Out There and Lovin’ Every Minute Of It

We’re back!

It’s been a few days since Ian and I were online at home – I still have internet access at work, but it’s work.  I can’t exactly be spending time there writing blogs and the like.  And so we waited.

We were able to attend my department’s Christmas party last weekend as well.  It was a wonderful potluck style dinner where everyone brought something and the food was delicious!  We followed the fantastic meal with dice games.  I’m telling you, I have never had so much fun at a Christmas party, and cannot imagine such games every being played in the south.  There seems to be no ego up here – everyone was involved, including the managers, directors and deputy minister.  We all sat in a circle and threw dice to see who would be able to enter the circle to attempt to win a prize.  The prizes were wrapped in various layers of newspaper and plastic bags, and to open them, you had to put on huge oven mitts, and use plastic knives to cut into the package.  But by the time one put on the gloves or picked up the knives, a new person had rolled the appropriate dice to enter the circle, and you were force to return to the circle to wait for your next chance at the dice.  There are pictures from the party in our Photobucket album, so check them out!

It's a cardboard jungle...

Things have all sort of come together up here in the past week.  We moved into our new apartment on Sunday.  Our personal effects were delivered on Monday.  We’d been unpacking for most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we now have the bulk of our items sorted out, organized and in their rightful places.  Our phone was hooked up on Monday.  We discovered that our satellite tv is working (so there may be an angry phone call made to Bell if they decide to charge me full price for the month that we were not using the television service).  We received our modem on Friday, and are now hooked up online and ready to go.  Like I said, things have come together.

Ian discovering one of our unexpected items...

Our packers did an outstanding job.  All along we heard horror stories of moves to the North.  People told us not to pack anything glass…not to expect everything to show up…to expect to have forklift holes in our boxes…for our boxes to just be crushed or destroyed in some way.  But I have to hand it to our movers.  Every single piece of glass arrived intact.  Most of our boxes were in perfect condition – only a couple had minor dents.  Our dresser had some minor dings at the bottom.  And the only thing missing at this point appears to be a folding step-ladder – that really would have come in handy when organizing the kitchen cupboards!  Regardless, the movers packed EVERYthing in our apartment in Kitchener, and 99.9% of it arrived with no hassles.  Even some half empty bags of chips – but to be fair, we were advised that the packers would not be packing any food items.  Uh…yeah…

We finally feel like Iqaluit’s home.

And so do the Terrible Twosome.  Brit and Jemaine can be found lounging, well…just about anywhere in this apartment.  In our bedroom, we have pushed a dresser against the wall just in front of the window, and both of the cats love to sit on it and look out the window.  I’m not sure what it is they watch – I’m sure they’re intrigued by the giant ravens…or perhaps are just as mesmerized as Ian and I are over the expanse of land that we can see from our window.  They also like to sit on the wide window ledge in our living room.  And sometimes they just sprawl out in the middle of the floor…lazily flipping a tail, or rolling around in complete contentment.  I’m glad that they’ve adjusted so well.  They quite like it here.

Brit being absolutely unhelpful in the unpacking process

Jemaine settling down in record time

 

As for Ian, he’s been in his glory, faithfully taking pictures of every sunrise and sunset he can capture.  It’s amazing how beautiful the sun can make this place.  The snow just shimmers.  And from our balcony, we have a lovely view.  We can see Koojesse Inlet at the end of Frobisher Bay from here.  Having grown up in Niagara Falls, smack dab in the middle of the Great Lakes basin, being close to water isn’t exactly new to me, but the novelty lies in seeing the water from my home.

Stunning sunrise over the Bay

There is one thing I’ve been dying to tell everyone about since Wednesday.  While sitting at my desk at work on Wednesday morning, my manager came out from his office, visibly antsy.  He had received word that his snowmobile – which had been at the repair shop – was ready to be picked up.  It was also an incredibly beautiful sunny day.  On top of that, I had only been to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park once since my arrival, and it’s important that I understand the lands that I’ll be mapping.  So he decided that over the lunch hour, we would head over to pick up his snowmobile and then head out to the park so he could show me some of the more pertinent locations where we were attempting to obtain land ownership in order to fully protect the park boundaries.  Since Ian had never been to the park, we decided to pick him up as well, which would require the use of his other snowmobile as well.

The sun on the horizon while snowmobiling at Sylvia Grinnell...

I have never been more frightened in my life…or more exhilarated!  What a feeling it is to be on a snowmobile in Nunavut when the wind is blowing microscopic particles of snow across your face and frostbite is starting to set in.  It was cold that day.  And the wind added to that.  Ian and I were bundled up on one skidoo, following my manager on the other.  I’ve never ridden a snowmobile before, let alone driven one.  After a quick lesson, I quickly began to feel comfortable behind the wheel handlebars of the machine.  We had a few close calls – getting stuck on a massive patch of ice…reversing from the ice to then find ourselves embedded in a deep drift of snow…feeling precariously close to flipping the skidoo on some slight slopes – but we made it through okay.  After dropping off Ian, I followed my manager back to his house to drop off the second machine – up a huge set of fairly steep hills.  When you’re a beginner at snowmobiling, these are not the types of land features you want to encounter.  Especially when the slope you’re on leads to a relatively large rocky cliff over which your snowmobile and you could fall.  Did I mention it was exhilarating?  Snowmobile is currently winning in the potential transportation poll where my options also include ATV or shipping my car to the north.

It’s been an exciting week that contrasted with the winding down that was happening as we made our way to Christmas.  Ian and I wish all of you a merry one.  Be safe and enjoy your holidays!

Merry Christmas from Iqaluit!

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Bargains, Traffic and the Great Countdown

Geez. These days are scraping by faster than I like. It’s already Wednesday. No matter though. I’m back once again with a costing edition of the Nunavut updates. We headed to the GTA this past Monday to start our hunt for our outdoor gear. We had priced out some of the apparel a couple weeks ago at a store called Adventure Guide, but Suzanne ended up finding better deals at a wickedly cool outfitter called LeBaron. They have store locations in the GTA  so we figured we’d hit the closer of the two and headed to Mississauga first.

Beware. Here comes the shameless plugging. Their store is insane. If you’re an outdoorsy kinda person this is the place for you. They cover the full gamut from hunting weapons and equipment to outdoor apparel and supplies. They also ship anywhere in the world, except locally (meaning that if you live in an area where they have a store you have to go to the store). We went in with the intention of getting some Expedition style Canada Goose parkas. They came highly recommended by folks who actually live up there and we had tried them on at Adventure Guide so we were pretty much set on what we wanted. Unfortunately available sizes in the Expedition style were lacking so we ended up taking a look at another recommended style called the Resolute. Personally I liked the fit, feel and look of the Resolute more then the Expedition. It’s lighter than the encumbering Snow Mantra style but offers more features then the Expedition (inner & outer pockets, waist tapers, etc). The XXL was far too large for me so I went with an XL. Unfortunately it was the last one left of that size left in black or navy and that size just so happens to be what she wanted as well.  Neither of us were too partial to the attention grabbing red ones available so we were forced to face one another Gladiator style for possession of the last XL.

Just kidding.

Suzanne was actually looking forward to a brown or green parka so she called their other local store to ask if they had any of that style in stock. Thankfully they had quite a variety of colors and sizes at the other store so she asked that they set the brown one aside and we would head to Markham next to pick it up. We signed up with their membership program which gives a 20% discount on everything except the coats (which receive a 10% final sale discount). Either way it’s an awesome deal considering how much all this gear costs so we decided to take advantage of it and purchase some other necessities while we were there.


Suzanne and I tried on some Baffin Impact -100c boots. They’re just about the most moon booty boots I’ve ever seen. You clunk around like Robocop and they add at least another couple inches onto your height. It’s almost like walking in platform shoes. Remarkably though they’re not too heavy so I can’t see getting too worn out having to tromp around in them for extended periods of time. She ended up going for it and snagging a pair up. I on the other hand had fell in love with a pair of -60c Sorel Alpha Pac boots that I scouted at Mark’s Work Wearhouse last week. We were advised to get at least -40c rated boots so these fell well into the target range. Having 100’s would be cool but I think I’ll do just fine with the 60’s. Besides with the 60’s I can make use of my rockin’ wool socks that Nana gave me for Christmas oh so many years ago. It’s as though she knew I’d be needing them. We went with Baffin Polar Mitts for the both of us. Mitts are recommended over fingered gloves primarily because you’re trying to keep your digits as warm as possible and the best way to do that is keeping them close together. She ended up getting plain AuClair glove liners while I went with their HotTips style. We also tacked on Polartec Windstopper Balaclavas (aka face warmers) as well. They rock. Makes you sorta look like an arctic ninja.

After a 20 -25 minute cross town drive to Markham we picked up Suzanne’s jacket and were set to come back home with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately we caught sight of the notorious Ikea sign on the way back and somehow ended up there. An hour later we found ourselves stuck in in Toronto rush hour traffic. Damn you Ikea! For those of you who know about Toronto rush hour traffic, I needn’t say more. However if you don’t know what that means, try to imagine then worst traffic you’ve ever been in… then magnify that by like 100. I swear… that region is like the most congested, convoluted, confusing and frustrating stretch of roads I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how people navigate that zoo on a daily basis. Anyway, rant over. Once the sun was long gone and we were back in the Kitchener region I snagged up my boots. I was lucky enough to have caught them while they were on sale (20% off). Matched with a discount we received from having purchased some thermals the previous week it ended up being a cosmic alignment deal. While it would have been nice to get some pants and goggles as well, finances dictated that we can hold off on that for a bit. Besides the weather isn’t that awful up there just yet according to our inside sources so we can manage without them for the time being. Once the weather takes a turn for the worse then we can get that gear while we’re up there. The word around town is that if you can get your jacket and boots in the South, do it. It’s not so much that it’s super expensive to get them up there (something like maybe $100 more) but the fact that there’s not much of a selection. So if you’re coming up for long term do yourself a favor and get those two key pieces of apparel locally and get the rest (if need be) when you come up.

Let me tell you something, this stuff adds up after a while. Unlike Southern Ontario where you can get away with wearing Gortex jackets and toques, up there it’s a different story. There’s really no option to skimp or go budget on anything so it’s up to you to find the best deals possible. Don’t think in any way, shape or form that we’re trying to flaunt what we got by listing these labels and prices. Truth be told if it wasn’t for the generosity of some family members we wouldn’t have been able to purchase half of this. Our intention is to help others out who have little or no information about the equipment needed for the up there. We were lucky enough to have people who live in the territory (thanks Mark, Andrew & Milissa) who give us first hand information regarding what to and what not to get. We’re simply paying it forward to whoever else may be doing research like we were and looking to make such a trek.

4 more days before the insanity gets cranked up a notch. Can’t wait!

Gear totals:

Resolute Parkas (x2): $1215.00 (before taxes & w/discount)
Baffin Mitts (x2): $95.90 (before taxes & w/discount)
Glove liners (x2): $24.68 (before taxes & w/discount)
Balaclavas (x2): $ 50.32 (before taxes & w/discount)
Baffin -100c rated boots: $136.04 (before taxes & w/discount)
Sorel -60c rated boots: $107.99 (before taxes & w/discounts)
__________________________
Total: $1629.93 (before taxes)
(Roughly $1750 – $1800 with taxes)