What to do in Whitehorse?

Trip Start Jan 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Couchsurfing: Mackenzie's house
Beez Kneez Hostel
What I did
Muktuk Kennels Whitehorse
Read my review - 5/5 stars
US Klondike
Alpine Bakery

Flag of Canada  , Yukon,
Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mackenzie, our Whitehorse couchsurfing host, was awake when we arrived at 4am in the morning. We chatted for a while and fell asleep at 6 am. At 1pm we awoke from our slumber and went out for lunch with Mackenzie. He is a genuinely nice guy who is difficult to figure out. He often described himself as a friendly arsehole which seems to fit the bill. I enjoyed our time spent with him and often had some decent conversations with him and his friends.

Whitehorse is a very spread out town - everything seems far away and nothing seems like it is in walking distance. It is strange. I expected it to be more centralised to main street and while in a way it is there is so many different areas that have a 'central' feeling to them that it becomes difficult to figure out where the heart of the town is.

Our travel plans had gotten us to Whitehorse and now we had no idea of where to go next. The only public transport is the greyhound back south, and I wanted to go from here to Alaska... so I'm not sure what we'll be doing in the future.

We went to the KK with Mackenzie and his friends for cheap chicken wings and beer. The flavour of wings I chose reminded me of salt and pepper squid back home! So, I thoroughly enjoyed them! We got pretty sloshed and had a good time. Stand out memory of the night, well there are two... first, one of the stoners from the bus ended up at our table which was funny and second, there was a bowl of condoms in the female bathroom. Karen and I weren't sure what to make of this so of course we grabbed some as souvenirs (some of my friends should expect to see some in the mail at some point!)

Mackenzie's sleeping habits are not my sleeping habits. He would stay up until 3am or later in the morning and then sleep until early afternoon. I tried this sleeping pattern, but I was always walking up midmorning which means I never got enough sleep. This led to me falling asleep at midnight while there were people over because I was just too tired to stay awake! Karen felt these sleeping habits suited her just fine.

As part of these sleeping habits there were a few parties involved. We went to a house party and the house was awesome. It had a really cool layout but also had a basement with a bar. The party had a DJ and was a lot of fun. Karen and I were described as 'the Australians' or 'my Australian friends' by most people and we were given a lot of shots and beers. At some point we found Mackenzie upstairs and he seemed really drunk, I quickly went downstairs because I didn't want to deal with any awkwardness which can happen if someone gets way too drunk. Later, we had some guy come up to us and ask if we came here with Mackenzie... turns out that Mackenzie could have been having a diabetic issue and there was a girl force feeding him honey upstairs. They called the paramedics, and then the cops because Mackenzie was refusing to get into the ambulance. One of the tenants of the house (I apologise for not using names but they allude me) asked me what I was going to do now that my host had gone to hospital... to which I repsonded there isn't much I can do so I suppose I'll go back downstairs and have some more shots. She seemed pleased with my decision and we went and did a couple of tequila shots and grabbed a beer. Karen suddenly grabbed me and said we were leaving, so I put my beer down and went with her. A guy named Drew took us and two other guys named Mooselips and Old Greg to a club called lizards. It was pretty average for a club (I'm not a big fan of clubs at all). We did a shot called a 'Marijuana shot' which tasted like peppermint and soon left the club. We went to Drew's parents place which was another awesome party house with a bar. Another couple of people turned up (Susie, a guy, and Sarah, a chick). Sarah was extremely drunk! Mooselips told Karen and I about his first nations heritage and how he'd recently become very interested in his native history and traditions. He played us a traditional drum and sang a song while telling us the history of how his native family came to have the image of a whale but lived so far away from the ocean. Then we spent a few hours watching snowboarding videos. They were smoking joints, I had one drag to be polite but afterwards just passed it on to the next person without partaking. We had a really great night.

At about 8 or 9am in the morning Mackenzie arrived back at home. He told us that thy said he had low electrolytes or something like that and the doctor's thought he was having withdrawals from some kind of drugs (which he doesn't do). So, the doctors were a little perplexed as to what happened.

St Patrick's Day came and Mackenzie didn't feel much like going out (understandably). We dressed up for a formal/PJ party. I wore my woodford pants (as PJ pants?), a green top hat and some green glasses with flashy lights on them. Karen wore a green wig and bunny ears. I drank a little but didn't really feel like getting smashed (this was due to lack of sleep over the last week - just makes me less fun), they smoked some week (I said no to drugs) and then eventually we went back to Mackenzie's. We shoved on a movie cause Mackenzie had no intention of going to sleep at midnight. I fell asleep pretty soon anyway.

Part of the reason we came up to the Yukon was to see the Aurora Borealis. Mackenzie invited a chick over from the hostel to watch movies and then drove her back to the hostel. When he returned he told us that the northern lights were out. We walked about 15 minutes at about 1am in the morning and we could just see them. So, we walked back and jumped into the car. Mackenzie drove us out to a better viewing spot and they were brighter. We whistled at them because we were told that they dance more when being whistled at. We were also told that it was not considered polite to whistle at them but we ignored that advice. Sure enough, after we started whistling they started dancing and it was beautiful. I did a strange dance in the snow so I could say I danced with the Aurora Borealis!

The hostel in Whitehorse was very unusual for a hostel... the Beez Kneez (yes, that was the name) was like one of those houses owned by someone who was WAY too in love with collecting random trinkets. You could live there for years and still find things you hadn't realised was their. It had no TV but that was okay because for once people filled up the silence with conversation. It was a really relaxed hostel and the absolute BEST part about it was the two staff members. Nancy is a soft spoken, rude joken lady who goes out of her way to help people, whether she had just met you or known you for years. I can understand why one of the first people to stay at the hostel when she began to work there constantly comes back to visit - when Nancy invites you into the hostel she treats you like an old friend and that is what long time travellers (especially people travelling alone) really need to make their journey. I am not travelling alone and it even made my journey better. Sylvie is a sarcastic French lady who seems to bake bread most days. I really liked her and found her company to be super enjoyable. We would talk about all sorts of things from movies to her insulting me about my clothes, hair, and anything else she could think of an insult for. I loved it! It was really funny one day when someone came to visit her and when he was leaving she was doing non-verbal signals to me to let me know she really didn't like that person (by signals I mean chocking herself, pretending she is hanging - to send the message I'd rather die than have to put up with him for any longer!) She explained to me that this guy thought they were friends (which she has a different opinion about) and she can't do anything because he visits her at work which means she can't leave... she's stuck!

So, the hostel was booked out meaning we couldn't stay there for the rest of our trip. We contacted a couchsurfer named Adrem and he responded positively but then we found out that there was a cancellation in the hostel and since we really liked it there we decided to stay longer. However, the offer from Adrem to come to his work and learn how to bake bread sounded too good to pass up, so we contacted him and asked if we could still do a shift at the bakery with him. He agreed and we headed off the next morning at about 3:30am to go to the bakery and start our shift! We got there before 4am and started mixing ingredients to make break. It was a really fun job, and when we were kneading the dough it became a really physical job - making bread is hard work!. We were covered with flour and had smiles brimming from ear to ear for the whole shift. About midway through the shift other employees started arriving and they took in the fact that there were two random Australians in the store quite casually, even joking with Charles (Adrem's real name) about him getting couchsurfers to work for him... they were just jealous they didn't think of it first! Still, we eventually helped them by chopping up vegies for soup and stuff like that. When the boss came in Karen and I were kind of nervous because we weren't sure if we were going to get kicked out. Instead he taught us a little about health and safety regulations - aprons and beanies. Then he asked if we'd like to become temps which we thanked him for but explained that we didn't live in Whitehorse. We worked until 12:30 with breaks to eat bakery food here and there. The bakery is actually quite a unique place, a completely vegetarian bakery selling completely vegan bread and using only organic products (including the oil). It has a lot of different cultures working there: Japanese, French, Turkish etc... Later the boss, a Turkish gentleman, offered to give us massages (we weren't sure if we had to pay or not but we agreed). That was our day at the bakery! We bought two loaves of bread (which we made!) and returned to the hostel.

As a traveller there is one absolute TO DON'T and that is leave/lose your passport. I did this at the bakery and didn't notice for hours. Luckily, I left it in a very safe place and just casually wandered back to the bakery and went in back to grab my purse thing with it in.

On the way back to the hostel from the bakery after getting my passport I saw an older lady I'd seen on the way to the bakery. She had stopped in the road so I offered to help her carry her bag. She refused the assistance so instead I decided to walk with her in case she needed it later in her journey. I will never become someone who doesn't want to help the elderly, whether it be by carrying a bag or just giving up my seat on a bus; I love my grandma far too much and I would want people to give her the same respect as I give older people. This lady, whose name is Renee, has been a Whitehorse resident for many years and views it as a town that is big enough that people don't know all your business and small enough that you know your neighbours. She has travelled to Australia many times and loves it there - describing it as her favourite place to visit. I really enjoyed her company and her advice about what to do during the rest of my time in Whitehorse.

The reason why we had stayed in Whitehorse this long was because we wanted to go dogsledding and had to book a week in advance. The day of dogsledding had arrived though; Karen was excited and I was nervous (which I think is my excited-feeling but anyway). Karen and I did think it was a little rude of the company MukTuk to not provide a courtesy bus; they charged $25 each for the ride to and from the location. There were 6 people in the bus which meant they got $150 total just for the ride to and from the location... but if there were only one person in the bus they would have only got $25 for the same journey. I don't understand why they charge so much per person... when they are making the journey anyway. Anyway, we arrived at the place and saw about 100 dogs chained to their kennels. The dogs were beautiful, I really do like huskies. They were very placid and enjoyed the attention of people patting them. We got suited up (huge bulky jackets and gloves); I felt like George Castanza in that episode of Seinfeld where he has the huge winter coat and knocks all the bottles over in the liquor store. Karen and I viewed these outfits as reasons to punch each other repetitively; the staff found this somewhat amusing. We were given a quick tutorial on how to drive the sled and I told Karen she could drive first and I'll sit in the sled and just go for the ride. We start heading off, and have to stop not more than a minute into the journey to let some of the dogs pee. We started yelling 'let's go' to get them started again and it wasn't working straight away but eventually it worked and they started pulling the sled. They were pretty fast and we were going over some pretty decent bumps, I was airborn a few times, once almost falling out - this told me I had to hold on. It was really fun until we caught up with the other sled and kept going. The dogs ran were stopped by someone, and the sled ran into one of the dogs... the lady in the sled ahead was not impressed. I turned around to Karen to ask her why she didn't stop them and only then did I realise that she wasn't even on the sled anymore. About 100m back I saw her running towards the sled... she had fallen off! haha! I couldn't stop laughing for about 10 minutes and even now when I think about that moment I almost always laugh out loud, funniest moment ever! The rest of the ride went without a problem, we swapped spots about half way through and I didn't fall off while driving the sled! Point 1 to Lauren.

Karen had her massage with Suot, the owner of the Alpine Bakery, later that day. I told her to go first because I was nervous. It was a Thai Yoga Massage and we'd recently watched this YouTube video on Tosh.0 where someone was giving a massage by jumping on people's necks and all sorts of crazy - the picture on the brochure reminded me of this video. Karen promised to let me know if it was neck-breaking pain or if it was a decent massage. She returned and told me that she felt high. She warned me that it was a strange massage in that it was one where there were some awkward position, like hugging the massagist's waist etc... I decided I could handle awkward as long as it wasn't painful. So the next day I went to the massage. Karen was right, it was really good but sometimes strange. At one point my face was about 4cm away from his crotch but there was absolutely nothing sexual about it. Suot made me feel absolutely comfortable, he is simply a genuinely kind person. I honestly think more people need to be as selfless as he is. He brought a box of goodies from the bakery to give to Karen and I; it had soup, 2 mini loaves, two mandarins, two apples and an avocado. Karen and I were extremely grateful. Now, I don't usually do this but I am going to make a Whitehorse recommendation: if you find yourself in Whitehorse for any reason make sure you get something from the Alpine bakery, there are Yoga lessons above the bakery in the mornings and look into Suot's Thai Yoga massage - it is worth the $50 per hour. Oh, and it turns out that Suot gave us the massage free of charge as a thank you for volunteering our time at the bakery - he was impressed that two young girls were willing to get up so early to learn a skill he felt was beneficial to the human spirit.

We were going to leave Whitehorse at this point but we had learned about a festival called 'Burning Away the Winter Blues' which was being held on Saturday night. It is a pagon-type festival which is about saying goodbye to winter and preparing for spring. It starts at the Klondike (an old vessel that would run up and down the Yukon river) and then marches to a spot in the forest where there is a huge bonfire. Eventually they burn the effigy's and people write their winter blues on pieces of paper and burn them away as well. It was a great little festival. They handed out instruments and had people join in with the singing, it was very Woodford-esk and I could feel the closeness and kindness of community at this event. We spent time with some of the people we'd met at the bakery (Andrew and Isabel) and for a tiny bit the French guy who Sylvie isn't friends with. I left earlier than I would have usually because I needed to finish packing and get some sleep before waking up early and hitchhiking the next day.

If I vanish then I was picked up by a psycho when I was hitchhiking to Alaska (or I was eaten by a bear who'd woken up far too early).
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