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 A moose in Yukon territory, Canada. Terence Eder photo.
Tags: Outdoor Adventure Canada Yukon Territory

A Yukon white out.  Terence Eder photos.A Yukon white out. Terence Eder photos.

Exploring Canada's Far North, Yukon

Canada is a vast country with outstanding landscapes. However, few travellers to Canada cast a glance beyond the favored ‘go to’ provinces of British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario. 
However, Canada’s three Territories – Yukon, Northern Territory and Nunavut offer a travel experience like no other and are slowly gaining more attention, not only from travellers abroad but for locals alike.

Yes, they are more isolated and costly to visit but with a bit of pre-planning can be affordable, meaning you won’t have to mortgage the home or sell your grandmother to get there. The territories really offer a once in a lifetime experience and the cost is priceless and quickly forgotten, once you venture into this unique setting.

I did just this last winter. I ventured into the heart of the Yukon Territory for 10 days in the dead of winter.  It was something most of my Canadian friends could not really comprehend. It was cold enough across the provinces with temperatures falling lower every day as we neared the holiday season, so why the heck would I be enticed in roaming around the arctic like conditions of the North!!

A moose in a field in the Yukon.A moose in a field in the Yukon.Canadian snow birds prefer to fly south for the winter to evade such conditions.

I guess for me, having come from the Southern Hemisphere, where we generally only experience two seasons with much milder winter temperatures by comparison, it would be a truly novel experience. In truth, I love nothing more than passing away the summer months, basking in the sun enjoying the beach. My idea of cold is when the mercury level falls around 50 degrees. Perhaps it was a test to see how far I could push my coping mechanisms or simply to prove to my Canadian compadres that this Southerner really could survive a week-long trip up North.

Climbing off the Yukon North Klondike Highway.Climbing off the Yukon North Klondike Highway.
Either way, there was something alluring about winding up North in the frigid cold, surrounded by endless snow and sub-zero temperatures.

The Yukon is situated north of British Columbia and East of the US State of Alaska.

I flew with Air North, one of the few airlines operating into these territories and landed into the capital of the Yukon – Whitehorse. Whitehorse, a small Klondike town, is situated off the Alaska Highway and is one of the largest towns in the Yukon. Incorporated in the 1950s, it was a key stop off point by fortune seeking prospectors heading north to Dawson and was integral during the Klondike gold rush.

Flying in is an experience itself; the plane descends through vast mountains and forests along the Yukon River, before landing on a snow covered plateau high above town. The icy wind billows outside and the low fog makes the arrival a little ominous but simply breathtaking.

I don’t think I will quite forget that landing and the moment the plane suddenly dropped through the thick fog before sliding onto the snow covered runway and coming to a quick stop. A glance across the cabin and the reassuring sighs, tells me I wasn't the only passenger sitting with a lump in my throat and pulsating heartbeat, as we came in for the precarious landing.

 The temperatures drop well below zero, reaching as low as -40 degrees Celsius. Most of the territory is frozen over; hence Yukon being called “The Great White North”. In summer, Yukon is known as the “Land of the Eternal Sun”, receiving 24 hours of daylight. However, in winter, there is around 4-6 hours of daylight, giving you limited time to explore.

It’s a charming town with many buildings retaining the colorful wooden facades and style from the bygone gold-mining era. Today there are many small eateries, cafes and historical hotels which line the main streets along 2nd and 4th Avenue. Relics of the Klondike era are scattered around town and the historic SS Klondike sternwheeler ship stands alongside the frozen Yukon River.

The plateau above town offers outstanding views over the small grid like town bathed in white.

From this vantage point you begin to understand how remote Whitehorse is. Along my travels, I am constantly intrigued by the locations and settings people choose to call home and what it is that they find so alluring about these far flung abodes.

Active Living

Each morning, I would bypass a nearby school – Ecole Whitehorse Elementary where a frenzy of kids dressed from head to toe in thick winter wear were running around a sports field covered under snow.

Whitehorse.Whitehorse.It was around 9am and the only source of light came from the stadium like spotlights. I watched with curiosity before stopping a teacher to ask what they were doing. She informed me, that the kids take part in what is called “active living” each morning. It is a chance for them to get some morning exercise and warm up their bodies in the frigid temperatures before retreating indoors to begin class for the day.

As a scholar, I recall hating the thought of getting out of bed in 10 degree weather, so having to run around in -35 degree temElk on the move in Yukon Wildlife Preserve.Elk on the move in Yukon Wildlife Preserve.peratures sounded quite ludicrous. I guess, life in these parts means adapting to the environment you find yourself calling home.

The temperatures were the coldest I had ever experienced with the icy wind penetrating the multiple layers I had on. My hands froze instantly each time I took my gloves off to snap a quick photo. At one point my right hand succumbed to the cold. Testament to the many photos I had taken.

I quickly sought cover indoors and found a hot water tap to run my hands under to restore blood flow. I subsequently got frost freeze and lost feeling in the tips of two fingers for a few days. There is no time to mess around and it’s essential to come prepared for the most extreme of weather.

Despite the cold, I found a balance between exploring outdoors and recuperating indoors with a much needed bowl of soup and a few cups of the favoured, locally brewed - Bean North Coffee.

The town has a few local galleries, museums and sights to keep you busy. Outdoor enthusiasts wanting to experience the very essence of the Yukon should pick up a rental car and venture further out to partake in some of the very best winter activities for which the Yukon is renowned for.

A Yukon mushing dog.A Yukon mushing dog.Drive the North Klondike highway and visit the Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s outstanding natural enclosures. A chance to spot the elusive moose, herds of bison, elk & caribou and the arctic fox. After a chilling walk through the compound, stop for coffee at the Bean North fair-trade coffee roaster and then try your hand at Ice Climbing at a local tour operator, as you don your crampons, ice axe and harness traversing ice stacks or Zip-line over frozen terrain and lakes. An unforgettable experience that will leave you feeling like a true mountaineer and pioneer for the day.

Sled Dogging with MukTuk Kennels

If you’re still left wanting more, head out to MukTuk Kennels for a unique dog sledding experience over the alpine terrain and let the entrancing echoes of the sled dogs mesmerise you as you’re whisked through enchanting scenery. The Yukon also offers fa
Whitehorse airport.Whitehorse airport.
ntastic back-country skiing and snowshoeing through the endless forests dusted in white. You take a moment to appreciate the absolute stillness of the setting until silence is broken by the piercing shriek of a raven passing overhead.

If time permits, drive the famed White Pass Route from Whitehorse to Skagway, Alaska on the South Klondike Highway through the winding mountain passes. The journey takes around 3 hrs depending on the weather and road conditions.

Along the way stop off at Carcross, another Klondike era town, Carcross Desert – the world’s smallest dune desert and multiple frozen lakes before crossing Canada – USA immigration and winding down into the port town of Skagway. Although the cruise ships and hordes of tourists are long gone, this charming town is still worth a visit in winter.

I hear the summer months in Yukon are equally, if not more breath-taking and offer the perfect setting for nature, outdoor lovers and road trippers traversing the Alaska Highway but for me, Yukon in winter, will remain one of the coolest (no pun intended) and memorable journeys I have yet to encounter.

Whitehorse and the Yukon offer a uniquely different experience for the avid adventure traveller wanting to get off the beaten track and experience more than the usual tourist ‘go to’ hot spots and city destinations.

Here is a quick List to get you on your way:

minus thirty eight degrees xc skiingMinus thirty eight degrees xc skiingAir North – Local Airline servicing the territories

Air Canada and Alaska Air also fly this route.

Muktuk Adventures – Dog SleddingA Yukon totem poleA Yukon totem pole
Toll-free: 1-866-968-3647

Equinox – Zip Lining / Ice Climbing
Phone: 867-456-7846

Thakini Hot Springs – Thermal Hot Springs
Phone: 1-867-456-8000

Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Bean North Coffee Roasting - Fair-trade Roaster & Café
Phone: 867) 667-4145

Terence Eder

Terence Eder
, a television producer, calls himself as a citizen of the world having lived in four Countries and travelled to 39 to date.
While 'home' is where ever his suitcase lands, he is constantly on the lookout for his next far flung adventure abroad. He lives in Austria and his native South Africa.

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 The Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. Coen Wubbels photos. The Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. Coen Wubbels photos.

Bathing in Luxury at the Casa Gangotena in Quito, Ecuador

I am looking out over the Mediterranean dotted with a couple of sailing boats. Low rolling hills line the horizon. The image is framed by Corinthian columns covered in flowering vines. I feel as if I'm on vacation in Greece, Italy, or Spain. Does that make sense, with my being 9,350 feet above sea level, in Quito, Ecuador's capital? Not really.

Bathing in Luxury

I enjoy this view from my spotless white bath in a marbled bathroom that is part of a comfortable and spacious room decorated in a blend of classic and modern. I am literally bathing in luxury in the three-story Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel, which Trip Advisor's Traveler Awards 2014 nominated "The Best Hotel in Ecuador and South America".

After an extensive renovation of the more than 100-year-old, neo-colonial mansion, Casa Gangotena opened its doors in 2011. The hotel has preserved as many of the original architectonic features and decorative elements as possible, the wall-to-wall fresco painting across the bathroom and bedroom of the scene described above being one of them.

Casa Gangotena bedroom.Casa Gangotena bedroom.
Among the others are two paintings at the reception and several mirrors in the hotel. They perfectly fit in with the modern design hotel with touches of Art Nouveau and neo-classical architecture.

Next to the tub that I am soaking in, my partner Coen is taking a shower which has the force of a waterfall after we found the bathtub a tad too small for two persons. He is shampooing his hair – 'mmm, smells good', he comments – without turning off the tap.

One of Casa Gangotena's luxurious bathrooms.One of Casa Gangotena's luxurious bathrooms.What's the big deal here? Aren't we just taking a bath/shower? Well, for travelers who have lived in an antique Land Cruiser for the past eleven years and whose outdoor showers consist of five liters of cold water from a shower bag – for the two of them – bathing in warm, no hot, water with foamy bubbles and not having to turn off the tap while soaping up is sheer luxury.

A slight feeling of guilt of bathing in such opulence is soothed by the thought that the hotel's water is heated by solar panels and all soaps and shampoos (as well as the hotel's cleaning products) are biodegradable.

Downtown Quito

We cherish a moment of relaxation after an intensive day. We had chosen a perfect day to drive to downtown Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, which despite its alluring colonial buildings, plazas and churches suffers just as much from traffic jams as any other major city in the world. But it is Sunday and the
roads were practically empty. When parking our Land Cruiser in front of Casa Gangotena we learned that the hotel has an underground parking lot, but not for 2.70-meter-high vehicles.

The hotel and gardens.The hotel and gardens."No worry," Diego, the porter, said. "We'll find a solution while you get settled in." Jane, the receptionist, took care of the paperwork and while taking us to our room showed us the glass-roofed lounge and patio garden where we would later have our 'Quiteño coffee'; she enthusiastically shared background information on the boutique hotel, which until some ten years ago was owned by an influential family called Gangotena.

From our room we took some of the Ecuadorian fruits with us, such as tomate de arbol, granadilla and uvilla, that were waiting on a tray with a handwritten welcome note, and then walked up the spiral marble stairway to Casa Gangotena's panoramic terrace on the third floor.

In easy chairs underneath a parasol we ate our fruits, and took in the view of the adjacent immense, cobbled San Francisco Square that is lined with majestic churches and colonial buildings.

As we left the hotel I wondered why so many travelers prefer staying The view of beautiful Quito from the hotel's terrace. The view of beautiful Quito from the hotel's terrace. in the northern section of Mariscal. Casa Gangotena lies smack in the middle of Quito's most scenic quarters.

The old town is characterized by charming plazas and pedestrian streets, making it easy to go for a stroll and visit Quito's most beautiful churches (Iglesia de la Merced and Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco), interesting museums, and watch scenes from daily life.

We watched the shoeshine boys at Plaza Grande, and from some women from neighboring villages, dressed in traditional clothes we bought a portion of treinta y uno (thirty-one), an intriguing name based on the traditional 31 pieces of stomach and other intestines that make up this snack. In fact, to learn more about Quito's daily life, we had planned the Metropolitan Tour's Live Quito Like a Local Walking Tour for the following day.

More Pampering

Around five we returned to the hotel, in time for the Quiteño coffee which is pretty similar to the typical English high tea, and which is served daily between four and six pm in the lounge. When Victor, the waiter, asked us whether we wanted coffee or tea we got into a discussion about flavors of Ecuadorian high-quality coffee and teas.

The hotel kitchen's herb garden.The hotel kitchen's herb garden."We have fresh herbs for infusions and if you like I'll show them to you," he suggested and off we were to the patio garden, smelling and tasting mint, hierba luisa, cedrón, and thyme. We settled for the mint, which was served with an array of homemade canapés, pastries and petit fours all based on Ecuadorian ingredients, such as turnovers made of green plantains and shrimp.

After having eaten our complimentary fruits upon arrival, snacked downtown, and enjoyed this elaborate high tea, our stomachs were so heavy that we skipped dinner. While Marco, the porter on duty, escorted Coen in the Land Cruiser to a suitable parking lot, I slid into a warm tub filled with bubbles and closed my eyes.

I feel the fatigue draining away. My eyes feel heavy and the image of the Mediterranean starts to fade. It is time to hit the bed.The patio garden.

A king-sized bed that is, with pillows in three sizes. Big enough to lose one another, I muse. The size of the bed is about that of the entire interior of our vehicle in which we have camped for eleven years. And since I have never lost Coen in our car, I figure that I won't in the king-sized bed either.

Further information

- Website Casa Gangotena
- Website Metropolitan Touring for the walking tour Live Quito Like a Local.

Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbels

Karin-Marijke Vis
and her partner Coen Wubbels, photographer, have been overlanding in Asia and South America since 2003. They have been assigned the Overlanders of the Year Award 2013. Their work has been published in 4WD/car monthlies and in travel magazines. Follow them on and instagram/photocoen

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