It took us 1 week to paddle to Tuk from Inuvik and was both frustrating and exhilarating.
We had a great time in Inuvik and had the good fortune to meet Alfred Moses MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly for those outside Canada) whilst he was out on a run and spotted our tipi. Having paddled a good reach of the Mackenzie he was very interested in our trip. Alfred kindly dropped by with fruit juice later on in the evening after our hot days’ paddle which was most welcome and we spent most of the next day with him getting a tour of the town and learning a lot about the town.
We also had the good fortune to meet up with Diane & Tom Thomson whom we had met down in Fort Simpson and were now working up in Inuvik. It was great to spend more time with them and they treated us with dinner, wine, a shower and our laundry – all of which was fantastic and it was the first time on our trip we cut loose a little for the night and could celebrate our engagement and a pre-celebration for Tuk as we were off early the next day continuing our great journey North.
The final paddle North was most noteworthy for the weather which was far from pleasant. It rained continually, was cooler temperatures and a cold Northerly wind was our constant companion. After leaving Inuvik we quickly moved out of the treeline and the trees went from forest, to lining the riverbanks, to a few shrubs here and there until finally there was almost nothing except the small willows less than a foot high covering the tundra. The colours were beautiful however, with yellow, orange and the most vibrant reds splashed across the landscape. The geese and swans were already in formation flying South in large numbers before we had even reached the mouth of the Mackenzie River and the Kittigazuit Bay where it first widens and becomes the Arctic Ocean.
The day we paddled from our last campsite on the river to the beginning of Kittigazuit Bay was overcast with thick, dark clouds and a constant rain drizzled down upon us. We were excited to be be heading out and had read that whales frequently swim upriver beyond the point we were paddling so we were on the look-out for anything in the water. We had almost finished our paddle when Vicki spotted something moving in the water alongside the shore which turned out to be a bearded seal which followed us a long way, slapping and splashing the water behind us. Growing to around 2m and weights reaching over 400kg it was impressive and a little unnerving. It was not until chatting to a caribou hunter in Tuk that we learned they are very defensive of territory and flip boats. Unsettling at the time, but great to paddle through and Vicki got a video we will try to upload onto the Facebook page.
The paddle from where we camped took us out onto the Ocean, out of the small (comparatively) Kittigazuit Bay into Kugmallit Bay where the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula resides. The Beafort Sea encompassses both of these bays and more and is itself situated within the Arctic Ocean. We moved a short distance when the weather broke and gave us an opportunity to Whitefish Station (Beluga Whale hunting camp) where we spent the night, preparing for a early morning, hoping for calm weather to push across the Ocean, and exploring the area, finding many Beluga Whale remains; skulls, vertebrae, etc. During the night I had gotten up to check on the canoe as the tide had come in high and strong and was beating against the driftwood and was rewarded with the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). A great show of luminescant green hues weaving across the night sky with a full moon near the horizon. It was very impressive to see and taken as a good omen for the next day. We got up just over 1hr later in the darkness to have breakfast, very strong coffee and to pack the gear into the boat. We were heading out with the tide at 06:00 before the sun had rise. The paddle was amazing, and the beauty of the North really showed as we paddled into the rising sun with the mist on the shore giving the appearance of floating Pingos as we paddled along and the sun reflecting a deep, blood red on the underside of heavy clouds on the horizon which quickly dissipated as the suns power shone forth. It was magical, and all the more of a powerful paddling experience as it was our last on this journey. It was hardwork, but we pushed hard, the excitement of where we were, lost in the experience (the coffee probably helped also) and crossed the 35km of wide open Ocean in under 4hrs, greeted close to town by whales breaching near the shore just off to our right as we paddled into Tuk.
It was great to have finished the paddle, and we were rewarded in Tuk with the good fortune of meeting Jackie and Jenny Jacobson and family who were most hospitable and generous, a great help to us in the town.
We are now on the return trip, back in Inuvik and awaiting Koshi, our frined who is on his own road trip North whom we shall meet and all head South together along the Dempster Highway. We are told it is very beautiful, especially in Autumn. Our next update shall be from Jasper!