Saturday, 1 July 2017

Iqaluit to Schefferville via bear island

Iqaluit to Schefferville. 29th of June
Sam Rutherford's Saratoga
Taking off at just before 10 am our team headed straight for Schefferville – a place in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Canadian upper ‘highlands’ as I might call this landscape.
overflying islands and icy waters en route to Schefferville
Our longest flight so far took us just over 4 hours. We first crossed the last bit of half frozen ice and then came over what's called 'bear island' as this was an island where hundreds of polar bears would retreat to. But as much as I stared out of my windows and scanned the barren landscape, I didn't spot a dam single bear. That's it! no more bears to be seen as we were now heading south.
no bears on bear island

bear island as seen from 4000ft
Then more endless uninhabited tundra with millions of lakes and rivers and trees before try touching down on a small strip at the mining town of Schefferville.

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Schefferville used to be one of the largest iron ore mining places in Canada in the 50ies but turned into a dump and very poor area in the 80ies as the mines were closed. Recent local investment has reopened one of the mines and people seem to find jobs again and resettle in the area.
Downtown Schefferville
As we arrived a lovely lady called Clara came up to me inside the tiny arrivals hall and introduced herself to be the manager of the Auberge where we would be staying for the night. 
Clara's hostel near the lake in Schefferville
Her little wooden lodge was beautifully situated on a lake overlooking the hills – the rest of the town having absolutely nothing to offer except one big supermarket (without beers!), a number of quite run down houses and the ‘Bla Bla’ bar.
kids playing with an old mining train model
Clara turned out to be a strict landlord but she later on cooked us a most delicious pork roast with apple pie to follow – and even better: she had a cupboard full of good wines and spirits! Being told that even the Queen had stayed here, we felt suddenly really privileged to be in this weird old place.
Having settled into our hostel, I then decided to explore the countryside.  
up on top of the hill with Gilles and his dog
As I didn’t know the best way up a view point hill, I asked a man near a work shed. It later turned out that it was THE man of Schefferville!  Gilles was his name and he owns all the hotels – including ours - bars, several houses, the ambulance services, various workshops and he also had a personal key for the airport!
a view to the huge mines
He very kindly offered to take me in a ride in his side-by-side (a vehicle that is made for this rough terrain and can easily drive over stones and rocks with no trouble. Riding up the mountain ridge with his German shepherd dog in the back Gilles explained to me the history of the mines and also told me a fascination story of a crashed Beech 18!!
Schefferville is the last outpost for the trains from the South. It takes 12-15 hours! 
lovely sunset over Clara's lake

I tried to get him to come out in the morning to join a potential ballooning expedition but he refused saying that he’s up late every night and doesn’t want to get up early. Hmm.. shame!

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