So we are off on the move again. Typically we arrive at the ferry point 5 minutes after the 8am departs. No. We haven’t missed it we are 55 minutes early for the next. We like to be early. This time there is a need. If we can’t get on the 9am we will have to wait until 10 and that will make the journey to the sea plane tight. Once we get to the other side we have a 2hr 40 drive. Great.
So we are one of the firsts on the ferry. And one of the first off. So we head off north on highway 19. A nice road. Interesting for the first half hour. But then more of the same. Beauty all the way.
So we arrive at the seaplane port. It’s chucking it down. The seaplane we are going on is departing from the airport. ?
Apparently it’s one that lands on its belly. In the water. ( sounds like me diving). It’s one of only 3 surviving. Excuse me. Why? A 1944 Grumman goose. Wasn’t that a war plane? The airport is a short drive away. I ask myself why did I agree to a seaplane. Usually I only fly where there is duty free. A trolley service with drinks. Looking at this plane you wouldn’t get a trolley on it.
It seats 8 one of the seats is with the pilot. Thanks but no thanks. I don’t want to look ahead and both sides. One window is enough for me. The plane is small – getting in what stands for a door is challenging. Gawd knows about getting out. It’s still chucking it down. And I mean. Chucking it down. And we are off. Rattling around like a sardine tin. . Noisy. Scary. But do you know what. Actually not as bad as I thought. We land in the estuary easily at the lodge which will be home for 3 nights. With 15 other people. None of whom we know. Yet. Some we will like more than others. Well me really. Ian’s pretty non plus. I have likes and dislikes.
I don’t know how Ian finds them. But this place is stunningly beautiful. Silent. ( once the plane departs) – restful charming.no social media. No wifi. No mobile signal. No tv. So we will have to talk. To each other. To the other guests to the staff. To ourselves. Welcomed by Marg and her team we are instantly sat down to eat. I’ll say it now in case I forget. An amazing team of guides and staff. Informative. Friendly. Helpful. All different in personality but all passionate. About the wildlife and conservation. So – A fantastic meal of salmon. Fabulous salad. But no time for dessert. Why! Because we need to drive for 40 mins in what looks like a school bus out of Fame. Or Glee. No leg warmers. Just thermals.
We are off to view Bears. Based on our whale watching tour I’m not hopeful. Yes. The lodge is called Great Bear Lodge. But who knows. We may see one. We may not. So a drive along a rickety road. There was logging here in the 60s and 70s and the road is a throwback to then. Today. Nothing but the Great Bear Lodge sits in the inlet. On the water. Maintained by the lodge it’s used to get to the bear viewing points. And for nothing else.
We are fully instructed by the team. Bear rules. Do not go off the pontoon alone. Ever. Only with a guide. Be quiet in the hide. Sit down. Don’t panic. A bear may just casually walk past. If your quiet he. Or she will ignore you. No flash. As in camera. Not as in flashing. That’s a different bare holiday.
For the second time today I am left speechless. Yes. I know. Something I’m not known for. . But there are bears. And more than one. Seems here we are on a lucky spree. Our first night out and we see Grizzly Bears. Fishing. Wandering. Being swept along on the current past out hide. Noshing on big fat salmon. Just being well. Bears. Ian has a great video or two Of the Bears which I will put in Facebook when we are back.
Great big animals with huge claws. But looking amazing. So we sit for over 2 hours watching them. Little do they know we wil be back tomorrow. Big bears. Smaller bears. Grizzlies trying to catch food. Big fat chump salmon flapping around like their lives depend on it. Which they do. Bears Scoffing it and leaving the scraps for the bald eagles hovering above. Did I mention bald eagles. There’s loads. Young ones yet to have the white heads. Mature ones. When you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. We age a serious twitcher with us who is waxing lyrical about what he’s seeing. Quietly of course. A retired couple who return back and wrote their journals in red pen. In longhand with seriously small writing. Pages and pages. Of minute detail.
I am in awe. Tired but in awe. Sitting for 2 hours perfectly quiet. Waiting for photo opportunities. Getting them. Worth getting a sore a–e definitely.
The lodge is heaven. Warm cookies every time you return magicked out of thin air. Midnight feasts.wine. Beer. Hot chocolate. Except it’s 9pm and most of us are ready for bed knowing we get an alarm call at 7. Out at 8. But not before we find out about the other 14 people staying.
Every group has a picture board on the wall. Ian’s a bit worried that he looks like a cross dresser. He’s not and he gets away with his blue suede shoes here too. There are people – From Chile. From Oz. From Cardiff. Hello. Cardiff?. – yep and they attend the church where my parents were married. st Marys Whitchirch. They know my old haunts. Well the ones I can mention. Best keep some to myself. I’ve told you before. My mother. She’s keeping an eye on me even now. Theres. A group of 4. Two from Oz. Two from the uk. The girls- lifelong friends on a trip to celebrate a big birthday. One with an 0 in it. There’s a man from Moscow with a huge camera lens. Now I know people say size doesn’t matter. Trust me I had serious lens envy. Size matters a lot. Particularly If your lens is smaller. Much smaller. Mine was.
We ate. We went out for nature walks. . Into the rain forest along the bear highway. One guide at the front. One in the middle. On at the rear. Each with bear spray. I don’t know what it smelt like. We didn’t need it. We saw where they rubbed themselves against the trees. We saw the bear wallow. Where the big fat males took a mud bath.
Marcus showed us banana slugs. If you’ve had a slug problem with your dahlias this year then you won’t appreciate these. Big fat ugly slugs with anaesthetic properties. . Oh and we learnt about the sexual pursuits of the slug. And the biting off of their dangly bits. I’ll remember that when I’m on slug watch back home. But I’m not biting.
We went bear watching. We sat in covered hides. But the best night/morning was sat on an open platform. Where bears passed all around us. Where a bear came within 6 feet of me. Right in front. So close he could have put out his paw and touched my leg. But thankfully. Didn’t. And I didn’t need clean pants. Honest. Any closer I just may have. They were in my bag. But he stood and looked. We didn’t exchange pleasantries or swop numbers. But he let me take his picture.
The guides were awesome. Marg. Allie. Sarah and Marcus. Calm. Vigilant. Talking to the Bears in quiet tones to move them on. No quick gestures. No arm waving. Awesome. Next day a different open platform. A different bear so close you could smell her. It’s also true that bears s–t in the river. Right next to you. Another beautiful wild creature.
They were catching salmon. Strolling along the banks. Apparently bears are lazy. They walk the route of least resistance. That sounds familiar. Me too. Not catching salmon. I’ve said before. If I want fish there are shops.
At the end of a long day and a day of big camera lens waving – and I mean big lenses – you know what they say about men with big lenses. Big egos. I’d second that. It Was amusing to watch the dash for the best photo spot. The first bus. Out comes the tripod. The camera. Lenses. By which time the Bears have popped up. Waved and b—d off. Whilst us tiddlers have pointed the camera and shot the picture – given it our number and said see you tomorrow.
So the group of people were as diverse as the Bears. Some people you meet who you agree to keep in touch. And others you know you won’t. Others you know you will. People from Oz who say ‘ if your visiting ‘ and you know that when we go to Brisbane we will drive the 1.5 hours to say hello. People you know you will never see again. – but one thing I will see again is the Bears and the Great Bear Lodge. Like their cookies. One taste is not enough. And both Aloson and I got a birthday cake each. We didn’t eat it all ourselves. We dos share them. Just.
We went out in the row boat. Still peaceful estuary. We got to dress up. On the river waterproofs. For the bear watching big puffa jackets. Not puff jackets which she pronounced poofy jackets. Right for two though.
Oh. And I lied at the start. Even though I’d packed those pants in my pocket and never wanted a view from three sides. I sat in the cockpit of the seaplane for the flight back. It was my birthday so I got the seat and it was fantastic. Especially as the man with the big lens wanted it!