Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Day In Churchill

After a hectic day of travel yesterday, our group of 21 arrived safely in Churchill by mid morning. Thank goodness for "falling back" last night as we all needed the extra hour's sleep. We have a very eclectic group, with roughly a third from the UK, USA and Canada each. I'm amazed at the number of folks that cross "the pond" to come to the Polar Bear Capital of the World . . . Churchill, Manitoba.

Upon our arrival, our tour guide Steve provided us with a thorough tour of the town, highlighting everything of importance . . . where NOT to go due to safety issues with bears in town . . . where to go shopping for gifts and souvenirs . . . and where we'll be dining for most of our meals while in Churchill. We also got to see where bears are taken if they wander into town - Polar Bear Compound aka Polar Bear Jail.

Before lunch we paid a short visit to the train station which also serves as the home to a series of interpretive exhibits telling the story of Churchill, the polar bear and Inuit people.

With a noontime lunch date at Gypsy's, world famous I might add, we were treated to a "whatever you want off the menu board" lunch that was part of our group's tour package. Lunch was very good, as was dinner later that evening (Arctic Char). Both meals were outstanding!

Our day was jam packed with activities, which included our one-hour helicopter tour of Churchill Bay and the Wapusk National Park where the polar bears have been preparing for a feast of the own. Once the ice forms, they will venture out for months to get their fill of ring seals. In the meantime, they will eat whatever they can kill, which for one big boy, was a caribou. The flight was incredible! With six passengers in the copter, we were limited to what camera gear we could bring aboard. While my photos aren't the best (I was using a digital point n shoot), I have posted a couple here for folks to get the idea.

After some down time for shopping, a nap or both . . . we reconvened just before 6:00pm for dinner at Gypsy's. The arctic char is akin to salmon, but seemed like a lighter, flakier fish to me. It was very good and not very fishy tasting. After dinner we were treated to Churchill through her four seasons compliments of a local photographer Mike. His work is beautiful including wildlife (polar bears, beluga whales, foxes) and the aurora borealis. This was the perfect ending to a wonderful first day in Churchill.