I’m just not a morning person. It’s only under unusual circumstances such as this, that I can pull myself together and get to the right place on time. The alarm sounded at 5:30 am and I hit the shower, which I must say had incredible pressure for a building constructed in 1912 for the Grand Truck Railway. The city’s train station used to be right across the road…but I digress.
The throng is congregating in the Lobby but the details of frenzied air travel are put aside. There is no great attention to weight restrictions, no surcharges, no arriving early. We will be on a charter from Ottawa to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. I wave goodbye to my luggage in the hotel and miraculously, with no lugging required, it will appear in my cabin in the Orlova. I am left with rain gear, another layer and a ton of camera equipment.
After watching Senator Bill Rompkey from Labrador, sling my bag under the bus….all Adventure Canada staff have multiple roles and while not being a resource person, the good senator attends to other tasks…I climb aboard the coach. I must admit, it was a bit weird to see him, while on holiday, taking on this role. “Senators” either play hockey in this country or they sit as part of a chamber of sober second thought that, despite its notoriety on occasion, supports our democratic system.
The short drive to the airport is uneventful and we pull onto the runway and disembark the bus for our 2.5 hour flight on First Air. I hunker down with my complimentary Globe and Mail and enjoy the fact the flight is not full. A mechanic, wearing a tool belt that suggests he means business, enters and in short order retreats. I’m not sure what that was about but at least the delay was minimal and we were soon airborne from Avatar, the private terminal, at the MacDonald-Cartier Airport.
I browse the paper that is filled with reports of the hideous murders at a high school in Finland, the possibility that Lucy Maude Montgomery committed suicide and criticisms of the US bail out of the NY Stock Exchange. It is not hard to leave this stuff behind as I turn my mind to issues I can deal with….like… “Where is breakfast?”
It arrives as kind of a brunch. My own personal buffet includes steak and eggs, fried potatoes and sausage, fruit, yogurt, lox, rye bread and cream cheese. Air Canada, eat your heart out. First Air wins!
The flight passes quickly at 31,000 feet. We are told we can anticipate a temperature of zero degrees centigrade, a light breeze and snow on the ground upon arrival. Shortly after 11 am we start our descent into Iqaluit. The distinctive yellow airport calls us home.
With no luggage to manhandle, there is time for a short buzz around town before we board the ship. A yellow school bus halls us to the top of a hill where we get a good view of the town of 7000. We pass a street signed “The road to no where”. Interesting!
The air is fresh. It’s sunny, cool and clear, a great day to meet the north. The terrain, even around town, is rugged and unforgiving. The surrounding hills are lightly snow covered, a forewarning of the month’s ahead. It is only September!
There is time to visit the Legislature before lunch. The assembly is decorated with gifts from the provinces given in celebration of the birth of Nunavut in 1999. It is Canada’s third Territory. The seats, as in Newfoundland’s Assembly in St John’s, are sealskin. This acknowledges the cultural importance of this animal to the people of the north.
Lunch has been prepared for us in at the church. Delicacies include caribou stew and beluga. Following a welcome by local dignitaries, I head for the grocery store that has an impressive collection of northern books and flour that costs $29.95 for a ten pound bag.
With a half hour to spend before the zodiacs will be ready to take us to the Orlova, I walk the beach past an old Hudson’s Bay Company shed that is plastered with political posters for the local Liberal candidate. It strikes me as an interesting juxtaposition of the old as the context for the new way of life of the north.
I roll into a zodiac in the prescribed fashion as it is bow to the beach. Swinging my legs over the side I get my balance and make my way back towards the stern. The bay is calm and the wind feels good as we head across the bay. I spot my friend Janis on the top deck of the ship waving like fury. We are to be cabin mates for the trip down the coast.
There is just time to stow my gear and do a once around of the ship before the anchor is hauled and we are underway out of Frobisher Bay. The dusted hills and cool breeze speaks to more layers tomorrow!
After a glass of wine, and with a fiddle tune running in my head thanks to Daniel Payne, I listen to an overview by the staff about how the journey may unfold, follow the crowd into dinner and shortly thereafter head for bed.
Wow – I am in the Canadian North again!