Deeper Into the Tundra: Hello Nunavut!

Nunavut.  NUNAVUT.

How lucky are we?

Finding (and funding) our way to Nunavut was the struggle that underscored most of our trip—we needed to find a way in order to officially finish.  It was during our time at the Thinkers' Lodge that the details and funding fell into place for us to get to Nunavut, which is not surprising because we’re convinced that place is magical.  Nunavut, our thirteenth and final provincial/territorial boundary to cross, and we conquered it!  Please take a moment and join us in a celebratory fist pump.

Not terribly sure exactly when Manitoba ended and Nunavut began, our eyes were glued to the window as Calm Air flew us over some of the most spectacular ‘seen-from-the-plane’ landscapes I’ve ever seen. 

It was a dramatic mosaic of purpley-blue water and white sea ice breaking away from the shore. 

Eventually,  we could see Rankin Inlet in the distance, and as we came closer, colourful homes appeared.

Getting of the plane was a shock.  There aren’t any significant hills surrounding Rankin Inlet, and Nunavut is known for its icy, skin-and-parka-piercing wind.  Our walk from the plane was the first of many eyelash-frosting hurried trips outside.  Only our faces were exposed, but it was enough to make us run, heads down, anywhere we went.  Lindsay’s glasses froze painfully to her face, forcing her to take them off, and placing her at the mercy of my sighted leadership.

There is something deeply beautiful about this type of cold.  The wind is strong, but the sun shines bright.  Somehow, the landscape and the structures that dot it come into sharper focus; the colours seem bolder and the lines crisper.  

Nunavut, similar to Churchill, is another one of those places most Canadians don’t get to experience; prior to visiting, I knew only a handful of people who’d been.  The territory is comprised of 26 communities spread across approximately 1/5 of Canada’s entire land mass, and each of these communities are accessible only by boat or plane.  My southern brain still cannot fathom roads that end just outside of town.  They just end.

The food culture in Nunavut is also very interesting.  Grocery store prices are high, and hunting and fishing are still a huge part of life, making for an interesting mix of the northern and southern food worlds. Combinations emerge such as submarine sandwiches with fermented whale blubber.

For several days, our lovely host Sarah Arnold, who works for the Department of Environment, toured us around Rankin Inlet.  We chatted with retired schoolteachers, hunters, chefs, caterers, healing centre cooks, and many government workers, while eating foods we’d never even conceived of and learning many things about the traditional Inuit way of life. 

'Ulu' - An Inuit all-purpose knife

We even attended a beer dance, and experienced some local Nunavut music from the Jerry Cans, a widely loved band from Iqaluit.

It was a fascinating time of discovery, and full of experiences I never imagined I’d get - including almost getting run over by a dog sled team!

Stay tuned for some of the most fascinating discoveries of our trip.