Excited about ticking off another bucket-list adventure, this Warners Bay resident never thought a bonus side-trip would end up eclipsing her dream destination. In August 2017, Helen Belcher headed off on a 31- day Canada tour with Jayes Travel Women, which included a week in Alaska.
“I always wanted to go to Canada, Alaska was just a bonus for me. However, it ended up being a highlight and now high on my bucket-list ticks,” Helen said.
At the start of the tour, the Alaska leg was a cruise on the Celebrity Solstice from Seattle to Alaska’s Skagway then back to Victoria in Canada. From here the Canadian leg started and included Vancouver, Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise, Toronto and Niagara Falls.
“The scenery was spectacular. I had never been that far north, during the spring. It was cold, icy and the glaciers were starting to melt. Going to so many new places was so exciting. They were all so amazing – Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Gardens and Skagway. However, it was the dogs and the sleigh ride that stole my heart.”
It was in the gold rush town of Skagway; Helen did a 3.5-hour excursion with dog sledders and mushers.
“I rode in a sleigh through the forest, not in the snow. It was exhilarating and wonderful to meet the trainers, dogs and puppies. It made my day!”
Above: Helen with one of the sleigh dog’s recent offspring
Top: Helen with her dog-sleigh team.
During the cruise, it was the difference between this cold icy environment and the warmth and dryness of home that captivated her.
“Ketchikan was a very quaint town with lots of shops. I loved the fur shop. It was so big and full of types of furs. There were lovely coats and hats but definitely not suitable for Australia!” she said.
On the third morning, Helen was up early and on deck by 5.45am to see the spectacular twin Sawyer glaciers as they cruised through the narrow 48-kilometre Tracy Arm Fjord.
“I spent two hours in awe, on this journey. We went so close to the glaciers; you could hear them crack and see pieces plunge into the water. It was freezing cold up on deck but really worth it!”
At Juneau, there was an excursion to Mendenhall Glacier and the Glacier Gardens.
“Both are amazing. I loved seeing the glacier close up. The gardens are unique. Basically, they are filled with flower trees, which are upside-down tree stumps filled with 75 to 100 flowering plants.”
Helen also enjoyed her time on board, enjoying the scenery from the observation deck, to dining in the Tuscan Grill Restaurant and dancing the night away in the silent disco.
Her other bucket list ticks include Egypt, Machu Picchu, Victoria Falls, Great Wall of China, Terracotta Warriors, springtime in Japan and trekking Mt Kosciuszko.
Helen’s “to dos” are Bhutan, Morocco, Zanzibar, Spain’s Camino Walk, and the orang-utans in Borneo as well as volunteer to work with animals in Africa.
Next on her list is an off-the-tourist-track tour of Mexico in October that includes the Day of Dead in Ajijic.
Helen is leading this tour for Jayes Travel Women, and the highlights include Loltun Caves, Chichen Itza, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Celestun, Merida, Valladolid, Tulum and Cancun.