Travel (plans) in the north

Remember when that volcano erupted in Iceland and shut down air travel for a couple of weeks?  The media focused a lot on disrupted travel plans and stranded travellers.  My bet would be that not too many of those journalists have ever travelled in the north…or if they have, that they have been lucky with their flights and weather.  There are lots of times that flights don’t get to where they are going, mainly due to weather.  In addition to tourist travellers, these planes carry esential items such as food and medicine.  Since Nunavut’s communities are not connected by road, flights are the only way in and out.

On Wednesday, I was supposed to head to Pangnirtung for the day – leaving Iqaluit at 8am and returning at 7pm.  Its a quick one hour flight most days; after leaving Pang, it continues 20 minutes further north to Qikqtarjuaq.

Unfortunately, there was too much fog to land in Pang.  It is situated in the mountains and I’m told the landing strip itself is in a fiord- not exactly conditions that create a fog-free environment.

We continued on to Qikqtarjuaq (as per the flight plan) in hopes that by the time we landed, dropped off passengers and collected new ones, Pang would be clear enough for us to land.  The flight between the two communities was stunning: mountains and ice and snow and blue skies and clear water for miles around.  I took 78 photos trying to capture the miles and miles of gorgeous landscape.

In Qikqtarjuaq (called ‘Qik’ – pronounced kick – for short, but as we were told by a resident its asking for a ‘kick’ in the butt) we were greeted by a lot of very, very big mosquitos.  As in there were at least fifteen around my face at any given time…

There was also one lone ice piece floating in Qikqtarjuaq’s very blue water, and some snow still gracing the mountains:

Qikqtarjuaq (which is on an island formerly known as Broughton Island) is also the first officially ‘dry’ community I have visited – ‘dry’ refers to an alcohol-free community.  In Nunavut, communities themselves decide the alcohol regulations.

No alcohol, please

During our two hour sojurn in Qikqtarjuaq, not a single person seriously complained.  Of the fifteen or so people on the flight, there were two groups (one couple, and one mother travelling alone with her two-ish year old son) who had been on the previous day’s flight to Pangnirtung which was also unsucessful in landing, again due to fog.  People weren’t impatient over the course of the wait, and although sad about not being able to get in to Pang, they rolled with the punches and enjoyed the flight as much as possible.  It also meant that people scheduled to fly out of Qik were not able to do so as the flight was still carrying passsengers who were supposed to be in Pangnirtung.
Although I was sad not to see Pang, it was a really neat experieince – and one very typical for the north.  While I always knew that sometimes flights would not be able to land, I hadn’t experienced it or fully realized how disruptive it can be for planning purposes – both for travellers and communities – and how scary it can be, for example in the case of a medical emergency or some other urgent reason prompting travel, or in the case of supplies of food and/or medicine running low.  There’s something about knowing there is no way out of a place you are in that I imagine can be stifling.
So…let this be a life lesson: worse things could happen than delayed travel plans.  Roll with the punches, and enjoy the moments you have.
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