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The adventures of the Mel

The adventure of Churchill

CANADA | Wednesday, 20 February 2008 | Views [904] | Comments [2]

So when we spoke last, my dear little readers, I was sitting calmly in the Radisson hotel, procrastinating, I believe. I didn't want to walk to the train station. Well. If your name is Tess, you know what's coming up. If not, sit back and get ready to, uh, read.

I always triple check my bookings. Always. Except this one time. This one, stupid, train-only-comes-every-two-days, fateful time. My train leaves at 11:30pm, I swear. I'll get there around 9:30, 10:00, just to be safe. So I'm looking at something else and notice that it says 8:13. No, that can't be right. It's 9pm now. Frick. Frick. FrickfrickfrickfrickfrickfrickFFRIIIICK!!!!

Huge panic attack - if I had have been drinking it would have been an attack like when I lost my credit cards at my going away party. THAT was awesome. So, I'm panicking. FRICK. What do I do? What do I do? Thankfully, the staff at the Radisson were overly accommodating, and phoned VIA rail. The train just left, it was late. If I caught a taxi, I could catch it at the next stop. It would cost me close to a $100, but I didn't care. So, I jumped in a cab. The guy said (in a 15-feet-of-snow...and-it-was-rainin voice), "That's a fair way - are you sure?". Yes yes!! Just get me there by 10. So off he drives. Sorry, did I say drive? I meant puttered. He was the slowest fricking cabbie I've ever come across. By about 10 to 10, it became apparent I wasn't going to make it, so we turned around back to the 'peg.

Dismayed, I booked in for the night and tried to calmly assess the situation. I knew that you can only arrive by train or plane, because there are no roads into Churchill, but that planes are freaking expensive. So, just how badly do I want to see that aurora? Pretty damn badly apparently, as I spent $400 on a flight to Thompson, kind of the halfway point between Winnipeg and Churchill. $400 on a not even 2 hour flight. *shakes head in shame*.

So, I get a night's sleep back in the hostel I was staying at, cursed to myself and got up for the flight. I get into Thompson about 6 hours before the train is due to arrive, not factoring in that it left late. So I get a cab to the train station to try to sort things out, with the most hopeless cabbie. To the train station. You know, the only train station that you have in this small town. So, the fool has to stop at a service station to ask. It's like someone in Swan Hill not knowing where the train station is. For goodness sake!

Anyway, it ended up being closed and he dropped me off at the mall so I could grab something to eat and wait till it opened. In a cafe in the mall, I met and chatted to a group of 60-something year old men for a couple of hours. They were from all over the world; Italy, Hungary, Portugal...well that's kinda Europe-y isn't it? Anyway, they were from all over Europe, and had been in Canada from about 40 years or so. They told me stories of lights, polar bears, mischief in the 60s....ah good times. They even told me about their friend's dog who stupidly approached a polar bear, but then played with it. The bear didn't eat it - it played with it. This was completely unprecedented, and thankfully photographed. Apparently.

So anyway, I spoke to these gentlemen for some time, about Canada, Australia, stuff I mentioned earlier. One of them (younger, around 40) named Tony gave me a lift to the train station which was lovely. If it makes you feel better mum, in the car was a still younger man (maybe 25 - 30?) and his 6ish year old daughter. Anyway, Tony realised that I hadn't seen any of the town, so the lovely thing took me for a drive around town to show me bits and pieces before he dropped me at the train station (this is where all the photos in Thompson are taken from - Tony's car). I just love the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of Canadians. It's a bloody great country. To top it off, the lady at VIA rail refunded part of my train ticket (the $100 part) because I wasn't on the train! AWESOME.

So....was on the train for 14 hours and read 3 of the 4 books I bought. Dammit!! I need to read slower-like. Got into Churchill and I am tired of typing. Are you tired of reading? I need a break...

So I got into Churchill and easily found my hotel. It's amazing how easy things are to find in a town with a population of 800. The owner of the hotel is absolutely lovely and the hotel is warm and friendly, with a quaint-cottage feel to it. I went for a quick walk around town (can't stay out in -30 (-44 inc WC) for too long. Took a look at their school (don't say a word), and had lunch at a bakery. I got to speak to a few of the locals about various things, and all in all had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

Then night-time came, and I was antsy about seeing the lights. It was supposed to be a cold, clear night, which is good for the aurora, but it was a nearly full moon, which was going to take away from it. It would have been better tonight, because they are actually getting a total lunar eclipse, but it's going to be cloudy. Grr...aarg...

The lovely owner of the hotel drove me out to the Aurora Domes, about 20km out of town, and we sat up in the domes, drank hot chocolate and sat waiting. 7pm....8pm....9pm. I was starting to get disheartened. Then she scared the crap out of me by saying, look, there! I look up to see what looks like a strip of cloud going from almost the horizon, swathing past Orion's belt, past the moon and down in a grand arc. You could just kind of see it shimmering, but you couldn't make out any colour due to the moon. It was a little disappointing, but I was content that I had seen the aurora. We spoke for another half an hour, when she sharply pointed at a spot about 45 degrees from the moon. There, in all her glory (well, if the moon hadn't been there) was a green curtain dancing across the sky. I watched it fade in and out, not the lurid green of photos and movies, but definitely green and definitely dancing. I was ecstatic. I saw the freaking aurora borealis. I was content.

But, she put on a bit more of a show for us, for the next hour and a half, she arced and danced across the sky, usually white, but at times green (and one time green fading to yellow to red (that's what it looked like, anyway), and moving across the sky. At her longest, she would have covered about 150 degrees, which made it a little difficult to scan her length. Back and forth my head would go, looking at the sky wondrously and contentedly contemplating what a beautiful world we live in.

So, I sit here typing and am telling myself that the cloud cover will disappear so I can watch a lunar eclipse AND an aurora tonight. Wishful thinking, but I'm stickin' to it!!

Enjoy work, suckers!

Thompson/Churchill photos

Tags: Misadventures




You are doing it again Mel - wish I was in your shoes.

OMG that must have been the most awesome of experiences.

  Sally Feb 21, 2008 9:40 AM


That gave me goosebumps to read it... I can't wait to read more...

  Vivian Feb 27, 2008 8:51 AM

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