Inuvik, like all the communities of the north, is a phenomenon of fortitude. To live here, you have to expect extremes in everything. The weather can be brutally cold and is constantly changing, in the summer months the sun never sets and in the dead of winter it never rises, the bugs are unbearably persistent, the cost of goods are tremendous and services are hard to come by. All in all, this is a rugged place and the people have to match the land in intensity or move away. And though many that live here are short of tongue and quite a few have turned to alcohol for comfort, we were constantly amazed by how willing everyone was to lend help or advice. Because of this, we met a ton of folks who we will never forget.
We chose a place called The Arctic Chalet to stay mainly because they raise sled dogs for tours and races in the winter. There were so many and we were shocked at how well they were trained. The only time we ever heard them bark was when they were being fed or walked. We are definitely interested in coming back during the winter.
We decided to stay for a couple of days as we were interested in getting a flight to Tuktoyaktuk. There is no road to this community on the Arctic Ocean except in winter when the rivers freeze over. But after going to the airport and seeing the price tag on such a flight ($800!!), we decided that Inuvik would be our final destination on this trip. We would have loved to see a community that is so isolated and marvel at how they are able to survive in the harshest of conditions, but another trip will be needed for that purpose.
So, after touring the town, taking a hike, cleaning the air filter (I'm pretty sure we captured half the Dempster in the filter), playing with the pups, sharing the chalet with a kind Japanese family and French girl, and resting we decided to head south for the first time in 3 weeks. It was a bit bittersweet, to be honest. And as we got back on the Dempster the amazing reality of going all the way back home set in. Wow. We have to go all the way back. Ouch.
On our way to our first stop at Fort McPherson, we saw a moose on the road, which absolutely shocked us with its size. Those things are huge!
After our first ferry, we headed into town and filed up with gas after eating a quick lunch. As we were standing outside, preparing to leave, a couple of native boys came and became very interested in the bike. In fact, they were ready to trade their bikes for our Ural when a minivan pulled up and a familiar camera appeared.
Out popped a woman named Rita Leistner, a Canadian photojournalist who is working on a project focusing on native communities of the north for the 2010 Olympics. After snapping a few pics of us, she happily invited us to tag along while she went to visit some of her new friends at a fish camp down by the next ferry. We followed her to an area of town we would have never seen otherwise and subsequently met two of the funniest, sharpest old women we've ever encountered.
These 2 sisters were 94 and 96 and have never lived in the city. "Inuvik makes me dizzy because of the traffic", on told us. (Mind you, Inuvik only has a population of 3500). They were both friendly and needed no encouragement to tell us stories of their life in the north. These communities survive primarily off the land without modern amenities. It's a tough way to live and we were really moved by both of them.
Before we could leave they both walked out to the street to see Elga (which was no simple task). "Be careful! This thing is dangerous!" they both said, in a fashion only a grandmother could. And so we left the fish camp and Rita and took away another amazing experience to add to our adventure.
The rest of the day was painful. We had clear skies up until the second ferry but were greeted with freezing rain, thick fog, and muddy roads all the way to Eagle Plains. We were both soaked (my hands and feet especially - I need riding boots) and couldn't believe we would have to endure another full day on the Dempster before reaching Dawson. After persuading the staff to feed us (which was no easy task) we went to bed, sore and tired.