Location: Ottawa-Iqaluit-Hall Beach-Resolute Bay
Temperature: min minus 25°C- max plus 4°C
Distance Travelled: 3,393 kms
The day started really early at 0430 as we tried to repack the 23kg bags, with an extra 9kgs of food and supplies making them up to our new baggage allowance of 32kg. Considering the amount of trouble we had forcing 23kg into our bags, this was akin to pouring a gallon into a pint glass. We needed a degree in quantum physics to make it happen so the practical solution was to wear every bit of heavy or bulky clothing. However, by the time we had got to the lobby, we were already suffering from dehydration as we sweated under clothes designed for minus 50 Celsius but worn in plus 20!
Canada is a wonderful country, and the people here are famous as some of the politest and friendliest I have ever met in the 50 plus countries I have visited. They are also famous for their bacon, which has resulted in numerous food disasters. Before leaving for the airport we all visited a diner to get some breakfast, and despite ordering eggs and toast, I was given bacon free of charge. It was very kind of them, but wasted on me, as was the food. I wasn’t too hungry, so I waited for the food on the aircraft. When given the option of food, I asked specifically if there was any pork products in the meal and told there wasn’t. And of course, there was. So I have already started losing weight, which can only be a good thing if you saw my waist!
It is a feature of middle aged men to still think of themselves how they were as young men. There could be no greater clue that I was now in that category when I decided to weigh myself at the airport on the luggage scales. Ever since I was 18 I have been around 65 kg. At 28, when I started to play rugby regularly, I put on a bit of muscle and was a very fit 70 kg. But at the airport, I weighed in at a hernia inducing 80 kg. Fortunately, we were able to submit a defect report to the airline, saying that their airport scales were faulty.
We flew to Iqaluit the capital of the Canadian territory Nunavut. There were several things that surprised me. Firstly the temperature. I knew it would be cold, but that first breath outside the aircraft was like biting into too many strong mints. My sinuses opened, my eyes watered and my throat protested. I think the step from a t-shirt environment on the aircraft into air 40 degrees colder caused that reaction as we soon got used to it, though getting used to it also involved the hairs in our noses freezing and becoming hard like tiny needles.
The second surprise was that the Inuit or Eskimos looked Chinese. It was very bizarre to see what looked like Japanese or Filipino walking around the arctic, and their native script looks like a cross between Ethiopian and Hindi. As it turns out, the Eskimos migrated across the ancient land bridge from Mongolia hence the genetic similarity.
The final surprise, although I should say, the final surprise at that time, as I am sure there will be lots more, was that the airport looked like it had been transported from Moon Base 1999. It was a futuristic building painted a bright yellow, the like I have only seen in Science fiction movies.
Our next flight was supposed to take us via Nansivit, but weather in this region dictates everything. When the weather is really bad no flights or transport can reach the settlements, and when the towns are isolated from the rest of the country, the price of everything can shoot up. Even a can of a coke can shoot up to 5 riyals. We were diverted to Hall Beach, which was rather ironic as we saw nothing resembling a beach…just miles of snow. There were blizzards at Nansivit, so we proceeded to Resolute Bay, and our final stop.
Resolute Bay is named after HMS Resolute which was anchored here while investigating the fate of an explorer searching for the North West Passage. It became trapped by ice and eventually was abandoned. Nearly 2 years later it was recovered by the US Navy. The Royal Navy waived their claim to the ship, so the American, who in an extraordinary gesture of goodwill paid for the whole ship to be restored and then given as a gift to Queen Victoria. When the ship was broken up, Queen Victoria had an oak desk made out of the timbers, and this desk is still used until this day in the Oval office.
Our hotel is a very basic hostel but the price is astronomical at OMR 100 a night. It certainly seems overpriced, but if you were stuck outside with nowhere to go, I dare say most people would pay twice that for shelter.
And so I have reached the final outpost of civilisation, the most northerly town in the western hemisphere, and maybe the world!
Nabs is finally in the Arctic circle and getting ready for final training and preperations.