Sunday, July 3, 2016

Return to the Tundra

After a long road trip and almost as long a journey by rail, we arrived in Churchill about 9:00 Saturday morning. Parker picked us up and ferried the six of us over to the Tundra Inn.

Once we were settled, we made our way over to his cabin on the flats by the Churchill River, where we enjoyed a rare hot day and did as little as possible. We got a few games of Timeline in, but for the most part we were content to sit and chat, watching belugas in the distance. Or inspecting the ice floes deposited on the flats by the departing tide.

Oh, and dodging 'bulldogs', the inch-and-a-half-long horseflies of northern Manitoba which can tear off a nickle-sized patch of flesh without warning, or deliver a painful bite right through your clothing.

The girls took out the canoe a couple of times, but Kara-Lynn and Glory joined Belinda and her Mum Val on a larger excursion right into the midst of a beluga pod.

The next day, they arranged for us to take a buggy tour with a nice couple from Selkirk. No one has seen a polar bear in these parts so far this year, but held out hope regardless. Someone would spot the first bear of the season, probably in the next week or so; why not us?

Alas, it was not to be, but the trip was hardly wasted. Our driver, Jim, has been at this for ten years now and is a committed naturalist with a great sense of humour. He helped us to spot three caribou, a trio of sand hill cranes, a nesting Arctic tern, a pair of bald eagles, and innumerable swans, geese, gulls and ducks. (Glory got the best shots, unsurprisingly, but we will probably have to wait until returning home before posting them.)

Even the ride itself was a bit of an adventure, fording lakes and streams, and clambering over immense rocks.

Even bereft of wildlife, the tundra can be a strangely beautiful place, haunting and stark in some places, but with a closer look at a patch of scrub revealing intriguing and colourful wildflowers huddled close to the ground. Betty asked to stop numerous times in order to photograph the flora, which I think impressed Jim.

"With so many people it's just 'bear, bear, bear', and there is so much more out here to see. It's just sad that so many people simply don't get it." he craned his neck around to take everything in, then looked at us and grinned, saying, "I love my job."

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