Monday, May 27, 2013

arriving in Iqaluit

Iqaluit. The largest city in Nunavut and, well, actually, the only city in Nunavut (The rest of the communities are hamlets and such). I was excited to have the chance to explore Iqaluit, which has things like a spa, Tim Horton's, cars, a population of 6000 or so, neighbourhoods, and immigrants who don't speak much English. It pretty much feels like a metropolis. They actually have a rush hour, or rather, a "rush minute", at 5PM every week day, at the four-way stop that they call the four corners when every worker is trying to make it home from work.  It's one hectic rush minute.

Did somebody say Tim Hortons??

I decided to go for a walk and explore the city...

...and discovered very quickly that Iqaluit at this time of the year is very very windy. And muddy. The combination of which means that walking around outside often results in eating a lot of dirt. Yum.

Iqaluit is south of Cambridge Bay, so they don't experience the 24 hours of sunlight/darkness that we do.  Still, as you might imagine, the weather can get pretty extreme. There are coloured posts next to the roads to guide drivers during a blizzard, because visibility can become completely non-existent - you end up driving from post to post.  Some of the snow banks in these neighbourhoods get to be thirty feet high.  I saw one street where the entire sides of houses were partially buried in snow - almost like the abandoned sand-buried houses I saw in Kolmonskop - because of the way that the roads had been designed, accidentally funneling the winds down the street to pile the snow against the houses.  They ended up having to build a wind wall to block the worst of it.

Iqaluit, and the rest of Baffin Island, is also quite hilly, much more hilly than Cambridge Bay or Rankin Inlet.  I personally love mountains, so I found the landscape to be breathtaking, especially when juxtaposing the hills against the frozen ocean. 

"What a beautiful sight," I said, admiring a shoreline.

"That's the sewage lagoon, Gloria," my friend told me.

The court house

The cemetery,  surprisingly located right by the beach

Iqaluit used to be called Frobisher Bay, which started as an American base. The area was never really used by the Inuit, unlike other communities in Nunavut which used to be fishing spots or meeting places or something.  But with the presence of the American base, the area eventually began to attract Inuit people, who then settled there.

the old Hudson Bay Company post

From the identical cookie-cutter houses of Legoland, which looks like they were boxed in a factory assembly line (much like most of Kanata), to the large luxurious houses of Tundra Ridge, to the "far away" location of Apex (3km) which was where Inuit people stayed when they worked for the American base, I was amazed to see that there were so many residential neighbourhoods in town. Still, there aren't enough We're only too aware of the housing shortage that Iqaluit is experience, much like the rest of Nunavut.  They just can't build houses quickly enough to keep up with the needs. There's a two year waiting list to build a private home here in town, just to get a contractor.

Ventures, probably one of the hugest stores in the whole territory. THEY HAVE A BOOK STORE.

for some reason, they mostly sell fur in the photo section of the North Mart.

I got to see the famous Road To Nowhere, named as such because they had begun building a road to go to the sand pit, but then they ran out of sand, so now it goes nowhere. It's not that unusually, actually, I feel like most roads in communities in Nunavut eventually go nowhere, since the communities aren't exactly connected to each other. But this particular road in Iqaluit is actually called the Road To Nowhere.

Speaking of roads...boy, the potholes were something else. I don't see how anybody could possibly speed around here.

I got to see Queen Elizabeth Road, so named because it was specifically paved for Queen Elizabeth when she came to visit. Apparently there is a rule that cars she ride can only go on paved road, so I guess we can see exactly what parts of Iqaluit the Queen got to see, based on where the paved roads go. The rest of the roads are made of mud and potholes.

The beach. I asked if there are a lot of surfers here, but apparently there is not.

Iqaluit has a nice beach area, although it wasn't suntanning weather that particular day. I discovered a beachside restaurant Grind and Brew, which has a name that makes me think of coffee shops, but in reality it's sort of a diner / convenience store place covered in Jordan Tootoo posters that sells Thai food and pizza (including smoked char pizza and caribou pizza!).

I was also excited to discover the shawarma place, which was an authentic shawarma experience with all the excited staff angrily yelling at each other with thick accents in the kitchen about whose large beef this was.  My shawarma sandwich was divine, and I miss it already.

The Kicking Caribou Pub (A BAR! I barely remember what those are.)