Day Eight- Back to Civilization

Wednesday, October 30th

I was up early and the first one in the lounge. It was nice to catch up on my journal. Looking out, the wind is back with larger snowflakes, and…yes they are blowing sideways. As the journey begins, it comes to an end. There is technically one more day before we fly home. I am really sorry to be leaving. While I miss people at home, this has been such a wonderful place. After saying goodbye to Chubby, the bear who has taken over the area around the lodge, we left while it was still dark and headed to Churchill.

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This is Chubby, the bear that hung around the lodge. We all got a little emotional saying goodbye. He was lit up by the early morning Tundra Lodge lights. He’s clearly been in quite a few fights.

Delia, Marcus from Brazil, and I were going to take a helicopter ride this morning, so they dropped us off at the Polar Bear Jail, where another Nat Hab employee picked us up. The Polar Bear Jail is a place where they put bears that have come too close to town. It’s kept cold and bears are just given water. As quickly as they can, they airlift the bears out and away from town. If a female bear and cub/s are caught, they go out right away so that the bear won’t be too stressed around the male bears. No one is allowed in. I think they had eleven bears in there.

On our way to the helicopter company, we saw a red fox. He was a bit too far away  and moving too fast, but I happened to catch a few shots.

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We arrived at Hudson Bay Helicopters and were assigned to fly with Eric. As we climbed aboard the chopper, I got more and more excited. I was in the front seat with my camera in hand. Just as we started up into the sky, we set back down again. The wind had really picked up and the snow was swirling around. Two other helicopters had taken off just a minute before and couldn’t see each other. It was too dangerous to fly. I was disappointed, but really appreciated that the company’s focus was safety. So…no flight means more time and money for SHOPPING!!!

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We were settled in the helicopter, ready to take off, when the wind increased.

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Helicopters already up, landed quickly in the blizzard.

So, we met our group and hit a couple of the stores, including the Eskimo Museum. The museum has incredible Inuit carvings and art. There is a stuffed polar bear. As I stood next to the display case, it was clear how big he was. I would guess about four feet high at the top of his back. I would not want to be ground level with a polar bear. 

I wanted to go to the gallery, so I set off on my own in the snowstorm. We’d been given the Polar Bear Alert Rules prior to getting off the bus. If you see a bear, don’t run. Walk into the nearest business, house, car, etc. The residents of Churchill leave everything unlocked just in case someone needs protective shelter. The hood of my coat was so big, I kept pushing it back and looking in all directions just in case. It’s a little creepy, especially when it is hard to see. Then…I slipped and landed on my butt. Thank goodness there is extra padding. 🙂

We met for lunch in Churchill and then headed to the airport. If the helicopter trip got cancelled, could they possibly cancel the flight? I have to admit that my fingers were crossed. I wouldn’t have been disappointed to stay an additional day. But as one of the staff members said, “If we didn’t fly in this weather, we’d never be able to do business.” So off we flew.

The shower….hmmm….a long hot shower back at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg was magnificent. Then we met our group for the final cocktail hour. It was a great chance to connect once more before we all went back to our busy lives. I hope to stay in touch with a number of very special people. As I went through the list in my journal, I was happy to see that I had a chance to sit down and get to know almost everyone. There are just a couple people I missed out of thirty+.

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Photo courtesy of Sylvio Michel, our friend from Australia. Thanks Sylvio!

Thank you all for sharing this incredible journey with me. All of our laughs, conversations and memories will stay with me for a very long time. I am a very lucky person.

 

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