Sunday, December 27, 2009

Anchorage Zoo

Since we've only seen a couple of moose and lots of ravens, we decided to go and see what real Alaskan wildlife looked like. The best place for this is not in fact, the wilderness of the Last Frontier, but the zoo! The zoo here is really beautiful as it is a snow-swept landscape with a stream trickling between the enclosures.

We saw most kinds of wildlife, but the brown and black bears were hibernating. Our favOrite was the snow leopard, but he refused to pose for a photo. We also enjoyed the alpacas (apparently they make great pets), the sea otters, the wolves and the tigers. All the enclosures have proper arctic conditions, covered in snow, but a few lucky animals have heated pools!

And finally, the most exciting sighting of the day was the lesser spotted moose-ness...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snow Angel!

We had a long list of things to achieve in Alaska, and Vanessa finally ticked off the snow angel. Although she emerged with snow in her gloves and boots, the final product was enchanting. Did she come down from heaven...?

Friday, December 25, 2009

A White Christmas

The Christmas spirit in Alaska is tremendous. We've been on a couple of 'hot chocolate drives' through the suburbs, viewing the brilliant Christmas lights and decorations outside the houses. The winner is definitely the house with six blow-up, glowing-from-the-inside snowmen in the garden! We haven't seen the 16-foot snowman yet, but apparently he appears on Christmas Eve every year.

We spent Christmas Eve skiing, and then had Christmas dinner at the Henrys' house. We were spoilt with delicious food, wine and presents, and we are now thoroughly infused with the American Christmas spirit!

Merry Christmas to all our friends all over the world! We hope you aren't too jealous of our white Christmas...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowing and Skiing

So, we've been here a week, and we discovered that all the rumOrs are true. It is cold all the time, the snow when we arrived was pathetic, and there really is a gigantic mountain range around the city! We were trapped in a fog for a few days, but now that it's lifted, we've realiZed that the state is even more beautiful than just our car park.

After a couple of lessons, Daniel felt confident enough to drive on the snowy streets. After four days of snowfall, our first problem was de-snowing the car.

Then we had to work out how to fill up with GAS, without an attendant! Once we were up and running, we took a drive south out of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. (There is only one highway...) We got as far as Girdwood, and we were treated to a spectacular sunset along the cold, rough, ice-floaty sea, with majestic white peaks all around.

On Sunday we actually took to the slopes of one of these peaks (just a little one, mind) and tried our hand/ feet at skiing! What a rush! It was one of the best afternoons we've had. Daniel mastered it straight away with his fearless 'where's-the-biggest-slope?' attitude, while I adjusted a little more slowly, often on my rear end! By the end of the afternoon, just as it was getting dark, we were zooming down the floodlit slopes, finally beating all those little kids...

Monday, December 14, 2009

God Bless America

Our Alaskan Adventure has begun! On paper, we left Johannesburg at 20h00 on Friday night and arrived in Anchorage at 17h00 on Saturday afternoon. In reality we traveled (yes, just one 'l') for 32 hours on three different flights; it was exhausting!

The approach into Alaska was beautiful. We flew over snow-topped mountains peaking out above the clouds, icy blue glaciers and ominous, freezing-cold ice floats.

We went out for supper with some of Dan’s new colleagues and the food portions were huge! We’ll have to be careful not to eat everything put in front of us or we’ll end up like proper Americans…

Our apartment is very dinky. It’s just a one-bedroom flat, but it’s big enough for our measly four suitcases of possessions. It's almost the same size as our MASSIVE Ford truck; it's going to be so much fun ploughing through the snow!

On our first morning we dashed outside when it started to get light at about 10am and acted like total tourists. We took so many photos of the snow and the trees and the Christmas decorations and we didn’t even leave our car park! It can only get better from here...

Monday, July 27, 2009


Our first introduction to Hong Kong’s gastronomic fare was a plate of tofu dumplings stuffed with bean curd. Open-minded as we were, it was a tall order to enjoy beans with every meal, even if they were disguised in a purple gelatine substance or as a soft pink fish…

Daniel’s cousin Dave treated us to a range of Asian cuisine, and we came away with fond memories of pho, soft-shelled crabs and Peking duck pancakes. Not even the somewhat twisted allure of a whole duck strung up in a shop window could deter us from these hoisin delicacies, especially when they were washed down with Tsing Tao beer.

The seafood in Hong Kong is amazing (although often imported due to the high sea pollution) and we enjoyed various crab, prawn and fish dishes. We did not succumb to selecting our own lunch from the tanks outside the restaurants; although the menu was spectacular, we drew the line at eel and stingray! Dried fish was also a no-go, as the stench alone was enough to put Chub-Chubs off his chocolate cake.

Local delicacies can pose a threat to any unsuspecting visitor, and Daniel was no exception. He suffered the welcome tequila shot in silence, but grimaced as he choked down a nibble of chicken’s feet. He also got a surprise as his freshly-caught squid deposited its black ink all over his hand. However, he got his revenge when the deckhands fried up the squid for dinner. The real challenge was the Sichuan pepper dish which numbed Daniel’s mouth in a matter of seconds. A pity his taste buds weren’t killed before the chicken feet arrived!

Flea or Spree?

Hong Kong is synonymous with fashion shopping and designer boutiques, but the real deals get made in the busy market places. The city boasts every single kind of market imaginable, from clothes, handbags and accessories to birds, flowers and even fish.

Stanley Market, on the southern tip of Hong Kong Island, is a typical tourist trap, with a myriad of narrow alleyways lined with tiny stalls manned by pint-sized vendors. Daniel and I quickly got lost in the labyrinth of shops, but remained unimpressed by the slightly-too-grubby flea market vibe. We passed up the opportunity to buy “discounted labels” and miniature Chinese dragons in favour of watching the Lions-Springboks match.

I was equally disappointed with the Ladies’ Market in Kowloon, but the heat and the smell of frying noodles in the roadside kitchens may have contributed to my unwillingness to navigate the rows of stalls. I have been called into question several times for not purchasing fake handbags, but it’s not really my style.

I was particularly delighted by the Flower Market, with shop after shop boasting beautiful bonsais and spectacular blooms, and I bought a small contribution for Daniel’s growing bonsai collection. The Bird Market succeeded in freaking me out more than amazing me, and I beat a hasty retreat after I discovered the bags of live crickets for sale. I enjoyed the unusual Goldfish Market, especially the shelves of Siamese Fighter Fish in soy sauce containers.

Markets are undeniably a part of the Hong Kong culture and lifestyle, and while we appreciated them from a tourist perspective, they were a just a bit too local for our taste.