Whenever you mention you work in travel the immediate response is “I bet you get to go on lots of cheap beach holidays.”
So while the UK had a mini heatwave, I decided to head north to a “beach hotel” on Hudson Bay in the small Inuit community of Arviat. Not your average beach stay, wearing 3 layers of thermals plus a Canadian goose down jacket and salopettes, but definitely my kind of holiday.
In Arviat we were given a warm welcome by the locals who were keen to show us their traditional way of life. The Arviat Qaggiqtiiq, meaning ‘the people who come together to celebrate’ in Inuktitut, entertained us with stories, traditional throat singing, drum dancing along with various Inuit games one of which involved competitive face pulling! They are proud of their heritage and want to keep these traditions alive. After a sumptuous meal there was an “open mike session” where the elders challenged the younger generations in throat singing and drum dancing along with traditional songs and more contemporary music in Inuktitut – a true “Inuit got talent” not for tourists but purely for their own enjoyment.
Arviat was just the beginning of the journey deep in the Arctic tundra, travelling across this desolate but indescribably beautiful landscape in a kumatik (traditional Inuit sledge) pulled by a skiddo. We were in search of the great Caribou migration, which was sadly a little delayed due to an earlier cold snap. We were however rewarded with close encounters with the Arctic fox, in his smart white coat and large flocks of Ptarmigan. During the short night the eerie Northern Lights danced across the skies, flickering green hues against the inky darkness.
From our base camp we headed to the tree line, the realm of grizzly bears, Wolves, Wolverine and Musk Ox. We also had the chance to try our hand at ice fishing. After clearing 60cm of snow to reach the ice, we drilled through for a further 30cm to reach the water; fishing is for those who are patient, not an attribute I claim to have but the views over the frozen lake kept me entranced.
I never feel more alive than when I am surrounded by absolute wilderness, bathed in the low polar sunlight, watching my breath crystallise in the cold crisp air.
Just in case you are wondering for my “summer break” I am heading north again, but this time to the Russian Arctic and the polar bear maternity ward that is Wrangel Island…