|Kugluktuk from the air|
Referring back to last week and Nunavut, we did in fact get to go on our expedition 'out on the land' on Wednesday evening. The weather was cloudy with snow flurries from Sunday to Tuesday but on Wednesday the sun shone gloriously so my roommate was quick on the phone to Frank, our Inuk guide, about what time we should meet him. We hustled home from work, grabbed a quick supper and made our way down to the shore for 6 pm. Frank and his wife Margaret met us with the skidoo and qamatik complete with caribou rugs in the bottom for us to sit on. It was a 'mild' evening so not too uncomfortable for being towed - meaning very easy to get a wind/sunburn.
We made our way across the ice of the Coronation Gulf, past lots of cabins and up the frozen Rae river as we checked out the area where the locals hunt waterfowl. They call them 'ducks' but southern Canada knows them as geese, such as Canada and Ross geese. They had been out walking around on the snow covered ice during the sunny day drying their feathers apparently. The 'ducks' rose up in clouds as we made our way over the hills of the point. There were sandhill cranes returning (they are HUGE) as well as swans. We also were raced
by a ptarmigan. Lots of feathered fowl to view along the way and the hunters had been successful over the past few days. The tundra is starting to show as the snow melts and with the full days of sun it won't be long before the spring melt begins rapidly. We moved on to check out the cabin which Frank's daughter and husband are building overlooking the ocean - seen here on the right. That reclaimed lumber from the Northern Store reno works up pretty good eh? We made our way to Second Point where Frank and Margaret set up the double walled insulated tent they're going to camp in as they both have a week off. She from the Northern Store and he from Hackett
Lake (a mining camp he's been at for 26 yrs) where
he works 4 weeks in and two weeks out. The tent was set up quickly and the caribou hides stowed inside, then we enjoyed our snack of bannock and slices of Klic (haven't had that for years) and dried caribou meat. The tenting spot is sort of on the main trail where traffic moves further out on the land and another couple usually tents there with them. It's a good spot for caribou hunting, fishing and duck hunting. Frank told us the racks on the ground would be assembled and were for meat drying. When he gets a caribou, Margaret prepares and hangs the strips and they're dry in a couple of days. We had a chat with Frank about the politics of land claims and Nunavut self government as he's been involved for years. Time to head out on the sea ice to check out the seals. Clearly this was my
roommate's request (as she'd only seen seals in zoos) not that of a fisherman's wife who can look out her front window and see them daily. Because of the 24 hours of sunlight the seals bask on the ice at any hour of the day. But contrary to Roselyne's assumption - seals do not wait for you to drive up to them on the skidoo with a cart attached and a total of four humans to take their picture. This was a disappointment to her and Frank was clearly puzzled by this confusion and other examples of her city girl naiveté exhibited by statements such as "this is my first skidoo ride". We
noticed the fog settling in over the sea ice and made a quick run back to Kugluktuk past some pretty striking scenery such as the shot here below.
We were back at the shore about 10:30 pm and then Frank proposes that since he doesn't want to leave his sled with gas and other equipment on it at the shore that we should tow his qamatik home for him as he'll travel on the patches of snow still piled on the sides of the gravel streets. Roselyne protests there's no trailer hitch but Frank assures he that he can arrange something and I explain he'll tie it to the bumper. "Not the first time I've towed something" I calm her and we carefully deliver the sled to Frank's yard. Nice to get outside the community and see the land to really feel as if you've experienced the area.
|Cabin under construction|
|Tent with caribou hides|
|Roselyne, Frank & Margaret|
|Seal hole - see the air bubbles?|
|Pyramids? Nope sea ice|
|Frank and Margaret|
|Cliffs outside Kugluktuk|
Thursday passed in a blur as I was on call, holding STI clinic and trying to wrap up all the last minute program tasks. I did my best to do laundry, throw out perishables, gift food to my roommate, do laundry and pack, but I had a busy night on call with seizures, lacerations and angioedema requiring treatment. No that wasn't one patient that was three different calls which ensured I got less than four hours sleep. Since the clinic was going to be short for a week and my flight wasn't until 3:30 pm I agreed to work the morning (we really aren't required to on travel days but can choose). This turned in to a staff meeting with the Regional Manager, final wrap up of the program, hand over to the SHP and then a rush to finish up at the apartment. I dash back and pick up one of the front desk staff who drives the vehicle back from the airport.
|Yellowknife in the spring|
A brief wait and grateful that the plane doesn't fly over as it did Wednesday and we're boarding. An uneventful (except for excruciating sinus pain on landing) flight from Kugluktuk to Yellowknife and I thought I had misunderstood the pilot (or that he was joking - although that's not usually their habit) when he said "and the temperature in Yellowknife is 23 degrees c". But he wasn't joking - it was positively tropical. As I waited for my flight to Edmonton I strolled outside to see that not only was the ice almost gone, there were folks in t-shirts riding motorcycles in the warm air. The space seemed filled with trees and all sorts of vegetation. By the time we flew almost two hours south to Edmonton it was chilly at 8 c and raining. The flight had several Canadian North crew members dead heading back to Edmonton and you know you've been travelling north quite frequently when you recognize employees in civilian clothes.
Had a nice sleepover at the hotel with the electrician daughter and caught up on the news. She is doing well, contemplating investing in real estate for herself and the grandkitties are just fine. We were up early and off to do some shopping before the flight and I bought a great pair of dressy shoes. Paid more than I usually would but.....I'm making good money, will wear them on southern vacations and more importantly to the graduation this week plus a woman of my age who is semi-retired can pay whatever she likes for shoes and not think about it. Easier to say goodbye at airport security when you know you'll be saying hello in another week.
A rather straight forward flight from Edmonton to Toronto where I sat next to a computer tech whose wife works at Battlefords Union Hospital where the soon to be RN daughter is headed - another of those small world experiences. A brief stop with only time to grab something to eat at Pearson (I'm getting to know the various eating options there) and they're calling the flight. However, the announcement is a warning that landing in Halifax will be subject to weather as there is thick fog and the chance of landing is only fair. We will try to land but if unable will return to Toronto. Arrrgghh. I phone the shore captain to advise him of this turn of events as he's readying himself to head to the airport. We decide he'll call the city daughter and crash there if he has to wait for me to arrive the next day. One of the few times I wish I lived in the city. A successful but rather abrupt landing in Halifax and all my excitement about being met at the airport evaporated as I wandered looking for my ride, picked up my bag and finally sat exhausted and ticked off after half an hour of waiting. This is what happens when the person who will be late for his own funeral insists on being the one to big you up from the airport and leaves late, then encounters the fog I told him about on the call from Pearson. "It's not foggy here" he had said to which I replied "I'm not landing there, I'm landing hopefully in Halifax". So should I have been surprised? The three hour drive home was surprisingly clear and not surprisingly quiet.
A chance to greet the critters and crawl into bed, over tired and time zone change unsettled it took a while to get to sleep. Today was spent getting unpacked/repacked, visiting with the dog walker, checking up on the buddy who got herself admitted to hospital and studying for RNs with the nursing student daughter. We decide that I'd do okay if I had to write the CNRNE with her next month.
Tomorrow is errands and on Tuesday we're off to graduation!