Letters from Yellowknife – Day Four – Bucket List Tour

I left off saying that Tracy would give us a “special” the next time we turned up at her cabin. Let me first recap the background. Su had planned and organized her impromptu trip or what I would actually say impulse tour out of Whistler, from 3rd to 7th March and had inadvertently paid heavily for the phone charges for calling Cathay Pacific. Her object was to book a tour operator every night while we were in YK, and she booked Bucket List Tour for the first two nights we would be there. Very soon, Su found out that Bucket List rejected her booking for the first night, at which point she scrambled for another tour operator who also couldn’t deliver. In return, Bucket list offered to take her booking on the fourth night, or the night before we were to depart.

At 9:20pm therefore, we waited at our hotel lobby and presently, Tracy’s bus turned up. There was nobody on the bus except her and Milan the driver. The bus went to the Explorer Hotel nearby to pick up a party of three from Oregon, comprising Kirk and his wife Bridgette and his 82 year old mother Glena. We then moved on to an air bnb to pick up a young Japanese gentleman whom we later learnt was from Tokyo but who had been working for a wine producing concern at Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Lastly, the bus went to a location called Super 8 to pick up a young couple wearing masks and whom we identified as unmistakably coming from Hong Kong. We were proved right. From then on, we sped to the cabin and were at the entrance by 10:15p.m.

Tracy did the normal introduction on the background of the cabin and inadvertently invited her guests to try on the parkas hanging on the walls, genuine or not. It turned out to be somewhat disastrous, for the young Japanese tried on the real parka and damaged it further. Tracy kept saying later she ought to have put it in a case and have it frozen.

As it turned out, we were third time lucky, for no sooner had we settled down in the cabin than we heard that the aurora was already raging outside. We spared no time and dashed out for the obvious. What could one say, or do? The formations were so unpredictable and unimaginable, the colours were so wild and the aurora came in so strong and energetic that one simply needs to be there to catch the moment. I tried my level best to take photos with my phone, but was careful to allow myself ample and sufficient time to gaze at the sky and see what needs to be seen on the sot rather than from the photos. At -35⁰C and with wind chill, the figures, particularly those of the right hand, suffered most and were almost frozen. All in the group appeared to have a great time. Our 82 year old grandma had come specifically for this – it was on her bucket list – and she called her daughter from the cabin yelling that she had seen the lights. Later on, Tracy had to warm her feet and put a blanket over her. Her daughter-in-law Bridgette was well equipped and took beautiful pictures. She also brought along six bottles of special beer which tasted rather good. She had initially placed the bottles outside the cabin, but when the beer became partly frozen, she took them back inside. Our friend from Tokyo, who appeared listless and too thinly clad, was jumping around dogging Milan for pictures, while the young Hong Kong couple appeared sufficiently adept to take pictures with their phones.

Tracy’s special for us comprised assorted fruits and Arctic char cooked in maple balsamic vinegar which had the touch of fine dining cuisine, in addition to her regular chocolate and homemade bread. The others had what we had two nights before; and everyone seemed to be enjoying the food and the atmosphere. The aurora came in strong repeatedly and everyone was so busy rushing in and out of the cabin. By 1 a.m. we were simply exhausted and tired out, being too aware at the same time that we had a flight to catch a few hours later and bags to pack before that. On the bus back, Su exchanged some ideas with Tracy how she could add extra comfort for her clients, such as having small hair driers with which they could blow dry their socks and warm their feet as necessary. Tracy was very pleased and asked to stay in touch on Facebook and emails. She also encouraged us to visit her in the summer when the weather would be very much more hospitable and the place would offer other attractions.

And so we had three full nights, of the four we were in YK, enjoying as opposed to chasing the Northern lights. We don’t think we would need any more, for a long time. Lest you may ask, and to complete the picture, I would tell you what we did on the third night, a subject which Tracy indeed had kept asking us on the fourth night. Well, we did not go anywhere but stayed indoors, despite two attempts from Ninja Tour to invite us to join their hunting tour on the third night, Su having told Raymond somehow that we had cancelled the booking with another agent, Northern Star, and despite the attraction that we would meet Raymond and the three young friends we met the first night.  By then, Su had picked up sufficient knowledge and IT skills on tracking aurora. From her phone, she could receive real time information on the weather and the forecast on aurora positions and intensities.  She had learnt, for example, that the possibilities of catching the aurora on the third night were rather low, which was the main reason why we had stayed indoors. At our age, we needed some rest sometime anyway. Besides, we had other chores during the day.

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