Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Adventure in Aklavik

Every time I told someone in Inuvik I was going to spend a day in Aklavik, a 15-minute plane ride to the west, the response was: "Why?"

"It's a swamp there," said one store clerk. "There's nothing to do there," said the gal at the visitor centre, who grew up in Aklavik. "Nothing there but mosquitoes," said an artist from Aklavik.

Undiscouraged, and because the airfare to Aklavik is the only affordable ticket in the Delta, I went anyway. After completing half of the "Aklavik Walking Tour," as outlined in the tourist brochure, I started to think all those people were right — there is nothing to do in Aklavik.

The museum is long since closed; the Restaurant & Gas Bar is no more; the General Store is out of business; even the Community Gazebo is boarded up. I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures in the cemetery that houses the famous
 Mad Trapper's Gravesite, which is, quite frankly, an overgrown swamp swarming with more mosquitoes than I've ever seen in one place at one time.

On top of that, I hardly saw any people. And it was cold. And cloudy. I was starting to wonder how I was going to fill five more hours before my return flight, when I decided to go to the Post Office. I figured if anyone would know what I could do in this town, it would be the postmaster.

She told me I'd picked a bad day to come to Aklavik because pretty much the whole town was away at Shingle Point (a two-hour boat ride to the north) for Summer Games and whaling. BUT ... there was a craft store around the corner that the owner would open up for me if she was home. She was. "There's a tourist here who wants to see your craft shop," the postmaster said into the phone. I walked to the shop; an older woman answered my knock at the door: "Are you the tourist?"

Yup. I am the tourist.

Annie C. Gordon in her shop
Annie's store was small, and I felt compelled to purchase something as we chatted. I told her I was disappointed there was nothing much to do in Aklavik — not even a place to sit and have a cup of tea. "Do you want a cup of tea?" she asked, then took me next door to her house, where she fed me homemade bread with a cuppa. Her husband Danny was also at home, and the three of us spent the next two hours or so chatting and laughing. Then Annie took me for a drive around the village, before dropping me back at the Post Office.

By then the sun was out, the mosquitoes had died down (although I still had to apply "bug dope" as if it were hairspray or cheap perfume), and the clouds had lifted so I could see the beautiful Richardson Mountains in the distance. I found a sunny rock by the river where I could sit and watch the birds — and the occasional boat — zip by. I walked around some more, took a ton-o'-pictures and, in the end, had to rush to get to the plane in time.

It ended up being a memorable day. I'm glad I didn't give up on Aklavik — as the village motto says, "Never Say Die."


Sleepwalker said...

Well done. You managed to turn your outing into an adventure.

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