Thursday 19 September 2013

Polar Bear encounters in Churchill

Understanding that it was early in the season to see Polar Bears in Churchill, Hudson Bay, Manitoba and a little late to see the Beluga whales, we nevertheless decided to drive to Thompson, the nearest you can get by road and then take the lengthy train journey north to Hudson Bay. The train journey alone sounded like an adventure to be had!
On our way up, we stopped at the only campsite left open in Northern Manitoba this season, Iskwasum Campground, Grass River provincial park. It was run by friendly and helpful Ken and Carol, who really made sure we were going to enjoy our stay, even taking us out for a delightful paddle on the Lake in their canoe.

The next generous Canadian gesture was further along the road at Pisew Falls, when a group
of young people who had been chatting to us about our travels gave us some fresh Pickerel from their successful fishing trip.
 Pisew Falls
Pickerel, a popular fish here.

 To Churchill by train from Thompson

We left Man in McReedy's campground where they also ferry you to and from the station.
The train journey was due to be 16 hours long!! All sleepers had been booked and the dining car was rumoured to be not quite the Orient Express!
We slept OK across seats and the microwaved dining car food was fine. We had food supplies just in case the train derailed as has happened crossing the muskeg (bog) in the past but our journey through the night was without hitch.

 We had arrived at the Polar Bear capital of the world!
 The Tundra Inn picked us up and allowed us into our room before 9.00am. The joys of off season travel!
 We cautiously walked round town with a stinging cold wind visiting the shops and the Eskimo Museum
 A large room full of Eskimo art and other artifacts illustrating Arctic life.
 Bone hair combs.
 Many bone carvings depicted hunting scenes.
The railway also had a good display giving us a taste of what was to come.

 An arctic symbol, an Inukchuk. These have many different meanings and significance and were found all over town.
 We had good meals in the Gypsy bakery and restaurant where the saturday before a Polar bear had attacked a man in the early hours of the morning! 

 We spotted many white beluga whales from the shore here.
 The large grain silo in the distance is still used. The grain is shipped out from the Churchill port .
 We took the only tour of Churchill we could find at this time of year. It was different from the usual tourist tours which take you out in large enclosed vehicles. We were picked up in an old school bus and driven round on a nature and history tour for the day. Starting with this crashed pig transporter called 'Miss Piggy'.

 From over the metal we could see two  black eyes and a  nose looking at us.
 Wow what a site! Our first Polar Bear.

 The beautiful autumnal colours were a surprise.
 After lunch and a long walk over rocks with our tour guide we came across this sleeping bear. Soooo close!
I have been avoiding bear encounters for the length of our Canada and Alaska trip and suddenly I am close to a Polar Bear! 
Huge emotions going on! Tears! Fear!
 Oh! It is getting up! Our guide signals to us to start walking away!
 Stephen retreats knowing not to show your back to the bear so he sees it walking towards us and gets a better photo. I am focused on getting back to the bus!!!!and the others (including an 85yr old grandma) who didn't get to see the bear.
 What an experience!

More bears!

After lunch we went to look at the Polar Bear jail where naughty bears are kept for a month before being released elsewhere.

 The staff were just getting ready to relocate a mother and her two cubs.
The cubs were carried into the helicopter while mother, slightly heavier! was gently put into a net to be hauled underneath the helicopter.
What a bundle!
 The black nose and eyes again. They are supposed to be shut. Another tranquiliser.
 Preparing for lift off.
 Polar Bear overhead!
 Off to new territory.

 More forest colour amongst the grey lichen.

One more bear lounging, this time on the other side of a river.
What a privilege to see these magnificent creatures like this.
 A fantastic day!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Photo dump!

Northwest Territories to Alberta's Badlands

We are heading north again, in Manitoba this time, to Churchill on Hudson Bay. There isn't a dining car and all the sleeper cars were full so it will be an adventure.
Churchill is the Polar Bear and Beluga whale capital of Canada and we are visiting out of season for both..... We will see!

The Waterfalls route on the Deh Cho Trail south from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

 Not as far north as the Arctic circle but 'North' nevertheless.
 We headed down, fast, to enjoy the Rockies, one more time.

 To Jasper. Campsites all full but this was the magnificent overflow....park where you like
 View from the loo!!!
Rain coming!
 It seems all campsites are situated by train lines.
Jasper, no exception.
 Don't mind the rain with a rainbow!
 My first experience of white water on the Athabasca River, Jasper.
Stephen in the front taking it like a true gent.
 The Athabasca Canyon. We didn't have to experience the waterfall, thank goodness.
 We took the Jasper sightseeing Gondola which was shut as we passed through last year in October.
Spectacular views from the top and then a 1.5km walk further up.
It was literally freezing with snow still on the ground and strong winds. 
Hat and gloves needed!

More waterfalls on the Icefields parkway. An awesome road!

 In sight of the Athabasca Glacier.

 We were here last year when it snowed. It looked as if had retreated even more in just a year.

 One beautiful solitary flower amongst the grey moraine.
 Dressed for warmth this time!
 Further along the Icefields parkway another exciting place to stretch our legs.

 Peyto Lake. Again last year we struggled on ice to reach this view point.
Nice to see it in the summer.

 If you fancy skiing in Lake Louise, this the station.

We took the ski-lift to hopefully see a local Grizzly.
 From the top you can see the Lake Louise.

 Our wishes came true. In the distance grazing? It is a female Grizzly. Really!
 And if that wasn't exciting enough, another, squirrel at Lake Louise.
 A Blue Jay.
 We enjoyed tea in the scorching heat overlooking the lake.

 From one resort to another, this time Banff. The main street.

 Out of the Icefields to a Rodeo in Sundre.

They start them young!
 Next stage....
 Team effort? catch and ride the wild pony.
 This man has just jumped off his horse to bring down this calf. 
Not easy for either of them.

 The gentle approach!

 The Stetsons are looking down on the man on the floor!
 Ye haw! The audience did actually have to practice shouting this.
Back brace, helmet. Why????

 The Prairies of Alberta.

We are enjoying seeing the industrial scale harvesting that is going on right now.
 Oil harvesting, too.
Boom time!
 And suddenly the terrain changes to the Badlands.
Bad to traverse, bad to farm but with palaeontological riches.
 Drumheller- a town based on dinosaurs
 The Royal Tyrell Museum.
A fabulous museum featuring the Albertosaurus found in .....Alberta!
 Fossil and Gemstone Ammonite.

To Wayne, 6kms and 11 bridges

 To stay here

 Dinosaur Provincial park

More Badlands, Hoodoos - the strange eroded formations and more dinosaur finds.

 As it so hot and arid, snakes, black widow spiders and scorpions can be found!
No bears!
 And Cactus.
 Welcome sundown after 35c heat.

Next stop Churchill.  Probably before the Polar Bears arrive but here's hoping!