This is a long post so grab a snack! Day 7 is here if you need a catch-up.
Day 8 is the day we go to Inuvik! The plan was stay one night in Inuvik after Herschal Island, fly back to Dawson City and hit the road to Whitehorse, stay the night there, pick up the trailer first thing and then hit the road back home.
The airport parking lot in Dawson City is across the road from the airport. We were initially a little concerned about leaving our truck parked in such an open area full of most of our stuff, but we were assured by airport folks that it was perfectly safe.
The Dawson City airport is a very small airport, but has daily flights to Inuvik and Whitehorse. There is no security here so we checked in and had a seat. The airport is basically a counter and a small waiting room. I was looking around to see who all would be on the flight with us and there were only 2 other guys waiting. I noticed that one of the girls who was sitting at the counter when we checked in started walking into the bathrooms and yelling “Inuvik, flight for Inuvik is ready.” I notice the two other guys waiting had stood up and were following this girl. I had just enough time to tell husband, “looks like we’re boarding.” I grab my day pack and follow the small crowd.
We were quickly out the door which closed behind me. I look behind me and don’t see husband. I walk all the way to the plane, constantly looking behind me and still no husband. I decide I need to take matters into my own hands and walk all the way back to the airport building. I get back to the “airport” where there is a side door and I see the other check-in counter girl. I talk to her through the door and say, “my husband appears to have not heard that we’re departing.” She just glances at me and doesn’t acknowledge that she understands the need for him to get on this plane. I can see husband through this back door just standing in the airport looking lost so I yell through the back door, “Jay!! Lets go!!” Well, that gets everyone’s attention. He finally gets ushered out by the first girl and I’m politely told that she had things under control and I should’ve stayed at the plane. Good thing this was a small airport or I might have been in a bit more trouble.
Now that we’re on the plane and I have husband with me I can relax a bit. I notice that one half of the plane has these weird seat covers. Then I realize the seat covers or holding cargo. This flight stops in Old Crow first and then to Inuvik. Old Crow is a fly in only community so all their supplies come by plane, but this morning appears to be the day that there is an extra large load of cargo. Turns out unloading all this cargo takes a long time.
Old Crow is one of the last fly in communities in the Yukon. It was cool to see locals driving up to the airport on their quads. The smoke from all the fires was pretty bad this day so the view on the flight wasn’t so great. Here’s something neat about this community. One of the priests, Father Mouchet, who lived there way back when, loved cross country skiing so much that he made some trails and set them every winter and made everyone ski. Turns out one of the residents, Martha Benjamin, was pretty good at it and was a champion level skier in the ’50’s and early ‘60s. She almost made it to the Olympics, but apparently the Olympic committee decided not to support any Canadians so she never went.
We re-board 40 minutes behind schedule. Once at Inuvik, I rush to the bathroom (as I figure the twin otter isn’t going to have one) and hear our names being paged in the airport. Judi was there waiting for us. We load up in her giant van with 6 others – 3 Americans, 1 German, 1 Canadian (plus us) and one of Judi’s “volunteer” workers (she sounded French). One thing that stood out was that one of the American’s was eating an egg salad sandwich. All I could think of was, I hope you fly well as that is going to be nasty if you don’t.
We wait in the hangar for about 40 minutes for our pilot to finally give word that the weather looks good and we can go. That was a relief as I didn’t want to be the one holding up this flight. We load up and we’re off. Everyone is pretty stoked at this point as you never know if you are going to get clearance to go.
We’re all given ear plugs and find a window seat (every seat is a window seat). Thankfully the lady in front of me (a teacher from Ontario) gave me a heads up to watch for beluga whales on the way. Our tour guide Judi didn’t offer any information as to what we’d see along the way.
About 30 minutes into the flight we see the odd beluga whale in the Mackenzie Delta. That sounds so cool, “Mackenzie Delta.” Husband is sitting behind me so I occasionally look back and give a thumbs up. We’re both glued to the window.
After close to an hour and 6 beluga whale sightings later, we get so close to Herschel Island we can practically see it. Now, here’s the thing about Herschel Island, it is an island in the arctic subject to sudden weather changes with a very short and rough air strip. Our pilot gets on the speakers and announces that the island is now fogged in and we can’t land. I can’t begin to express my disappointment, but I also have to accept that pilots know best and I don’t want to end up in a fiery plane crash on an incredibly remote island in the arctic. I also try not to dwell on the fact that I don’t get a refund if we don’t land. The pilot offers us the “scenic” route back to Inuvik. It was pretty cool.
Shortly after the twin otter is heading back to Inuvik, I notice that the Arctic Chalet volunteer worker has her eyes closed. I think to myself, who would close their eyes and miss out on this view? A person vomiting their guts out, that’s who. Apparently husband and the German fellow behind me were handing her extra vomit bags.
The view was pretty cool and I saw so many belugas I lost track of how many I saw. I saw mama belugas and baby belugas and pods of belugas. It was cool. We were on the look-out for musk-ox, but saw none. That would’ve been very cool.
We get back to Inuvik and everyone is trying to be cheerful, but we’re all mostly pissed off, but what can you do. While Judi was driving us all back from the airport to her place, I’m listening to a conversation with the American’s about one of them running with some of Judi’s dogs. She does dog sled tours in the winter and has a pile of white Alaskan malamute dogs. We get to the chalet and check in and also pay for the twin otter flight, that charge stung a bit. I ask Judi how far it is to town as we have stuff to see and we’d like to have dinner at Alestine’s. Judi says she can drive us there in about 20 minutes as it’s about 3km from her place. She also says Alestine’s fills up pretty fast as it’s small. I ask if I could perhaps run with some of her dogs as they have a little trail they’ve built up behind their place. You see, everything is very wet in Inuvik so it’s not very easy to get around in the summer months. She says feel free to ask the girls that look after the dogs and they’ll set me up (recall vomiting French girl). I decide I’ll do this in the morning. We quickly drop our stuff off at our cabin, which was really nice and get ready to head to town!
Judi drops us at Alestine’s and we were lucky as we get 2 of four remaining seats. Alestine’s place is cool. She does the cooking in a modified school bus and the restaurant is in a little detached building that holds about 12 people total. She specializes in the “catch of the day”. Today’s catch was some kind of whitefish. I opted for the fish tacos. They were very very good. Now if you’re familiar with First Nations, you will know about bannock. I am a bannock fan, especially fried bannock (who wouldn’t like deep fried bread). Alestine had her version of fried bread for dessert and I had to have some. She typically dressed it up with dream whip and sprinkles, but I asked for just the fried bread with some sugar on the side. It was so good.
We then ventured into town and hit the local grocery store just to get a sense of how expensive everything was in this place. Things were terribly expensive. We bought a small instant coffee, like micro small, and it cost over $5. There wasn’t a huge selection of things and bananas were not the greenish yellow I like, they were nearly all brown. I recall a bag of chips cost $8. Considering the distance groceries have to be trucked in I can see why they were so expensive. We then found the round church and got our bearings for the Art Festival happening in town. We’d do that before our afternoon flight tomorrow. I also saw on Facebook there was an Arctic Market happening tomorrow.
We caught a cab back to the Arctic Chalet and I made Jay walk the trail with me located behind the main lodge. It was about 1km one way. I’ve never ever ever experienced mosquitoes like I experienced on that trail. I will never forget that. Jay doesn’t “walk” with me ever and I doubt he ever will again. The one time he agrees, he gets completely attacked by mosquitoes.
After our pleasant speed-walk back to the cabin we settled in for the night. Of course we had to chase around and kill a few rogue mosquitoes that got in with us. I then laid out tomorrow’s plan with husband: get to the recreation centre to see the art show, hit the arctic market, get to the airport. Easy peasy.