I didn’t think I was going to make it into Nunavut. There are no roads in and I was having difficulty booking accommodations anywhere in the places I could fly into. Got lucky earlier last week and managed to book a room at Katimavik Suites and Nunavut was back on. YAY! It would have really annoyed me to travel every province and territory . . . . except one. While I can’t really say I travelled the whole country by motorcycle, I will have done what was possible and have at least got into Nunavut to complete my set. 😊 It is difficult to “tour” Nunavut unless you have a money tree growing in your pocket because the distances between communities is vast and really only reachable by air. So, pick a community and have at it. There are many very expensive tours available through a variety of tour companies – again, if you are made of money. So, having got a room, I have flown in and am winging it.
It was a very early morning to get on a 7:30 a.m. flight for Rankin Inlet, but Elaine and Brian both got up to take me and we were rewarded with a lovely Manitoba sunrise on our way to the airport. Elaine wasn’t sure she was happy about me heading into the north to explore with no schedule or contacts. I told her not to worry – if I encountered any polar bears, I had my dinner bell and could even season myself with pepper spray. She’s not reading my blog until I get back…..
The plane went via Churchill and we all had to get off for 45 minutes before continuing on to Rankin Inlet. So although I only got to see the airport, it was a bit of a 2-for-1 to get to touch base in Churchill as well. A rare thing on a domestic Canadian flight, we were served breakfast! A choice between a cheese omelette and fruit or cereal with yogurt. I had the cheese omelette, which was surprisingly tasty.
Being in the aisle seat on the way to Churchill meant it was not a very interesting flight, so I read the on-board magazine. Learned that in addition to polar bears, the arctic also has a bird that holds several records. The thick-billed murre holds the record for the longest dive of any flying bird, has the heaviest body for the size of its wings (making it somewhat clumsy), and lives in the most densely populated colonies of the Arctic. While gulls are a threat to their young and eggs, they have few predators as adults. However, the warming of the ocean and receding ice floes mean polar bears are not getting as much time to hunt for seals and pad themselves for the summer. Therefore, they are now willing to take the risks of climbing to go after the colonies of murre and will consume hundreds of nests and eggs on one go with their voracious appetites.
For the remaining flight time between Churchill and Rankin Inlet, I was able to move to a window seat and found the arctic landscape below me fascinating. The Hudson Bay is massive and beyond the waters, it is tundra, dotted with water as far as the eye can see. Water that looked so deep and cold that Bronwyn’s annual April birthday lake jump would be crazy any time of year. Made me wonder how the heck they found a stretch of land long enough to land a jet on. But they did, and as of 11:45 a.m., I am officially north of 62!
Upon arrival, I was lucky to see a Katimavik Suites truck pull up, dropping a passenger off to the airport. As that was where my reservation was, I hopped in and Charlene got me over to the hotel right away. It is a nice, basic hotel with good beds, a microwave and a fridge. They also have a “community” kitchen so you can cook for yourself if you want, as long as you clean up! I chose to order a frozen lasagne dinner from a list that Charlene had and made for a great supper. After arriving, I dropped off my stuff and headed out to tour the town on foot.
The town is overlooked by a giant inukshuk that sits atop a rocky little hill. The little outcrops here and there were reminiscent of Flin Flon. This is Canadian shield country, after all. There are many places to take scenic pictures in the town, but there is no local pride in keeping the town clean. Garbage is everywhere in the streets and along the waterfronts of all the little pools throughout the town. Heaps of old vehicles and debris litter the yards and side streets. The buildings are mostly of wood or steel and are very colourful, which makes for fun picture-taking, and the tundra flowers are out and look so vibrant on the grey and brown landscape you can't help but take pictures.
Rankin Inlet is not a very big community but has the necessities – grocery stores, hardware stores, and a Tim Horton's, of course. It also boasts 2 colleges.
The preferred mode of transportation is a quad, with a side-by-side thrown in for variety here and there. Personal protective gear (like helmets) are clearly optional and rarely used. There are no posted speed limits and traffic control signs appear to be guidelines rather than rules. I thought it was crazy to see a mom or dad roaring by on an ATV with a helmet on, but with the 3-year-old perched in front without one…. I only saw one quad with a dad and two kids on it – all wearing helmets. From what I see in the yards, I suspect the quads are traded for snowmobiles with wooden sleds on the back in the winter. There are tons of trucks and the odd SUV. No cars. Roads are dirt and the gravel is rough, so I’m glad I’m not here with Fury – would have been hard on tires and bike.
In my meanderings, I met Paul, who was from Newfoundland but acting as a camp cook for a project to build a new hockey arena. We had a chat about this and that and he had some suggestions for what to do when I get to Newfoundland. Everyone around town was friendly and I toured the Northern Store and the Coop for snacks and some bug spray that I couldn’t bring with me. I was surprised to see that groceries were not quite as expensive as I anticipated. Interestingly, the convenience foods are ridiculous – a frozen pizza is $17 and a box of cookies for $12. But fruit and veggies and meat weren’t bad. Probably how it should be everywhere.
Seeking to make good on my promise to Farmery Brewery to find the liquor store and let them know about the product, I wandered all over for a good hour and never did find one. I asked Charlene and she said that there isn’t one. While Rankin Inlet isn’t a “dry” town, the liquor distribution is tightly managed, having to be ordered in and received at only one location. So I guess my next opportunity to promote will be when I travel east after returning to Winnipeg.
I used the community kitchen to grab some plates and utensils and warm up my supper. Francis was there making his dinner when I arrived and we had a good chat. He said that in Nunavut, the government tries to spread out the government departments so each community has an “industry”. Here it is the petroleum division. Distribution of fuel and oil is managed by the government petroleum division, who is responsible for getting supply into Nunavut and distributing it. This is done to control prices and manage supply and demand. When I commented about the garbage and old vehicle debris everywhere, Francis agreed and said it was a very “disposable” culture here. Part of the reason for it is that you can’t get anything repaired. If your vehicle’s computer chip goes on the fritz, you have to spend $3000 to get it out, repair it and then another $3000 to get it back. So, I thought it’s the same with the garbage and debris, there’s really nowhere for it to go. Although surely it doesn’t need to be spread all over the town.
Back in the land of the midnight sun, with 20 hours of daylight, I had hoped to get a good sunset shot. However, the sun will not set until midnight and it is not advisable to go out after about 10:00 p.m. While wildlife in the town is not common, it is not impossible. The sunset I see out my window is blocked by a small hill, so that is not happening this evening. So I guess it is time to draw the drapes, brush my teeth and prepare for a day of further exploring tomorrow.
Don't forget to click "Trivia Bits" above the picture of the Inukshuk at the top of the webpage for your short history lesson on Nunavut!