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Churchill (and Nunavut) The Sequel!
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GroovyPinkSocks



Joined: 22 Jan 2013
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Aug 16, 2013 8:12 pm    Post subject: tours Reply with quote

I have changed my tour, I am going snorkeling
with the whales now!!! Very Happy
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dani_carriere



Joined: 04 Feb 2005
Posts: 504
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 16, 2013 11:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ztirnats wrote:
You should have your car key on a separate key ring. We had plastic key rings that you write your name & plate #.


I was at a dollar store and bought a 6 pack of these key rings. If you see me at GeoVenture, I can give you one. I have 5 spares.

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dani_carriere



Joined: 04 Feb 2005
Posts: 504
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 20, 2013 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, I just want to recap the convoy plans for tomorrow:

We meet at the Lucky Dollar in Warren at 4:30AM. Coords are: N50 07.815 W97 32.650. Try not to be late, because if we're there for more than 15 minutes, we're likely to start going. If you're there after that time, and no one's at the Lucky Dollar, assume we've left and try to catch up.

If anyone has any two-way radios, bring them along. They may help to keep everyone informed in case a car has to stop.

I will keep my nuvi on Thompson, so it will give us our estimated arrival time so that we known when to curtail any caching.

Does that sound right? Am I missing something?

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4elements5senses



Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 20, 2013 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

a dear friend of mine was kind enough to put me in contact with a dear friend of hers that resides in Churchill (she manages the Northern Images store). A few questions had come up at geoventure and Pamela was very helpful with providing some information.
1. There is cell service in Churchill.
2. For those of you who will be purchasing a Wolf Passport and taking part, there are 3 wolves in Churchill. Once you have found the wolves using the coords provided you have to go to Tamarack Rentals (at the end of Kelsey Blvd) to receive the Churchill stamp. Tamarach Rentals is at the opposite end of Kelsey Blvd from the Tundra Inn and Northern Images. Conveniently, all 3 of the wolves are just before Tamarack Rentals. It takes less than 15 minutes to walk across town, so it won't take long to get there.

Regarding the wolves in Thompson, there are 35 of them. The majority are along a walking trail and can be done in 1 - 2 hours. There are a few wolves that are in front of local businesses as well. If you are interested, the start of the trail and where you receive your Thompson stamp, is at the Heritage North Museum, located at Princeton Dr & Thompson Dr, and they are open 7 days a week from 9 -5.

Looking forward to our adventure!
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dani_carriere



Joined: 04 Feb 2005
Posts: 504
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 20, 2013 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eric (erocks) dropped off the MBGA banner at my house yesterday. Will be bringing it up with me. Someone please make sure I bring it back!!!! I don't want to accidentally leave it behind somewhere.

He also gave me white coveralls. Why? All my outerwear is black. And based on the posts I've read, that's a bad thing. So I may end up looking like a dork, but I'll be an un-bitten dork.

I have a second set of coveralls if someone wants to dork it up with me.

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Stonagal



Joined: 23 Oct 2012
Posts: 78

PostPosted: Aug 20, 2013 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey gang. My cousin, who I introduced to geocaching a few months ago and who now has 30 hides in Saskatchewan, is in Churchill working at the Port, fumigating ships. He's aware of the geocaching events and is hoping he's able to stay in town long enough to take part. He's tall and has a handlebar moustache, and his caching name is dmdand3. Be sure to say hi if you see him!
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dani_carriere



Joined: 04 Feb 2005
Posts: 504
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 21, 2013 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the drivers tomorrow: Oakbank24 is spending the night at Paint Lake. He's reporting that there's construction after Ponton that might delay us. Keep that in mind with our time estimates.
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MuStash



Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Posts: 108
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 21, 2013 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We just missed the pilot vehicle leaving our end of the construction by about a minute. Our delay was 10-15 minutes. That should be as bad as it could be.

The Tim Hortons at the Pinesew Travel Plaza only had the usual hot and cold drinks and pastries. No soup, chili or sandwiches. The convenience store there had cold pre-wrapped sandwiches. We hadn't planned to eat there. But I did get a coffee. Just thought I'd let you know what to expect.
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ohmic



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 469
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 26, 2013 7:10 pm    Post subject: Churchill (and Nunavut) Event Summary 2013 Reply with quote

Churchill and Nunavut Trip 2013

This is a quick summary of our Churchill Trip for future reference.

Weather and Insects

The late August weekend proved to be fantastic in term of weather and bugs. The weather was in the high teens and low 20s during the day and dropped to around 10 degrees at night. We had bright and sunny days the whole time we were there. This was pure luck as the weather can change very quickly in Churchill. It seems that the last trip held in late June and early July had more spring-like conditions compared to our tour.
The bugs were practically non-existent whether on the shore for the Nunavut event, on the tundra at the CNSC for caching or in town where we spent the majority of our time. The wind played a good factor as a nice breeze seemed to have kept them all at bay. Even the locals seemed surprised with the lack on insects. The only time I had insects annoying me was near the ponds by the port when I was looking for birds.

Transportation

Driving to Thompson took about 9 hours including the occasional stop for gas and caches. We left Warren at around 5am and arrived in Thompson at around 2pm. There are quite a few gas stations along highway #6 and the longest stretch without services is between Grand Rapids and Ponton (approximately 200 km). The price of gas was only marginally higher than Winnipeg.

Only two cars met up at Warren for caravanning purpose as most other people either drove the day before or decided to drive on their own schedule in order to find more caches along the way. Carpooling had the benefit of reducing the cost of travel and having company in the car for those long and lonely stretches of highway between caches.

The train ride was, as expected, the worst part of the trip. The train is slow and uncomfortable. You can mention to the VIA employees traveling as a group which will give you the advantage of skipping in front of the line in order to be able to all sit together but it has the inconvenient of having to cram all together and be “forced” to occupy every seats as opposed to the other folks who could spread out and have 2 sometimes 4 seats to themselves. For sleeping purpose, it’s a lot more comfortable to have 2 seats...

The seats swivel and can be positioned to face each other. If you manage to grab 2 seats and someone else has 2 seats in front or behind you, you can swivel the seats and recline them to make a somewhat comfortable sleeping platform. When the seats are swiveled and two sets of seats are back to back, it makes a small tent-like structure big enough for a child to lie down and sleep. I also observed some small children sleeping in the overhead baggage compartment which seemed quite comfy.

The first seat of the car has its back against the wall and is facing the next seat so if 4 people are occupying those seats forget about getting comfortable… When boarding the train in Thompson, there were already some people on board from Winnipeg and other stops before Thompson. As we rode north, many people unloaded at Ilford and Gillam. Our train was late by 30 minutes, so the stop in Gillam was very short (10 minutes) so there was no time to get the cache nearby. On the plus side, as people unloaded, it created some vacancies and those who could take advantage of this could stretch out and have 4 seats for themselves. On the way back, it was the other way around. We were the first to board the train but more people got in at Gillam and Ilford. If you had a seat to yourself, you had to make room and share with the newcomers.

The dining car was a good place to stretch the legs and sit down more comfortably. We played cards for quite a while. It can get loud and rowdy as they are serving alcohol and some people take full advantage of this. It was worse on the way to Churchill than on the way back. The food was microwave edible meals. I had the “McMuffin” for breakfast and it was okay although very, very hot! This is not fine dining by any mean and I bet you their best sellers are chips and beer.

Churchill is a pretty small town and you can cross the whole town by foot in about 15 minutes. Our hotel was had a restaurant and pub right across the street and the tour company was just down the street from us. We booked a bus for the longer tour at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) which included the driver/bear guard. It cost $300 for a 24 passenger bus and $400 for a 40 passenger one. The CNSC is located about 40 kilometers outside of town and a bus was definitely the way to go. Cars can be rented for other travels for $70/day. None of us rented one.

It is recommended to have a bear guard with you when leaving the town on foot. We went caching to the Cape Merry Historic Site area located about 2 kilometers away from town and our hotel manager graciously provided us a shotgun for Chris Benson to use as a bear deterrent. Note that you must have your license to use a shotgun in Churchill just like everywhere else.

Lodging

We stayed at the Tundra Inn, in “downtown” Churchill, conveniently located just across from the Tundra restaurant and pub. The rooms were large and bright with 2 double or queen beds, a desk and chairs, flat screen television and private bathrooms. My room, number 211, was facing a back street and was very quiet. There were some rooms on the main floor and some rooms on the second floor that required going up a few stairs. We had a group rate of $121.50 plus tax which came to $137.30 per room per night. The room included continental breakfast (cereals, toasts, jams, muffins, juices, tea, coffee and milk) served in a small common area on the main floor near the reception area. There were other low cost options for lodging such as the Hostel at the Tundra Inn and bunk beds in the CNSC. The hostel beds were significantly cheaper ($35 per person per night) but didn’t have breakfast included and it was a shared a bathroom. The other option, bunk beds at the CNSC, was a bit too far out of town and a shuttle would have been required to go in and out of Churchill which would have made it unpractical for our group on free days.

There are a few other options in Churchill I didn’t investigate further either because of price or availability for a large group. The last time I was in Churchill I stayed at the Aurora Inn and it was fine as well.
The staff and management at the Tundra Inn were outstanding and very accommodating. They had the rooms ready upon our arrival at 9am, which is a good thing as nobody really slept well in the train. They provided us with the shotgun for bear guarding during our geocaching outing and they let us have our rooms until 7pm the day of our departure. They also have a courtesy shuttle to and from the train station but being only a few blocks away, most of us walked.

Food

There are many places to stop for a bite to eat along the way to Thompson including a Tim Horton’s near Grand Rapids but don’t expect the best selection and/or service there… There are many eateries in Thompson including most fast food chains, a Boston Pizza, and other family restaurants. Churchill doesn’t have too many options for food. We ate most of our meals at the Tundra Restaurant and Pub located across the street from our hotel. This is where we had our Pub Night on our first day in town. There was a good selection of meals and drinks and the food was good and the prices were right. As a matter of fact, just prior to our arrival, a film crew from the Food Network – You Gotta Eat Here were filming their television show here.

The other good eateries in town include Gypsies bakery, where we had our Breakfast event. The food was great. Everything is made fresh overnight and I highly recommend the giant apple fritters. They had a Chinese buffet for lunch and a good selection of other items. Did I mention they have great apple fritters! There are two other restaurants in town but we never got a chance to try them out. One is the Seaport Hotel and Restaurant and the other is at the Lazy Bear Lodge and Restaurant.
Tours

There are many tours company in town as tourism is their bread and butter. We arranged our tours with Sea North Tours. Their office is located at the Polar Inn, just around the corner from our hotel. The main options were snorkeling with the belugas ($195), a beluga and Prince of Wales tour (about $115) and a kayaking with beluga whales ($160). The first two options are on a zodiac. I did the snorkeling and it was the experience of a lifetime! The majority of the group did the Beluga and Fort tour which was also quite enjoyable judging from their comments. The tours are wind dependant and are timed according to the tides. The snorkeling and beluga & fort tours are done during high tide and the kayaking at low tide.

There are other tour companies in town offering similar tour. We couldn’t secure a tour with Lazy Bear lodge as they give priority to their guests and open up tours as they become available. For those wanting to explore the tundra and its wildlife, Nature 1st offers driving and walking tours. Although it is not the right season to see many polar bear, some of us decided to take a Tundra Buggy tour ($120) during our last day in Churchill. We spotted one lone bear, fairly close to the buggy but the actual ride was the most entertaining part. The tundra was very, very bumpy which made the train ride feel very smooth in the evening.
The Nunavut event was held on the tidal flats of the Hudson Bay, in view of the Ithaca shipwreck. I had arranged a guided tour of the CNSC facilities, lunch and a talk on polar bear and geocaching session with pick up and drop off at the hotel. The bus was supposed to pick us up at 10am but because of changes in schedule regarding the other tours we bumped it to 11. We didn’t leave the hotel until 11:30 and got to the CNSC at 12:15. We had lunch ($14/person + tax) and after the tour and the very interesting polar bear talk by Michael Goodyear ($15/person + tax) we had a quick geocaching workshop and went to find one nearby. Michael was our bus driver and he was very informative about everything! He kept us informed and entertained with stories from rocket science to natural history as well as local folklore and more. After stopping by the Ithaca for the Nunavut event, we drove by the Miss Piggy crash site for pictures and we were treated to our first polar bear sighting of the trip! We came back to the hotel at around 6:30ish.

Other

Cell phone connection is non-existent if you have a smart phone. However, there is no problem if you have an older phone. Free WiFi was readily available most places (hotel room, restaurant, bakery, pub).

There is one bank in town, a Royal Bank, located at the Bayport plaza.
The Bayport plaza is also where you can find the post office, the Liquor Mart and the office for Manitoba Conservation (for hunting permit).
Many stores sell similar items and souvenirs but have very different prices so it might be worth it to shop around.

There is a large Northern Store very close to the hotel to buy everyday items you may have forgotten. Prices are higher than Winnipeg.

There is a pool and bowling alley at the Community Centre and a beautiful giant inukshuk by the beach just at the edge of town.
Churchill is a very pedestrian-friendly town. Everything is walking distance.

Refer to the attached maps for a lay of the town and the surrounding area.

Budget

The cost to drive to Thompson will vary depending on the vehicle driven and how many people per vehicle. We spent about$200 in gas for the return trip with 3 people in a car.

The train from Thompson was $110 per person in economy class. Flying from Thompson was $250.

Two nights at the hotel was $274.60. Most people were 2 per room to share the cost.

The Nunavut event (including a tour of the CNSC, lunch, a bear talk and bus and driver/bear guard for the day) was $47.03 per person.
The cost for the event is approximately $400 per person. This does not include meals (3 suppers, 2 lunches and 1 breakfast), personal tours (tundra buggy, and whale watching) and souvenirs.

The extra costs can add up quickly but this is definitely an experience of a lifetime and I highly recommend it.



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ruylopez



Joined: 16 Aug 2010
Posts: 54
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 26, 2013 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What was not mentioned in the summary was the great job Jacques did in organizing the event, which was included at no cost to us. Thanks Jacques!
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ohmic



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 469
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 26, 2013 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you but I cannot take the credit for this as most of the groundwork had been done by the ztirnats for the first trip.

I would like to encourage all of the participants to share their thought on the experience, whether positive or negative, to make the next one even better!
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Yogi®



Joined: 19 Apr 2012
Posts: 50
Location: Winnipeg (North Kildonan)

PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will make sure I go next trip up
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ruylopez



Joined: 16 Aug 2010
Posts: 54
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For future visitors, I've been told by someone who flew to Churchill several years ago that it costs very little air miles to fly Calm Air to Churchill from Winnipeg since Churchill is in Manitoba and this is part of your own "zone". Not sure if this is still the case, but it's something to consider.
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Stonagal



Joined: 23 Oct 2012
Posts: 78

PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the informative summary, Jacques! And thank you to everybody for making my cousin Dan feel welcome and among friends when he met you guys! Although it's kinda weird seeing a guy in a Rider jersey holding up one corner of the MBGA banner:P
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ohmic



Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 469
Location: Winnipeg

PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found the coolest cache ever at the marsh today. It was filled with great swags as a thank you from the group.
I'm the one that should be thanking you for coming to my events!
It's very appreciated.
TFTC! Very Happy



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