1,620 km and 30 hours of crazy hitchhiking later, we had made it to the city centre of Whitehorse, Yukon. We were now out of the Canadian provinces and into the northern territories. The first order of business, as usual by now, was stuffing our faces with some fast food. But instead of some McDonalds or Tim Hortons as was the custom, we treated ourselves to some fancy fast food. We sat down at Klondike Rib & Salmon, ordered a beer and two delicious pulled wild boar sandwiches, and started thinking about how we would fill our next 2 days in Whitehorse.
In addition to her fixation with UNESCO sites, Emily is also adamant on collecting a piece of art from all Arctic regions she visits. Since we still had quite some time before we could meet our next Couchsurf host, Myriam, at 17:30 that afternoon, we went for some art shopping straight away. It was already in this afternoon that we determined that Whitehorse will surely not feature in our top 25 destinations. The art we found was all very expensive or very mediocre, and often both. This seemed to be true Whitehorse for more than just the art.
So without any art purchased, we decided to visit the main tourist attraction of Whitehorse: the S.S. Klondike. This 1937 steamwheeler is a designated National Historic Site of Canada, and since it is Canada’s anniversary this year, the entry was free. Well, we are happy it was. It is a nice old ship with a good view, but in all fairness we had seen everything in around 10 minutes and definitely preferred lying in the sun on the green lawn in front of it. So that is what we did for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening after meeting Myriam, we made some dinner, blew up our mattress and went to bed early. The next morning, we went to explore whatever we had not yet seen in Whitehorse the day before. The first stop was the visitors centre to get some explanations. Our Couchsurf host lived on Arnhem road, close to Nijmegan road. All these streets named after Dutch cities got Laurent very excited and he was sure he would run into a large forgotten Dutch community in the outskirts on Whitehorse. After a short conversation with the tourist office, his hopes got crushed. It turned out that the neighbourhood of our host, Takhini, was built by military personnel working on the Alaskan Highway during WWII. They named the streets after the battles they had saved the Dutch asses from the Nazis…thank you Canada. The tourist office also explained to us, and this is confirmed by Wikipedia, that “the city was named after the White Horse Rapids for their resemblance to the mane of a white horse.” This, we think, is a bit of a disappointing explanation.
The second stop for us nerds was the Yukon Legislative Assembly. We walked in and asked for a tour, and was immediately served one by the infomation desk officer. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave us a crash course in territorial government in Yukon, which differs significantly from the consensus style of government in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. The majority of the members of parliament are from Whitehorse, since the city has about 80% of the entire territory’s population.
The third stop was the Whitehorse Fishway. Half way through the 5km Millennium trail at the south side of the city, there is a ladder that helps salmon swim up river over the Whitehorse Dam to complete their epic 3,200 km upstream river journey to their place of birth. Apparently, this is the world longest wooden fish ladder and it is used by thousands of fish, but there was not a single fish to see when we were there. However, the Millennium trail was a nice one to go for a relaxing stroll.
Our fourth stop was Arts in the Park. Myriam had told us about this free daily music concert in the LePage Park at lunch time. We got some well priced take-out Chinese food and found a place to sit in the park, only to be surprised by the fact that today it would be kids edition. Everyone knows that only parents can enjoy the music and cute performance by their own gradeschoolers, for everyone else it is just torturous humdrum (unless they are performers for the Chinese State Circus, that stuff is truly amazing). After 20 minutes of very low level Highland dancing later, we left.
Our fifth stop was the grocery shop. In our minds, we were already preparing to move on to start our possibly long hitchhiking trip to Fairbanks, Alaska. In order to be a bit self-reliant and not have to survive on overpriced and expired gas station food, we got some food supplies. They had a great sale so we stocked up on some instant flavoured rice and noodles.
Our sixth stop was the Shipyards Park. Myriam said that she could bring us to a lake that afternoon, after she got off from work. This sounded fun, but also meant that we had still quite some time to kill until then. So we did the same thing we had done the day before and chilled in a park. When it got too cold, we moved to the familiar comfort of the Tim Hortons and waited there. We estimated that since arriving to Canada, we have spent at least half our expenses at a Tim Hortons (minus the rental car).
Our seventh stop was to go for a walk with our host. At 4pm, we walked to Myriam’s office and she drove us to Long Lake. We had a good chat about our and her travels and life in the Arctic while we circumvented the whole lake. It was a nice stroll, with great opportunity for conversation, but the lake itself is just very OK.
Our final stop was bed, and cuddles with the kitty. Emily’s collection of Laurent-with-cuddly-cats photos is getting to be quite a thick one.