Swaminarayan Temple Byron

Just a few miles down the road from my house is a Hindu temple. The Swaminarayan Temple In Byron, Georgia. I decided that I wanted to check it out one morning. It was in interesting experience. Unfortunately the construction to the temple is ongoing, and the most distinctive features, the spires, were unfinished. But a little imagination can fill in the blanks.

I decided to try going inside, and was not disappointed. There are rather ornate displays to the Indian pantheon. I was met by a friendly monk who kindly explained to me some of the basic tenants of the Hindu religion. It was fascinating. I witnessed a ceremony that was quite inspiring. And when I left I felt like I did something new and interesting. I think I need to visit some bigger Hindu temples around the state and see if they are as friendly.


Journey to Alaska part 8

Victoria British Columbia

The last stop. Time in port was very limited. There were only a few hours to spend ashore, about enough time to buy some jewelry or have a meal. If I wanted either of those they could be had on the ship. Plus the time ashore was in the late afternoon/evening and sight seeing wasn’t too good as the light was waning. Mostly this port, in my opinion, was just to buy time for the ship to get back to Seattle the next day at the correct time. Anyway, I just took some photos from the ship.

Mewanwhile back in Seattle, the wildfires that had been raging up and down the coast had left the city in a haze of smoke.

Thus ends my journey to Alaska, a truly memorable and once in a lifetime experience. 


Journey to Alaska part 7

Ketchikan

We got even less time to visit Ketchikan than the other ports. This is too bad as I think I liked it the most of all the ports we visited. It was a tourist trap like Skagway, but it was also a real town. By which I mean there were other tings here than tourist crap. That’s probably not being too fair to Skagway, but it would have been a small outpost at best without the cruise ships. Ketchikan wasn’t big, but it had a sense of life to it other than diamond salesmen and curio shops. There were warehouses and signs of industry. They had a few local restaurants like the Burger Queen. Our tour guide says that beef is a bit of a delicacy there since it all has to be imported. Anyway, it seems like an interesting place to live if you have the desire to live in Alaska.

Please forgive the quality of the Burger Queen picture. I was on a moving trolly with very little time to compose a shot. But in the interest of good photojournalism I have included it, as I mentioned it previously. And as we all know, if there isn’t a picture it didn’t happen.

All I had time to do in Ketchikan was take a trolly tour. It was a very good trolly tour, and I enjoyed it very much. We only had time for two stops. The first was a visit to Saxman. Saxman is the location of the most totem poles gathered together in the world. As our tour guide told us it is also one of the locations of the first meetings between the indigenous people and William Seward after Seward bought Alaska from Russia. The people even made a totem pole in Seward’s likeness and one for President Lincoln too, who never visited.

Our second stop was a little inlet off the side of the road. There was a stream with salmon, and the local wildlife knew this was a good spot for a snack. I saw a bear, at least two bald eagles here and a seal.


Journey to Alaska part 6

Glacier Bay

We spent an afternoon floating up and then around the Glacier Bay National Park. This was in many ways the highlight of the trip, at least from a nature lovers perspective. It certainly was one of my highlights. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’m pretty sure one of the only ways to see these views is by ship. I imagine there are also helicopter and plane tours available. Maybe, if you are strong and brave, you could hike into the park. But the park is protected to a high degree. We were not able to get coffee in disposable cups or bottles of water while in the park, for fear of contamination by litter. The area certainly appeared to be in pristine condition to my eyes. There was a calm tranquility while the giant cruise ship spun in slow circles at the end of the fjord allowing us cruisers a glimpse into a world most of us rarely if ever see.

This first group of pictures has people in them. Of course on a cruise ship you are surrounded by people. It was nearly impossible to find more than a few inches of unpopulated railing to get an unobstructed view of the scenery. But having the crowd available still made for some interesting shots. In these first two shots I like the juxtaposition of nature and humanity. 

I really enjoy using backlighting to create silhouettes. This was taken in the mess hall. A random person enjoying the view over some morning coffee.

And this last picture with people in it is kinda fun in my opinion. After taking some shots of the scenery, I turned around with my camera in the ready position. I saw these two ladies taking a picture of their friend. I took the initiative and took a picture of them taking a picture. I have no idea who these people are. Im pretty sure they don’t speak English, at least they weren’t at the time. But they knew I was taking their picture, and I think they kinda enjoyed having their picture taken while taking a picture. Taking pictures of people taking pictures is fun.

Moving on to the the natural scenery. I took several hundred photos while in Glacier Bay, many of which were, in my opinion, as good as the ones I am posting. However, as they say, brevity is the soul of wit, so I will try to keep things to a manageable number. First I would like to show you these two panoramas.

I realize both panoramas are quite similar, but they each have characteristics the other is missing. So I figured it was worth showing them both.

Now for the standard size shots of the scenery.

Our ship wasn’t the only one out enjoying the scenery that day. There was a National Geographic ship out there also. I never knew that National Geographic did tours like that. I expect they put on a really nice tour. And there was a smaller tour boat also. I would love to come back someday and get a ride on a smaller boat like that. They can go places a big ship can’t, and spend more time exploring. These were they only other boats I saw in the bay area, but we did pass another cruise ship heading up the fjord while we were leaving.

If we saw any whales in Glacier Bay, I don’t recall it. Basically, if I didn’t get a picture it did happen. But we did see several sea gulls that were playing with the ship. Even though we were advised not to feed them some people did, and the gulls would cruise along with the ship looking for snacks. There were also seals. You could see them swimming around the small islets here and there in the bay. One particular group of islets was a rather popular resting spot for the seals, as you can see. They were just lounging on the rocks in the sun. It seems like a nice way to spend your time.


Journey to Alaska part 5

Skagway

I spent most of the day hanging out with my parents during the Skagway port day. We started out in the dining hall, as we did most days, with a hearty breakfast. The general consensus is when on a cruise people tend to gain weight. With breakfasts I expect I did too. Family friend Gilda the flamingo accompanied us throughout the day. 

I caught my Mom off guard here with a sneak shot. I can’t tell if she is angry or surprised. What do you think?

An interesting thing about the port in Skagway, there is a cliff a few feet away from the ship. And on that cliff is a whole bunch of nautical graffiti. Apparently the graffiti represent all the ships to visit the port over the years. There are some old entries, some new. Many have faded away into illegibility. The overall effect is very cool though.

One of the big attractions in Skagway is the train ride up the Yukon railway. This is as close as I got to taking that train ride, but thought it was worth mentioning. I hope to get a chance to take the train ride in the future. Many people on the ship say it is one of the best parts of the whole cruise.

As we disembarked for our day trip in Skagway, I took some shots of Mom and Dad and the surroundings.

We decided to take a trolly tour of the town. Skagway is a really small little place. Most of the commerce is likely centered around the cruise ships that periodically dock here. I imagine that every time a cruise ship allows its passengers to disembark the population must go up a few hundred percent.

Skagway Pano

Skagway trolly

The trolly tour was very interesting. We learned about the rich history of Skagway, which has been an outpost of scoundrels and colorful characters. We also got to enjoy some wonderful scenery.

When the trolly tour ended it dropped us off in the middle of town to fend for ourselves. In Skagway the most dangerous thing you are likely to encounter is a tourist trap. We did get trapped by one of them. There is a brewery and pub room that snared us for an hour or so. The specialty was beer brewed from the tips of baby spruce trees. It was an interesting brew. It had an IPA flavor. They also had this really neat neat old cash register that I thought was interesting.

After leaving the brew pub we walked around town enjoying the scenery.

I saw another wild bald eagle in Skagway. This one was pretty far away though. I looked like a golf ball in a tree to my naked eye. Luckily, I had my camera with a zoom lens, and managed to get a shot. But due to the distance it is a bit blurry.

bald eagle

And here are a couple boats for good measure.

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