This trip was designed to bring a small profit for the leader, but he has been gracious to not increase the fee due to increases in tundra buggy rental, etc. that occurred after we had truly committed to the trip.
So today, Sunday, Novmber 4th,was the first of two days of travel by car to reach the town of Thompson, MB. We went to pick up the cars and discovered that the company we were scheduled to rent with would not allow the cars to travel more than 400 miles from Winnipeg. As Thompson is about 500 plus miles away we could not rent from them. So it was back to the airport and negotiate car rental with National at the same rate we had for the other company. This was quite a savings to us. Basically they did charged us the same rate as the company that did NOT have a rental site at the airport, and this can be quite pricey. Finally we all rendezvoused at the airport and were off to Wabowden for the night.
All five vehicles had walky-talkies so we could keep in touch with each other. Regrettably our radio could only receive messages. As a result we were number two in line behind Mark.
Wabowden is a small village off of Canada Rte 6, about 450 miles North of Winnipeg. Our first stop was in Ashern were we got a bite to eat at the gas station/restaurant. Several of us were familiar with this establish from our trip in 2008. All of these roadside stops specialize in greasy fried food, the onion rings were a nice treat as I probably not had any in two or three years, and will not have any more for another couple of years. Then it was back into the cars for the next 350 miles. My friend Lin had all of the driving duties in our vehicle as she was the designated driver for the rental. She did a noble job. Mark kept us abreast of the road conditions, as he was the lead driver, when we would start to get some ice on the road, and then when the road was once again dry. The traffic was pretty light, and the road was quite straight with only occasional moderate curves. There were a couple of very large container trucks as well as fuel trucks that passed along the way.
In Wabowden we had the Silver Leaf Inn all to ourselves. They stayed up for us, as we arrived about 2300, and had soup and a sandwich ready for us for a late supper. This Inn is being renovated and most of us were staying in the renovated wing. There was no potable water in the building, but bottled water did the trick. A few of the normal amenities were in abstentia: no soap for the bath, no cups, but there was plenty of heat, the beds were OK, mine was a bit soft but comfortable, and there was plenty of hot water for showers and baths. The reason for the long day on the road today was that we would then be close to Pisew Falls, for a great photo op tomorrow morning. Pisew Falls is the tallest falls in Manitoba,
and winter there is a lot of ice and icy fog in the area. The trees become coated in snow and ice.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND START OF A TRAIN RIDE -
Monday, November 5th, saw us having a fairly leisurely breakfast from the grill, then packing up and heading for the Falls. Today is Mark's birthday so he was presented with a stack of cheese whiz packets and a candle at breakfast. (Cheese whiz is on the table along with the usual jam packets and peanut butter packets.) There is a significance to the packets from other trips that Mark has led to
Nova Scotia, etc.
Due to the very overcast skies, we did not try to capture sunrise light at the Falls. Due to the snow of about a week ago being followed by rain due to the side effects of Hurricane Sandy the parking lots and streets were quite icy and slippery. I was very cautious to say the least. There was very little snow around compared to 4 years ago when there was probably at least a foot of snow on the ground. and the temperature was below 0˚F. We spent about an hour and a half photographing the Falls and elements of it. Then it was time to head to Thompson for our rendezvous with the train.
When we got to Thompson, we made a stop at Safeway for some snacks to be consumed on the train. This took a little longer than planned as our check out was slowed by a customer ahead of us who went through three credit cards before he could pay. Then our clerk was not familiar with the fact that the Vons card could be used at Safeway for the discounts. This was followed by a late lunch at Boston Pizza for a bit of a meal before the overnight train ride. Lin and I split a small pizza and each had a dinner salad. I also indulged in a pint of a very good Canadian dark beer.
At the train station it was a quick time of packing away the tripod into the large duffel as well as my down jacket. Then when I went to get my ticket they had run out of tickets!! The printer had no more
tickets it could produce. They still let me on the train, and I found a double seat that I did not have to
share. The train took off slowly about ten minutes late which is quite good really. The train ride will be about 18 hours in length. This is due to the fact that the tracks are built over permafrost and if it is not frozen then the tracks are traveling on soft ground and it has to travel quite slowly.
The time is now 1930 and the overhead lights have been turned down. Most of the people on the train are traveling to Churchill to see the polar bears. From what I understand there is not a room to be had
in the town. Some of my neighbors on the train are a group of young ladies from Taiwan!! Others are a group from either Eastern Canada, or England.
Tuesday, Nov. 6th -
We arrived in Churchill an hour ahead of schedule at 0800. I had been sleeping when they announced the upcoming arrival. Once off the train, we gathered together our bags by the B&B we were going to be staying in. I also went into the station and got a ticket for the return trip. What had happened was when I left Thompson, they had run out of tickets to be printed. So now I am all set for the return.
We spent the rest of the morning settling into our rooms. In the afternoon we had the added bonus of seeing a bear being airlifted from the Bear Holding Area to go off into the wilderness. This bear had been caught three times in the town so it was caught and now has been flown off to an area far from the town. It was something to see him placed on a cargo net and then lifted into the air. Although this event is not advertised there must have been about 50 to 60 people out there to photograph it. This was an added bonus for us as this is not what one sees very often when you are up here. Pictures will follow in a day or two after they are downloaded off the card. I do not want download a card until it is full or very close, as it is not recommended that one download pictures and then reinstall the card for more pictures without reformatting the card. I want to be sure that I have plenty of cards and memory and try to keep the images on the cards as a third backup to the files. (Hope all that makes sense to those who are not digital camera wise about memory cards and not corrupting the cards and files.
Dinner was at the Lazy Bear Inn, and was very good. Lin and I split the dinner and it was plenty for the two of us. We enjoyed fresh chad with a dill sauce. Now it is time to finish the picture download from our trip to Pisew
Falls and get to bed as early as possible and get a decent night's sleep.
Tomorrow will be a quiet day and and a quick course on how to meter for snow pictures, and camera settings for Northern Lights pictures. Currently
the weather forecast for Northern Lights photography is not good with
cloudy and fog for the next couple of nights.