We set up camp in Tsiigehtchic by the boat dock and race into town before the Northern store closes at 6:00pm. I’m walking the aisles when I read the email. The NTCL barge is delayed, our vehicle won’t arrive in Inuvik until the week of August 29th...three weeks from now. All our effort to get to Inuvik for the week of August 8th is for naught. All or plans and commitments back home for August are lost. I’m stunned. We have two large double Seaward kayaks that have to come home with us. The barge seemed like the perfect solution - we drop our vehicle off in Hay River, paddle down the river and reunite with our vehicle in Inuvik after the barge brings it there and then we drive home. Perfect ... but ... no more.
Nicky and I begin to talk options and we’re quickly drawn out of our journey.
“Maybe we could rent a car, put the boats on top and we could drive to Hay River.” I say, “I could then drive the vehicle back to Inuvik and fly home while you drive back from Hay River.”
“That would probably be expensive,” says Nicky “And the drive back to Inuvik is over 3500 kilometers. That’s nuts!”
“Maybe we could buy a clunker car in Inuvik and put the boats on top,” I continue, “Arghhhh, it probably wouldn’t survive the Dempster.”
The Dempster Highway is Canada’s only all weather road to cross the Arctic Circle and is one of the gnarliest highways in the country. Drivers are suggested to bring a full sized spare on rim as flat tires are more the rule than the exception. The road is made of gravel and rock and is notorious for a slick surface and shock destroying pot holes.
“We could all just fly back, I suppose, and one of us could fly up again in September when the vehicle when it arrives and drive the boats the 4000 kilometers home.” I say with reluctance. “It’ll kill us financially though and be brutal for the lone driver.” A cursory check on flight costs indicate tickets at $2,400 per person one-way from Inuvik to Vancouver.
“We don’t even know if the barge has left Hay River yet either,” says Nicky, “It’s Friday night now and we won’t be able to get through to NTCL until Monday morning anyhow. Hopefully we’ll be in Inuvik by then.”
“You’re right Nick, we got to put this out of our minds and not let it ruin our trip,” I say, “Let’s forget about it until we get to Inuvik and deal with it then.”
We head back to the boats from the Northern and make a pact not to discuss the dilemma any more. On our way down a vehicle drives by us and stops.
“You just paddle into town?” asks the man.
“Yes, we did. Those are our boats down there,” I say pointing to the beach where they sit. “Didn't I see you out canoeing earlier too? You guys were flying!”
“Yea, that was me and my buddy,” replies the man, “It’s Canoe Days here in town on August 19th and we’d like to put Tsiigehtchic back on the map. You should stick around for it. You’d do well.”
“Considering our circumstances right now,” I say laughing, “We just might.”
“Would you like to clean up?” asks the man, “I have a house on the market and I need to use up the water in the tank. You’re more than welcome to use it if you want.”
“Really?!, We’d love to!” I say, “Thanks so much. My name is Kevin by the way.”
“Sonnie,” he replies, “Nice to meet you. The house is just up there. The brown one. I’ll see you there in half an hour.”
And so continues the northern hospitality. Sonnie opens up his house to us, tells us to stay as long as we want and even offers frozen food from his freezer outside.
“This one’s duck,” says Sonnie, grabbing a bag with three ducks in it. The ducks look fake for the very fact that they look so real. They are perfectly intact, just frozen solid.
“This is moose meat. You could cook it over the fire with a stick at camp,” he says laughing.
“What’s that one I ask,” pointing to another bag with a different coloured meat inside.
"That’s caribou guts,” he replies, looking at me with a grin. I try not to flinch in my expression.
We decide not to take up Sonnie on his food offer but thank him profusely for use of his house. We head back down to our boats feeling clean in both body and spirit. We won’t let the car snafu effect the final leg of our journey.