Day 6: Inuvik, NT to Inuvik, NT, via Tuktoyaktuk, NT
No map for this one: we cheated and took a plane instead.
The morning started with a continental breakfast (not to be confused with a Continental breakfast, which is what the Dempster has whenever a knobby-clad GS or Vstrom makes their way up to Inuvik) and a discussion about the day's plans. The most important item of business was to source a rear tire for my Dad for our return off the Dempster. His stock Trailwing (second he's put on the DRZ) was getting awfully worn, much faster than expected. We wanted something in Dawson to spoon on so that we'd be able to make it the rest of the way home.
After our experience with the Kawi/Suzuki dealer when we were in Whitehorse, we knew that they weren't going to be able to help us, so we tried both the Honda dealer and the Yamaha one. The Honda did not have anything in a 120/90/18 size, so we tried Yukon Yamaha. Yep, they had two dualsport tires in that sizing. Great! What'd you have? Our options were:
Oh.. Dualsport tires AKA DOT knobbies. Well, might as well play it safe and get the AC10 shipped up to Dawson. At least it was new rubber, even if it only made it back to Whitehorse afterwards via the Top of the World Highway. The guy we'd been dealing with was Doug, and he was of exceptional help. We ordered a Kenda K761 as well for when we got back to Whitehorse. Something about 3,000Km of pavement back home and a DOT knobby just didn't mesh.
The second order of business was food, so we set out into town, grabbed some food for supper, and saw the sights.
Alright, so Inuvik is not a sightseeing type town, but we at least got the feel for what people have to deal with when living up there.
Our third order of business was whether we wanted to go to Tuk or not. I'd made the decision prior to the trip that, being somewhat strapped for cash as a young man in the working world, I'd only be able to afford the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy rather than the flight up to Tuk. My dad, being the ridiculously generous man that he is, asked if I'd want to go to Tuk if money wasn't an object. I was floored by this, and we set out making plans to get us up there that day. As luck would have it, in the lobby of our hotel (the Nova, FYI) was a tour company. With a quick conversation, we were scheduled for a flight up to Tuk in two hours.
We did a quick loop over Inuvik, and scoffed at the Dempster which looked so puny now.
Our pilot was awesome. He was probably mid-20's, and sort of encapsulated the essence that is a northern pilot. He was professional yet avant-garde, taking the flight seriously, but not too seriously. There was one point along the trip when he caught sight of a moose in a lake, dropped the plane into a tight corner, and turned quickly around, half for the tourists (us) and half for himself, since this was the first moose he'd caught sight of in the middle of a lake.
We carried northward along the Mackenzie Delta, which is basically a huge expanse of water with some little trees poking through.
As we neared the Arctic Ocean, the marine air grew thick and cold, but not cold enough to miss the Pingos which lined the shore. If you wanna know what they are, look 'em up. I like to think of them as frozen earth zits.
At last, we caught sight of Tuk. Not impressive in its size, but much more impressive in its existence.
We landed on a Dempster-ish runway and were greeted by their airport, named after a famed bush pilot of earlier years.
We did the tourist thing, driving around in a van,
dipping our feet in the Arctic ocean,
although I wasn't man enough to go all the way in. A couple girls we had with us on the tour were in fact man enough, so they went all in.
Oddly enough, the Arctic really ain't salty. Don't know why.
We visited their branch of Northern Foods, which was much more open than the one in Fort McPherson, although fuel prices left something to be desired.
They stockpile fuel in the winter, so the winter prices are what they pay through the summer. In this case, it was not beneficial.
More tourist stuff passed by: the old-style sod houses,
and the early warning radar system set up by our gun-toting southern neighbors.
The highlight to this tour was the Ice House, as they called it. Basically, they figured since they're living on a bed of permafrost, why don't they put the permafrost to good use? They dug about 16ft down, put in 3 different corridors, with cubbies lining the corridors. This was the community deep-freeze.
The wood ladder did not inspire confidence, especially halfway down when ice started caking the rungs.
The rooms stayed at a constant -9C, and when one turned off their flashlight, they were surrounded in nothing but cold darkness. It was awesome.
Permafrost, the cold-maker.
We climbed back up the ladder, hopped in the van, turned the heat on full, and checked out the Christian influence on Tuk. First, the Anglican Church.
Then the Catholic church, which we were able to see inside as well.
Something really struck me about the Catholic church:
Along with the normal symbols of the cross, a Caribou head was prominently displayed above the door. As much as the cross was a salvation symbol for the people of Tuk, the Caribou played such a large role in this civilization's survival that they thought it only correct to use it as a symbol, right up with the cross. I really couldn't blame them.
The tour drew to an end, and Dad, the sentimental man that he is, phoned wifey back home.
Back into the air for a farewell view of Tuk,
with a special mention of the barges which bring other supplies up from Inuvik and Hay River.
I napped on the way home, something not advisable on a motorcycle.
When we got back to the room, we cooked up dinner, one fit for kings, or at least a king's court.
As we were settling in for the evening, three motorcycles rode into the parking lot. Seeing that all three were Beemers, one being an old airhead, we of course had to check them out.
The one on the far left was none other than Errol's, the chap that we'd met in Fort Nelson three days prior. We asked the front desk whether they'd let us know what rooms they were staying in, and she mentioned that she would, only because they'd also asked where we were staying. After finally tracking Errol down, we stood in the hallway and talked about our experiences up the Dempster. It was awesome to reconnect, which is something so possible to do on the Dempster. I mean, you know where the other riders are going, because there's really no other side trips.
We shook hands and bid each other a safe rest of the trip. He was a good one to meet, and it felt good to be able to share support with a rider we'd already seen once.
But enough of sentimental. We had a big day ahead of us, and it was time for bed.
Final mileage, June 2:
You'll note that our top speed was higher today than other days.
Tomorrow would be an early start and a voyage on familiar roads, hopefully making it back to Dawson.