Village By the Cliff

Icy Strait Point, Alaska

Disembarking from the mighty cruise ship into a much smaller vessel in the middle of the sea is no mean feat. No idea why it’s called ‘tendering’. We were due at the Port of Icy Strait, a relatively new port developed by the state to encourage tourists.

“It’s called the last wilderness, you know,” team leader Bret grinned expansively, urging us forward into the pitching vessel.

I wasn’t in much of a position to appreciate his words because I was busy clinging on to the railings. The waters were choppy and a stiff wind was blowing. Once seated on the bench, I wished the rest of the people would hurry up.

We were in Hoonah, a Tlingit village community in Alaska, just waiting to alight.

Casting my mind back, I thought about the stops that our cruise ship had made – Juneau and Ketchikan. Both had charm in plenty though were a tad touristy. The girl driving us around Juneau spoke of bears in the backyard as a pretty regular thing. All of us in that bus dropped our jaws. Juneau has 280 species of birds and plenty of said bears, both black and brown. But that is a story for another day.

Here, in Hoonah, which means, ‘Village by the cliff’ in the language of the Tlingit, the scenery was no less sensational. Towering snow-clad mountains, fast flowing waters teeming with salmon, densely forested land with mists evaporating as the sun rose higher added to our excitement. We stepped nimbly on the pier and were led into the Native Heritage Centre. But the real stuff lay outside its wooden walls.

Oh the pristine beauty! One could not help but be struck silent at the panorama of nature in Icy Strait Point. A tram took us for a tour into the forest and we heard the Tlingit lore from the guide. Less than a thousand people live in this rugged land. They hunt, fish and tend to their land. We listened, and looked as he pointed out the soaring bald eagles come to nest on the tall evergreens.

At the end of the tour, we gathered around a roaring sparkly fire with our drinks. It must have been some fragrant local variety of wood. Rarely had I smelt anything as delicious!







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