Churchill: The True North
Guest post by Anna Wortberg
Churchill: The True North
Canada is often called “The Great North” but living in Victoria, you don’t get many of the stereotypical things that are associated with it: no moose, no isolated cabins in the middle of nowhere, no masses of snow in the winter.
So I wanted to make a stop on my cross-Canada journey that brought me closer to this stereotype, and I spontaneously had the chance to do exactly that. I went up to Churchill in Northern Manitoba towards the end of August, while everyone else was already getting ready for school (sorry guys).
A place so isolated, there’s no road going – for the last hundreds of kilometers you have to take a plane or train.
A place so cold, 16 degrees in August is called “a warm summer day” – that’s t-shirt weather for the locals.
A place so full of wildlife, you’re not even supposed to walk around by yourself – polar bear alert!
Wild Bears on the Land
Polar bears are huge! In fact, they are the biggest mammal land predators that roam our earth. You don’t want to run into one of them unprepared, no matter how badly you’d like to see one.
So you can imagine how impressive it was for me to see a polar bear stroll along the tundra, luckily from the safety of a vehicle and with a tour guide who knew the bears like his best friend. He also knew exactly where the arctic fox den was, so we had eight fox puppies with our lunch, playing and jumping around.
Wild Whales under the Sea
On the next day, we changed to the water to observe the wildlife that Churchill’s location on the Hudson Bay brings: Beluga whales. I’ll bet you have heard of them before or seen photos. They are the shiny white whales who always seem to smile because that’s just how their face is. They are described as one of the most friendly whales out there. Therefore, it is no problem to get close to these giants and actually be on the water with them.
We decided to go kayaking – paddleboarding and even snorkeling being the other options. So we paddled out onto the water, waited for a bit until the whales became too curious to stay far away from us and the show started. There were whales everywhere around us! Sometimes a bit in the distance and then suddenly right next to our kayaks.
It was such a special feeling, it’s hard to describe. However, it was also slightly scary sometimes because those whales are just huge and water is still their element, not ours. Despite their size, they would gracefully come up to the surface and smoothly disappear again, out of our sight. Just to sprout up some bubbles while being right beneath you and scare you (or maybe just me…) half to death – you have no chance of knowing where the whale went once it dove down, but the whale is constantly aware of where you are.
Wild Lights in the Sky
And because all that wasn’t enough, we also got lucky enough to enjoy a little show in the sky: The Northern Lights were out that night.
They weren’t strong with “only” one green veil over the ocean that didn’t move too much, but for the first time ever seeing them, it was perfect. Especially if you can sit at a warm fire pit, good company around and the bright moon above you.