A very bad night last night. It was unbelievably warm. More like being in the southern Mediterranean than the Artic. To cool us down we had the roof vents wide open and at 1am the sun was still shining through. Getting to sleep in broad daylight is difficult. Consequently we were up late and it was a tardy start.
As we left the campsite we bumped into the Swiss couple, Thomas and Chantal, again and expected to meet up with them in Tuk for a beer. We are getting to know them with our paths constantly crossing.
The scenery is permafrost studded with many lakes and waterways. Tributaries of the McKenzie as it flows through the delta. The permafrost looks, in many places, as if it is covered in a smattering of snow. It is blanketed in a small white flowers. There are bright pink and purple flowers starting to emerge too. One can see for miles and miles. It gives the impression that the world is round and that you are reaching the top of it. A much more pleasant ride today. There is less traffic coming up from Inuvik to Tuk, so we have not been in a permanent cocoon of dust, like yesterday.
Along the way we pass numerous abandoned skidoos and wooden sledges. No doubt their owners will come back for them once the snows return. I have to say the native people are not the most tidy. In all the settlements there are abandoned cars, trucks and broken equipment scattered everywhere.
As we approach Tuktoyaktuk we stop at a viewing point to look at Pingos. What on earth is a Pingo you may ask. We hadn’t a clue. They are a geological feature, an ice-cored mound. Apparently a quarter of the world’s Pingos are located here, the largest in Canada being, Ibyuk. A Pingo is formed when water within the sediments of a drained lake is forced to move upward when it freezes due to the permafrost around it.
As we were about to leave I looked at the rear tyre on my side of the Land Rover. It was looking decidedly flat. The Dempster is notorious for and shedding tyres. We have passed several abandoned vehicles with flat tyres and in every settlement there is a tyre repair and sales place. Dennis got the compressor down from the roof and pumped the tyre up. As we were only a few k’s from Tuktoyaktuk we decided to press on and change it at the campsite there.
Tuktoyaktuk is a desolate place. Unattractive to look at. On entering the township there is a huge rubbish tip. The houses are depressing and there is the usual litter of abandoned vehicles. I suppose when such a large portion of the year is dark, the place is snow covered and one’s main thought is of keeping warm, the outside surroundings don’t matter that much.
We drove to the end of the settlement to a large sign telling us we had reached the Arctic Ocean, with a smaller sign saying no swimming nearby.
This caused a smile. It was bitterly cold. The wind whipping straight off the ocean which was still frozen close to the shore. I even had to get out my wooly hat for the first time! This godforsaken spot was supposed to be the campsite. There were a few tables and fire pits on bare, rocky soil. 2 toilets, of which one was locked and the other indescribably filthy. We decided we would change the tyre, have lunch and then hot foot it back to Inuvik. How ironic. When we removed the tyre we found it had been punctured by a screw! Poor Dennis had to contend with the biting wind and the dust which has coated everything, but very speedily had a new spare tyre securely in place.
While Dennis was changing the tyre, a very nice young guy came and asked us if we were okay and did we need any help. He said he was with the local RCNP and if we needed anything we should call into the station. He was wearing shorts and a T shirt! We didn’t want to detain him in case he caught his death of cold. He was out for a run and said he was used to the weather!
Setting off back to Inuvik we met Thomas and Chantal. I think they we a bit disappointed to see us leaving Tuk, but we explained it was just too cold and grim to camp there.
We were not too far from Inuvik when what did we see coming towards us over the hill. It can’t be! Really, it is. It’s a twin sister. Another green Land Rover. We parallel parked in the middle of the road – no traffic to worry about. This was an Alaskan Land Rover, with a lot of modifications. I wont bore you with the technical details, other than to say it had a 5 cylinder Mercedes turbo diesel engine and was a Series 3, Long wheel base. It was decorated with all sorts of expedition and overland stickers. The current owners, Tom and Frieda, had purchased it from an “overlander”. They are from Wasilla, just north of Anchorage, and are on a 3 week vacation.
Reaching Inuvik at 7.30, I didn’t feel like cooking. The night before I had noticed an interesting looking little restaurant, Alstena’s, advertising home cooking. Being Sunday evening we weren’t sure if it would be open. Luckily it was and we had a good meal of fish and chips washed down with a Yukon beer. It was interesting to chat with the owners too. The restaurant is named after the owner’s mother, a pioneering lady. She had bought up 7 sons and 2 daughters in the house next to the restaurant. The owner was the youngest son and with his wife run this quirky place. The kitchen is an old school bus. There are tables outside, inside in a small covered area and on the roof. We sat in the covered area as it was too chilly to be outside. It is full of antiques and curios and amusing signs.
During the day we saw no wildlife. We did see several varieties of birds. Arctic terns, many types of ducks, Tundra swans and a large heron. We learned from the restaurant owner’s wife, that Caribou are migratory and are not in this area at this time of year. We have also been told that the locals shoot anything they see, as the price of meat is extortionate.
We camped just south of Inuvik, arriving there at around 9pm. Late to be setting up, but we didn’t have to cook and were soon in bed. We were dog tired.