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Inuvik: Nothing Special, just a Magical Place

by Archives September 8, 2009

The town of Inuvik begins at the end of the Dempster Highway. There we were, dusty and car sick; tumbling out of the van onto the main strip outside of the NorthMart which housed a discount clothing store, a KFC, a Pizza Hut Express and a supermarket.

As we walked in, I was in a daze over the size of the place and the gloomy fluorescent lights.

A litre of milk was $7, a head of broccoli was $4. The
sandwich, consisting of Thousand Island dressing, processed
cheese, and ham was $3.99.

We went outside eating what we had bought and taking in the moment. People gathered around us, curious to know what we were doing there, and for how long we were staying. One nice man told us to stay right there and hurried back into the store only to reappear moments later with a large submarine sandwich and some iced tea, encouraging us to pass it along. He didn’t eat any.
Goodbye handshakes and hugs were exchanged, and we headed down to a public park, by the Mackenzie Channel. It was a dirty park. There were some public barbecues and oil barrels. I found four teeth on the shore by the water.

We went fishing and didn’t catch anything. It was a great day.
Later I went on a walk up the hill and stood outside of a magazine store. I asked a man for a cigarette and he gave
me two. I walked across the street into the Mad Trapper, a bar. It was dark inside. Although it wasn’t too busy, I could tell that it often
was.

A man approached me with a beer and told me that he was a visitor,
just a visitor. We chatted for a moment.

As I walked along the metal grates that run beside the roads in place of sidewalks, due to the snow that falls in the winter, I noticed the above ground sewage system, attached to each home through metal tubes and enclosed pipes. I thought about how great it would look if the pipes that run throughout the town were painted bright colours, or painted like little train tunnels.

Shortly after supper we left the park, then the town, and stayed in a government campsite near the small airport. It was the best campsite I’ve stayed at. Showers and all. Only thing is the water tasted foul.

Before I left for this trip, I was told that the drive up to Inuvik is the best part – going through Tombstone National Park, seeing endless hills of blackened spruce, passing vibrant animal life. I was told many times over that the town itself was “nothing special.” As the insects began the meditative splatter on the windshield, and we drove back south, it dawned on my that Inuvik was a magical place. I had never experienced anything quite like I did during those four
hours.

One day I hope to return.

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