After a short flight from Toronto, we met up with Joannie and Jose in Ottawa – so nice to see our friends again! Reflecting on the recent blizzard conditions in Iqaluit and laughing about Joannie’s poor luck with flights last year, we briefly discussed the potential of not making it to our destination in one shot. However, given the promising weather and our great luck with flights last year, we were quick to dismiss the possibility.
How naive of us! Upon arriving in Iqaluit, we discovered that the winds had picked up somewhere between Iqaluit and Qik, and after being ‘delayed’, our flight was eventually cancelled. And so, the ‘circus’ began – trying to reschedule our flight for the next day, finding out the flight was full, having to book into a hotel (which is NOT cheap!), and planning to transport our luggage to the airport every day in the hopes of getting a seat on standby, until we finally could all make it out.
Luckily, after a simple dinner and an early night, Joannie and Jose got out Friday morning, taking the last two available seats on the last flight leaving Iqaluit until Sunday. Knowing that Sunday was our earliest chance at getting out, we checked back into the hotel and started to plan our weekend. We had never spent any time in Iqaluit beyond the airport, so here is our experience:
On Friday we hit most of the hotspots – the Legislative Assembly, Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre, the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, the Arctic College, and the Nunavut Research Institute. Somewhere along the way, we found out that Toonik Tyme was still in full swing- this is an annual celebration of Inuit traditions and return to spring. (Toonik is an individual of the Tuniit people, known to archaeologists as the Dorsets, who inhabited Greenland and the eastern Arctic before the arrival of the Thule, the ancestors of today’s Inuit. Read more about the festival here: http://www.tooniktyme.ca). As part of the festival, the Storehouse Bar & Grill (at the Frobisher Inn) was hosting ‘Iqaluit Idol’ that night. We got to hear some great local talent, and experience a ‘night out’ in the big city. To top it off, on our walk back to our hotel we were treated to a faint show of Northern Lights!
Saturday was spent attending some more Toonik Tyme events, including an igloo building contest and a Fear Factor event in which participants had to, among other things, ‘bob’ for plums out of a bucket filled with seal innards and sardines. The evening was capped off with an incredible dinner of caribou and halibut, and fireworks on the Road to Nowhere.
It was both exciting and interesting to discover some of the similarities and differences between life in Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit. Iqaluit supports a strong dynamic mix of both a multicultural and urban feel while maintaining distinct ‘Northern’ traits. While the city feels lively, people generally don’t seem to be in a rush – if, at any point, you were even considering crossing the road, drivers would stop without fail. While it would have been nice to arrive in Qik as scheduled, as we are eager to see old friends and start work, there was most certainly a silver lining to our delay. And tomorrow, on to Qikiqtarjuaq (hopefully)!