The goal was to hit the road early to Tuktoyaktuk to give us plenty of time to explore. Unfortunately some time change issues got in the way of this plan! We also needed to take advantage of the amenities at Happy Valley Territorial Campground in Inuvik. All justifications aside, we didn’t hit the road until almost 11am! This too proved to be a false start – as soon as we hit the new road to Tuk and got up to speed, we noticed Sue was vibrating pretty badly despite the relatively smooth surface. Antoine hypothesized that the heavy caked mud on the tires likely fell to the bottom of the tires following our car wash the previous evening and put them off balance. So we turned around for round 3 with the power washer in Inuvik, and this more thorough effort seemed to correct the problem. We were back in business!
What we didn’t expect was how much we would enjoy this drive. When we pictured arctic tundra, we thought it would be fairly flat and desolate. Instead we found the landscape to be rolling and varied, dotted with so many lakes and beautifully coloured vegetation. The clouds also began to disappear as we headed northward!
The tree line disappeared behind us at approximately km 100, and there seemed to be as much water as there was land around us. This road was an engineering marvel! One of only a few roads in the world built on permafrost, it’s hard to imagine how they completed it. So much gravel and fill must have been required, and the road meanders amongst the many lakes, creeks and ponds dotting the tundra. Prior to the road’s completion in November 2017, the community of 900 could only be reached by plane or ice road in the winter. Everyone waved hello to us as we travelled the road, including local berry pickers and hunters out on their ATVs. We stopped repeatedly for photos, attempted wildlife viewing (only birds, so far!) and cloud berry picking.
Due to our late start, we arrived too late to take in the cultural information sessions offered each day at 2pm in the sod house. This was an opportunity to hear from local speakers about life in Tuk, and I’m sad that we missed out on this! We stopped at the point of town to dip our hands in the Arctic Ocean and capture some photos.
We visited Grandma’s Kitchen for lunch, as a number of people highly recommended it to us. We dined on cooked muktuk (buluga whale), dried whitefish, and homemade buns with cloud berry jam. We also learned that cloud berries are locally referred to as akpik berries. Grandma’s Kitchen was opened by Joanne in late June in anticipation of the influx of visitors the newly opened road would bring. We were lucky enough to get to chat with her and her daughter Shelby about life in the North after our lunch. Shelby worked on the highway to Tuk driving a gravel truck. Their family has a lovely ocean front home, complete with the food truck on the beach, a sunroom and greenhouse. We wished we could’ve stayed much longer visiting with them!
After a quick two hour visit, we were back on the road south to Inuvik. We set up camp in a picnic area just outside of town, where we saw more wildlife than we had all day! While brushing my teeth I watched three busy beavers working on their dam. The next morning Paul got up close and personal with three foxes playing in the parking lot. Nature is so neat!
Next up: the Richardson Mountains 🙂
Lots of love, Liz & Antoine