August 21, 2009

Finally...

I’ll be writing this next entry in retrospect…I’ve been in Pang for four days already and, though I’ve had time for emails, I haven’t really spent much time online.

Actually, right now I’m typing this at my kitchen table but will probably be posting it tomorrow from the wonderful world of Louis…he’s the token French guy in the community – a chef no less! Although he runs the Auyuittuq Lodge, admin duties fall far behind the more pressing matter of what will fill the guests’ bellies. Earlier this week I had veal and last night I had the best Arctic char imaginable…Louis says the trick is to heat it till the internal temperature is 120’F, then take it out. Wait until it heats another 10 degrees then slide the bone out. Perfection. [I won’t attempt to write in his accent because I know I would never be able to capture the exact essence.]

Rewind…

I flew out of Ottawa on Monday morning, and I don’t know how I got everything done. Thank you Marc! There’s no way I would have gotten on the plane without your help!

The flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit was packed. Fortunately, when you’re carrying a pet they usually give you a window seat. Unfortunately, despite the gravol and mild sedative I gave the dogs, Scarlett was frantic…she started hyperventilating at one point and the air inside the carrier just got hotter and hotter. Poor thing. She ripped up the zipper and I had to spend the rest of the flight bending over and holding it shut.

When we got to Iqaluit it was a short walk across the tarmac and, holy crap, were those dogs ever excited! Then we reached our first set of stairs. They are standard in the north from what I have seen so far…circular grates with spikes around the circumference of each. The dogs, literally, could not climb them. The airport was great, though…dogs everywhere; Nunavut is a very dog-friendly territory. In Ottawa there are always limits on where your pooch can go, but not here.

Not long after we stretched our legs, it was time to board the plane to Pangnirtung. I usually wait till last minute to board with the dogs, so when they called my flight I wasn’t too concerned with jumping on right away. However, after awhile it became apparent that they were only waiting for one more passenger…me. When I realized this, I had to pack up all my crap (including the dogs) in a frenzy to make it to the shuttle bus idling out front. Scarlett did much better on this flight.
Flying in to Pang is an experience that really can’t be described. I know this because I had read so much before coming. It is so much more. But how do you say that without verging on cliché? The airstrip is very small and it splits the hamlet in half. This does not mean, however, that the sounds of planes constantly drown out the water. I rarely hear them…they are so small that the air disturbance is minimal. What makes this particular airstrip unique is that it’s surrounded by mountains and water. For planes to land, they have to get totally turned around; to do this, they literally have to fly towards the side of a mountain…I was sitting eye-level with the middle of the rock-face. When it gets turned around, it has to land and taxi to a halt relatively quickly (ok, really quickly). When we finally screeched to a halt, I didn’t know what to think. Why did I feel the way I did? The landing part of any plane ride and the subsequent pull on my body has always bothered me, but this time it had a weird twist of excitement. Was it the airstrip? Was it the fact I was finally in Pang? Was it because I had no idea if someone would be there to meet me? I don’t know.

I ended up missing 9 boxes of stuff, learning my single accommodation had been switched to a shared 3-bedroom, then finally being transferred to Louis’ Lodge. The latter was definitely the best. As I have already mentioned, the food it great, and it’s the type of place you would go for some lively after dinner chat in the common room. Awesome. I got to know a few people…some passing through; some here to stay…it was a good first night.

Tuesday Morning

I wasn’t sure when the sun would be rising here in Pang, but with the heavy curtains I slept till my alarm went off at 6:45. I took Scarlett and Gryphon out as soon as I was able to wash the sleep out of my eyes, and this is what I saw. Although I had bought a new camera for the trip, it will never capture everything. Chitch and Kristie, you better get your butts up here with that crazy recording device you lug around! Flying from Scotland to Nunavut seems like the perfect transition before hitting Toronto.


After breakfast (eggs, bacon, homemade bread for toast, and fresh fruit), the rep from the housing corporation took me to check out the 3-bedroom I mentioned…I was sooo unimpressed. The (already taken) master bedroom was impressive, but the other two were miniscule in comparison. There’s no way I could even stack my boxes in there let alone unpack anything! The kitchen was super tiny and, from what I could see, the current occupant wasn’t too picky on cooking instruments…I’m past the university-style counter décor.

Anyway, after talking to my employer, a 2-bedroom unit miraculously appeared on the other side of the hamlet. I have been guaranteed that I will remain its lone tenant. Guest bedroom…yay! Or maybe an office. This is what I walk by on my way to work (see right).

Wednesday…set-up.

‘Humpday’ was the first out-and-about day for me. I had already made a few purchases at the Northern Store because my bags were held up, but I hadn’t really done a whole lot of shopping. I made my list of errands, laced up my awesome hiking boots (thanks mom), and headed out. I had already checked the Northern Store - to no avail - to replace the contact solution I had lost, so I decided to stop in the Co-op. Word to the wise: contact solution cannot be found in the entire hamlet. Eyedrops, yes…it’s incredibly dry here and the dust will kill you.

Anyway, nothing at the co-op so I headed to the post office…can’t really sign up for anything else without having a P.O. box. Now, just to clarify things: I come from a very small town in Nova Scotia. The people are nice and helpful there, but I will forever be Tara, daughter/sister/cousin/granddaughter/ etc. to someone. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but being here is a more poignant reflection on the goodness of human nature. It’s the first small-town place I’ve encountered where I am the only Muise, Corbett, or something in between.

Back to the post office…

After roaming around like the male driver who refuses to stop to ask for directions, someone stopped and asked if I needed help. That’s where it started. From that point forth it was basically leaping from the post office to the hamlet office (for the water/sewer hook-up) to the power corporation to the airport (still looking for my bags). My boxes did arrive, but I had no idea how to get them across town until a guy with one of the many trucks in town asked where I was going as he started loading the flatbed. Saa-weet!

Back to Louis’s for dinner…I couldn’t help myself. Char night. There were heaps of military folk in town on the eve of the PM’s visit, so I saw a few more guests sitting around at the Lodge – with squishy combat boots. This is the story I heard (and witnessed in the pics that one of the conservation guys took):

Pang was gouged out of the land by a huge glacier, and the resulting fjord is naturally shaped to mask the strength of the water at certain points during the day. Apparently there was a large group of troops out on the sand on the wrong side of the breakwater construction fooling around with a few quads and walking around. The tide washed in so quickly that they were knee-deep in water before anyone could really react. They had to slosh out and deal with sopping legs for the rest of the day. I hope their pics made it worth it for them!

Thursday

Well, Mr. Mountain-guy Logan had somehow convinced me to try hiking this peak. As he hails from B.C., it was more of a hill for him. As a Nova Scotian, it was definitely a mountain for me. If I were on my own, I probably would have stopped half-way and decided it was too dangerous to continue. This would make sense to me…“ok Tara, you did a good job for your first time out. You’re a teacher. Stick to classroom climbing.” Anyway, I was not alone, so onward and upward. And I do mean upward. I’m not sure how high it was, but I know that the rocky terrain makes it look deceptively short.

With Mr. Mountain-guy as a coach, I was able to get this picture half-way to the top, and the next few with me at the top. My climbing experience before I reached Pang consisted of a few steep hills (which ended up in cool destinations such as thundering waterfalls in Cape Breton) or being strapped into safety gear heading straight up a cliff with someone to brace me at the bottom. What did I discover? I think I might be afraid of heights. Once I got to the top I was ok, but every time I looked back on the way up, I felt sure I would fall right off. It’s a strange experience to stand somewhere and believe you could fall off the ground and not over or down. Very weird.



Thanks Mr. Mountain-guy! You’re right…the blackflies at the bottom were worth the blueberries and beauty at the top.

…time to stretch my tired muscles a bit more then rest my tired bones…

7 comments:

Haz said...

You may be free of the Corbett and Muise ties, but there's /always/ a Wilkie lurking about ;).

Glad to hear you're having such a good time so far and the pups made it alright.

Neverbeen2NYC said...

Such beautiful scenery.

Vampire said...

Hello there. I just found your blog through another internet blog. I am trying to chat with someone about traveling to nunavut. Could you please email me at chylins@hotmail.com so we can chat.
Please ignore the google id (don't write me off as a wierdo ha ha) I opened that account years ago, and was having a hard time finind an id that was not already taken! I use my hotmail account.
Please respond as I am having a difficult time gettting in contact with people who have made decisions to go to Nunavut!

Christa said...

Hey! I'm in Gjoa Haven, and I moved here from Nova Scotia (Originally from outside Halifax in the county, but I've lived in Antigonish and Pictou County). Where are you from? There are many Nova Scotians here in Gjoa, how about in Pang? I wish we had mountains like you do, our landscape is much blander, but the people are so nice here, it makes up for it.

Tara Muise said...

Hey Vampire,

I think I'll take the route that a fellow blogger has forged when asked for advice...if you have a specific question, ask away and I'll email you a specific answer. There's just way too much to a 'general info' question.

Christa,

Awesome! Someone else from NS; you're so lucky to have other easterners around. I'm not sure if there are any Nova Scotians here, but I'll be sure to find out in the next few weeks...serious meeting going on! I'm from Guysborough originally and spent many a weekend in Antigonish. Look out, we're takin' over the world!

Christa said...

There are so many Easterners around here, many people from Newfoundland, some from NS, and the plumbers that came to give us back our hot water were from PEI!

Actually, the ASAO position has been filled by someone who went to X with me! It's crazy.

I student taught in Guysborough! I went to education with Tara Dorrington from there as well. :)

It's pretty interesting how many connections we have up here, it is such a small world.

Tara Muise said...

Small world indeed. BTW, I love your blog...I'm polishing my credit card to work towards that internet shopping; it'll be nice to figure out shipping time.