Churchill - Home of the Polar Bears part 2

Trip Start Sep 25, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Blue Sky Bed and Sled

Flag of Canada  , Manitoba,
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So we got up at 6.30am for breakfast before the bus came to pick us up to take us to the Tundra Buggy. Susan and I and another couple from the B+B, Ceclia and Mike. Had some of Granma's (the mother of Jenafor, the lady who owns the hotel) wholewheat pancakes with cowberry syrup and sausages to prepare us for the long day ahead in the Buggy and then piled into the bus for the half an hour journey out onto the edge of the Tundra.

Met up with Martyn in the bus so we were all on the Buggy together. We had been warned that there had been a late thaw, so the bears came in off the ice later in Spring so there was a chance that we might not see any. We had met up with James the night before who had already been out on a buggy and seen four bears so we had our hopes up. Within 15 minutes of being out on the Tundra we had seen our first bear. A bit far away but definately there - a real live, out in the wild polar bear. I couldn's stop grinning it was just so amazing. And then they just kept coming - by the end of the day we had had 16 sightings. I think that they were different bears but we might have rounded round on a couple twice. When we stopped for lunch one walked right in front of the Tundra Buggy - spectacular. As well as the bears we also saw a bunch of ptarmigans, which are like white partridges and a coupld of snowy owls as well.

We trooped back into town on a high and piled into Gypsy's Bakery for some local fare - I had roast caribou which was delicious - and a bottle of wine before retiring.

The next day Ceila, Mike and I watched Granma make bread and baked goodies for a while before heading off to get our passports stamped at the post office. They have a stamp with a polar bear on it and it makes a lovely souvenier. Also went to the little museum at the train station and watch an old BBC documentary narrated by David Attenborough about the intertwining lives of the humans and the polar bears in Churchill which was really interesting. There is a police force totally dedicated to keeping the bears out of the town. They drive around the town and if a bear is spotted coming over the river, they head out to encourage it away using cracker shells, which and just noise producers. If the bear comes back or becomes a nusiance, they will tranquillize it and take it to polar bear prison, where they keep the bears away from human interaction until the ice refreezes so that they can take them back out. They aren't fed as they made the mistake of doing that the first year and it just encouraged the bears into town, looking for a free meal at the prison.

In the afternoon I headed out to go on my dog sledding run. Gerald and Jenafor keep nineteen dogs out at their dog camp. They are all husky cross breeds and you can tell how well cared for they are just by their reaction Gerald and Jenafor when they walk into the camp. As there was no snow we were on a cart with wheels, but to be honest when you are being dragged around rugged countryside by eight very eager dogd, it really doesn't matter if you are on snow or ground. It was exhilarating - just great fun. We also got to do two miles instead of the usual one as the dogs were running fast that day. Brilliant stuff. We also got to feed some wild Grey Jays that flew in to take bits of food from our hands out on the porch. After the sledding we hung around in James's tent (Second James - James works for Gerald and Jenafor at the camp - sleeping out there in case the camp is attacked by wolves or bears, who sometimes see the dogs as snacks on leads. He hasn't had an encounter with any yet though) which is more of a small house with a canvas roof, with a couple of the dogs and chat to Gerald about Mushing over hot chocolate and bannock.

It was my last night and the others were staying on for a couple of days so we went back to Gypsys for some dinner (pickerel this time which is a fish found in the local area - bit like sea bass, very tasty) and some drinks, including some rather firey Portugese brandy. Lovely end to a fantastic trip.

Except the trip wasn't quite over - got back on the train and about an hour out of town we spotted the Northern Lights. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen. They were across the back of the train in a huge arch flickering grren and white. Moving all the time. The train engineer opened the tops of the doors between the carriages so that we could lean out and watch them. One of the most outstanding things that I have ever seen. Really was the icing on the cake of a brilliant trip.
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filthyjac on

That was the most interesting and exciting entry you've done yet Helen. I'm so jealous! Did you feel like Lyra?;) I knew about the polar bear prisons and think it's a really funny idea. Were you scared to be so near them?

I thought what you said about patience was very interesting.

helenbels on

Re: Wow!
Thank you :-) It was just amazing. The Buggies are really tall so it isn't scary being out on the Tundra. Is scary walking home from the cafe at night though! There was a bear in town one of the night that we were there but it was later on when we were all tucked up at the B+B.

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