Here we are in Churchill, a two day train ride from Winnipeg, on the edge of the Hudson Bay. What a journey it has been. Such fun on the train, suspended in time for two days with nothing to do but look out of the window and watch the world go by, talk with our fellow travellers or play games, with no internet coverage. Pure magic on a train built in 1954 with function over form, comfortable but basic, ingenious nonetheless in design in terms of the bedrooms, where our two bunk beds appeared as if by magic in the evening. We were incredibly lucky to see the Northern Lights both nights from our train window, the first sighting was so exciting, vivid green strips of light moving across the sky as we lay looking out of the window on the bottom bunk, there is no window from the top bunk! I don’t know how long it went on but it was mesmerising and we couldn’t look away. Eventually they faded away and we were lulled off to sleep by the rocking of the train, taking us slowly to Churchill, the train stopping to let passengers off wherever they request so they can get to their communities, disappearing off into the night on skidoos.
Since being in Churchill we have had a tour of the town, not a long tour since it is not especially big, the population is now around 800 people and decreasing. We went to the Visitors Centre yesterday which has a really interesting exhibit about Inuit life, the fur trade and the coming of Europeans to this area and about the environment, the animals and how they live here, a living version of David Attenboroughs Frozen Planet. A quick lunch then onto the Eskimo Museum, a collection of Inuit artefacts together with a fascinating talk about them. A break, Simon says it is like being on safari, activities with time for ourselves in between!, then dinner and then rugging up, layers and layers and layers to go out to the Aurora dome to spend the evening looking for the Northern Lights. The dome is set up as a big room below, with comfy sofas, tea, coffee and enough biscuits for an army, above which are two domes to see the sky. To get to the domes we had to climb a ladder and squeeze through a narrow trapdoor. We climbed up, watched and waited. There was some cloud and blustery winds, the outside temperature was -38 so we were glad to be sitting in the shelter of the domes! Hours passes, we found many constellations which we had learnt about at an astronomy lecture at the Manitoba Museum before we boarded the train. Most of the group headed back to the hotel, having seen a little Aurora activity but we thought we would wait and it was worth the wait. Gradually the sky brightened and a strip of white light crossed the sky, staring to dance back and forth, then there was light in every direction, moving, swirling, whirling,,dancing so much we didn’t know where to look! It was not the vivid green usually seen but a translucent white with touches of red and pink, ethereal and magical. We can understand why the Inuit thought these were the spirits of the recently departed coming back to visit.
into bed at 3.00am! And tonight we hope for more but have to get ready for dinner now! On the way back from our busy day we popped into the supermarket. You can buy anything for a pint of milk to cereal or a skidoo! Only in Canada!