Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Churchill: 75% off all outerwear

Tara comes through to make my bed up as we arrive. We talk about what we're going to be doing between now and tonight's return departure back to Winnipeg. She says she's looking forward to getting some sleep in the hotel room that VIA Rail provide her with for her daytime layover. Apparently Churchill is the only place where she can sleep peacefully through the day. She recommends that I stop by Gypsy's Bakrery and Diner for lunch: she always enjoys the food there, and coming from a chef I take the advice.

I'm the only person getting off the train from the steps at the back of the sleeper car. Further up, the thrice weekly arrival is being met with great activity, as supplies and luggae are unloaded from the train. I hang around for a while, waiting for the station master to return from unloading the train so that I can leave my bags here for the day. It is, however, bitterly cold. I check the weather forecast that is pinned inside the station, and today's high is not predicted to be above -8C. This is, in fact, unseasonally cold for Churchill, and just last week a period of warm sunshine and spring like temeratures was apprently broken by a sudden snow and ice storm. Regardless, I am hopeless unprepared for this unpredicted drop in temperature, and just waiting outside my extremities are getting cold. I joke with one of the other passengers that this is quite a change from California the week before last. If I'd known I would have packed gloves and a hat. He replies that if he'd known he would have packed his thermal underwear. I fantacise about my soft silky long johns, far far away from here, stuffed in a drawer back in Montréal.

I manage to leave my bags with the station manager (no charge) and am told to be back before 20.00 to collect them. The train will be leaving tonight at 20.30. I have no intention of missing it. Just outside the large, beautifully restored station is a big sign, welcoming visitors to Churchill. It says that apart from being the 'Polar Bear Capital of the World', Churchill is a' Bird Watchers Paradise' (late May through September), 'Belguga Whale Capital of the World' (late June to late August) and home to the Aurora Borealis (late November through late March). So it's no wonder that the train was empty - I've conveniently arrived at the one time of the year when there isn't much going on in Churchill for the tourist.

I scamper up Kelsey Boulevard, the closest thing Churchill can claim to have to a busy shopping street. It's a broad tarmac road, with wide unpaved strips either side. Low-lying one and two storey buildings are dotted out at even spacings along the street in both directions. I head straight for the 'Northern' supermarket and general store. I am fully prepared to pay a fortune for some gloves and hats, knowing full well how expensive things can become up here because of their long journey to get here. Much to my amusement, however, because it's now the end of winter, there's a clearance sale on all outerwear. I pick up a 75% discount on a pair of gloves and a toque (hat). Total price: C$3.13.

I am now prepared.

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