December 29, 2019

Ketchikan Alaska: Rain, totem poles and plenty of interest

Phensri and Len arrive in Ketchikan to be greeted with low cloud, rain and a bleak outlook. Although it was June, it looked more like February. But we should not have been surprised. The city has been nicknamed the "Rain Capital of Alaska" as it receives nearly four metres of rain each year over 230 wet days.

Ketchikan is the “first city,” along the popular Inside Passage and serves as the first port of call for many cruise ships visiting Alaska. It is on Revillagigedo Island at the southern tip of the tail that wags the rest of the giant state. You can only reach Ketchikan by air or sea.

Once known as the Salmon Capital of the world, then later as a major timber centre, Ketchikan is now a tourist town. With a population of around 13,000, at times during summer this doubles as up to six cruise boats arrive with thousands of passengers and crew.

The demise of the timber industry has led to a radical transformation of the town. Many people who used to earn their livelihoods through timber now have jobs in tourism. For many decades, the huge forests of spruce, hemlock and cedar trees were the source of timber for the logging industry. Logging camps dotted the islands of southeast Alaska, and pulp mills were robust economic drivers of the region.

Then one by one, those pulp mills shut down. Ketchikan's was the last one still operating in Alaska when it shut down in 1997. Hundreds of good-paying jobs and the businesses that supported them went with it. The shoe shops, workwear stores, and Chevrolet and Ford dealerships went too.

In their place are many jewelry and watch stores, souvenir and gift shops, as well as local tour operations. The newer businesses provide seasonal retail work, but it's nowhere near as well paid as the old year-round jobs: Now at the end of September, most of the businesses close and many people leave town.

During the five-month cruise season, this is not apparent to most visitors. When the gangplank is lowered and the tourists march ashore, they find a gaggle of tour operators waiting to entice them with local offerings: The world's largest totem poles; an all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast; a chance to see killer whales and humpbacks; and the chance to enjoy a brothel tour.

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on the waterfront is where we found a map with a self-guided walking tour. Despite the rain, we set out to explore.


Many streets in town are boardwalks or steep wooden staircases so walking is never boring. St John’s Episcopal Church built in 1902, Whale Park and two impressive replica totem poles are initial highlights. We then visit the Tongass Historical Museum to see artefacts from periods going back to a Native Fishing Camp.

Ketchikan Creek flows through the centre of town year-round, its cold water populated in summer by salmon who come up the creek to spawn. Numbers are multiplied by the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery which raises and releases 300,000 salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout each year.

Totem Heritage Centre

Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Giant carved cedar poles stand in numbers in the Saxman Native Village and the Totem Bright State Historical Park but I recommend a visit to the Totem Heritage Centre which displays very old and rare poles from three Native Nations.

Many were carved 150-175 years ago and they tell the stories of families. When a totem pole was raised during a big celebration, everyone would be told why the pole was carved and what it meant.

Creek Street

Until 1953, this was lined with up to 30 bordellos. During the Prohibition era, some houses became speakeasies. Now shops, museums, galleries and a restaurant welcome visitors to the unique piled street which is now on the US National Register of Historic Places.

A highlight is Dolly’s House which belonged to Dolly Arthur, Ketchikan’s most famous madam. Her house, preserved much as she left it, has antiques, garish décor and an aura that many want to experience. Tours of the small building are offered.

Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre

Here you can explore the natural and cultural history of the Tongass National Forest, by far the largest national forest in the U.S. You can visit a re-created native fishing village and learn how the lush forest sustains southeast Alaska communities today.

For those wanting a walk through the forest, the four-kilometre Rainbow Trail only 15 minutes from town provides a wilderness experience while also having some nice views of Ketchikan

If you want a theatrical taste of the industry that used to fuel Ketchikan, you can go to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, where burly competitors in flannel shirts and braces chop stumps, saw logs, and heave axes at a bullseye. It’s great fun.

Getting there

Ketchikan is just 90 minutes by air from Seattle, with several daily flights in and out provided by Alaska Airlines. A scheduled daily jet service is also available to and from Anchorage and there are regular services to several other Alaskan towns. Ferries connect Ketchikan with the lower 48 states, and Canada. Many cruise lines operate Alaska cruises from Vancouver and Seattle to Ketchikan || Experience Guides YouTube Channel

Words: Len Rutledge   Images: Phensri Rutledge
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December 28, 2019

Discover the beauty of traditional Takayama in Japan

Takayama's old town is beautifully preserved.
Tucked away in the mountainous Hida region of Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, Takayama retains a traditional charm, unlike few other Japanese cities. Surrounded by mountains in every direction, and nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’, it makes an ideal side trip between Tokyo and Kyoto.

December 27, 2019

Terowie, SA: "I Shall Return"

Near ghost town where, in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur made his famous "I shall return" speech

Words: Bruce Elder / AussieTowns  - Images: Roderick Eime

There was a time when the population of Terowie was over 2,000. Today, with a population of around 200, it is a tiny township on the edge of becoming a ghost town. The reason: Terowie came into existence as part of the railway network which was built in South Australia in the late 19th century. With three different railway gauges meeting at the town it was vital to an economy driven by rail.

Then, in the 1970s, the rail was reduced to a single line and there was no need for Terowie. The town collapsed and was designated an historic town because of its large number of well preserved 19th century buildings. Today there are old stores and shops reminding visitors that, back in the 1880s, it was a vibrant and important railway town.

In 1966 the last regular passenger rail service left Terowie.

On the railway station platform at Terowie, on the 20 March, 1942, one of the most famous speeches/statements of World War II was made.

It was here, for the first time, that General Douglas MacArthur declared “I Shall Return”. He would go on to say it over and over again until, eventually, he did return to the Philippines to drive the Japanese out of that country and to help win the war in the Pacific.

The context was strange. MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific, had escaped from Corregidor in the Philippines by PT boat, reached Mindanao, had flown to Batchelor Airfield south of Darwin, flew to Alice Springs and that was where he had caught a train.
The general, Mrs MacArthur and son

He was travelling south to Adelaide, and then on to Melbourne, with his wife and support staff on a personal train (such are the luxuries of a Supreme Commander) which comprised a steam engine, bogie van, dining car, two sleeping cars plus brake van. 

While changing trains in Terowie, MacArthur stood on the railway platform – I love the description from one of the newspapers at the time – “The tough tall guy, with a whisky bottle at his belt, a tame flying fortress, and a legendary habit of shooting his way through red tape” made his speech regarding the Battle of the Philippines in which he said: "I came out of Bataan and I shall return". 

It was the first time he said it and it became a legendary observation about the war in the Pacific. 

It was as memorable for people in Australia and the United States as any of Churchill’s speeches about Europe. A blunt “we shall never surrender”. 

It is also worth remembering that this statement of resolve and determination was said at a time when the Japanese were making impressive headway in the movement to the south. They had forced MacArthur to flee from the Philippines and the plane he was flying in could not land in Darwin because the town was being bombed by the Japanese. “I shall return” was determination against powerful evidence of imminent defeat.

The ever-reliable Monument Australia website (there is a monument to the event on the Terowie platform) records: “Douglas MacArthur arrived at Terowie Railway Station and much to MacArthur’s surprise his "secret" arrival in Terowie was not so secret. A huge cheer went up from the locals who had gathered when he left the train.

“General MacArthur responded by striding towards an opening between a line of railway carriages and saluted the people of Terowie on the other side of the carriages and some passengers on a nearby train. MacArthur was dressed in a loose hanging jacket and slacks and wore no decorations or insignia except for a laurel wreathed peak on his cap and another emblem.

“On being asked if he would reach the United States he said:- "The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed to Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organising an American offensive against Japan, the primary purpose of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came out of Bataan and I shall return". 

The sleeping carriage NRC36 where MacArthur was resting when he got to Terowie is now in the Pichi Richi Railway Preservation society collection at Quorn, just north of Terowie.

There are groups of shops, now disused, on the main street some of which have remained untouched since they were built in the 1880s. Of particular interest are those now used as the Terowie Tea Rooms.

December 22, 2019

Take your time to experience Disneyland

Disneyland Park has always been the number one U.S. day trip for Australians but there is so much to see and do at The Happiest Place on Earth in 2020 that you really need to spend several days at the resort.
Now, I have to tell you right from the start that Disneyland Park has always been at the very top of the list of places to visit for me: it holds a special place in my heart.
And it is even better than ever with lots to see and do if you arrange to spend a week or so in Anaheim.
There is traditional Disneyland Park with its attractions like the new Star Wars ….and its famous street parades.  Add to this Disney's California Adventure and Disney Downtown and you have several days of fun filled action to the time of your life.
I recently spent 12 days in Anaheim staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance and the Hyatt Regency Orange County and I arranged to get the Disney Park Hopper Pass that allowed me to swap between Disneyland and California Adventure at will.
Both parks are just a few paces apart, facing each other, but they offer completely different experiences. Disneyland was part of growing up for Australia babyboomers. We watched in awe as Walt himself showed off his park on the Sunday night Disneyland TV show and occasionally on the Mickey Mouse Club show.

Generations of Aussies have cruised on the Mark Twain, rode the Disneyland railroad, laughed on the Jungle Ride, met Mickey and Donald Duck, visited the Pirates of the Caribbean and revelled in my personal favorite, It's a Small Small World.
Now those same babyboomers are taking their families and their grandkids to see the place of their childhood dreams. And Disneyland never disappoints.
It is still the jewel in the crown of all theme parks with a special magic that overwhelms you as you wander down Main Street dodging horse drawn trams and ancient fire engines, bound for Cinderella's castle that dominates the horizon.
In 2020, it is the massive Star Wars land that is drawing the crowds. At the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction you can launch into the Star Wars universe. Rides include the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and he forthcoming Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
The park opens at 8am most days and I made sure I was there early before the crowds began to flock in. This allowed me to walk straight on to several favourite rides without lining up. As the park became busier I went to Disney Downtown for lunch and then nipped into California Adventure Park for the afternoon.
I wasn't sure what to expect after Disneyland. What an amazing surprise it was. California Adventure is every bit good as Disneyland in its own right.

The Disney "Imagineers" have mentioned to take the many lessons learnt at Disneyland and applied them to the newer park.
For starters, the Main Street plan of Disneyland with its tram running down the street has been maintained and enhanced with a replica Los Angeles Electric "Red Car" meandering along.
While Disneyland is a recreation of Walt's home town of Marceline in the early 1900s, California Adventure is Hollywood when Disney set up his studio in the 1920s.
However it has unique attractions like the complete full scale "set" from the Cars animated movies and the awesome Grizzly Peak with the best Flume Ride I have ever been on.
My personal favourite is "Flying" a unique hang glider like ride around the world. You really do feel like you are in mid air over the plains of Africa and Sydney Harbor.
At the opposite end of the park is Guardians of the Galaxy's giant tower which dominates the horizon. Then there is Hollywood Land which is much better than the real Hollywood.
Finally, if you are going to Disneyland, don't rush. Pick a recommended hotel close to the resort and relax and enjoy the time of your life spread of a week or so.
Words and images: Dallas Sherringham.
Feature supplied by:
For details
Courtyard by Marriott:
1: The Big Wheel is one of the highlights of the amazing California Adventure Park
2: Inside the new Star Wars: Galaxy Quest attraction at Disneyland Park (supplied)
3: People of all ages from all around the world flock towards the famous Disneyland Castle
4: Dallas Sherringham and wife Sharon getting up courage to go on the Splash Mountain ride
5: Sharon went on the Splash Mountain Ride alone after Dallas chickened out...yet again!
6: The legendary Mark Twain paddle steamer is one of the few original rides at Disneyland.

December 11, 2019

History remade as cruise ship visits South Australia's Copper Coast

When CMV's Vasco da Gama made its maiden call to sleepy Wallaroo, the town and its history came alive. Roderick Eime is there for the big day.

Her lace bonnet almost brushed the low ceiling of the stiflingly small room as her hand swept above the kitchen table, set with the expectant clutter of bone-handled cutlery and blue willow porcelain.

December 10, 2019

The story of Vaucluse House and those who lived there

On a peaceful, green, upward slope from the sparkling blue of Sydney Harbour, about six miles from the heart of the modern City, lie the grounds and the old colonial mansion known as Vaucluse House. It is one of the cherished historical possessions of Australia, preserved to-day as a relic of former times, as a memorial to William Charles Wentworth whose home it was, and as a fascinating museum of domestic furniture and furnishings in the early-to-mid Nineteenth Century.

Vaucluse House itself remains much as it was when Wentworth left it, over a hundred years ago. Among tall trees stand the yellow-grey walls with their battlemented tops and turrets, telling of the Early Victorian Age's love of pretentious pseudo-gothic architecture. The lower floor of the house is half surrounded by a wide, shady patio roofed and screened by wistaria. In front are green lawns and bright masses of flowers. On one side the ground falls away into a shallow gully, cool and dim under great, gnarled, wide-spreading trees. Within the house, rooms and hallways retain the ponderous furniture and the furnishings and the knicknacks which, a hundred years ago, were the outward and visible evidences of solid bourgeois prosperity.

It was an Age, in Wentworth's class, of heavy male self-importance, of obedient and respectful wives and children, of deferential servants. And this is the atmosphere which a modern visitor to Vaucluse House should, in imagination, try to re-create. Only thus will such a visitor find himself, even more herself, able to understand the strange - to us - combination of luxury and discomfort, of snug corners and draughty corridors, of imposing dining rooms and bare bleak kitchen, of marble stairs in narrow and twisting stairways, of floor-tiles said to have been obtained from the ruins of Pompeii - costly and impressive to talk about to a guest, but, oh, how cold in winter to the feet!

These are a few of the things which make Vaucluse House so interesting.

The house and grounds themselves are indeed both delightful and interesting. But our interest in them is enhanced by some knowledge of the men who lived here.

Here are the stories of two men - that extraordinary character, the “gentleman convict", Sir Henry Browne Hayes; and then that other most controversial figure, hated by some, venerated by others, William Charles Wentworth.

The Almost Incredible "Gentleman Convict" Sir Henry Browne Hayes

Miniature portrait of Sir Henry minus his mustache,
is believed to have been painted by Adam Buck 1759-1833
Apparently, the first person to erect a substantial dwelling on the site of Vaucluse House was a convict transported to these shores-Sir Henry Browne Hayes, from Cork, Ireland. Whether that original building was later incorporated in the house we have to-day, or whether it was entirely demolished and replaced, we do not know. But certainly Sir Henry did acquire the land and build a residence upon it in the year 1803; and such evidence as we possess rather tends to suggest that the old Hayes home was incorporated in the new one, the one which we see now, built for William Charles Wentworth in 1829.

But who was this “first inhabitant”, this knighted gentleman of Cork, who found himself transported as a convict to the penal settlement of Botany Bay? And what manner of man was he?

In 1797, Sir Henry Browne Hayes, the son of a wealthy merchant, had already occupied the honourable office of Sheriff of the City of Cork. He could swagger about the town, too, in the uniform of a Captain of the Militia. Also he had received the highly prized honour of a knighthood, presumably in recognition of his loyal services to the King of England-at a time when the majority of his compatriots, or as they claimed "all true Irishmen”, were seething with the spirit of revolt against hated English rule.

Hayes was then a young widower, about thirty-five years of age, with several children. His appearance was given: about 5' 7" tall, straight, fresh-coloured, a little pock-marked, with brown hair and “remarkable whiskers". Later he was described as having been haughty in manner, conspicuously over-dressed, and very proud of his captaincy in the local Militia.

Now, this Sir Henry Browne Hayes determined to augment his fortune. He had heard of a young lady, a Miss Mary Pike, an heiress, staying with a relative in the district. To her, one night, Sir Henry sent a forged letter purporting to come from the doctor attending Miss Pike's mother, stating that his patient had been taken very ill and that Miss Pike should come to her at once.

It was then past midnight and everyone was in bed; but Miss Pike hurriedly dressed, and the coachman was summoned to harness the horses and bring the carriage to the door for her. Then she set out But suddenly-as they were bowling along the dark streets-a small bunch of men, one of them armed with a pistol, stopped the carriage and surrounded it. In a trice, its terrified inmate was forcibly snatched away and placed in another carriage waiting near; and captors and prisoner were driven off. When they pulled up, they had arrived at the Hayes home at Mount Vernon.

Here, Sir Henry himself was waiting with a priest (genuine or bogus) and the necessary witnesses, to force Miss Pike to go through a marriage ceremony. But the lady objected most vehemently, probably hysterically; at one crucial moment she "screeched and flung the ring from her”; and only when Sir Henry produced a pistol, threatening to shoot himself, was the lady frightened finally into submission.

Even then, when the ceremony had been completed, it was impossible to convince Miss Pike that it was genuine, that she was indeed a wife. At length Haves himself seems to have realised that his schen had miscarried, and that if he could not persuade the lady to accept the fait accompli, he had not only missed acquiring her fortune but also had endangered his own life. The abduction of an heiress was then a capital crime. Eventually, apparently in panic, he locked her up in a small room and rushed out of the house into the night.

A few hours later, Miss Pike's family arrived on the scene to release her. A reward of £1,000 was offered for the arrest of Hayes. But he had gone into hiding.

Two years passed by. At the end of that time, Hayes evidently considered that the affair had at last blown over-especially as rumours had been put around to the effect that the abduction was really only a "romantic episode”, and the lady herself, until it came to the point, had been by no means unwilling. Then, two years after the abduction, Hayes an old acquaintance to "betray” him and reward.

The resultant trial was one of the sensations of the year. To Sir Henry's obvious surprise-he had thought he had more influence!-the jury found the prisoner guilty but recommended mercy.

So-in due course-Sir Henry Browne Hayes, Knight, lately of Cork, found himself on the convict ship Atlas under sentence of transportation, for life, to a new and remote penal settlement away on the other side of the world. But

In order to secure myself respectful treatment and decent accommodation (he wrote), I had paid a considerable sum to Captain Brookes, commander of the ship.

And one of the free passengers in the ship, Surgeon Jamison, later complained that the favoured convict had actually been allowed to dine at the captain's table, provided with accommodation in part of the round-house, and permitted to stow a great deal of his baggage in the already crowded cabin allotted to passengers. By contrast, Surgeon Jamison himself had been put into a tiny sleeping-place in which bags of sugar were stored.

convicts in early Sydney

Arriving at Sydney, however, Hayes found himself plunged into trouble from which neither wealth nor influence could save him. There is no doubt that the man was insufferably arrogant and a born troublemaker. But early Sydney was no place for haughtiness, and any trouble-maker (unless in the privileged military caste) could very soon find himself in very serious trouble indeed.

When he demanded permission to form a Masonic Lodge, of which he would be President, the Governor (Captain King) informed him curtly:

If H. B. Hayes is not sensible of the indulgence already allowed him, instead of being president of a Freemason's Lodge at Sydney, he will be put under a “president” (of another kind) at hard labour.

Nevertheless, the noble Knight seems to have avoided the threatened punishment for awhile; and he continued, as one writer afterwards put it, “to behave as though he were again a perfectly free agent and the dictionary contained no such word as Convict." In August, 1803, he purchased for £100, at an auction sale, about 105 acres of farmland on which he erected a cottage, naming the whole property Vaucluse.

Of some interest to-day is a note, still in existence, showing a list of seeds supplied to Sir Henry for his garden. Among them were: one gallon of oak tree seeds, one gallon of beech-tree seeds, and one quart of laburnum seeds. So to-day we can look at some of the fine old oaks and beeches on the estate, and regard them as probably having been planted as seed by Sir Henry Browne Hayes - the Convict-Knight - in 1803.

In December, 1804, Sir Henry leased Vaucluse to a Samuel Breakwell for seven years at a rental of £27 a year. But our "hero” was soon in trouble again and re-transported to the even more grim settlement at Norfolk Island, the Governor (Captain King) believing him to have been involved in stirring up unrest among the Irish convicts. His tenant, Breakwell, though not a convict, also found himself under arrest-for abducting a convict-girl-though he seems to have talked his way out of it.

However, Hayes was eventually permitted to return to Sydney; and when the Mutiny occurred the Mutiny of the Rum Corps Officers instigated by John Macarthur - he evidently sided with the Governor, Captain Bligh. At any rate, in 1809, Captain Bligh recommended a pardon for Hayes; and later he renewed the recommendation in London. In the meantime, Hayes was probably living with his tenant, Breakwell, on the estate at Vaucluse.

It was during this period that Hayes adopted a measure which may have been unique, for “defending" the house against snakes. For snakes infested the district. They had even entered the house, and (to his horror) at least one had been found actually in his bed. But how could he get rid of them?

Well, according to an old legend, once upon a time St. Patrick had banished all snakes from Ireland. So it was said that the smell of the peat from Irish bogs would drive away snakes anywhere. Hayes therefore imported from Ireland 500 barrels of peat, with which he filled a trench dug all around the house. No snake then, he believed, would ever cross that barrier of the sacred soil of Ould Oirland! And, for double assurance, the work was done on St. Patrick's Day-by a gang of convicts every one of them Irish.

That story is partly confirmed by a line of dark peat-like soil found under the present verandah in 1928, when it was being excavated in the course of restoration work. We cannot, however, produce reliable evidence as to whether or not the treatment was effective! Anyhow, no snakes have been reported in Vaucluse House recently!

During the reign of the Mutineers, after Captain Bligh's overthrow, Hayes was sentenced by them to hard labour at the Coal River (Newcastle), a very terrible punishment for having supported the Governor. But in 1812 the new Governor, Colonel Macquarie, granted him a full pardon, and so, at last, he was free again to return home to snakeless Ireland.

Yet even then-even then-his adventures and misadventures were not over. His ship, the Isabella, was wrecked on the Falkland Islands; and on that occasion Hayes behaved in such a disgraceful manner as to evoke the condemnation of some of his fellow passengers, including a fellow-Irishman, General Holt. Afterwards, Hayes could only make excuses for himself on the grounds of “self-preservation”. It was a humiliating finale to that tragi-comedy which had begun, fifteen years before, when the knightly ex-Sheriff of Cork had set out to win Miss Pike's fortune.

Twenty years later, at the age of 70, he died. He died in Ireland; and if we can believe his obituary notice:

... Sir Henry Browne Hayes, most sincerely and universally regretted ... a kind and indulgent parent, and a truly adherent friend ... endeared to every person who had the honour of his acquaintance ... buried in the family vault in the crypt of Christ Church, Cork.


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