Un-BEAR-lievable!

Trip Start Sep 25, 2010
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Trip End Oct 29, 2010


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Where I stayed
Bears Den B&B

Flag of Canada  , Manitoba,
Monday, October 11, 2010

Churchill (11th October – 14th October)

When we arrived at Churchill Airport, we were….well, kind of shocked at how desolate the place looked. It was a complete contrast to all of the other places we had visited (but fortunately we had been forewarned). On collecting our backpacks, we walked out the front expecting to find a bus or taxi to take us into town, but there was nothing – literally nothing for miles around. Sam suggested walking – I quickly referred to the 'Lonely Planet' guide book that I was carrying. It stated that although there were never more than 1,000 people living in Churchill, there were approximately 3,000 vehicles owned – and there was very good reason for this. No one walked anywhere (or at least, no one walked very far) – the reason for this: POLAR BEARS (living, breathing, carnivorous, polar bears – who incidentally can also run at 50km/hr). I had visions of us starting the hike, only to become another pair of gormless tourists for the bears to feed on!

Luckily for me, at that very second, a taxi driver came over to us and asked if we needed a lift (we obviously had ‘tourist’ written all over our faces), which we gladly accepted. I’m happy to report we made it to our B&B safe and sound (and in one piece!)

12th October (First Day in Churchill)

Our first day, and up early for our first ‘Polar Bear Tundra Tour’. We were both extremely excited. The bus came to collect us at 7:30am and drove us out to the ‘tundra buggies.’ For those of you who do not know what these are – they are huge bus-like vehicles with humongous off-road tyres.

When we arrived in Churchill we had been quite disappointed that there wasn’t any snow – the unexpected heatwave has also reached here – the temperature is 6 degrees – balmy – that’s what the locals described it as!

Although bears are white they are surprisingly hard to spot – on the tundra there were a few white rocks and boulders that could have been mistaken for bear! Our persistence finally paid off when we spotted one lying in a large patch of scrub quite close by. However, as soon as he spotted us he briskly walked away – although it was only day 2 of ‘bear season’ in Churchill, the locals (the polar bear!) had quite obviously had enough of the tourists already! Then we saw a really large bear, lying on the grass. We took a few photos, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get close enough to him and he just wasn’t interested in us. At the end of the day, whilst on our way back to the drop off point we happened across a female polar bear with her two babies! This was a sight to see! Again, she seemed to have selected her spot with care because the tundra buggy could not reach her (they are restricted to the designated paths, unfortunately the polar bears are not!).

The most amazing encounter with a polar bear was actually experienced on the way home. Our bus driver on the way back to Churchill (a shuttle bus that carries people back to town) was the most wonderfully glorious, eccentric person we had ever met. Despite the fact she was driving a shuttle bus, she thought she was Nigel Mansell, and took it upon herself to get us up-close-and-personal with a polar bear! We took a bouncy tour back onto the tundra as if we were a tundra bus (at this point I really wished I’d worn my sports bra!!!). As a local she knew all of the ‘likely’ spots, and we ventured towards a Husky dog kennel area. At this point we began to worry – surely they don’t feed the dogs to the polar bears…do they?! It actually turned out that they use large polar bear males as protection against younger, smaller males (who will indeed eat the dogs). The larger, more mature, males do not eat the dogs at all – in fact, they play with each other and keep each other company! This was a sight to see, for as we approached, we witnessed two huge male polar bears playing with the Huskies. On noticing our scent, the bears started to slowly wander away (but not before we got some fantastic shots!) This truly made our day, and we went home happy tourists!   

13th October (Day Two in Churchill)

Day two saw us go out in search of more polar bears, with a second trip out on the tundra in the buggies. Again our patience paid off when we saw a young male bear frolicking in the grasses. We were able to get pretty close to this one, but he didn’t seem to mind at all – in fact, I’d go as far as saying he quite like the attention! We got some great shots of him (and of his paws!)  

Later that evening, the owners of the B&B received a phone call from their son, who informed them that the Northern Lights were visible. As we ventured outside and looked towards the sky, we could see faint green wisps over the house. Sam was in heaven – this was one of his wishes for the holiday! Gord (the B&B owner) loaded us all up into the back of his pick-up truck (there were nine of us in total) and drove out into the middle of nowhere, just so that we could get a better view. And what a phenomenal view it was!! Whilst Gord kept an eye out for polar bears, we all gawped, spellbound, at the sky. We managed to take quite a few pictures – take a look for yourself – it is truly amazing.

14th October (Last Day in Churchill)

We spent our last day in Churchill itself. The weather was obviously on the turn, as the temperature had dropped significantly and there was a biting wind. Having checked the thermometer, we saw that it was almost zero degrees. I was just thankful that I was finally able to make some bloody use of those thermals Sam had been asking me to carry around! We ventured to the Eskimo Museum, which was incredibly informative, and whilst we were there a blizzard started outside. Once this had subsided, we ambled to the train station where they were holding a ‘story telling session’ and we learnt about two native legions, which were both fascinating. They also had a free display area – which turned out to be far better than many of the other museums we’d paid to visit!

Later that evening, we caught our plane back to Winnipeg.

Impressions of Churchill

If you haven’t been – Churchill is definitely worth a visit – but you need only stay for a few days (3 is plenty). Make sure you stop at Bear’s Den B&B – you really will be hard-pushed to find a better place to stay – and obviously venture out on the tundra to see the locals during winter (although, do make sure you go out with a guided tour otherwise you may end up as bear sushi!). The wildlife that ventures through this place is truly amazing. The polar bears and Northern Lights have to rank as one of our holiday’s highlights. 
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Comments

Muppet on

Looks like you two are having a great time, love your blogs and the photos are amazing! x x

mum sue on

what lovely photos .has it got any colder it has here.xx

Mom and Dad on

Lots of love to you both enjoy the last few days see you Friday xxxx

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