Friday morning, 8:14 a.m., on the plane
I wake up at 5 a.m. this morning and decide to forgo a shower. I’m gonna be wrapped in a coat, hat, mitts, scarves and giant white boots, so what’s the point? I spend the last few minutes making sure I have everything, including pencils (they don’t freeze in the cold like pens do), and despite the joking with my husband that I wouldn’t, I really do have an extra battery for my camera in my cleavage. Gotta keep it warm somehow.
I realize I forgot to charge up my blackberry overnight. It’s a little late now, unfortunately, as I need to gather up chargers and wires. In one compartment of my suitcase, I have nothing but wires, including a power supply to my laptop, battery charger, mouse, blackberry charger and USB charger. I’m set.
I pull on my boots and despite my best efforts; I can’t get my jeans stuffed inside my Sorels. Guess the jeans will go on the outside.
I pick up my sister who has promised to drive me to the Fairmont Hotel where I’m going to meet up with the rest of the folks from the World Wildlife Fund and Coca-Cola. She’s still in her penguin pyjamas and bleary-eyed, but she’s happy to drive me at 5:45 a.m. so she can have my car while I’m gone.
Arriving at the Fairmont, about half the group is gathered in the lobby. They’re upbeat and overdressed for the weather, munching on crumbly half-stale muffins and guzzling hot coffee. Some complain they’re too hot, but then they go outside to the corner of Portage and Main. Just wait until they’re out on the frozen tundra! I’m not regretting pulling out my giant boots.
Jeremy, WWF’s newest marketing director, only found out yesterday he was coming to Churchill. Surprise! I think he must have flown in overnight, as I don’t remember him from dinner the evening before.
We pile onto the bus and the tour operators pop in a documentary about Churchill, focusing, of course, on polar bears. I can’t help but grin while I watch it.
I was told we were getting a chartered plane, but I didn’t realize that meant we weren’t going through the new Winnipeg Airport Terminal. Kind of disappointed about that.
We step off the bus onto the tarmac and climb onto the plane. It’s not the rickety rocket I expected, but a Boeing 737. This jet just for us? Then about 50 other people climb aboard, also taking part in a tour. Despite that, everyone who wants a window seat has one. Including me. I whip out my Nikon and take pictures of the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg while I can before cloud covers my vision.
We’re served actual food on the plane. This is a luxury I haven’t had since I was a kid.
It’s a simple breakfast of bagel, cream cheese, yogurt and fruit. There’s some sort of story about Churchill in the National Post, so that article gets passed around the cabin along with the coffee.
Aside from the folks from Coca-Cola and WWF, the other tour includes kids toting rainbow-coloured bears and 20-something hipsters who are going to be damn cold in those skinny jeans and wannabe-lumberjack shirts.
I’m tired this morning, as are most of my tour mates, but we’re excited. People are happy and chatting with each other, getting up out of their seats to mingle.
We’re about 45 minutes from landing. Time to pack up the laptop.