The Sockeyed Blog

Ben Johnson's Blog

Still in Inuvik

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We woke clean and refreshed to a breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. Moe and Brenda then took us on a driving tour (in one of their two big diesel pickups) around the town to see views, to meet Moe’s eldest sister Elizabeth (making ground moose) in her house, to see the elevated and heated ‘utilidor’ service system and the igloo-shaped church.

After our tour Kristi and I went for a walk in the lovely sunshine (noting our long our shadows were at noon) into various gift shops and such in the ‘downtown’. We ended up only buying some cards (to thank our house sitters) and some postcards (which we wrote and mailed promptly).

The best part of the day, and likely the highlight of our trip, came in the mid-afternoon. Moe invited us to visit his family cabin up the East Channel. The five of us (Shadow the lab retriever joined us) hooked up the boat trailer and headed to the river. The boat was launched and we piled it. We were treated to a beautiful 45-minute ride upstream by the channels and islands of the massive Mackenzie Delta. Shadow stood nose in the wind, ears flapping, doing circles of excitement as we motored past ice-eroded banks and the spruce trees of the delta.

The cabin sat next to the ancient cabin of Moe’s granny on a lovely piece of land overlooking a bend in the river. It’s a series of old and new structures – cabins, outhouses, sheds – set in a clearing above the riverbank and bordered by spruce and willow trees. A swing set and toys suggest the grandkids are brought up a lot. It’s used year-round; accessed in summer by boat and in winter by skidoo.

We spent a wonderful afternoon there, hitting golf balls into the river (with Shadow chasing down the ones that didn’t make it that far), driving cider and red wine, playing horseshoes, and grilling delicious moose burgers over a fire pit. The most reluctant to leave was Moe, even though he’ll likely return tomorrow.

We took the long way back, detouring up narrow channels to visit Minto Lake, to see beaver (successfully), and to search for moose (no sign). The sun had ducked behind high clouds and we were chilled by the time we returned to Inuvik, but we were thrilled with our experience and Moe and Brenda’s generosity.

We relaxed at the house, chatting and warming up, then shortly after dark drove the short distance to Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth and Frieda, another sister, were there, and they put on a spread of Inuvialuit delicacies: dryfish (smoked and dry from the river), chunks of caribou, and muk-tuk, which is beluga whale skin. We tried them all (how could we not?), and I’d have to say the dryfish and caribou were very tasty. Caribou is a strong meat, a bit like roast beef and venison together. The muk-tuk I was less a fan of (hard to put the image of a beluga out of my mind). It was chewy and cold and fatty. Moe loves the stuff, however, and ate most of the plate himself. Elizabeth also gave us a jar of her delicious home-made local cranberry jam!

Tumblers full of Gato Negro red wine were poured and consumed (Frieda had rum and cokes), the guitar came out, plus spoons from Moe, and songs were sung, starting with ones from their childhood in Aklavik, then into others about po’ folk and then some Johnny Cash.

Around 11pm, it was decided it was time to head to the Mad Trapper, one of two bars in town. A very wobbly Moe was talked into giving up the keys to his truck to Kristi and we drove downtown (1km?). The Trapper is an unpolished place stocked with locals (there are only locals in Inuvik after August). A band played classic rock covers and enthusiastic folks danced. Kristi and I were forced up for a few numbers, and I had a few dances with Frieda. Moe and Brenda showed us how it was done with some two step action. Kristi was asked to dance a couple of times by a local girl (perhaps a relative). We stayed long enough to drink a couple of rounds. Moe was wobblier and unbelieving when it was time to go, and Frieda (the only one to go to work the next morning) was disappointed it was all ending so soon.

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Written by sockeyed

September 16, 2010 at 18:13

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