Flying out of Winnipeg early this morning with just three fellow passengers signaled the start of my adventure in Churchill, Manitoba. Churchill Airport is a surprisingly lavish affair, certainly considering the few people arriving and departing the terminal building. The ten-minute taxi ride into town sped along roads virtually clear of snow and completely free of polar bears.
- A typical street in Churchill
Thankfully the temperatures were still unseasonably high, clocking in at around -5°C plus a little wind-chill, so ambling around town was pleasant enough. With a population of just under 1,000, the town is easy to explore in a few hours including visits to the Eskimo Museum and the well-presented local history museum located in the old rail station building. I must confess to being quite scared of bumping into a polar bear. Warnings are posted everywhere and there’s a polar bear watch throughout the town 24 hours a day. Walking back from the restaurant, several blocks, just a moment ago was particularly scary when a fox leapt across the street a few feet in front of me. I suddenly had a feeling that next up might be a polar bear roaming about, so I quickened my pace, especially as the wind chill had dropped the temperature to -19°C.
Looking out towards Hudson Bay
Tomorrow is an early start for my Tundra Buggy tour. That’s when I want to see the polar bears!
>> See my set of Churchill photos on Flickr
I’ve always been fascinated by “comfortable extremes.” I’ll happily trek a challenging mountain route but, come evening, I’ll opt for a homey inn or warm bed and breakfast. I love snowboarding in the Laurentians, begrudgingly bearing the lows of -20ºC in exchange for the speed thrill, provided there’s promise of a hot chocolate and toasty log fire.
Churchill, Manitoba, has been on my bucket list since arriving in North America seven years ago. That 800 people live year-round more than 1,000 miles north of Winnipeg is incredible. That polar bears surround the town waiting for the vast Hudson Bay to freeze over in November should provide opportunity to see them up close in their natural habitat aboard a Tundra Buggy.
Unlike my vacations to date, there is no “on the cheap” option to see Churchill. While I wasn’t about to shell out several thousand dollars on a fully-escorted tour, I did want to include a trip out on the tundra.
Knowing that the long-distance ViaRail train – which rattles its way north from Winnipeg over 36 hours – is often extremely late arriving in Churchill; I’ve opted to fly one-way into Churchill Airport at the extortionate cost of CAD $560 to ensure that I wouldn’t miss a day up north. This will be one of two necessary splurges. The other is shelling out almost CAD $400 for a full-day Tundra Buggy tour.
I’ve arranged two nights bed and breakfast accommodation at Bluesky Bed & Sled in Churchill at CAD $114 a night. And I’ve booked the train back from Churchill to Winnipeg with a private cabin at $410 (thanks to ViaRail’s handy online discount coupons). With the nights drawing in at this time of year, I’ve no idea what to expect from the long journey except that the train is often up to 20 hours late; that it lurches and bumps its way along ill-repaired track; and that it is occasionally canceled altogether. The experience will be fabulous, exciting and a little adventurous for sure!
So that’s the advance logistics taken care of, along with a stock of thermal clothing and jacket which is apparently good to -40ºC. Given that the wind-chill should be biting, I’ll need those several layers for the relatively brief moments I’ll be outside exploring the small downtown area and hopefully gawping at bears from the Tundra Buggy deck! I guess I’ll find out when I arrive in Churchill on November 16th whether I have enough warm layers. And what life is like in this small frontier town located just below the Auroral Oval. I’m really looking forward to this one…
[Originally posted on http://blog.visitwales.co.uk on September 17, 2010] Presteigne, Offa’s Dyke, Llandrindod Wells, Elan Valley, Montgomery…
After spending two nights in Mid Wales, straddling the border with England, this has become one of my favorite areas of Britain. It’s certainly easily accessible by car from London, Manchester and Birmingham airports – all with direct routes from the United States.
Snag two nights at Milebrook House hotel
. The location is exceptional, surrounded by farmland and its own beautifully manicured gardens. In the restaurant, if the ingredients aren’t from the chef’s kitchen garden, then they’re from local farms.
A world away from my usual New York soundtrack, I awake here to the bleating of sheep and birdsong. The hotel’s location is perfect for exploring the surrounding historic market towns, stately homes and stunning scenery… Continue reading