The senior members of Auckland Indian Association Inc. earlier this year travelled to Canada and Alaska in the US as a part of their annual excursion trip.

Thirty-two members of the Auckland Indian Association Senior Citizens Committee arrived in Vancouver, Canada, in the early hours of June 5, and were taken on an introductory tour of the central business district, downtown, port and Stanley Park – a 1000 acre of waterfront park: coastal, cultural, forested and peaceful, with many walking tracks.

Day two saw us brave the swaying of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, higher than the Statue of Liberty. Despite hundreds of tourists, the seniors of AIA enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of this forested park. Arriving at Whistler, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, amid fears of closure due to impending snow, the troupe managed to take gondola rides to the top and from snow-covered peak to peak, taking in extensive views of the icefields. As it was summer, there were hiking, and biking tracks and mountain biking was much in evidence.

The seniors at Arctic Circle

On the third day, the troupe boarded the cruising ship Celebrity Millennium that sailed for the next seven days. As the troupe cruised along the Inland Passage of the Alaskan coast the troupe were waited on with abundant food and beverages. The troupe relaxed in the spas, entertained in the theatre, and celebrated birthdays. The troupe celebrated the International Day of Yoga by holding their own session. As the boat approached an icy mass, the troupe looked on in awe at the mighty Hubbard Glacier, some 6 miles wide and 76 miles long.

The ports of Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Skagway gave the senior a chance to explore the surroundings and shop for souvenirs. There were many excursions available including cultural, parks and glaciers, whale watching, dog sledging on glaciers, sledge dog and musher’s camp, city and railroad tours and many more.

“A visit to a village in Ketchikan was an education on the history and ways of the indigenous people. Travelling on the White Pass Railroad train from Skagway gave us an insight into the hardships and sufferings of the early gold miners who opened up much of that region.

The seniors on the Alaska Cruise

“It also opened to us, the beauty of the Alaskan terrain and its mountains. Below the ice-covered peaks were pockets of ice and snow on the ground. There were mountain lakes, deep gorges, numerous waterfalls and new spring growth on the spruce trees. As the troupe ascended in height, the lush green forests would give way to taiga and tundra with vast areas covered in permafrost and the growth would be stunted low-level scrub,” Chairman: Senior Citizens Committee of AIAI, Dhirubhai M Patel said.

Disembarking at Seward, the troupe were given a tour of the town before driving to Anchorage. Along the way, the troupe followed the breathtaking scenery of the Turnagain Arm with a river and Dall sheep perched on craggy cliffs of the Chugach Mountains. At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre, the troupe saw many native animals. Many in need had been brought in for rehabilitation. During a stroll in the city at Anchorage, the troupe spotted a moose on the loose ambling through a city park!

Next a long drive to Denali National Park, some 6000 acres of wildland. During an excursion to the remote Kantishna region, the troupe sighted Mount Denali the highest peak in North America. The snow-clad mountain peaks, colourful hues of the rocks, pockets of ice and snow, the taiga and tundra, the ice-carved rivers, the freely wandering grizzlies, deer, moose, Dall sheep, caribou and eagles set a scene of utmost beauty. The troupe panned for gold, and two of us got lucky!

The seniors at Lake Louise

“Our baggage was sent ahead on our bus while the troupe followed on a scenic train journey to Fairbanks. The next day the troupe embarked on a 13-hour return trip along the famed rugged Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle. The troupe followed the Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline and crossed the mighty Yukon River. Cruising along the Chena and Tanana Rivers on the only authentic sternwheeler riverboat in Alaska was a unique experience. On the boat the troupe was given a narrative on the indigenous Athabascan culture, disembarked to tour a Chena village, shown dog sledging and catching and drying salmon, essential food for people and the dogs,” Mr Patel added.

For the next phase of the journey, the troupe returned to Vancouver and boarded the famous “Rocky Mountaineer” train. For two days, the troupe sat back, enjoying the picturesque views from the comfort of our plush seats. There were dramatic changes in scenery from the lush green fields of the Fraser Valley, through forests and winding river canyons surrounded by peaks of the Coast and Cascade mountains, to the desert-like appearance of the interior of British Columbia. Overnight in Kamloops then continued onto Jasper following the North Thompson River through Monashee and Caribou Mountains. Highlights were Pyramid Falls and Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper is an alpine town in Jasper National Park, Alberta. It is located amid the snowcapped Rockies, glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. It is famous for the Columbian Icefields, a vast wilderness of ice, snow and five glaciers. The troupe frolicked on the Athabasca glacier, some five square miles in size. Sadly like many around the world, it is retreating at an accelerated rate. As the troupe follow the highway to Lake Louise and onward to Banff, the snow-covered peaks of the Rockies accompany us all the way.

The seniors at Fairbanks

Of all the places, Lake Louise and Banff need a special mention. Lake Louise with its clear icy blue waters amid a picture postcard setting with forest, ice-covered mountain peaks and a glacier surrounding it. Some of us took a long stroll along its banks, daring to dip our feet into the icy cold water. Banff is nestled in a valley surrounded by six mountain ranges and lush green forest. The shops and hotels resemble a Swiss town, and the troupe rode a gondola then did a boardwalk to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounds from atop the Sulphur Mountain.

In Calgary, the troupe had a guided city tour before flying back to Vancouver to return home.

The troupe were privileged to see so many wild animals in their natural habitat. A mother grizzly bear foraging blissfully near the roadside while her two young cubs romped around her held up traffic, having to stop for a young moose crossing the road. Such memories and experiences are unforgettable.