At first glance, the frozen little Canadian town of Churchill doesn’t suggest much in the way of terrific vacation spot.
Located in northern Manitoba, Churchill is a small town at the southwestern crook of the Hudson Bay. No road goes there, only a single rail line and a handful of flights per day during the “tourist” season. It’s bitterly cold during the winter months, while summertime finds it uncomfortably infested with mosquitos. Words like “desolate”, “flat” and “remote” could equally be applied to its existence. Shopping -- more accurately called "outfitting" -- is limited but fun. It's a standard issue, run of the mill, northern Canadian village which annually hunkers down against the cold
Summer finds the town similarly visited by another natural inhabitant of the region. The town’s location right along the mouth of the appropriately-named Churchill River as it dumps into the bay also attracts a different kind of visitor, the northern Beluga Whale. Hundreds of them gather each year to bask in the relatively warm waters of the river as it flows into the bay, creating a true natural spectacle and a helluva reason to visit this town even when the bears are away.
|The Tundra Buggy Lodge|
We braved the elements -- and more than a few hours in transit -- to spend two nights out on the frozen tundra in Northern Adventures’ Tundra Buggy Lodge, a series of giant trailers dragged out onto the shoreline of the bay twenty or so miles from Churchill. Our trip was in late October, so the bay itself was not quite frozen over, and the lodge was positioned only halfway down the coast. Later in the year it is pulled an additional fifty miles out, and is surrounded by the ice, snow and hungry bears. It’s difficult to imagine a more remote spot, or a more gratifying adventure.
|The Sleeping Car. Privacy Not Allowed.|
The Lodge itself is reasonably comfortable. The buggy arrived and backed right up to the lodge’s “back door”. The rear two trailers are double decker sleeping compartments with a narrow aisle down the middle. Bathrooms in the center -- and these are essentially RV-type washrooms, with a slightly larger version which includes the shower. Each bed is a long double, and you’re protected from the aisle only by a thick curtain -- don’t assume you’re going to have any intimate moments with your travel partner. The lodge isn’t built for privacy (or even modesty. Thankfully a good number of your travel associates are European, and seem to take everything in stride... though streaking would be frowned upon, I’m sure).
Between the sleeping cars and the dining trailer is the open-room “Social” car. This is where slide shows are conducted, meetings to discuss the next day’s itinerary, and receptions. In the early mornings this is where you’ll find the all-essential coffee station.
The dining car is cramped, and echoes a low-rent diner in many ways, but the food is surprisingly good and the employees go out of their way to ensure you’re having fun and being well taken care of.
Our first morning began perfectly, as a sizable bear came up to investigate the smells of breakfast at roughly the same time we were loading onto the Tundra Buggy for the days’ excursion. Immensely curious about us, it wandered around the side of the buggy and lodge (both eight feet above ground level to ensure the bears cannot simply reach in for an appetizer or tourist when ever they feel like it).
|A Tundra Buggy, ready for action|
|An Arctic Fox cavorts around the Buggy|
|Up close and personal|
|Sunrise over the ice|
For more information, contact Frontiers North at http://www.frontiersnorth.com/
|A run with the dogs at Blue Sky|