Dec 132019
 


Despite not even being 5pm, it was completely dark, so I didn’t get to see too much on my shuttle ride to the hotel. When I checked in, fortunately, my big box of warmies was waiting at the front desk for me. I’m amazed just how many stickers it takes to ship a simple box….

After settling in, despite the -22 degree temperatures, I decided it would be nice to go for a bit of a walk. The temperature alone wasn’t awful, but it was snowing and a bit windy….probably 25-30kph gusts or so. Lovely night for a stroll, right?

Ended up walking nearly a mile, and by the time I arrived at my destination there was already snow crusted on my eyebrows. It was a nice brisk and fresh walk, but I was looking forward to warming up!

My destination was Northwest Territories Brewing Co. (NWT Brewing) which looked online to have not only a good selection of beers, but also a decent restaurant.

Inside, I was shocked at how popular the place was! It wasn’t huge, but every seat was taken and a few dozen people were standing around too. For a town of under 20,000, it seemed the whole town was here. First, a very nice beer or two to warm up…

I ended up staying almost three hours, mainly because it was cold and dark outside so there wasn’t much else to do, and because I met some fascinating people. Apparently, very few people are from Yellowknife, and many come there for work. It’s experiencing a mini tourist boom, and as a consequence it’s very hard to find labour – many people work a series of part time jobs to keep all the local industries humming.

I also met a couple of cagey characters – exactly the kind you expect to find in somewhere rather remote. They refused to say much about what they did beyond “work in the camps” or “government stuff.” Maybe Yellowknife is Canada’s Area 51…

Back to the hotel in what was now much heavier snow and wind, and was greeted by the obligatory polar bear statue in the lobby. I’m beginning to think it’s a requirement up north to have a stuffed polar bear hanging around.

After a good night’s sleep, I had a bit of time to get breakfast. Why have a boring hotel breakfast when you can wander the town a bit more. There seemed to be a Tim Horton’s, but I can get that anywhere.

There also seemed to be an intriguing local coffeeshop called Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ which means coffeehouse in the local language. Again, many of the employees seemed to be from elsewhere – at least one from Europe even – but they had delicious cinnamon buns and coffee so I was thrilled!

I decided to “push” things a little and take the 10am shuttle to the airport, having seen the night before that the airport looked tiny. As we left the hotel (on the left in the picture below) the sun was just starting to rise a bit after 10am.

I was forced to check my rolling bag, despite the aircraft being a 737, which was fine – who knew if it would even have overhead bins! Remember, just because you CAN carry it doesn’t mean it’s carry on!

The snow from the night before was still raging, but if anyone could handle it I figured it would be an airline called Canadian North!

The most fascinating thing is that there was one security checkpoint, but it was only for flights going “south” – meaning Edmonton or Vancouver. All the flights that went north from Yellowknife had no security at all! Only your checked bags were scanned.

It’s been years since I’ve been on a 737-300, and I was hoping for some good ole-fashioned retro goodness!

Canadian North flight 244
Yellowknife, NWT, Canada (YZF) to Norman Wells, NWT (YVQ)
Depart 10:30, Arrive: 11:55, flight time: 1:25, flight distance: 424 miles
Boeing 737-300, Registration C-GCNK, Manufactured 1998, Seat 2D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 200,053
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,892,355

I had managed to finagle my way into an aisle seat in the second row at check-in (no business on this ancient bird!) and despite the load being about 75% today the middle seat stayed empty. Plus, I had an amazing view of the delightful old-school moving map on the bulkhead!

My seatmate was a very friendly and chatty local from Inuvik, who was impressed a tourist was visiting during the winter. She was a wealth of information about all the things I might see and do, including an annual arts and crafts fair which would be taking place over the weekend.

Despite only having a population of about 3,200 Inuvik is a bit of a regional hub in the north, complete with a modest teaching hospital and all. At least if I started feeling any worse there might be options.

Oh, and as my view during boarding showed, the snow was still howling outside and people were trekking it in.

The flight to Inuvik would stop in Norman Wells on the way, and despite the barely 80 minute flight time of the first segment a small meal was offered to all passengers. I went with the sandwich which was pretty good, and all passengers got a bag of chips. Of course, the one person to get Cheetos was the American. I think it was politically-motivated…

When we touched down in Norman Wells only a couple dozen passengers got off, and only a few got on. We were invited to disembark and stretch our legs if we wanted, and I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to see a new airport!

The entire airport had no security, and I was able to walk around freely and explore for about ten minutes. The check-in area:

There was a waiting room with a comfy couch for local elders…

After about 10 minutes it was time to board again. Much less snowy, but colder in Norman Wells. About -26C this morning!

No pictures were allowed on the tarmac in the north, so I had to take the pic above from the terminal, and the one below from the aircraft once I’d boarded. Don’t worry Pearson, I don’t think Norman Wells will be competing with you any time soon for global hub status!

The plane was still about 2/3 full out of Norman Wells, and it was time to continue on our way for the short 40 minute flight up to Inuvik.

Canadian North flight 244
Norman Wells, NWT, Canada (YVQ) to Inuvik, NWT (YEV)
Depart 12:30, Arrive: 13:18, flight time: 48 min, flight distance: 278 miles
Boeing 737-300, Registration C-GCNK, Manufactured 1998, Seat 2D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 200,331
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,892,633

While I love using the Great Circle Mapper website to plot my routes, it’s even more fun when they’re displayed on the bulkhead…complete with both segments!

This segment would be too short for a snack, but fear not – Canadian North did have pretzels as well as water, coffee, or tea available for everyone! Impressive!

Arrival in Inuvik’s one-room terminal was right on time, and while I waited for my checked bag there was of course the mandatory polar bear in the terminal waiting to greet me!

Bag acquired, it was time to pick up my rental car and start my adventure. It was a balmy -32C outside, so hopefully it would start!!!


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