the dominant male. When they got too close, the dominant male stood up on his hind legs. This was enough to scare the approaching bears away. Another bear tried to join this group but he had to haul himself up from the stream below up to the field. It was a funny sight - seeing the bear haul up his heavy body up the ledge. We snacked on our packed sandwiches while watching this group, careful not to spill any food and leave any litter behind. The other group from K Bay Air joined our group here for a little bit. Our group leaders exchanged notes and our guide decided to lead us to a young female that he had spotted grazing nearby.

We followed our leader in a single file and soon saw the animal. She was beautiful; her coat was light and it had the shine of youth. She was nice and chubby and was busy grazing. Infact, she didn't even look up at us. We stayed behind our guide and watched the creature in awe. She was only about 15 feet away. I had never imagined that I would see bears this up-close on this trip. It was amazing! Our guide kept talking to the bear just the way animal trainers talk to their animals and kept a close eye on her. Our guide mentioned that the bears at Katmai are used to the presence of human beings. They don't pay too much attention to us, unless they feel threatened.

After spending some time with this bear, we headed towards the beach. On the way to the beach we came across another bear. This guy showed signs of being out in the wild for many years. He had a dark brown coat and his body had numerous scars - war wounds inflicted by his fellow beings over the years. We were able to observe this guy from close quarters too.

2nd group with the old guy

Our group trooped to the beach to catch some more bears in action there. There was one lone bear on the beach. He was busy digging up clams from the ground and eating them.Mike instructed us to sit on our knees to observe this bear.  Bears have an incredible sense of smell which they employ to locate food. This guy was doing just that. He sniffed the ground around him and would start digging when he thought the ground held something. Lo and behold, he would dig up a clam, break open the shell and eat the contents. This continued in a loop. Seagulls hovered nearby to grab the food scraps that the bear left behind. We sat face to face with the animal and watched it snack. Mike signaled for us to get up as it was time to leave.

Enjoying clams

We had experienced something magical today - sharing time and space with a wild creature, in its natural surroundings. It reminded me yet again, that life in the wild is not easy and survival is a constant struggle. I saluted these wild creatures in my heart and left with a feeling of gratitude for having this opportunity......

Once back in town, we had a hearty meal at Pho Thai (the same place we ate dinner the previous night). We spent the rest of the evening walking around town and touring the local art galleries.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Day 7 - We had another day to explore the Seward area before heading to our next destination - Homer. While in Homer, we wanted to take a bear safari in the Katmai National Park area. Bears had eluded us in other National Parks  that we had visited and so the prospect of seeing them up-close in their natural habitat sounded both thrilling and adventurous. We had heard rave reviews about the safari from a colleague of mine and decided to splurge for the experience that it would offer. I just hadn't made any bookings, to keep our plans flexible.

Post breakfast, I called up 'Emerald Air', the tour operator my colleague had recommended, to book our spots. They told me they were booked until the 14th of July! I hated myself for waiting till the last minute and hoped that we would find an alternative. A quick search on Tripadvisor, led us to 'Alaska Bear Adventures aka K Bay Air'. They were rated #1 on TripAdvisor and also had open spots for the next day. I promptly reserved our spots for the next day. SNAFU averted, phew!

We checked out of our B&B around 11 am. We planned on visiting the nearby 'Exit Glacier' before heading to Homer. There was still no sign of the sun; it was going to be another wet day. The drive was beautiful. After a brief stop at the visitor centre, we took a trail that took us to the edge of the glacier. The trail was flat and open in the beginning. We could see the receding glacier in the distance. The trail then veered in the other direction and took us through some woods. Streams gushed by and a variety of wild flowers could be seen. The trail gradually climbed. Towards the end of the hike, we were back in the open and could see the huge mass of ice as we approached its edge. It was an easy hike that offered beautiful views along the way. No surprise that we saw a lot of people, young and old, on the trail...

Almost near the edge of the glacier

Wild flowers along the hike

We then started our journey towards Homer. Road construction and multiple photo stops slowed us down. So we ordered take-out lunch from the Sunrise Inn in Copper Landing. At Anchor Point town, bout 20 miles before Homer, we pulled up at a vista point. The vista point offered a panoramic view of the Kenai mountain range, the Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit jutting into the bay. It was a beautiful sight and I knew then and there that I was going to love Homer! Our B&B offered the same breathtaking view but from a different vantage point. When we checked-in, the house was quiet. Outside in the distance, a lone mountain bird, repeatedly sang its song. Oh! it was just wonderful....

View from the living room of our B&B in Homer

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Day 6 - Today we were scheduled to spend 6 hours on a boat watching marine wildlife, birds and glaciers. We had bookings for the 8 am cruise and so rose early. For the first time in days, we had slept soundly, thanks to the complete light blocking window blinds of our B&B! We felt well rested and ready for our day on the water. If there is one thing that Alaskan accommodation owners should pay attention to, it should be window blinds, IMO. Nothing is more appreciated than a good nights sleep.

Another reason I loved the B&B accommodations in Alaska is for their self-serve breakfast. Hosts typically stock their kitchens with eggs, bread, cereal, fruit, etc. Guests make their own breakfast. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, especially, when I am travelling. I prefer savoury items on my breakfast plate over sweet preparations like pancakes, muffins, waffles. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that we had our choice when it came to breakfast.  I made us omelettes and toast and some tea. The boat harbour was only a mile from our B&B. We decided to walk as we weren't sure about road-closures and parking situation due to the race. 

Seward harbour
Our cruise boat was big vessel with enclosed seating on two levels. One could also be out in the open along the sides of the boat. Lunch was part of the package and hot beverages tea, coffee and hot chocolate (much needed in that weather) were complimentary. Restrooms (very important) were outside on the side of the boat. There were guides on our boat if we had questions and we could hear the boat's captain (cum chief guide) on the PA system. I was happy with the overall logistics.

During the cruise we saw many humpback whales (one even did a back flip for us!), otters, seals, sea lions and a variety of birds - puffins, common murres, kittiwakes, to name a few.

Stellar Sea Lions
One of the awe-inspiring moments of this trip was seeing glaciers up-close. We saw a couple of them, but we went closest to the 'Holgate Glacier'. Our captain turned off the engine once we were close enough to the glacier. It was drizzling but we went out on the deck. The glacier rumbled and roared, pieces of it cracked and broke (this is called calving of a glacier) and collapsed into the water. The silence only amplified these sounds. It was eerily wonderful....

Just as afternoon lethargy was getting to us, the sweet smell of freshly baked cookies filled the air. Surprise! The crew had baked us cookies. Who doesn't like freshly baked cookies?

Holgate Glacier
We got back in time for the men's Mt. Marathon race. The town was bustling with people. Many of them lined on both sides of the race track. Tom and Nick (our B&B owner and his son) were participating in the race. We found ourselves a good spot so we could cheer for them as they went.

Ready, Steady, Go!
As the race started, runners whizzed past us. In a matter of few minutes we could see them scaling the mountain. We were bundled in layers of clothing, yet cold and uncomfortable. I wondered what motivated these people to brave the cold and run up and down the steep mountain.....

From our explorations on the previous night, we had concluded that restaurant options in town were plain boring. We had access to the kitchen and decided to cook our own meal that night. Nothing like eating a home cooked meal when on the road! We bought some potatoes and pita bread at the Safeway in town. I made us some potato curry. Oh! it was the most wonderful dinner....

Our B&B kitchen - Spacious and well equipped

Yummylicious Dinner

Kia Ora our B&B owner's pet. I think she got hungry with all the smells that resulted from my cooking