26.7.07

The Exploration City.

(continued from the previous post)

After camping at the border, it was a relatively quick six hours to Yellowknife. The local heatwave kept things interesting for all my friends, as they cajoled each other to take their turn in my non-air-conditioned car. What can I say? I'll never be a hardcore camper, capable of surviving three weeks in the bush with nothing but a knife and a bottle of barbecue sauce. I have to earn my merit badges in other ways.

A few hours in, we crossed the mighty Mackenzie River by ferry and entered the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. On the way through Alberta, you'll see signs such as, "Deer: next 3km", "Elk: next 9km", or "Moose: next 62km". Those are all practice runs. When you see the sign that says, "Buffalo: next 236km", your eyes stay open.

Not that you need to look too closely.

Further along this drive, my passengers decided to pass the time by playing the classic pajama party game, "What Would You Rather". Two scenarios are proposed; pick one and explain your answer. The game was a fun conversation -- at least, it was whenever it wasn't my turn. I tried to ask grand questions about the fate of mankind, or challenge people's perceptions of happiness, or force a re-examination of social values. What happened, however, was that I sounded like an ignoramus incapable of understanding basic human needs.

Just like my last pajama party, really.

Later that afternoon, we entered Yellowknife. I'm not sure if there exists a stranger city in Canada -- and I've been to St. John's. I mean, in Newfoundland, they've only got two languages (three if you count French). You can hear a half dozen native tongues being spoken in Yellowknife, and they're not spoken in many other places.

As for its appearance, "out of place" doesn't begin to describe it. To get there, you have to drive through the Canadian Shield for six hours. Don't forget, this is land where farms don't grow and trees aren't cut. Signs of civilization are loosely interpreted ("Look! There's a raven that isn't the size of a condor! Mankind must be interfering somehow!"), in an attempt to feel connected. And then, you pass an airport, you turn right at the intersection, and a modern city of 20,000 leaps out from the rocks and trees. Upon your first drivethrough, you're delighted by the familiarity. Tim Horton's! Boston Pizza! Zellers! You recognise these things, and that makes them good! The shining government offices and the RCMP buildings even fondly remind you of Regina.

Then, you turn into the older section of town, and you're poking your way through native crafts, second-hand clothing, and organic coffee. Those of you from the B.C. interior will not be disappointed. After that, you're in Oldtown -- the city that was built back when it was just a bunch of bush pilots that liked to hang out together. Coincidentally, we visited during the city's Float Plane Festival -- one of the big events of the festival is the chance for a bunch of local bush pilots to hang out together. Oldtown is a rock on a lake, where people built a house wherever they pleased, and let the officials worry about roads and power lines forty years later. There isn't a single 90-degree intersection in Oldtown, just like there aren't two houses the same shape or colour. This aesthetic extends out into the harbour, where boats and ships of all sorts float lazily in the Great Slave Lake, rusty, muddy, and perfectly content. It was upon this sight that the Haligonian in our group shed a single tear -- it must have been the seagulls in his eyes.

So, we've established that the city sounds different, and looks different. But does it feel different? I'll put it this way -- Yellowknife Airport is probably the last one in North America where the flight attendants offer you matchbooks as you step on the planes. Then, during that plane ride, the pilot will tell you to ignore the seat belts, and go wherever you please during the flight. He'll fail to notify you when the plane lands, and if he feels like it...


...he'll buzz the entire city.

The only way I can describe it is that Yellowknife is a city filled with the best type of apathy. They actually trust people to have a basic amount of common sense.

Oh, and the other way I can describe it is that it doesn't have ugly people. No, really. It's like Robson Street in Vancouver -- everyone is fit and healthy, and smokin' hot compared to the national index.

Like I said, it's a weird place. No wonder I love it.

Musicians love it too, it seems. Tune in this weekend to hear about the Folk On The Rocks festival!

p.s. Since the gypsy hick was so quick to defend herself in the last post, perhaps this time, she'd care to explain Louise Falls. Allow me to present the scenario. We're walking through some dense low-lying foliage. We hear something moving in bushes, rustling leaves and cracking twigs. Whatever it is, it's moving towards us very quickly -- and we're all well aware of the bear sighting at our campground last night. The sound draws closer until a friendly golden retriever bursts out of the bush, tail wagging furiously. We all have a good laugh, but we can't help but notice that Cara is hiding behind one of our friends.

I'm not sure how you can mount a rebuttal against the facts, but you're welcome to try.

4 comments:

Wrex said...

I missed out on the smokin' hot people there. I didn't see a one. (I was there in August 2005)

Denton said...

I acknowledge that the folk festival probably wasn't a fully representative cross-section of Yellowknife. Also, there was one crazy lady who urinated on our picnic table at 3AM Sunday morning. She doesn't really help support my claim, either.

On the other hand, those 3,500 good-looking people had to come from somewhere...

Denton said...

I hope you had a good time there, though?

gypsyhick said...

I positioned myself BEHIND Twinkletoes to establish the most effective position for pulling her out of the deadly path of the blustery bear that turned out to be a smiling dog.

Yeah, that's my story.

I'm sure the bear would have liked her more for its dinner anywho, being She That Tastes of Irish Whiskey rather than Me That Tastes Like Apples. I am probably better than He Who Tastes Like Deadly Onion Oil Fruit.

About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.