A Last Hurrah? Memories & Plans

Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday. I am working on my trip to Churchill, MB with the plan to leave Toronto on June 30th, my father’s birthday. If all goes well I will arrive in Winnipeg, where my father’s only surviving sibling lives (my aunt – the eldest) on July 1st. Then to Churchill where I will spend one full day, July 5th, my sister’s birthday. She was born in Churchill, I believe we left when she was still an infant – perhaps it was before the next snowfall.

Not that any of this is important; I just found it interesting, and then some moments to reflect on all that has happened in the last five plus years. More if I include when my father died in 2010. We are so often surrounded by memories of birthdays, the continued passing of time. Which brought me up short, why am I even planning this trip? The polar bears will most likely not be around. There will probably be black flies, accommodation seems ridiculously pricey even for two stars. Yet, despite the railway having closed for 18 months due to a washout I was ecstatic I could once again take the train to Churchill.

Then, I recently found I am feeling less excited. The cancellation in 2017 turned all my plans upside down. It feels like a task rather than an adventure. I am hopeful that as everything comes together I will be excited. Even if it means staying one night in Winnipeg. At least it might be fun with arriving on Canada Day. Of course, one major factor is finances. I could afford the trip two years ago. Times change, bills still need to be paid, and not enough is coming in.

I am seeking inspiration. Yes, Churchill is expensive, it is in the far north of Ontario and only accessible by train or plane. That is part of the adventure. It is not exactly safe to wander about outside the town. Polar bears cannot be trusted to not suddenly decide to visit. Interesting note, car doors are left unlocked in the event anyone is caught out when a polar bear is nearby. However, I hear the place has gone downhill over the years. What will I do? I do have a half or full day tour, not polar bear chasing, tentatively booked and I will be trying to find out where we lived. I want a photo.

There it is, that spark that drives me. Going home because it is interesting. There is a personal history as well as the history of the country. All the planning, all the bits of paper, pencil shavings (very old school), emails and telephone class are all part of the adventure. Granted, the coat is still an issue. Perhaps my last great travel hurrah?

Churchill Manitoba: take 2

I was quietly cheering to myself the other day when I heard that the rail link from Winnipeg to Churchill MB was finally open again. The politicians were on hand to welcome the engine – except it seems they were not as the train rocked in the evening before. I found that might sum up how I expect Churchill will be once I finally make it there. Suddenly there with no fuss. I do not know why I think this.

As soon as I heard that passenger trains should be running in the spring of 2019 I started to once again do some research for a visit. I had originally planned to go in July 2017, booked a hostel and a walking tour. At the time it was thought the closure would be temporary. Eighteen months later -sold to the consortium Arctic Gateway Group in September 2018 for 117 million – officially welcomed by PM Trudeau, and it appears Canada’s northern port will be open to visitors who do not choose to fly in – the only other way to get there. Before the ink had dried a promise was made to have damaged tracks repaired and they did it! Probably self serving as the sale included the lucrative northern port and it will be necessary to have people stay there!

That fact hangs heavy for budget travellers. Will there be anywhere for solo, budget, backpacker visitors to stay? The hostel I had booked for July 2017 permanently closed just two months. I do not know accommodations close regularly in Churchill but it does appear part of the reason must be behind the rail closure; 18 months without budget visitors is a long time, closing just as polar bear ‘season’ was ramping up has the appearance of desperation. Of course this means options are practically nil for a budget traveller. I sent a message to the tour company I had originally booked a walking tour with in the hope they are still in operation and doing eco tours.

Via Rail’s website is still showing trips to Churchill are still unavailable. I will keep checking with the plan to visit some time before the end of September 2019. I should have photos by then! (Unfortunately the very few photos from the time I lived in Churchill in 1958/59 are not with me)