A trip, a dream: the Canadian semi arctic tundra

Hey you, you that you are reading, here’s Mr&Mrs Pochette and today we are going to make you discover one of our biggest dreams! No, we are not going to tell you everything straight away… you have to continue reading and you will travel through our dream, that became reality this summer!

After two weeks that we were hanging around Canada and USA, we are in Winnipeg (Capital of Manitoba, Canada), it is the morning of the 17th of August and we are ready to go… Heading to Churchill.

We are leaving Winnipeg with a charter flight that will last two hours and fifteen minutes in order to get to the Hudson Bay.

At the airport, our guide “Jud” is waiting for us and with a big smile she makes us go on the bus that will bring us around for the next 4 days.

Jud immediately fulfills our dream! Them, beautiful and white: polar bears!!! The luck of beginners makes us admire a mother with her child whom are sleeping both on rocks next to each other.

  • Polar bears during the summer season, talking about the ones living in the Hudson Bay, go onto a sort of hibernation that is called “walking hibernation”. Since there is no ice on which they can hunt to, they eat very little, they almost sleep all the time (in between some baths to cool off) and their metabolism slows down.
  • The females of polar bears, when fertilized, do not immediately become pregnant but after months… if their body is ready to endure a pregnancy and breastfeeding, after these months it will become pregnant, otherwise, the embryo will reabsorb itself. Females usually give birth in December and then stay in the den with the baby (which will weigh at the birth about 1 kilo) for other 2 months.

Let’s get back to us… How exciting! Do you know that polar bears are the only arctic animal that remains white even during the summer season?

After taking 500 photos in a second without even understanding what was happening, Jud takes us to the Lodge, Lazy Bear Lodge, where we just have enough time to have a quick lunch and add layers to our clothes not to freeze and…. Ready to go out again!

In the afternoon she explains few things about Churchill (we will tell you some little curiosities):

  • Churchill was born as a military base, in fact before it had 3000 inhabitants, that dropped then to around 1000 inhabitants during the summer season and 800 during the rest of the year.
  • There are no paved roads except for the main one.
  • The Churchill hospital is connected 24/7 to the Winnipeg one as there are just two doctors. The dentist goes to the city every 6 weeks! Inside the hospital there is a small pharmacy where it is not possible to find all the types of medicines.
  • The cost of living is very high (1 cucumber = 10$CAN), there are very few flights, so they generally take the train to go to the “nearby” cities. It takes 2 and a half days to get to Winnipeg by train! Crazy!

Back at the Lodge we have to soak in hot water in order get a bit warmer… brrrrr… it is a pain to put our frozen feet in hot water! As there are not many alternatives we enjoy a simple but tasty dinner at the Lodge and… Good night!

The next day, departure at 9 am for the Tundra Tour on the Arctic Crawlers! We can’t wait! They are giant cars, 3 meters high, equipped with kitchen and bathroom to carry you around on the ice during winter season.

The day is magnificent, bears, different types of birds, dreamy landscapes and we discovered so many things about the Canadian semi-arctic tundra:

  • In the Churchill area there are 3 ecosystems: the Hudson Bay with the sea, the tundra and the forest! What a dream, isn’t it?
  • The flora in the tundra grows at ground level due to the cold, freezing and very strong wind that comes from the north. There are 5 different types of orchids and a thousand types of berries. Flowering is very fast, it can last even for few days, in the meantime the plants’ growth is very slow.
  • In the tundra besides the polar bears (which are always on the coast during the summer season), there are also arctic foxes (white during winter and gray during summer), caribous (which are more at east during summer and you can find them in herds just during the winter season), wolves, birds of all kinds and types, and much much more!
  • The birds that we find more interesting are the Snoekies, cos we discovered that they travel for 20.000kms every year. Can you believe it? They travel from Hudson Bay to Antarctica and back!

After we discovered this magnificent tundra ecosystem… surprise for us!!! Dinner in 5 minutes as we are heading to meet the sled dogs! We met 30 amazing, cuddling dogs!

The next morning we depart from the Lodge at 9am (as usual) for Beluga sightseeing! We are on a mini zodiac that is taking us along the Churchill River Estuary. Want to know more about these beautiful cetaceans? Well here we go:

  • Belugas are small-sized whales as they do not exceed 4.5/5 meters in length.
  • During the summer season they gather in the Churchill river to give birth, as the water is warmer (10 degrees) than the sea (2 degrees) and the baby beluga does not have enough fat to withstand the temperatures of the sea yet.
  • The belugas are white while the small ones have a grayish color.
  • They do not have the back fin as this, facilitates them to swim under the winter ice.
  • These whales can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes but they usually come up every 30 seconds.
  • The only belugas’ predator are polar bears and orcas.

After a Beluga morning (they have the most beautiful snout in the world), we enjoy a free afternoon where we are walking around the “city” discovering something that we did not like at all:

  • In the city of Churchill there is a “prison dedicated to Polar bears”. They explained us that there are some guys which control that bears do not come too close to the city. Firstly they scare them with a gunshot, but if they keep coming back they just get them to prison. When they get them there, they keep them in prison for 30 days with no light and food, only water. After 30 days these bears are transported by helicopter further north, where they finally release them.

What we ask ourselves is… why imprison them? Why not to learn to live in contact with nature? This is their territory and we think they should have the opportunity to live peacefully!

Next day came, next tour we are coming!!! Coastal Tour! In search for polar bears having a nice bath! The weather is awful… cold, wind and rain!!! A nightmare to be in the sea with this weather…. we also have to have lunch under the rain and we only encounter 2 polar bears on the coast but they are not swimming!

We arrived at the last day… so sad… we so want to just be in contact with nature and animals and look at them happy in their habitat. But… the last day I guess is the most fortunate one! There’s a mother with her baby swimming nicely in the sea! Just in front of us… is this true? and then…. the mother just starts to breastfeed her baby! A dream! A real daydream!

  • The polar bear is considered as the largest carnivorous mammal in the world together with the Kodiak bear (which mainly lives in Alaska).
  • 60% of polar bears population lives in Canada.
  • The male weighs twice as much as the female, which increases a lot her weight during pregnancy.
  • To distinguish a male from a female, one must look at their neck: the female has a triangular neck while the male has it straight.
  • During the summer season, polar bears are on the coast waiting for the river and the sea to completely freeze (it can take just 3 days), and each bear wants to be the first to walk on the ice.
  • Their favorite food is the seal; polar bears can even wait, out of the ice hole, for 2 days without eating or moving for a seal.
  • Males are very dangerous for baby polar bears,
  • The polar bear is the only bear that is completely carnivorous.

We hope that you had the opportunity to live this dream as we did and know more about this magnificent animal. I know… we are animals freak and especially bears lovers but…. what can we do? They are splendid!

Until next time

Mr&Mrs Pochette

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