Sunday, December 21, 2014

The last day of the smokehouse. Also, dog sledding.

When we woke up in our hotel room in Yellowknife and while we went on with our day, a disturbed man was engaging in a hostile stand-off with the police at a motel a few blocks away from our hotel, claiming he had hostages. After several hours, the situation was resolved with nobody hurt, but we had no idea about what was going on until it was over.

To be honest, I was more concerned about the unsolved sword murder from earlier this week. That’s right, sword murder. As in, one man was found unconscious in an apartment in Yellowknife and another man was found dead, having been stabbed through the eye with a sword. I had no idea people even had swords these days. And police were being tight-lipped about what happened, possibly because they didn’t know either.

Welcome to the big city, Dorothy. We’re not in Kansas (Cambridge Bay) anymore.

oh, the ominous ravens of the Northwest Territories

It had been a harrowing flight to Yellowknife, as northern travel almost always is. We got to experience what it’s like to “try to land” in Kugluktuk – but failed to land, because of the cross winds and unfavourable runway conditions. The turbulence was violent enough to make me, a seasoned flyer, quite nauseous in my stomach. The terrified woman next to me asked me to hold her hand, and her grip was tight like a vice. I swear, leaving Cambridge Bay seems to always feel like an ordeal. Like you have to pass through some kind of glass wall, which really adds to the sensation of living in a snow globe.

But we had made it to Yellowknife, and the hardest part was over, so long as we weren’t going to get entangled in any police/hostage shoot outs or stabbings by sword.

a selfie at the Black Knight. It's not blurry. That's just how we look.

Yellowknife is beautiful in the winter

It's a little snowy outside

We decided to drive over to the Ndilo Dene First Nation Reserve to have lunch at the Smokehouse, a cosy little spot on the aboriginal reserve which serves as a training ground for cooks who then go on to work at the mining camps.

I got my fill of bison stew and something that was only described as “local smoked fish” (they didn’t specify what kind), both of which were delicious. They also had a turkey dinner available…and spring rolls, which I ate because it’s me we’re talking about. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The next day, the restaurant shut down forever. Hmmm. I hope I do not have this effect on every place I go.

We then went dog sledding at Beck’s Kennels, which as far as I know, is still operating.

It may seem like a strange thing to do when we come down south from Nunavut, but there actually isn't any dog-sledding in the part of Nunavut where I live - although there are plenty huskies - so despite having lived up here for a little while, I've never gone dog sledding before.  The Inuit certainly did use dog sleds traditionally (and still do in other parts) but at least in Cambridge Bay, most folks use skidoos to pull their kamotiks (sleds).  Funnily enough, the huskies often now ride in the skidoo-drawn sleds, instead of pulling them.


 That's a lot of frozen dog pee

It was therefore pretty exciting for me to get the chance to go on a traditional dog sled ride in Yellowknife, although I certainly was not the only person in Yellowknife to have this idea.  I also was definitely not the only Asian person in Yellowknife to have this idea either.  The waiting room was filled with Japanese people, all geared up in their rented Canada Goose parkas, eating chips and watching Korean documentaries on the flat screen TV.  Yellowknife, by the way, is where I have seen the largest concentration of Japanese people in my whole life, having never been to Japan or the parts of Canada where Japanese people actually live.  They are almost all tourists here, excited to see the northern lights and the other great Canadian adventures. This is also probably why I actually really enjoy the sushi in Yellowknife.

I had envisioned this wonderfully romantic sleigh ride through the woods with my partner, and it was mostly romantic: me, and Rob, and the sled, and the dogs...and the driver...and the two random Japanese strangers they stuck on our sled with us, tucked awkwardly between my legs.

we can always crop out the photo, although this woman's camera was everywhere

I mean, it was awkward for me, but apparently not for the Japanese girls because they totally made themselves at home and at one point fell asleep on my chest.  The sleigh ride was that hypnotic and soothing, and I guess my parka was really soft.

The driver was made no conversation, keeping a sharp eye out on the dogs to make sure they followed the route. Occasionally he would call out at certain dogs to get back into line, yelling things like "Come on, Sadie!"  I'm kind of glad none of the dogs had the same name as me, because it would be kind of distracting and maybe less romantic if I was cuddling with my partner while the driver abruptly shouted "WATCH IT GLORIA."

The ride was really nice though, and the dogs took us over the frozen lakes and by the woods, and I really came to realize just how breathtaking Yellowknife is in the winter time. And all the extra bodies in the sled meant that we kept pretty warm throughout the ride.