Picking up my car at Inuvik airport was relatively straightforward – certainly more straightforward than reserving it in the first place. There’s only one agency in town, and it took quite a bit of research to find Driving Force but eventually I had an SUV reserved.
What I hadn’t remembered is: it had a 100km per day limit, and there would be overage charges of 40 cents per km, and since Inuvik was over 160km each way I had to remember to factor that in. That’s not even including insanely-priced northern fuel, but more on that later.
You’d think for over $150 a day you’d get a nice SUV, but in Inuvik you’d be very, very wrong. I did get a relatively (2-3 years old?) recent Chevy Suburban with room for 14 people…and a crack the entire length of the windshield. Oh well!
The bigger challenge? It was -32 when I arrived, and the Suburban was ice cold inside. I suppose I could have started it and gone back into the airport while it warmed up, but I foolishly waited nearly 15 minute until the inside temperature was warm enough to drive into town.
Maybe a 15-20 minute drive max, and Waze worked like a charm. I found my hotel, The MacKenzie Delta Hotel, and had no problem parking. There were even outlets at each parking spot to plug in the engine heater if needed. I decided to live dangerously, and left it unplugged.
After checking in it was already less than two hours to sunset, so I headed out into the frozen tundra to do a tiny bit of exploring. First stop, only a five minute frozen walk from my hotel, was the igloo-shaped Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church:
It said there were tours three days a week at 6pm, and luckily one was today, so I stopped by at 6pm for a tour. Shockingly in the middle of winter, I was the only tourist. Unfortunately the priest was about to head out, and the nice lady who usually did the tour had to run to a dinner for her sister’s birthday. She offered me her phone number, however, and told me to call her the next day and she’d give me a tour any time. True northern hospitality!
A quick look at the inside of the church before heading out:
The hotel seemed to be the most popular dinner option, since there weren’t m/any real restaurants in town per se. One of the two was called The Roost, and TripAdvisor reviews seemed to say it was decent. It was basically a fast-food joint that did a decent takeout business, but it was just me and a group of teenagers eating.
They were having poutine, and I went with the Roost special pizza…just over C$30 for an individual pizza and can of pop. Expensive for sure, but not OMG outrageous. It was at least reasonably tasty, but definitely not gourmet. My arteries would also hate me later.
I felt like a bit of exploring after dinner, and on the walk back was the one bar in town called The Trapper Pub. It was dark, and only about 15-20 people lurking about on the inside…and eventually I got a Kokanee and set to people-watching.
The Trapper was certainly a rough crowd, all local, with quite a few who looked barely able to keep upright. Keep in might it wasn’t even 8pm yet.
Midway through my second Kokanee I heard a crash, lots of loud cursing, and screaming, and turned to see the bartender dragging a drunk patron out of the bar by the neck. He managed to get himself upright, but not for long…and a quick slug from either the bartender or a bystander (couldn’t tell) had him down for the count again so he could be dragged outside.
That was my cue to head out and call it a night. Bit more adventure than I’d bargained for!
After a delightful nine+ hours of sleep, I headed down to the hotel restaurant, which as far as I could tell was the only place in town that served breakfast. Omelet du jour and coffee, with a huge helping of spuds and toast was under $20, so definitely one of the better bargains in town. It was about 9am when I finished and still pitch black outside, so up to my room to chill a bit while the sun came up.
Just before 11am the sun was finally hinting at the horizon, so out I went to start the car for my adventure. Fortunately, it turned right over, and after about 10 minutes was warm enough to start heading out of town.
I had no idea what to expect from the new “highway” to Tuktoyaktuk, but it was fairly well-packed gravel and snow, and I managed to maintain about 80 kph much of the way. Just after noon, you can see how little daylight there still was…and the giant crack in my windshield. This was right after slamming the breaks to catch a picture of a giant caribou on the side of the road, but by the time I fumbled to get my gloves off it had trotted too far to get a pic.
About 12:30 I was almost there. A good shot of the highway and very desolate landscape. No cellphone reception either, so if something went wrong you were really on your own. This probably isn’t the time to remember I’ve never had to change a tire…and had been dealing with some health issues that had me a little uncomfortable to be somewhere so remote….but it was beautiful!
Finally, just before 1pm, I pulled into Tuktoyaktuk. Look at the colours of the sky!
Drove through “town” and finally hit my goal…”Canada’s Third Coast” the Arctic Ocean. Today probably wasn’t a great day to think about going for a swim since I hadn’t brought an ice drill!
This was the perfect time of year to visit. Just enough sunlight to have super vivid colours…a couple weeks later it would be 24 hours of darkness, a couple weeks earlier you’d miss the vivid pastel skies.
The Trans Canada Trail aka The Great Trail marker at the Arctic Ocean. It spans Atlantic to Pacific, and branches north to Tuktoyaktuk to the Arctic Ocean as well. Pretty cool!
Driving through town, Tuktoyaktuk really is the “End of The Road”
Station of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, a series of radar stations set up in the Arctic, Greenland, etc to provide for early detection of incoming Soviet bombers.
With just about two hours of daylight left, it was time to turn around and get back to Inuvik before the sun set completely. I had debated staying the night in Tuktoyaktuk, but given the lack of things to really “do” I decided to head back. Highway sign:
Warning! Bear Country! Yogi would not approve – a fed bear is a dead bear! Shortly after this I saw what I’m pretty sure was a bear in the distance, but too far to be sure or get a pic.
The Pingos are another reason people come to Tuktoyaktuk, a mount of earth-covered ice that is evidence of this areas glacial past. Unfortunately, they’re protected and it’s hard to get too close, and this is one of the better viewing points:
Posing with a pingo – you can already tell the sun is setting at 1:30 in the afternoon!
On the drive back…around 2:30pm! Gorgeous sky. I saw a few arctic foxes at this point, but too tiny to get a pic.
Probably my favourite shot of the drive, just before 3pm and sunset. Stunning colours.
…and around the next bend, even better. Absolutely my favourite picture of the trip. Such vivid colours!
Back in Inuvik just after sunset, I decided to stop by the “northernmost mosque in the world” – lots of northernmost this and that!
Stopped by the “Northern Store” for some groceries (mainly water and snacks) and debated buying a fur, but…why? The Northern Store is basically an Arctic WalMart where you could buy everything from groceries to clothes and daily essentials.
Last stop of the night was the Midnight Sun Complex. There was a local craft fair going on that I wanted to browse, plus I couldn’t resist checking out Canada’s northernmost ice rink!
Pictures didn’t seem welcome at the craft fair, and much of what was being sold was fur in every variety. I didn’t have much need for seal or fur gloves, boots, or parkas, but what….it’s public skating time at the ice rink? Now that I’m totally down for!
I only skated for like 10 minutes, but ticking it off was an amazing experience!
Back to the hotel before dinner and getting ready to head out and continue my adventure the next morning.