Tag Archives: Hudson Bay

Piqhiqpaa? Piqhinngittuq.

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ᐱᖅᓯᖅᐹ? (Blizzard; Is there a … ?)
ᐱᖅᓯᙱᑦᑐᖅ. (Blizzarding; It is not .)

When one kind of accidentally realizes they’re going to be away from home for 3 months, the option of trying to see one’s spouse occasionally comes to mind. Josh and I tossed around endless possibilities, trying to find what made most sense: Should he come to Toronto, about the halfway point of my travels, which would also give him the chance to see his cousins? Should he come to Ottawa, getting to stay with my family and one of his best buddies, but then would that be silly if I was going to be in Winnipeg (albeit very briefly) the next weekend? At the back of our minds in all these discussions was the dream of him visiting me in Rankin, but it remained firmly in dreamland. While I knew his intrigue for Nunavut was at least equal to my own, we also knew that flights to the Territories are prohibitively expensive at the best of times, let alone for a brief weekend visit.

Air miles, on the other hand? Apparently cheaper to get to Rankin than Ottawa.

And suddenly our complicated decision-making got a whole lot simpler!

His flight blew in Thursday night, just hours ahead of a blizzard that would shut down the town the next morning, leaving us with an open day to explore Rankin in the daylight. With sunset sweeping the skies by 2:30PM, extra daylight hours are not something to take for granted!

11:30AM

2:30PM

Josh’s welcome feast of leftover birthday kwak and maqtaq… I assured my host he most definitely would NOT mind leftovers, particularly of this variety!

Josh trying his hand at the ulu, under Aanak’s watchful eye

Aanak’s expert ulu wielding

Sadly leaving Josh at home, I blindly made my way to clinic through the gusting snow on Friday morning, only to be informed an hour later that we were now shut down. Apparently there’s an Environment Canada gnome who sits on high and makes the call of Blizzard or Non… and apparently he slept in on Friday. Gnome needs to get his act together!

As I struggled back home and was swept in through the door by the winds, I was greeted by my host and her friend having coffee. “Pshh” they scoffed. “This isn’t even a real blizzard. You can still see the car in the driveway.”
…I’d love to know what Toronto would think of this system.

Josh’s visit fortuitously fell on a Flea Market weekend, where the whole hamlet gathers at the arena to hawk traditional felted banners, sealskin gloves, hand-sewn parkas, and spring rolls from the Filipino family in town. We continued our shopping expedition by combing through every inch of the tiny but packed craft store Ivalu, stocked by artisans throughout Nunavut.

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We then holed up at The Matchbox Gallery for a few hours, hearing the fascinating history of the ceramics studio from the artist-teacher gallery owner Susan Shirley. After the original nickel mine closed in the 1960s, Matchbox was first opened as a government-run program to train ex-miners in a new craft: sculpting and ceramics. When government funding ran out, Jim and Sue Shirley took over the gallery and continued coordinating art classes and studio space for local artists, “preserv[ing] the reputation of Rankin as the only community producing Inuit fine-arts ceramics in the world.” You can find Rankin work at the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and throughout Europe and the USA.



Sunday however, was my favourite day, when we finally did what I’ve been wanting to do since I first arrived: Venture out of town and onto the land.

Perfect weather for an adventure!

Sea ice waves still struggling to surge in the tide of Hudson Bay

Dabbing at Char River … inevitable when one of your hosts is 9 years old

Photos could not begin to capture the ethereal beauty of this deep port bay

Classic Canadian method of warming up frozen toes and fingers

This time, it was only a weekend. But we will continue to seek out those beautiful and wild places we may one day call home together!

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For anyone who read to the end of this most momentous post, congratulations!!! Thank you for sharing in saratreetravel’s ONE HUNDREDTH POST!!! The first person to post a comment containing a limerick or haiku about their favourite travel adventure will be contacted personally by saratree and receive a Northern prize (that may or may not be fermented walrus, depending on the rest of Calm Air’s passengers feel about that… but I have a feeling they’d be down).

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No!…Sleep!…til Churchill!

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…was our chant as we boarded the train at 11:30 pm on a Friday night.

The night train to Churchill is a rite of passage for Gillamites, kind of like going shopping in Fargo for Winnipeggers, only ten thousand times awesomer. So even if polar bear season is long over, it’s something you have to do.

It works like this: you get on the train at approximately 11pm in Gillam, arrive in Churchill at 8 am, ‘do’ Churchill hard as long as your blown mind and frozen fingers can take, warm up with a gargantuan meal from Gypsy’s bakery, check out the plethora of shops and museums along the main drag, enjoy another gargantuan meal from Gypsy’s bakery, then wait in satisfied bliss for the train to take you away at 7:30 pm, arriving back in Gillam at 4:30 am on Sunday.

Reid and I started making this plan over a week ago, along with our friends Sitara and Katherine. It wasn’t until two days before leaving, however, that Julie, our CT, asked if we wanted a ‘contact’ in Churchill.

“Okay,” I said, remembering some of the amazing people Sara and I met in Argentina as a result of our incredibly random connections.

“His name is Mark Inglebritzen (sp?)” she said, and proceeded to give me his phone number.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s great. He’s my bail-out guy.”

“Your…bail-out guy?”

“Yeah. Y’know, whenever I’m in trouble in Churchill, like if I have twenty students in the train station and it’s -60 outside, he’ll show up with a school bus and bail me out.”

Not a situation I’ve ever found myself in, but it sounded like it was worth a phone call.

Two hours before catching the train, I found the number on a post-it note. I called, hoping he could maybe give me a different number for the car rental company, since I’d been having trouble getting ahold of them. A gruff-but-kind voice answered. A 30-second conversation ensued, ending with him saying, “We’ve got a tour for tomorrow! See you at the train station at 8:30…don’t bother describing yourself, I’ll recognize you.”

Neat!

And so, after watching the sun rise over the frozen muskeg and ever-shrinking evergreen trees (Churchill is 5 miles north of the tree line), we arrived at the end of the ViaRail line. I felt the familiar ‘blind date’ butterflies as I wondered what this Inglebritzen fellow would be like, and we stepped off the train and onto the tundra.

Turns out Mr. Inglebritzen is a super swell guy with a lifetime’s worth of experiences in Churchill. He has an incredible knowledge of history and a deep respect for the nature and original inhabitants of the area.
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Also, when asked about how he knew Julie (since she had never actually given me a straight answer) he responded, “Oh, her family owned the grocery store in Lynn Lake for years.” As they say, Northern Manitoba is a very small town.

…and to top it all off, he has (as promised) a small school bus.
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We set out down a completely snowed-over road that runs alongside Hudson Bay, where several shacks sat uninhabited, but still awfully handy for ice-fishers in need of shelter.
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(I enjoy that they had to clarify that the last resident was a ‘naturalist’. I assume that doesn’t mean ‘nudist’, as it does in some parts of the world.)

One of those breathtaking scenes that can never quite be captured in pixels: Hudson Bay, under 8 feet of ice.
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This picture was taken for Grandpa Abe, who has long espoused the benefits of boiling lichen to make soup in a pinch. The various shades of red show different types of lichen growing on the same rock, which is really rare (apparently…I’m no expert 🙂 )
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A surprisingly fearless fox who came right up to the side of the road to investigate us.
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Sunrise over the Port of Churchill
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And how could I forget: in true traveller fashion, we befriended a rather lost Québécois fellow who was about to start a stint with Hydro in Gillam but was first continuing on to Churchill with no plans nor people that he knew (and not a ton of English either!). Gaetan fit right in with out crew, and here he is getting up from a nap on the train tracks.
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A progress report on this goal might be more comforting…
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Well, Mr. Inglebritzen said it was okay
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My travelling companions are an eclectic bunch: Reid, farm boy from Roblin, Katherine, born and raised Gillamite, Sitara, moved from Bangladesh to Toronto to Gillam, and myself, the only native Winnipegger I’ve yet met.
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By this point, the fact that we had neither eaten nor slept for over 15 hours was beginning to catch up with us, so we took a brief intermission at the legendary Gypsy’s Bakery…