USA: Alaska # 30 Sitka’s National Historical Park


Sitka National Historical Park is a forested area of Sitka, close to the water’s edge, that showcases the cultures of the native peoples of the coast and their totem poles. All of the poles in this forest park are seen as ambassadors for Alaska and its native peoples. Not only do the totem poles have a fascinating story, but so does this out door museum. I’ll use the National Park’s web site words to tell the story of how these poles came to be here.


P1130014 © DY of jtdytravels

“… it is hard to imagine a time when (these poles) were not part of the surrounding forest. Their history, however, tells a very different story– a story that begins in the coastal villages of southeast Alaska and ends, after traveling more than 6,000 miles by revenue cutter, steamship and rail, (to finish up here) in Alaska’s first National Park.”

After the USA acquired Alaska from Russia in 1867, the problem arose as to how to generate interest in Alaska and draw people to settle the area.

In the early 1900s, Alaska’s Governor, John Green Brady, was asked “to create an exhibit publicising Alaska for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition to be held in St Louis in 1904. His answer involved showcasing one of the region’s most recognisable features: the towering totem poles carved by the Native peoples of southeast Alaska. In Brady’s mind, a display of totem poles would draw people to the exhibit.” 


P1130013 © DY of jtdytravels

“Once there, they would learn about the “real” Alaska through displays of raw materials, agricultural products and unique curiosities. Brady hoped visitors would form a new impression of Alaska: that of a place ready for tourism, settlement and development.”


P1130016 © DY of jtdytravels

The word totem means ‘kinship group’ and totems are thus emblems of tribes or groups of people such as a family or clan. Animal totems or emblems, also reflect the lineage of a tribe, reminding them of their ancestry or their mythical past and creation myths.

Each one of the animal totems had a special meaning, characteristics and significance. For example, a frog meant Spring & New Life, Sensitivity, Good Communicator, Stability.

With ‘westernisation’ and a drift by people from villages to towns, Brady was concerned that traditional art “appeared to be disappearing from sparsely populated coastal villages. (He) conceived the idea of collecting totem poles and bringing them to a place where they could be preserved and people, including tourists, could view them.”

“Between 1903 and 1904, Brady toured southern southeast Alaska’s Tlingit and Haida villages by ship, asking leaders to donate poles and other objects for the exposition. After several voyages, he was promised poles from the villages of Old Kasaan, Howkan, Koianglas, Sukkwan, Tuxekan, Tongass, Klinkwan, and Klawock. It was especially remarkable that Brady was given the poles as gifts, because more than one professional collector had tried to purchase poles from these same villages and had been refused. Trusting in Brady and looking to the future, these leaders chose to share their cultural heritage with the world, even if it meant parting with it.”


P1130018 © DY of jtdytravels

And so it was that “in the spring of 1904, 15 Tlingit and Haida totem poles, two dismantled Haida houses and a canoe were delivered to the St. Louis Fairgrounds.”

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (in St Louis) proved to be a truly spectacular cultural event. Massive “palaces” showcased amazing technological advances like electric lighting, the wireless telegraph and the automobile. Although exploitive by today’s standards, anthropological exhibits of indigenous peoples drew huge crowds. The elaborate fairgrounds covered more than 1,200 acres. An astonishing 18 to 19 million people visited the fair between April and December of 1904. For most of them, it was an experience they would never forget.”


P1130019 © DY of jtdytravels

“At the close of the exposition, the remaining poles traveled to the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland for another exhibit there in 1905. Portland was a much smaller exposition. Between June and October, 1,588,000 visitors toured the 400 acre fairgrounds along the Willamette River. Accompanying a reduced exhibit in the Government building, the totem poles and canoe stood in a linear arrangement on the shores of a man-made lake on the fairgrounds.”


P1140655 © JT of jtdytravels

“When the Portland fair closed, the poles began another long journey, this time home to Alaska. They reached Sitka in January of 1906, where Brady’s concept of a totem pole park would be realised. Before the poles could be installed, they were repaired by skilled local craftsmen, most of them Native graduates of the nearby Presbyterian Mission School. Prisoners from the local jail contributed heavy labor to the raising of the poles. The actual arrangement of the poles however, was orchestrated by local photographer E.W. Merrill. Sources indicate that in aligning the poles along the seaside path, Merrill intended to preserve some of the feeling of a traditional village. By March, Brady’s vision of a collection of totem poles preserved in Sitka’s popular park had been realised.”


P1140654 © JT of jtdytravels

“Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the poles is that they continue to fulfil their purpose. Just as the original donors intended, the preservation and display of these objects have provided a lasting memorial to their cultural heritage. Just as Governor Brady intended when he began his efforts to preserve and display Alaska’s totem poles more than 100 years ago, the totem poles of Sitka National Historical Park remain powerful symbols that draw people to Alaska and provide a tangible link to the past.”


P1140664 © JT of jtdytravels

“The totem pole collection has changed since it was first placed there in 1906. Over the years, caretakers patched, painted and finally re-carved the poles.” The carvers have not been forgotten. They are also celebrated in this park.


P1140688 © JT of jtdytravels

If you look closely at the poles you can see that sometimes the carver has played a joke; the owner of the pole may have been portrayed, embarrassingly, naked; or figures carved may have been carved upside-down,”accidentally” ; or maybe a little figure or two grinning and peeking out of Whale’s blowhole or an animal’s ear. All a valid part of tradition.


P1140662 © JT of jtdytravels

Carved many years ago from mature cedar trees, many of the original poles are gone… but their stories live on – along with newer poles like this one, the Centennial Pole. Painted Totem poles are not necessarily fakes: it’s the carver’s choice whether to add paint to his creation or not.

Before we leave the totem poles stories, let’s explode some totem pole myths:

  • Totem Poles were never worshipped. They are emblems, symbols, not icons.
  • Decaying Totem Poles are not thousands of years old; perhaps a hundred years old. The oldest ones in British Columbia date from about 1835. Duplicates of decaying Totem Poles are sometimes made by the descendants of the family who own them.
  • Totem Poles with a rectangular box on the top are called Mortuary Poles… but there’s never been any evidence of a human corpse actually being placed on one.
  • There is no evidence that any slaves were buried at the base of Totem Poles.

To find out more about totem poles, their symbols and meanings, just ask Google or check out the links below:


More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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USA: Alaska # 29 Sitka’s Raptor Centre

The next stop on our ‘Tour of the Town’ of Sitka was at the Raptor Centre. Here, up to 200 injured birds a year are taken in for treatment. The aim is to restore the birds, if possible, to the wilderness.

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

Raptors are meat or fish eating birds that hunt for their food. They need to be healthy to hunt and survive on their own in the wild. Some of the birds being treated are kept in this large room where they can safely begin to learn to fly again. They may have had broken wings or other bones, gunshot wounds or have been poisoned, usually unintentionally.

We were told that about 85% of the injuries treated at the centre are due to human  intervention in the natural habitat of the birds. Most injuries are caused by collisions with power lines, cars and other man-made objects. Poisonous chemicals at dumps and those used on lawns and gardens can cause poisoning if what the birds eat is polluted. Birds become scavengers… its an easy way to hunt! Others are caught in fishing lines and tackle left lying around. One of the centre’s aims is to make us all aware of the consequences of our actions, on birds in particular, and the environment in general.


P1140597 © JT of jtdytravels

The Raptor Centre’s symbol is the American Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus Leucocephalus, the bird adopted as the national bird symbol of the United States of America in 1782. It was chosen for its majestic beauty, great strength, long life, and because it’s native to the USA. This symbol is on many of the gift shop souveneirs, the sale of which helps pay for the recovery of the birds. We chose a glass bauble with an eagle for our Christmas tree collection.


P1140599 © JT of jtdytravels

One eagle, which can’t be returned to the wild because of his injuries, has been trained to be the ‘meet and greet’ bird at lectures given at the Centre. He was so well behaved!


P1140606 © JT of jtdytravels

It was amazing to be able to get up fairly close and personal with such a bird. He showed off the main characteristics of all raptors; sharp eyesight, a hooked, sharp beak and strong feet with sharp talons. They are not birds to be played with!


P1140608 © JT of jtdytravels

Even though the bald eagles are a well known symbol of USA, they were for many years on the list of endangered US birds. Why? In the ‘lower 48 states of the USA, the bald eagle populations were almost wiped out by DDT, heavy metal poisoning and loss of habitat. By the time DDT was banned in 1972, there were fewer than 450 breeding pairs left in all of the continental United States. It was on the Endangered Species List from 1978 until July 1999 when it was down listed to ‘threatened’. Now, the bald eagle population is estimated to be about 100,000. Half of those are found in Alaska.

Although never a threatened species in Alaska, there was a bounty on bald eagles from the early 1900s to 1950. As a species of sea eagles, the main diet of bald eagles is fish; salmon and herring in particular. The bounty was placed because the birds were thought to be in competition with local fishermen for the live salmon. They were! But the fishermen have had to learn that they must live with the wildlife of the area and that includes eagles, seals and whales. It is we who have invaded their habitat.


P1140615  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The bald eagles, like these two, that have been treated satisfactorily at the centre, go through various stages of rehabilitation until they can be released back into the wild.

But some cannot be released for a variety reasons. Those birds may be placed in captive breeding facilities around the country so that their offspring can be released to help restore wild populations. Others are placed in zoos and other educational organisations to help educate the public about raptors.

P1140620 © DY of jtdytravels

P1140620 © DY of jtdytravels

This bird, in an outer enclosure, showed off its extremely sharp talons and its not so pleasant personality. ‘Leave me alone, or else…’ seemed to be the message! It’s a sign of good rehabilitation as it needs to be wary and wild to survive in the forest. The white head and tail mark this bird as an adult. Immature bald eagles are a mottled brown.


P1140623 © JT of jtdytravels

A bald eagle has about 7,000 feathers, fluffed out here for our closer inspection!


P1140624 © JT of jtdytravels

An even closer look at those head feathers.


P1140627 © DY of jtdytravels

And that’s some wingspan!


P1140626 © JT of jtdytravels

The large outer forest area of the Centre is the final stage in rehabilitation where the birds practice life ‘in the wild’ before being released to fend for themselves. Eagles can live for thirty years or more… so, hopefully, these birds will survive for many years to come.


P1140638 © JT of jtdytravels

This Red Tailed Hawk, Buteo Jamaicensis, was one of the raptors in the rehabilitation area. These hawks are found in every US state except for Hawaii. They play a very important role in the management of the rodent population. That beady eye can spot a mouse more than 30 m (100 ft) away. One hawk can eat more than 1,000 mice a year. That makes these birds more efficient than pesticides and far less harmful to the environment and other birds.

There are two main groups of raptors. The diurnal raptors, like eagles, hawks, falcons and kites, hunt during the day. But nocturnal raptors hunt at night. These include most of the owls. In the USA, there are 34 diurnal raptor species and 19 species of owls.


P1140633 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the owls being cared for at the Centre was this Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus. It’s common name is a bit of a misnomer! The tufts on top of its head are not horns, just feather tufts. This is one of the largest owls in the USA and can survive in habitats as vastly different as the hot, dry, desert canyons of Arizona or the cold, wet rain forests of Alaska. Like most owls, their feather design allows them to fly almost silently, enabling them to stealthily hunt for prey such as mice, squirrels and frogs.


P1140645  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

My favourite owl was the the Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa. How could you not fall in love with that wonderful face? I was keen to learn more about this bird.

The Great Grey Owl is one of the world’s largest owls and has the largest facial disc of any owl. It has asymmetrical ear openings that are surrounded by feathers which help to funnel sound towards the ear. This allows the bird to detect the slightest noise made by prey such as voles and mice (This is another bird that is rodent destroyer!)

Great Grey Owls are forest dwellers and have a circumpolar distribution ranging from Alaska to Easter Canada and across the northern forests of Europe and Asia. They are very reclusive and rarely seen in the wild so it was special to see one up so close.

Like most owls, Great Grey Owls don’t usually build their own nests. In Alaska, they often use abandoned Northern Goshawk nests. The success of the owls raising their clutch of one to nine eggs is highly dependent on food source that year. In low food years, no eggs may be laid at all. The male provides food for the female during the 30 days that she sits on the eggs, and also for the nestlings for three weeks after hatching. It surprised me to learn that the young owlets are proficient climbers! They leave the nest and climb around in the trees for several weeks before they learn to fly. Even after they finally fledge at about eight weeks, they may stay near to the nest for several months.

I spent so much time learning about this owl that I almost missed the bus! So whatever was left for me to see at the Raptor Centre will remain a mystery to me. We were soon on our way to our next centre of interest, the Sitka Totem museum.

But, if you’d like to learn more about these magnificent owls, follow this link!

There you’ll find some really great photos. I can’t compete with them! You have to be a dedicated, professional bird photographer with excellent gear to get shots like these.

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Great Grey Owlets on a twig nest.

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Female Great Grey Owl with young on nest.

Isn’t it great that, via the web, we can see such excellent nature photography.

More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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USA: Alaska # 28 Sitka – a Former Russian Outpost


After disembarking “Sea Lion’ we joined the other passengers in a ‘Tour of the Town’. Most of them had a lunch time plane to catch to Juneau or Seattle and so had time to fill in before their flights. Only a few of us had elected to stay in Sitka for an extra night.

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On this tour we learned much about this city, really just a small town of just over 9,000 people. It’s a town with colourful past; a unique cultural and historical blend of peoples – native Tlingit,  Russian fur hunters and, since 1867, the far flung, northernmost state of USA. Accessible only by sea or air, Sitka was the first capital of Alaska.

Amazingly, Sitka is the state’s fourth-largest city by population in Alaska, after Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau.  It’s also the second largest ‘incorporated area’ in the United States, four times the size of Rhode Island. But that city area takes in much uninhabited area of mountains and part of Tongass National Park. The inhabited area is quite small.

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This map shows the closeness of Alaska, outlined in purple, to the white mass of eastern Russia. The line of islands that extend out into the Bering Sea are just the tops of the mountain chain that extends into Russia’s Kamchatka, the long peninsular on the far left.

We’d been exploring the Inside Passage, the small area denoted in purple on the right, in the south of Alaska, (surrounded by Canada). Sitka is on the ocean side of that area.

To share something of Sitka’s story, I’ll use some of the words written about the town on their informative website. (see below for the link)

“Sitka’s history began as the ice, that covered much of Southeast Alaska, began to recede. According to a Tlingit legend, Mount Edgecumbe, a 3,200-foot-tall dormant volcano, located on southern Kruzof Island, was the smoking beacon that brought the original native Tlingit Indians to Sitka around 10,000 years ago.” (We were to visit a Tlingit Museum later in the day to learn more about their story.)


P1140689 © JT of jtdytravels

“Old Sitka was founded in 1799 by Alexandr Baranov, the governor of Russian America. Baranov arrived under the auspices of the Russian-American Company, a “semi- official” colonial trading company chartered by the Tsar Paul I. In 1802, a group of Tlingit natives destroyed the original establishment known as Redoubt Saint Michael (an area today called the “Old Sitka”) and massacred most of the Russian inhabitants. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers.

Baranov returned to Sitka in 1804 with a large contingent of Russians and Aleuts aboard the Russian warship Neva. The ship bombarded the natives’ village, forcing the Tlingits to retreat into the surrounding forest. Following their victory at the Battle of Sitka,the Russians established a permanent settlement in the form of a fort named “Novoarkhangelsk” (the name of the Russian town near which  Baranov was born).  In 1808, with Baranov still governor, Sitka was designated the capital of Russian America.”

The inscription on the statue of Baranov (1747 – 1819) states that he served as the colonial governor of Russian America from 1790 to 1818. Considering his early battles with the native Tlingits, a quote from Baranov on the inscription seems a little odd:  “that we may dwell in amity and peace forever in this region.”


P1140569 © JT of jtdytravels

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael was the first place that we visited on our tour of Sitka.  It was originally built in 1848 as “the seat of the Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, and Alaska.”

“The original church burned to the ground in 1966, but was restored to its original appearance, with the deliberate exception of its clockface, which is black in photographs taken prior to 1966, but white in subsequent photos.”

The Cathedral was open and we were able to enjoy this example of the Russian cultural influence and architecture that still exists in the town of Sitka today.


P1140571 © JT of jtdytravels

The interior has the usual Russian Orthodox cruciform plan. The walls and ceiling have an unusual, rough, natural coloured sail cloth covering. It’s a replica of the original covering in the Cathedral that was destroyed by fire in 1966.

Although so much of the church was destroyed, fortunately, many of the original art pieces, icons, religious objects and the chandelier were saved or salvaged and restored. They are displayed and in use inside the new structure.


P1140582 © JT of jtdytravels

Wealthy Russians and Imperial government officials donated many of the art pieces to the church in the early 19th century.  These include the beautiful ikon screens dividing the nave and the chapels from the inner altars. These doors and the wall of icons and religious paintings, were the most treasured items retrieved from the fire in 1966.


P1140574 © JT of jtdytravels

Some of the icons in the doors.


P1140575 © JT of jtdytravels

Detail of one of the icons. As is usual in such icons, a painting of the person represented by the icon appears behind a silver outer representation of part of the painting.


P1140580 © JT of jtdytravels

The original large and very beautiful icon of the Last Supper was lost in the fire. This is a faithful replication.  Unfortunately, some other important items lost in the fire have not been able to be replaced including the large library containing books in the Russian, Tlingit and Aleut languages.


P1140581 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the items saved from the fire.


P1140584 © JT of jtdytravels

Crowns worn by the Bishop of the Cathedral.


P1140577 © JT of jtdytravels

Many of the silk and brocade vestments were retrieved from the fire and are now in use again. Although the church is open to the public as a heritage building, it’s still used daily for worship by the many people in Sitka who have Russian ancestry.


P1140579 © JT of jtdytravels



P1140573 © JT of jtdytravels



P1140694 © JT of jtdytravels

Reconstruction of the Cathedral was based on 1961 drawings of the old cathedral. That allowed the building of a replica to the same measurements at the same location, but with modern fireproof material used in its construction.

The original cathedral was built of logs and clapboard siding with wood shingles. This new one is built of fire retardant materials; concrete and steel walls, vinyl siding and asphalt shingles. The domes, instead of the old metal, are now made of copper. It should stand the test of time to help maintain the Russian heritage of this town for many years to come.

( internet link to Sitka city website is :  )

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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USA: Alaska #27 to Sitka

Our last afternoon in the Inside Passage was spent in a delightful bay… waiting. Our destination for the day was the town of Sitka out on the western coast of this part of Alaska. And to get there, we had to negotiate Peril Strait. As it’s name suggests its not the easiest place to navigate with tide changes up to 7m through the narrows.


P1110917 © DY of jtdytravels

So we waited for the right time to sail towards the narrow passage and had an interesting afternoon checking out each others photos. Everyone was asked to add three photos to the pool and it proved to be fascinating to see what each person added.

P1140539  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140539 © JT of jtdytravels

Later, as we moved towards the passage, we did a side trip into a wide bay which seemed to be full of whales. Having taken many whale photos, this time we just enjoyed them. One or two performed amazing breeches right out of the water, but most were just feeding.


After a while, I decided to get my camera. Lucky! As I left our room, a whale came right up beside the ship and gave me a wonderful wave of the tail. Then it, and most of the other whales, seemed to vanish. It was as if this one was saying good bye.  We sailed on.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

Dusk was gathering as we entered a more narrow passage of water. All seemed very still.

BUT the water way ahead of us was treacherous; the tide coming in and going out very rapidly and all ship’s captains have to be especially vigilant in these waters.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

The ship glided slowly towards our appointed time to go through Peril Strait. There is a definite process to be followed and our Captain had applied for our specific time.

The Tlingit natives had a name for this strait- Haat xhishxhaak.  Haat meaning tide, rapids, whirlpool or back-eddy; and xhishxhaak meaning, appropriately, to sit down! They would pull there canoes to the bank to wait for the tide to be just right.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

The view back from the rail outside our room. Night approached.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

There was a strange eeriness about these waters. And many have perished here. One story tells of some native Aleut seal hunters who pulled in here to await the tide change. While waiting they had a feast of shellfish. Unfortunately for them, the shellfish were poisonous and about one hundred and fifty of these men died. Where they died is now called Poison Cove and Deadman’s Reach.  Not the best of bed time stories!

P1140547  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140547 © JT of jtdytravels

After watching the moving shapes in the waters for some time, I finally turned in for some shut eye, trusting the Captain and his crew to get us safely to Sitka.

map of trip

The map shows where we had travelled on this wilderness adventure.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

I woke to the sound of the engines slowing down. We had arrived. Dawn was breaking.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

The clouds were mirrored in the still waters of Sitka Harbour.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

Looking out from our room was our first sight of a Sitka residence.

P1140559  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140559 © JT of jtdytravels

We made our way under the bridge to the dock. This is a big bridge that takes a road to almost nowhere. Fir the only way into Sitka is by sea or by air. There are only 22.5 km or (14 ml) of road in this town; half go east-west and half go north-south. We had chosen to stay here for an extra night. Was that wise in such a small town of only 9,000 people?

P1140564  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140564 © JT of jtdytravels

It’s always hectic when a ship comes into its final port. Bags have to be out by 7 am; breakfast is earlier than usual; everyone must leave the ship by 8am. But while I waited, I took some time to check out the harbour around us. It’s a busy fishing port.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

Fishing boats of all sizes were moored near the fish co-op.

P1140561  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140561 © JT of jtdytravels

In deeper water, a larger ship unloaded its cargo. These ships are the life line for the townspeople bringing in cargo from the larger cities.

P1140563  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140563 © JT of jtdytravels

The tide was well out. Its just as well they have variable gangways up to the docks.

P1140566  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140566 © JT of jtdytravels

It was time to farewell our good ship ‘Sea Lion’ and our Captain and crew. They had all been wonderful.  What would we find here in Sitka? We had read that in March 2013, the Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka as #9 in its top ten towns in the USA! That’s quite some call… so we looked forward to exploring here for a couple of days.

And we’ll share that with you all anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

More of our travel photos are on





Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

More of our travel photos are on










USA: Alaksa #26 Eva Pond

The morning of our last day in the Tongass National Park wilderness was overcast and misty. There was talk of rain. We hoped not.


P1140473 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After breakfast, the clouds began to rise revealing the mountains.


P1140469 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The crew dropped the kayaks into the water and everyone geared up for our last day in this pristine, wonderful part of the world… walking, kayaking or floating about in the DIBS (inflatables known as Zodiacs in Australia).


P1140474 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

What a beautiful place! There was great anticipation amongst the walkers (David included) that this might just be the day that they would encounter a bear on their walk. The area is known for its bears and the salmon run was about to start in streams around this bay.

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

Several interesting jelly fish floated by as we were preparing to climb into the DIBs to go ashore. This one was the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata.

Like all jellyfish, this one is ‘diploblastic’ which means it has two primary layers: the ectoderm, the inner layer of tissue associated with the gut, and the endoderm, the outer layer, which includes the nervous tissue.  The animal’s radial symmetry allows it to reach out in all directions from the centre, assisting their feeding.

But this jellyfish has some specialised characteristics. It doesn’t have a brain or eyes so it has to rely on nerve cells to sense and react to either food or danger. Some of its eight lobes have organs used for sensing odor and balance. And at the end of some of the lobes there are primitive light receptors!  It’s understood that these sensing organs tell the jellyfish whether they are heading up or down, and into the light or away from it.

Most of us know to beware of jellyfish and their stings; and the Lion’s Mane jellyfish is no exception. As you can see in the photo, there are many tentacles. In fact these animals can have up to 8 clusters each with 150 tentacles; Now, how’s your maths? I make that add  up to  1,200 tentacles per jellyfish… AND… one researcher recorded a  Cyanea capillata‘s tentacle at almost over 6 metres (200 ft) long… AND every single one of these enormous tentacles are lined with large amount of cnidocytes, the stuff that stings if you touch it. That’s impressive! One of the effects of the venom of the Lion’s Mane is ‘hemolysis’; the destruction of red blood cells. So stay well clear of these beauties.

And we did; we watched and waited until they floated by. But they don’t really float. They propel themselves using special muscles called coronal muscles which are embedded on the underside of the bell. These muscles push water out of the hollow bell. Then, as water is pushed in one direction, the jellyfish moves in the opposite direction.

Learning about them from our marine biologist was fascinating.



P1110780  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110780 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time we got to shore, the kayaks were lined up ready for those wanting to paddle their way around the calm waters of this bay.


P1110782 © DY of jtdytravels

David and his group began their walk, going by this tree that was just clinging to the rock face.


P1110787 © DY of jtdytravels

Another tree had a squirrel’s cache of pine cones in a hole at its base.


P1110789  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Nearby was a lovely example of the Narrow Beech Fern;  Thelypteris phegopteris.


P1110794 © DY of jtdytravels

This Coralroot Orchid, Corallorhiza maculata, is named the spotted orchid for its spotted lip. But it’s named coral root because it has no roots; it has, instead, hard, branched rhizomes that look like coral. It’s a parasitic orchid deriving its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi in the deep, damp humus and soils in the understory of coniferous forests.


P1110812 © DY of jtdytravels

An Native of the Alaskan mountain forests,  Clintonia uniflora is a member of the lily family. It’s common names are bride’s bonnet and queen’s cup… neither of which seem to be very apt to me. 

You have to look in the understory of the coniferous forests to find this delightful small white flower.  Two or three long, wide leaves are located at the base of the stem.


P1110808 © DY of jtdytravels

This flower will be replaced by just one round, blue berry, up to one centimetre wide.


P1110862  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Dying petals look very delicate, almost translucent, adorned as they are with raindrops.


P1110863  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

The forest canopy reflected in a raindrop; one of the joys of a walking in the rain!


P1110814 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual in these forests, fungi abound, some like this one are very ‘architectural’.


P1110815 © DY of jtdytravels

A rain collector!

P1110821  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110821 © DY of jtdytravels

While David wandered on his flower spotting way through the forest, I was meandering in a DIB around the streams that run into the bay.


P111o837  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Every now and then we spotted each other through the trees. These streams are spawning grounds for salmon and I was enjoying Jason’s stories of the salmon as we floated along.


P1140513  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

It was a delightful way to spend my last day in the Tongass National Forest.


P1140516  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The reflections were perfect… if we sat still enough in the boat.


P1140499  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

We found a pair of eagles to watch. They were watching for salmon!


P1140528 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After a dive into the water (no fish on this occasion) it dried its wings.

We watched it… it watched us. We wondered what it thought!

They are such a magnificent birds !


P1110825 © DY of jtdytravels

David walked on further into the forest but still following the stream.


P1110831 © DY of jtdytravels

The delightful red paintbrush flower; we’d seen it several times before.


P1110833 © DY of jtdytravels

Always well worth a closer inspection.

P1110839  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110839 © DY of jtdytravels

We had seen many example of the Black Lily or Chocolate Lily, Fritillaria camschatcensis, on our forest walks. The name denotes that it is native to Kamchatka on the far east Russian Peninsular where David had trekked a couple of years before. (Those stories are written up on

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that this lily looks lovely but it has a really bad smell which it uses that to attract flies as pollinators. Before rice became available in quantity in these parts, the local native people of Alaska used the plant’s clusters of rice like, tiny white bulbs as food hence the other common names of Indian Rice or Eskimo Potato. Nowadays, the art of harvesting and cooking the lily roots has all but disappeared.   


P1110887 © DY of jtdytravels

A good example of bracket fungi, a woody fungi that grows on tree trunks.


P1110886 © DY of jtdytravels

Further upstream away from the larger pond, the walkers had to cross a stream.

P1110891  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110891 © DY of jtdytravels

And not long after that, they were stopped in their tracks. What are they looking at?

P1110895  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110895 © DY of jtdytravels

A bear! Yes, they actually came across a bear. Stand still. Don’t move. That’s the rule.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.51.52 AM

But the bear was not interested in them. It was looking to see if any salmon had come up the stream yet. The salmon spawning run was about to begin and this bear was ready!

And you can imagine the excitement back on the ship. Last walk. Last chance. A BEAR!

And so the forest walks ended on a very high, very satisfying note. But once the bear was seen, it was not wise to stay in that part of the forest, so it was back to the ship- quietly.

But once on board, the lunch room was a buzz of excited bear chatter. And after lunch, it was time to weigh anchor and sail for Sitka, our final port of call on this adventure through the waterways of the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage of Alaska.

More of Sitka anon

.Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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USA: Alaska #25 Snow the Whale

After a wonderful day sailing in Glacier Bay National Park, we called into Bartlett Cove Ranger Station to see a memorial to a very special humpback whale called Snow.


Bartlett Cove Ranger Station © JT of jtdytravels  P1140368

Being permitted to dock here was yet another advantage of being on a small ship; the big cruisers can’t come here… the bay is not deep enough, the pontoon jetty is not big enough for them and the small public area around the Rangers Station and Snow’s memorial just would not cope with thousands of cruise boat passengers at a time.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110674

So what was special about Snow? In July 2001, Snow, a 44 year old female hump back whale was killed in Glacier Bay by a large cruise ship. Not intentionally, of course.

P1140383 - Version 2


Snow, named for the white spots on her tail, was a favourite of the park rangers. They’d tracked her each year since 1975 as she returned from her long migration to the south. They knew her well… and all of her babies. As our ranger told us the sad story of Snow and her untimely death, I realised that this story had a special significance to me. I’d heard it before. I was here, sailing in this area on a cruise ship shortly after the drama of Snow’s death began to unfold back in July 2001.

I’d been sailing down the coast from Anchorage on a large cruise ship and I was really looking forward to sailing into Glacier Bay; a definite highlight of any cruise in Alaska. However, we weren’t permitted to enter… no ship was. Snow had been killed a couple of weeks earlier and all ships were barred from entry for quite some time. And that was one reason why I’d come back to the Inside Passage this time… to visit Glacier Bay. Now I had a chance to honour this whale and visit her very special memorial.



Snow was 14 m (45.5 ft) long and weighed 35 ton. These are BIG animals, as you can see from this photo of park personnel beside her beached body.

Snow’s body was left to decompose on the beach for 15 months. Her bones were then soaked in the ocean and later moved into compost pits to allow nature to help clean them. All of this took a great deal of work but many students and community volunteers donated hundreds of hours to help the rangers of the National Park Service. The bones were then transported to the east coast of USA to be properly cleaned and preserved. A settlement with the cruise line that had killed Snow, helped provide the much needed funds.



© JT of jtdytravels; P1140388

Now Snow’s bones form the world’s largest hump back skeleton display. She ‘lives on to teach the world about whales’. The memorial is an amazing example of how tragedy can be turned into triumph.


© JT of jtdytravels; P1140381

There are many signs around the memorial that teach more about these humpback whales which visit Glacier Bay every summer. The whales come from either Hawaii or Mexico. To get to Glacier Bay they travel 4025 kms (2,500 miles), the journey taking them 5 to 6 weeks. They arrive back in Alaska very hungry since they eat little while in their summer mating and calving grounds. The nutrient rich waters of Alaska provide a virtual ‘all you can eat’ buffet for whales. We had been privileged to spend hours watching them feed in several places during our journey through the Inside Passage.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140400

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140400

One of Snow’s legacies is the stricter rules that govern visits to Glacier Bay. Now the park service strictly limits the number of ships permitted to visit each day. Speed limits are also imposed and the approach distance between ships and whales are strict. Now the whales can swim and feed in peace… and visitors can once more enjoy the natural wonders of Glacier Bay National Park.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1100260

There was one more story our ranger told us about Snow. When the memorial was opened, the park service invited an elder from the local Tlingit tribe to welcome Snow back. At the same time as this ‘service’ was being held, the guests were amazed, and very moved, to see some whales come close into Bartlett Cove as if to welcome her back, too.

I was so glad that I was able to visit the memorial and glad, too, that I’d finally been able to visit Glacier Bay. It had been a very special day.  But there was still just time to go for a short walk in the forest area behind the ranger’s quarters before leaving Bartlett Cove.


Pyrola asarifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110681

Pyrola asarifolia, the Pink Wintergreen, is the largest of all the Wintergreens in the Tongass Forests.  David found most of the others on his other walks.

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110683

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110683

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia, is known as Sitka Burnett or Canada Burnett. It’s one plant not seen before on any of the other walks. This is a most unusual flower. It has no petals; just long white sepals arranged around a cylindrical head.  Sanquisorba refers to the fact that a concoction made from the  roots have been used to stop both internal and external bleeding. Even today, herbalists recommend that the leaves can be made into a herbal tea.


Lupinus nootkatensis. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110687

A large patch of Lupins, Lupinus nootkatensis, made a great splash of colour. These were over a metre in height. The flowers open from the bottom to the top

The leaves are referred to as being palmately compound; as you can see, they radiate out from a common point and are not all the same size.

The plants die back in winter and are thus able to survive the harsh, cold winters.


Nuphar polysepalum © Dy of jtdytravels; P1110708

On the pond were some beautiful flowers and leaves of Nuphar polysepalum also known as   Yellow Pond Lily, a common name that one might expect. But its other local name is rather more unusual: Spatterdock Cow-lily.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110711

A robin hopped around on logs among the lilies, insect catching , no doubt.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110713

Various lichens and mosses adorned both rotting logs and rocks.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110716

Equisetum sp. is a strange looking, but quite striking, small bog plant.

Listera cordata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110717

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110717

The tiny white flowers of Listera cordata hold their heads high on stalks above their heart shaped leaves… which give the plant its common name of Heart-leaved Twayblade.

Listera caurina © DY of jtdytravels; P1110723

Listera caurina © DY of jtdytravels; P1110723

The Northwestern Twayblade, Listera caurina, has different shaped leaves.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110735

All of these plants grew around this small pond and bog. It was quite lovely in the evening light with the forest reflected in the dark, still waters.


© DY of jtdytravels; P1110743

On leaving the forest, David noticed this eagle Tlingit totem carving.

P1140456 2

© DY of jtdytravels; P1140456

Tlingit totem art takes many forms. This was on a poster back near the dock.


© JT of jtdytravels; P1140443

Darkness was closing in as we made our way back to the dock.


‘Sea Lion’ © DY of jtdytravels; P1110761

‘Sea Lion’ was waiting to take us to our evening anchorage outside of the National Park, to an area where we’d be able to take one last walk in the Tongass Forests.

More of that anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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USA: Alaska #24 Glaciers of Glacier Bay

Welcome back to this site after our diversion to for photos and stories of David’s treks and explorations of parts of China and Mongolia. We hope our regular readers have enjoyed those posts and thank you for joining David for his journeys.

He’s having a rest from travel at the moment and will be off again later in the year.

So to keep all of our armchair travellers out and about and exploring the world, we’ll now return to my journey with David through Alaska’s Inside Passage adventure in June 2015 with National Geographic/ Lindblad expeditions on our small ship Sea Lion. Of course, as I write this from the heat of an Australian summer, Alaska is in the midst of deep winter. But no matter; we can still enjoy more of this amazing part of the world together. I will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for those who wish to follow these post.

In the last post that I published on this site, (#23 in this Alaskan series), we sailed north through Glacier Bay National Park towards the glaciers that give the park its name. In this post we’ll add photos of some of those majestic glaciers which can only be viewed from the ship… no landings are permitted within this National Park.

Glacier Map

Glacier Map

Glacier Bay needs a full day’s sailing to explore; it covers 3,280.198 acres and we only saw the part visible from our good ship as it meandered its way up through the mountains.

As we sailed, our National Park guide reminded us that when Capt. George Vancouver sailed the Alaska coast in 1794, Glacier Bay did not exist. It lay beneath a sheet of glacial ice several miles wide and thousands of feet thick. Since then, in one of the fastest glacial retreats on record, the ice has shrunk back the 65 miles of our sailing. As it has shrunk, it has unveiled new land and a new bay. It’s as if this area is returning to life after a long winter’s sleep.


Approaching Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

The first glacier we approached was the Margerie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet. This glacier is about 1.6 km (1 mile) wide and it’s height at the face is about 110m (350 ft) ; that includes the ice that extends underwater for a depth of 30m (100 feet). Although at this point the glacier still looked far away and not too large, it grew in grandeur as we approached. 


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier extends up into the mountains for a length of 34 km (21 miles) to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

We were able to clearly see the black lines of moraine… the dirt and rocks that are carried down with the ice towards the terminus.


Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

We were able to get close enough to see the deep blues in the fissures in the ice.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

We were told that an iceberg’s colour often reveals its makeup; dense bergs are blue, while those filled with trapped air bubbles are white.


Margerie Glacier © JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

There were many wonderful ice sculptures to hold our attention.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Some seemed to be on the verge of breaking away to calve into the bay.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Ice has been a major force in the Glacier Bay region for at least the last seven million years. However, the glaciers we gazed at with such awe, are remnants of ‘ The Little Ice Age”… a general ice advance that began about 4,000 years ago.  The ice here reached its maximum extent about 1750, when general melting began.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

This is a good example of the layering effect of a glacier… layer upon layer of ice with layers of moraine trapped in the ice for perhaps centuries.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

We were lucky enough to see several calvings of ice from the face of the glacier. It’s just difficult to get your timing right for photos! You can be watching one end of the face, when with a loud creak and crash, the ice falls from another part. But you always hear them. When the ice hits the water it sounds like a cannon shot. “White thunder,” the Tlingit called it, ‘the awesome voice of glacial ice’.


Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

The remains of a calving break up into various sized icebergs that float off down the bay. Blocks of ice up to 200 feet high sometimes break loose and crash into the water.


John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

Without doubt, the most majestic glacier in Glacier bay National Park is the John Hopkins Glacier. It’s 19 km (12 m) long and cannot be approached too closely by ships… the bergs that carve here are too large for safety. And, anyway, this is a favourite safe haul out for harbour seals… well away away from predators, especially when they are pupping.


John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

With a long distance lens, the ‘roads of moraine’ are clearly visible.


John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins is one of the several huge tidewater glaciers that flow out of from these mountains and down to the sea.


A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

Our guide told us that scientists come here regularly to study glacial retreat; this area is called by some “a living laboratory for the grand processes of glacial retreat, plant succession, and animal dynamics. It is an open book on the last ice age.”

As we sailed between glaciers, we saw that much of the very rugged, more recently deglaciated land was beginning to host some vegetation.


A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

Several glaciers were continuing their retreat back into the mountains.


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier was my favourite of all the glaciers. It rises 45 to 55 m (150-180 ft) above the waterline and goes down 3 to 12 m (10-40 ft) below. The Lamplugh is immense; almost 1.2 km (3/4 ml) wide. It flows for 26 km (16 ml) from its source at a rate of 365 m (1200 ft) per year. They are pretty impressive statistics; but not as impressive as being there, right there… close up to such grandeur!


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

While we were enjoying the spectacle of such a wonderful glacier, our guide gave us brief explanation of the formation of a glacier. Up in the high mountains, at the source of the glacier, it’s so cold that none of the snow melts even in the summer… so the snowfall exceeds snowmelt. Over time, that snow pack builds up until the weight of the upper, newer, layers of snow press down on previous layers of snow, deforming the flakes beneath and changing them into granular snow, like round ice grains. I was amazed to learn that individual crystals can sometimes grow the size of a football. Air trapped between the snowflakes is also frozen into the ice at this immense pressure.  Eventually the granular snow becomes solid ice, many, many meters thick.


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

The ice near the bottom of the glacier is under such tremendous pressure that it flows almost like plastic over the rock beneath. Friction between the glacier and the bedrock produces meltwater which also allows the ice to slide. In places, you can see a cave like section under the glacier where the lowest layer of ice has melted away.


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

It’s fascinating to watch large chunks of the ice calve off forming icebergs, some so large they might last a week or more as they deteriorate and melt way. Icebergs provide perches for bald eagles, cormorants, and gulls, as well as haul-outs for seals.


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

We heard the mighty crash and splash as more ice fell into the bay. Spectacular! But it was also a timely reminder that icebergs are in retreat in many places around the world… and that’s not a good scenario for rising sea levels.


Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Here, we were able to witness the start of an iceberg’s journey down towards the sea. Earlier in our journey, we’d had the privilege of getting up very close to icebergs in our inflatables. Then, we’d actually heard the crackles and pops as ancient, long-trapped air was released from the ice.

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Retreating Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Too soon, it was time to sail back south away from the glaciers. There, on slopes which had been deglaciated 50 to 100 years ago, we saw alder and willow growing in the moraine close down to the shore. Rocky areas and cliffs, exposed within the last 30 years, had patches of pioneering plant life such as mosses, mountain avens and dwarf fireweed. And on the crest of the view was the last vestige of yet another retreating glacier.


Leaving the glacier zone © DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

The further down the bay we sailed, the more vegetation we saw. This new vegetation has created habitats for wolves, moose, mountain goats, black bears, brown bears, ptarmigan, and other wildlife; all in an environment less than 200 years old. Our park ranger guide told us stories of her camping trips in the wild here and of her contact with some of these animals… up close and personal! A little too close and personal for my liking!

The sea here also supports a wide variety of life; salmon, bald eagles, harbour seals, harbour porpoises, killer whales and humpback whales… and its the story of one particular whale that will be the centre of our next Alaska posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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China: Yunnan: #18 Fresh Food Markets in Kunming (part b)

After looking at the food in the market with a view to choosing ingredients for a hypothetical meal, now I just looked for interesting items for sale that are not so common at home.

DSC01349 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01349 © DY of jtdytravels

These were unusual… twisted, squat, knobbly baby pumpkins.

DSC01350 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01350 © DY of jtdytravels

A popular food in Asia… bamboo shoots, for sale here both trimmed and untrimmed.

DSC01356 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01356 © DY of jtdytravels

Beautifully coloured Okinawan spinach (?Guan Yin Cai); Gynura crepioides

DSC01322 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01322 © DY of jtdytravels

Pink mushrooms? No. Not really. Just the light through pink shade cloth!

DSC01335 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01335 © DY of jtdytravels

Live baby tortoise! I must say, it’s difficult to think of eating these.

DSC01334 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01334 © DY of jtdytravels

Now here’s a worry.. prawns, not cooked, not on ice… and no sea anywhere near!

DSC01358 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01358 © DY of jtdytravels

Dried ‘butterflied’ ducks… heads down, tails up… not sure how to prepare these.

DSC01347 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01347 © DY of jtdytravels

Chicken feet and chillies… a popular dish. Nothing wasted here.

DSC01354 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01354 © DY of jtdytravels

I most certainly was NOT ready to try these eggs known variously as Century Eggs, Thousand Year Old or Preserved eggs.  They are prepared by wrapping the eggs in a mix of clay, straw, ash, salt and lime (powder) and buried for ‘months’. Not for me… but a delicacy in China.

DSC01326 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01326 © DY of jtdytravels

A sausage could be interesting. Wonder what’s in them?

DSC01346 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01346 © DY of jtdytravels

On the other hand, I could be tempted by freshly cooked, wholemeal flour, pork buns!

DSC01351 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01351 © DY of jtdytravels

More buns waiting to be steamed.

DSC01339 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01339 © DY of jtdytravels

Chestnuts were in season… not my favourite nut.

DSC01343 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01343 © DY of jtdytravels

But these… walnuts straight from tree to buyer… oh yes.

DSC01337 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01337 © DY of jtdytravels

By now we were getting a little weary… but at least we weren’t sleep walking!

DSC01348 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01348 © DY of jtdytravels

But it was time to buy something to take home for dinner… maybe tomatoes? Vine ripened, fresh picked… tomatoes that taste like tomatoes should taste. Not the tough skinned varieties in our supermarkets that are so ‘travel prepared’ that they bounce like a ball… and need salt for taste.

DSC01344 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01344 © DY of jtdytravels

In the end, we settled for asparagus… again fresh picked by hand.

DSC01366 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01366 © DY of jtdytravels

Fresh asparagus in hand, we went back to the apartment where Kenzo cooked up a storm for dinner… left-over duck from the night before with kidney beans and the asparagus, all washed down with millet soup and a bottle of wine… and an enjoyable view from the apartment at dusk.

I woke to a pleasant morning, 210C (700F) but, on this one, I had to return to Beijing and leave behind a couple of really good friends.  I’d very much enjoyed my time with Kenzo in Jianshui and wish that Ross could have joined us.  Apart from Kenzo’s company, I think I enjoyed Jianshui so much because it took me to a place that I knew absolutely nothing about.  It was a new adventure, every thing was new… except the old village.  It was not far removed from the way it must have been many hundreds of years ago.  Brilliant!

And, Kunming, well, I’d been there before, some 16 years ago, but it had changed so much that I didn’t recognise a thing.  Hopefully, it won’t be another 16 years before I return.

And, hopefully it won’t be too long before I return to share more of my explorations to parts of our amazing world not yet on the general tourist trail. Nothing booked at the moment though…

Until then, Jennie will be adding more of our travel posts on our other site:

Do join us there for more armchair travels

or revisit the places on this blog.


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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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China: Yunnan: #17 Fresh Food Markets in Kunming (Part a)

Back in Kunming with Ross, we had a good meal, lots of chat and a good night’s sleep.

Next morning, we had a slow start, no hurry to do anything today.  Ross had to leave early to do his tutoring so Kenzo and I walked to a place near the apartment for some Muslim noodles for breakfast.  The noodles are made from the usual dough mix but the cutting/shaping is different.  Check out the video on You Tube … the link is at the end of this post.  It shows the process better than I can describe it.  Our big bowl of noodles in a meat broth cost us just 7 Yuan each.

DSC01325 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01325 © DY of jtdytravels

Then, we caught a bus to a fruit and meat market.  I love markets, particularly Asian ones.  They are full of the most wondrous things! There was some cooked food…sautéed capsicum and red chilli, and lotus root… looked so good. But this market is mainly for fresh food. It’s always fun to wander along and see what I might buy if I was going to prepare my own meal.

DSC01327 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01327 © DY of jtdytravels

Just look at the colours in these Spanish onions, cucumbers and carrots.

DSC01328 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01328 © DY of jtdytravels

Long, thin, purple aubergine with the orange of carrots… more great colour. 

DSC01329 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01329 © DY of jtdytravels

Chinese cabbage… of course. Often used in Chinese meals.

DSC01324 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01324 © DY of jtdytravels

There’s quite a bit of a difference between this butcher’s shop and those we’re used to! If I bought the RH carcass, I’d even get a bag of bile!

DSC01331 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01331 © DY of jtdytravels

Not to mention the poultry shop! Those are the yolks of unformed eggs.

DSC01320 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01320 © DY of jtdytravels

And if you buy a ‘chook’ (chicken) you get the feet as well!

DSC01330 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01330 © DY of jtdytravels

Fresh ginger, capsicum and red chilli to add lots of flavour.

DSC01342 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01342 © DY of jtdytravels

A variety of peppers to pep things up a bit!

DSC01363 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01363 © DY of jtdytravels

Or, maybe, some red chillies to hot things up!

DSC01341 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01341 © DY of jtdytravels

Plenty of pulses to choose from to accompany our dish.

DSC01360 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01360 © DY of jtdytravels

Some rice wine might be handy to have. Lots to choose from.

DSC01355 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01355 © DY of jtdytravels

And, of course, we had to choose some greens for our hypothetical meal… like these bok choys.

All good fresh, in season, food. At home we have become too used to having any food we want at any time of the year. Not here. Thankfully, we do have more chances now to buy good, fresh local produce at farmer’s markets in Australia with a small footprint on the environment… and no need to buy processed foods with who knows what additives and an over supply of salt, sugar and fats.

DSC01319 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01319 © DY of jtdytravels

Now, to end our meal, we might need a little something sweet… some fruit, maybe. Any plumper and these grapes would start to jump out of their skins.

DSC01338 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01338 © DY of jtdytravels

And how good do these peaches look… each one individually wrapped.

DSC01340 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01340 © DY of jtdytravels

Nashi pears looked nice and crisp… straight from the trees to market.

DSC01333 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01333 © DY of jtdytravels

Or we could go really tropical and try a dragon fruit!

More anon… but before I finish up this post… a reminder…

the You Tube link to the video on Muslim noodle making is …




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more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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China: Yunnan: #16 More exploring in Jianshui

Early morning on our final day in Jianshui and, quite by accident, we walked into an area in the old town that is undergoing restoration… a big make over.

DSC01283 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01283 © DY of jtdytravels

Billboards explained what was being attempted.  It was good to have Kenzo to translate!

DSC01284 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01284 © DY of jtdytravels

A computer generated overview of the whole area was on show. It appeared to be quite an ambitious project but one that will make Jianshui an even more interesting place to visit.

DSC01275 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01275 © DY of jtdytravels

The most imposing building in the complex is the Chongwen Pagoda, also known as the Wenchang or Wenfeng Pagoda. The thirteen story brick structure was built in the 13th Century during the Yuan Dynasty.  It has been repaired a number of times since, including 1555 and between 1654 and 1655.  

DSC01280 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01280 © DY of jtdytravels

A nearby two-storied building in dire need of some TLC… and a lot of hard work.

DSC01279 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01279 © DY of jtdytravels

The other side of the same building.  New bricks ready for the work of restoration.

DSC01286 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01286 © DY of jtdytravels

We walked on, soaking up the atmosphere. This was the colourful entrance to a plastic flower and plant shop. One of my great hates in life; plastic flowers… but they were colourful.

DSC01287 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01287 © DY of jtdytravels

Goods were being carried to a market in the traditional way.

DSC01293 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01293 © DY of jtdytravels

You could buy almost anything you could possibly want.  Anybody for some geese?

DSC01294 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01294 © DY of jtdytravels

 …or maybe a sad looking tortoise. This one no doubt on its way to a soup pot.

DSC01299 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01299 © DY of jtdytravels

Frogs for dinner? You don’t find these on our supermarket shelves.

That’s what I love about markets… no shelves filled with cans and boxes of ‘food’.

DSC01297 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01297 © DY of jtdytravels

Moon Cakes looked somewhat more palatable. It was coming up time for the big Moon Festival in China so there were lots of feverish activity taking place in this bakery.

DSC01298 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01298 © DY of jtdytravels

Fresh fruit looked really good… Plump bunches of grapes and pears.

DSC01300 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01300 © DY of jtdytravels

Various grades of sunflower seeds, peanuts and lentils.

DSC01302 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01302 © DY of jtdytravels

Various grades of rice wine… a necessary ingredient in much Chinese cooking.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 7.42.18 PM

The pork buns were being freshly made and looked very good.

DSC01301 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01301 © DY of jtdytravels

A happy group of smokers!

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 7.43.01 PM

An interesting form of transport for people and goods coming into the market.

We began to think about getting lunch before we had to catch the train back to Kunming. Kenzo ducked down a small non-descript sort of lane.  I followed, but I’d never have ventured into this lane without Kenzo leading the way.  We had to literally duck down to pass through a low door way and into a tiny courtyard.  Inside there was a middle aged lady sitting on the lowest of stools trimming a green leafy vegetable. And so we stayed there for lunch… a good choice.

DSC01304 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01304 © DY of jtdytravels

Delicious stir fried, fresh leafy greens…

DSC01305 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01305 © DY of jtdytravels

… a slow-cooked chicken dish…

DSC01306 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01306 © DY of jtdytravels

… and at last, some crispy skinned, succulent duck. Head and all!

‘Twas a very good meal to last us for the journey back to Kunming by train.

More from Kunming anon.


All photographs copyright © DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

More of our travel photos are on