July 4th juneau alaska disaster and swift ...

Trip Start Jul 06, 1999
Trip End Jul 11, 1999

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Monday, July 5, 1999

July 4th, Juneau, Alaska

Disaster and swift rescue. Today after 11 hours of traveling on 3 separate airplanes and almost getting refused entry to the US after flying all the way to Vancouver (tip: never try to explain to the U.S. customs guy that you're staying longer than the ticket says you are because you changed flights - apparently it just makes you look suspicious - honesty is not the best policy), we finally got to Juneau, Alaska. It was at this point that we discovered that our bags did not make a similar trip. Gak! And we were scheduled to leave on the 7am ferry to Skagway the next morning!

I foolishly did not bring a carry-on bag with secondary essentials such as a toothbrush. My reasoning was that I'd put the most important things (migraine medication, sunglasses, camera, pen and paper, documentation, etc.) in my belt pouch and money-belt and I then had my hands free to juggle my jacket and hiking staff on the planes. I was pretty pleased with myself that I'd managed to not have to carry an extra bag actually.

We made some calls to both Air Canada and Alaskan Airlines to see what had happened and it turned out that, despite assurances when we checked them in that we didn't have to touch them between Ottawa and Juneau, we were in fact supposed to pick them up and put them through U.S. customs in Vancouver enroute to Alaska. In our defense, we did specifically ask if we had to pick them up for customs and we checked our claim tags which had the route our bags were to take and they did say they were going all the way to Juneau. Based on this we figured they were either put through customs at Juneau when we picked them up or they were checked enroute without us being with them.

Fortunately the bags arrived on the last flight into Juneau and were sent to our hotel by cab. They arrived at 3am and we got up and trudged down to the lobby to pick them up. Not fun when you have to get up at 5:30 to make the shuttle to the ferry.

Travel tips learned: Always carry the toll-free numbers or at least regular numbers of all the airlines you are flying with as well as your travel agency if you used one (make sure they're valid from your destination) and always pack carry-on with important things like medication, a toothbrush, maybe pyjamas, contact-lens stuff if you wear them, etc. It's not unusual for it to take a night for lost luggage to catch up to you - if you're lucky enough for it to be found at all.

As for the rest of our evening in Juneau (the capital of Alaska as I found out), we did a bit of a walk about town and had excellent salmon and chips at the Fisherman's Wharf restaurant for dinner (while fish'n chips may be quintessentially British, the Alaskans have almost raised it to an art form... delicious and often with the choice between broiled or deep-fried for the health-conscious). We dined with a fellow traveler who had had the same fate befall his bags, though I don't know what the reason was since he was originating in the States. Apparently it's very common for luggage to be delayed into Juneau.

Juneau's population is bigger than I thought based on its appearance (the actual number escapes me). I suspect because it's quite spread out and there aren't any really tall buildings. There is a wharf downtown at which enormous cruise ships and tourists' boats dock but if you want to take the ferry you have to go out about 15 miles.

It wasn't until we got to Juneau that we realized that the candle lantern we packed as part of our regular camping supplies was not going to be needed - it was light out for about 18 hours of the day (sunrise was around 5:30 am and sunset wasn't until 11:30 pm). Land of the midnight sun will become literal when we pass the time zone boundary as we enter Canada and our watches move ahead an hour.
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