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Reports

Sunday, 23 March 2003
--> Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada (day 1)

A lazy Sunday it was! I am staying with Jeff and Steff Philipp and their sons Cole and Liam in Yellowknife.
After a nice sleep-in we all ate pancakes at the kitchen table and it was amusing to see the parents take care of the feeding of the kids. As Cole is already up and jumping around to play with toys, the almost 2-year-old Liam seems to be the one that needs the most help. And care. Just lovely. And the patience the parents have!

Jeff had connected my laptop on the wireless Internet network that runs through the house. With one of his pc cards stuck in my laptop I could basically be online in the garage, toilet or in bed! Amazing!

But then again, that’s the business that Jeff is exploiting the most in the north; getting remote communities online through wireless networks. It’s great to hear his ambitions about these projects. About satellite towers around a valley that surrounds a town and those towers basically provide that entire town with Internet. Just plug in your card in your pc, get an account and get online.

Since recently his company has gotten the opportunity to do the same work for the World Bank and CARE Canada in the African countries Zambia (for those there is only war in the news) and Kenya (proud to be in the news). Talking about places where the infrastructures on basic communications are minimal!

In the afternoon Jeff took me out for a tour around Yellowknife! That was good, because I had only seen it by night so far.

The weather wasn’t too bad. However it was -17 degrees Celsius(1 degree Fahrenheit), it did not feel that cold as I would expect as a Dutch softy that already thinks that -1 is very cold! Because the humidity in the air is pretty low, it’s like dry cold. Back home in The Netherlands, it is very humid as my country is along the North Sea and exists out of a lot of water too. Walking around in -5 there is no fun. But -17 in Yellowknife is quite funny! Of course I was dressed for cold weather with the thermic clothing supplied by my sponsor Odlo and we were in a warm truck most of the time.

Yellowknife has the contrast of log buildings and luxury hotels. The town all started on Latham Island (Old Town), from where it had to expand to the sandy mainland when gold was found. In 1947 the New Town on the sandy plain behind the island started growing fast. In 1967, the year the road to the outside world was completed, Yellowknife replaced Ottawa as the seat of government for the Northwest Territories.

Oiled by bureaucratic recklessness and the odd gold mine, the city has blossomed ever since, if that’s the word for so dispersed and uninviting a place can be. Unfortunately.

Yellowknife’s Old Town (also named The Rock) seems to be a must-see for all visitors. Once home to log lean-tos and tent frames, Old Town is now an upscale residential and commercial area, with a colourful past. That's for sure.

Ragged Ass is a colloquial term for “dirt poor,” and it used to be the name of a small gold mine in this area. However, the story of the Ragged Ass Road in Old Town involves three local fellows, a late night and just the right amount of liquid refreshment (should sound very familiar to a few friends of mine at home). The boys decided to rename their street Ragged Ass Road. They painted a sign and put it up, in a part of Yellowknife called Old Town. The name stuck, and soon after, Ragged Ass Road was adopted as an official street name.

Country singer ]Tom Cochrane named a music album after Yellowknife’s famous street a few years ago. And now one of our hottest local gift items is a full sized (or pint sized) official Ragged Ass Road sign. The metal street signs used to disappear so often from the street corner in Old Town, that Yellowknife City fathers declared the signs could be sold to keep the City budget in line.

And that’s the story behind Yellowknife’s most famous street.

In New Town new works of architecture have sprung up in the last ten years. In a city with minus-forty-degree winters, landlords want buildings that are easy and cheap to heat, so Yellowknife doesn’t have many windows.

But I do like Yellowknife for what I have seen of it. The people are friendly and everybody seems to be connected somehow. I like its native and northern culture. I saw natives and whites walking along the street, proud to wear sealskin mukluks or moose skin jackets with Dene beadwork.

Jeff also took me along on the frozen Great Slave Lake, which in wintertime contains a framework of roads and highways that seem to connect various destinations around the big lake.

Right on that lake was the castle made by the self-proclaimed SnowKing Anthony Foliot. The Snowking has been building castles out of blocks of ice for almost ten years now and entertains not only adults but also kids with his fascinating structures. When I walked through it, I got the feeling to join the kids who were playing hide and seek. Inside the castle, Foliot himself was just giving a workshop in ice carving!

To enjoy this along through the web, you should see the photogalleries on his website.

And the end of the entire tour Jeff drove to the local sandpits, a free crossing area for trucks and skidoos, but a marvellous place to hang out and have a barbecue in the summer. There wasn’t much action today, but I got the sense of freedom of space right here. Wildlife nature seems to be so much in the backyard here, it’s incredible.

Back home I joined the family again with dinner and the late night socialising that always occurs.

As I would stay here until Wednesday, I was given a lot of relaxing time to catch up in a lot of things I had to work out before I would head to the Canadian Upnorth (in Australia they have the Outback, hence I created this Canadian version).

The coming days won’t be much described in reports as I am of -course - enjoying the leisure very much, but you will enjoy the photos.

Good night Yellowknife!

Ramon.