Friday, April 8, 2011
Nunavut... our land
Now I know I look excited in the picture and I can honestly say that this was one of the most amazing things I've ever done in my life, but I also have to say that the 50 km ride out to "Fish Lake" was one of the scariest and most nerve wracking things I've ever done.
No sooner had we gotten across the frozen harbour and up onto the land but we capsized completely. The snowmobile dragged the kamotik for a litttle bit, but luckily we weren't going fast and Emma and I just kind of tumbled out on our sides. Everyone stopped to make sure we were all right and we heaved the wooden crate back over, packed ourselves back in and continued on.
At this point the cavalcade began to pick up speed and I started to get really nervous. I had drawn the "short straw", and was facing backwards, sitting at the very front of the kamotik, where the lack of shock absorbers meant that I was dropped unceremoniously over every bump and turn. I couldn't see where we were going, and had to rely on Emma for cues about how to lean to keep this contraption from spilling over again. It felt as if I was sitting in a wooden box that was being dropped about two feet every two and a half minutes and manhandled around corners, over mountains and through narrow passageways. Not to mention the fact that the wind from the speed was bitingly cold.
Once we got over the first part of land and started out over another frozen harbour, our driver kicked it up a notch and I thought we were going to die.
Some people started setting up a tent and others got to work digging holes for fishing. Most of the Inuit had holes they fish at quite often, so they only required a little bit of ice-breaking and slush removal, but we had brought a big gas-powered auger with us to help dig a few new ones. The ice was unbelievably thick... on more than one occasion the auger wasn't long enough to reach the water!
It was really cool to see them work the auger- it would dig deep into the ice and then they would have to haul it up to clear the crushed ice. At one point they hit water, hauled up the auger and threw a huge mound of slush and water up out of the hole and all over the ice.
The best part about fishing, though, was watching the Inuit set up their holes and patiently wait, bobbing their lines up and down to attract the fish. They scooped out the slush with their bare hands quite often, and laid on their stomachs for hours to look down into the hole. if you looked in the hole, you could see the bottom of the lake, and the idea is you watch for a fish to go by and then you jerk the line.
I asked Mary (one of the elders who had come with us) if she had put anything on the end of the line, and she said "No, you don't have to. Sometimes I put a little piece of orange peel and today I put some white plastic."
We stayed out on the lake for about five hours. Ina, the school ESL teacher and trip organizer, had brought bannock, caribou stew, Atlantic Char and hot chocolate, which they kept piping hot all day on a couple of burners in the tent. It all tasted incredible... especially seasoned with all the fresh air.
When we got back to the camp, lots of people were still hard at work fishing. I couldn't believe how long some of the women could lay on their stomachs in the snow and just watch for fish!
All good things must come to an end, and eventually we had to pack everything back up for the long ride home. I was kind of dreading the bumping and banging, but I didn't want to seem like a wimp, so I put on my brave face and hopped back in the kamotik.
Well I wish I could describe the incredible journey back! Firstly, Emma said, "How in the heck did you do this?? I can't hack it- I just have to see where we're going!". She proceeded to turn around, but even turned the other way, she agreed that the bumps were excruciating. I felt really bad for her, but a little vindicated... I was beginning to think I was a wimp!
And as for me? Well, I had the most incredible ride through the most amazing scenery... it was like being in another world. The bumps were no where near as bad sitting in the back, and I could see this frozen wasteland stretched out for miles in front of me. I was sorry to see Cape Dorset appear on the horizon about a half an hour later... I could have gone on that way for days.