Did you hear the one about the bear?

18th June

On the agenda today: making it back to Dawson City. We drive pretty much the entire way, without seeing a single thing; clearly our luck is never going to change, and we are never going to see a single interesting animal at any point during this entire month-long holiday.  Are there even animals in Canada? Does a single mammal exist, larger than a squirrel? Well, it turns out, they do exist.

We’re not far away from Dawson City when we see a grizzly bear at the side of the road. I think we nearly all died in our seats – we genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing. All this time without seeing a bear, listening to everyone else we’d met telling us about all these amazing bear sighting, and we hadn’t even caught a glimpse of one. And here one was, literally a metre away from us, and with a 1-year-old cub!!

They were scared of passing traffic (particularly the little one) and each time a vehicle came past, the little one shot up onto the bank and into the trees, out of harm’s way.

We probably sat there for about half an hour, just watching them go about their business, munching on the grass and mooching about together. Bears are just glorious, are they not? If you think they’re not – then I am not interested to hear it, quite frankly.

High on bear spice, we carry on along down the road, only to see a MOOSE!! It wasn’t a daddy moose – so there were no giant antlers, but it was a moose all the same. The lady moose ran across the road, then made her way across a pretty deep stream (unsure at what point it becomes a river) and popped back out the other side. Our luck is truly changing!

We get to Dawson City and check into the Westmark Hotel. Now, this is by far the nicest hotel we stayed in on this holiday – but it is also the worst, and I’ll tell you for why. No WiFi, that’s why. There’s WiFi in the communal areas, but you can’t get WiFi in you room and I am SO not about that life. Why would you do that to people? WHY??? It’s like they are tantalising you with the possibility of good connectivity, and then just whipping it away at the last moment. I would rather stay in a much less nice hotel, with a normal WiFi policy.

That evening, we went to Diamond Tooth Gerties. Diamond Tooth Gerties is a gambling hall, where they do shows each evening; a ‘Vaudeville’ show (according to Wikipedia). Diamond Tooth Gerties is also Canada’s oldest casino – this knowledge is also courtesy of Wikipedia. For not that many Canadian dollars, you can spend an evening in Diamond Tooth Gerties – not only can you spend a night there, but your ticket is valid for the rest of the month, so you can spend the whole month there if you want to… or was it the rest of the year? I can’t remember now. Either way, it was a long time.

You can have your fill of dancing girls doing the can-can and flashing their bloomers. Many a quick change is done, and Diamond Tooth Gertie herself has a good old sing-song. Okay, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s a definite laugh.

The splits are done many times (as was much wincing on my part) and legs were more often above heads than not. They even get up a few guys from the audience to have a go – which is more than amusing.

Ooh, something I completely forgot to mention! In Dawson City, it can legit be 15 degrees Celsius, and EVERYONE is out in their flip-flops and shorts, and I mean EVERYONE. I’m sorry, but +15 is not warm enough to take your jacket off outside, let alone wear minimal clothing. These people are complete nutters, I swear.

Bonnie

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It’s Mine Time

8th June

Breakfast was calling me, and Riverwest Bistro answered with a breakfast burrito. If you’re looking for places to eat in Dawson City, Riverwest Bistro has plenty of options. It’s a bit of a diner joint and it’s by no means upmarket, but the coffee was fresh, and the food was good, so you’ll have no complaints from me.

We went for a mooch about the town, stopping off in the Northwest Territories Visitor Centre. This place was really good, the lady working there (Dawn) was incredibly informative and hugely knowledgeable – it’s worth popping in there if you need some information about the drive up the Dempster Highway.

Whilst we were in there, we got to talking and she mentioned that there were some cyclists heading up the same way as us who needed a food package dropped off, as it was too heavy for them to carry with them. We offered to take their food package up with us, and feeling like exceedingly good citizens, we headed off with the food package (which turned out to be pretty damn heavy after you have been carrying it for 20 minutes). I can only imagine they were concealing bricks in their food package for some unknown reason.

To fill up our afternoon, we booked ourselves onto a goldmining tour. We had wanted to go on a trip with a native guy in a boat, but he was all booked up – so that was a no go. A shame, to be honest, because we’d been recommended this in the visitors centre and they seemed genuinely excited about it, so we were a bit disappointed, but you can’t have everything. We chose a tour with Goldbottom Mine Tours, departing at 1.30. I have to be honest, I wasn’t bowled over by this tour – I think it was lacking a little something. However, I do think you should go on a gold mining tour whilst you are here. Gold mining is the entire reason this town exists and it’s worth getting to know a bit about it, and the tour was still enjoyable, even if it wasn’t outstanding.

I’ll tell you a little bit about what goes down during the tour. You start off outside the tour office and head up the road to the Goldbottom Mine site (it’s a bit of a bumpy ride). Whilst you’re travelling, the guide talks about the mining history of the area before you stop off at the site and switch your shoes for wellies. The tour guide takes you for a look around the old house there, which is full of cool artefacts and has been done out to look like it would have back in the day.

You head up to a mining site which is in use at the moment and if you are lucky, you’ll get to talk to one of the guys who is mining there. We spoke to a guy named Dale, who told us about the machinery he was using and how much gold he was extracting on a daily basis – this was by far and away the best bit of the tour.

After that we headed back to the Goldbottom Mine site and he showed us how you separate the gold you have panned for from the black sand and other bits and pieces you end up with. This was interesting, and apart from the rude American woman basically rugby tackling me in a bid to get a photo, went off without a hitch. Once we were done with that, the tour guide showed us a huge nugget of gold which one of the people who owned the mine had found.

Here the rude American lady saga continues. We’re standing listening to the guy explaining about the nugget and she’s standing behind me, and I can feel her touching my hair. I pass it off as an accident and continue listening. Then she touches my hair again… Now I know this clearly is no accident, like, she’s kind of tugging on it – does she really think I can’t feel this? Hey, rude American lady – that’s actually attached to my head you know!!!!! CREEP. I end up having to move because I can’t actually address this out loud in front of all these people. The funny thing is, I’m pretty used to people touching my hair; people ALWAYS touch my hair. But, it’s usually accompanied by a verbalisation of the hair touching intentions, such as, ‘isn’t your hair long’, or, ‘isn’t your hair a pretty colour’. One does not simply touch another person’s hair in creepy silence. So, I placed myself out of reach of silent hair stroker and pretended it never happened.

Now it was time for panning for gold! This is where I came slightly unstuck, as I didn’t really know what I was doing and the man just kind of left you to it. I think they could do with working on this section of the tour, as I wasn’t the only one who found this frustrating. Eventually he came back and explained, but I was already miffed by this point, so I enjoyed it less than I wanted to. Also, Goldbottom Mine Tours, if you’re listening, a hot drink and a snack wouldn’t go amiss at some point in the tour. Whilst we are getting sorted with our wellies, it would be easy to sort out some tea and coffee and a biscuit, which I know would be appreciated by your tourists. Oh, and if you could weed out the hair strokers beforehand, that would be GREAT.

Bonnie

The Road to Dawson City (which is not a City)

7th June

Back to the Burnt Toast Café, Whitehorse for some breakfast before the next leg of the journey. The girl serving was rushed off her feet – they were busy yesterday at lunchtime, but this was something else – they definitely need to get someone else in to help! There was a bit of a wait for food and people just kept on coming in (clearly this is the place to be! Either that, or there’s not really anywhere else to go, or a combo of the two). Anyway, the wait was well worth it, because the food was delicious. I had the Breakfast Sandwich, which consisted of a bun, filled with an egg, bacon, tomato and spinach, accompanied by hash browns (fried potatoes). BEYOND SCRUMMY!! And just the right thing to stave off the hunger on a 7-hour trip to Dawson City.

We hit the road, heading in the direction of Dawson City. The drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City is a long old drive (about 530 kilometres) and it takes a while, especially when you aren’t used to the gravel road and you’re on the lookout for wildlife. We saw precisely nothing the whole way, despite someone having seen 10 bears the day before. There are campgrounds along the way, and they are always nicely located. We stopped at one on a lake, which was really pretty – and they are always a good comfort stop as well – there really aren’t that many places to stop for a wee!

Ooh, so there’s this place you HAVE to stop at if you are driving from Whitehorse to Dawson City, it’s called Braeburn Lodge (located on mile 55 o the Klondike Highway).

You have to stop here because they do these GIANT cinnamon buns. When I say GIANT, I am not over exaggerating – they are literally the size of your face and so frickin’ tasty as well. There is no way you can drive past this place without stopping. It’s so out of the way that you get Carnation Evaporated milk with your coffee!

If you go to the loo, you’ll see people have decorated the back of the toilet door with graffiti (obviously I can only speak for the ladies’ loos here – I can’t say for the men’s – and I’m certainly not brave enough to go in there and check for you). But anyway, people are telling you what their names are, when they came and where they are going from and to. The one which stood out to me most, however, was one which read ‘7/10 would poo here again 2017’. That speaks to me, in a serious way.

Stop off at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site – there’s a nice trail here which goes down a set of steps first, then travels upwards. You get a great view of the Yukon river here, where there’s a tiny island with some nesting birds atop it. To walk to the top of the trail and back would take less and an hour, I’d say about 45 minutes… I took it upon myself to run it, so it didn’t take me very long (all that pent-up energy again).

We get to Dawson City in the afternoon; it took us about 7 hours to get up here in total. 7 hours on the road and we didn’t see a SINGLE animal, not even one! This was all kinds of disappointing, especially considering we’d heard about a guy who had seen 10 bears the day before – I think we were almost expecting them to be lined up along the highway with a welcome banner. They were not.

Dawson City looks like a cowboy town. I don’t know what I was expecting from the name ‘Dawson City’, but this wasn’t it. I think this place has definitely been named in jest, because a City this is certainly not. All the facades are wooden clad and painted in bright colours, it’s right on the river and it looks super cute.

To be honest though, at that point I was so tired from all the driving that I hardly knew my arse from my elbow. We were staying at the Downtown Hotel in Whitehorse, as hotels in Whitehorse go, it was good. Good Wi-Fi, coffee machine and clean and comfy. Oh, and it has swinging saloon doors on the front, so if that doesn’t persuade you to stay here, nothing will. I elected to skip dinner (a bit of a first for me) and headed straight to bed. Needless to say, I woke up beyond hungry and wondering why on earth I had elected to miss a meal.

Bonnie