Iqaluit to Kimmirut and Back, in 17 Verses


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Two weekends ago, four friends and I decided to skidoo from Iqaluit to Kimmirut, another Baffin Island community. It’s 120 km each way along what is known as the Kimmirut (Itijjagiaq) Trail, which cuts across some picturesque mountains and river valleys. While the trip can be routine for experienced hunters and arctic-dwellers, like any long trip by snowmobile in the Arctic, it can turn dangerous quickly. Doing this kind of trip with our crew -- five city kids, three skidoos, two qamutiik, and collectively less than 10 years of Arctic experience between us— is well, probably not recommended. But sometimes you’ve just gotta try things out. Here’s what the trip felt like to me:

Perspiration,
From the spring arctic sun, yellow, already beating down at 10 AM,
Causing sweat.

Too many people and too much gear;
No experience and only one small qamutik,
For a 200 km trip through the mountains.

Scrambling up Plateau Hill through melt-water,
To borrow a qamutik that my old,
Used sled would have to pull.

The cool air of the rising mountains across the bay.

Pink flesh of frozen char, melting on my tongue,
From the Akavak family we met,
At the rolling white mountaintops at Cabin Three.

Two seconds of fear,
As my qamutik pulled me down off the trail descending Mount Joy,
Only to realize I could get back on.

Sunburnt lips,
Heat, radiating off brown exposed rocks lining the Soper River valley.

Relief,
At the sight of the Akavaks in front of us again,
Articulated one by one,
Winding their way around the crystal blue slush of the river.

A final cool sunset, back at Cabin 8,
Casting shade over the valley.

The smell of fish and gasoline on my hands;
The ripe scent of the musk-ox skin we slept on.

Falling asleep at last.

A fast heartbeat at dawn, visualizing the climb at Mount Joy with the qamutiik.

Lots of throttle,as my machine rattled off uncovered rocks,
And stayed straight enough to make it up.

Anxiety,
At seeing one machine and qamutik clinging to the snow below the rocks,
On the steepest pitch of Mount Joy.

Stretching tar-lined towrope and sweat-drenched travellers pulling hard.

Elation,
As the sled jerked its way past us, smashing over the last rocks in its way.

At last… smooth riding.

Iqaluit to Kimmirut. Cautionary sign. Photo by Taha Tabish.

Iqaluit to Kimmirut. Cautionary sign. Photo by Taha Tabish.

Cover photo by Rowan Novinger.

Ted Cousins is originally from Ottawa and moved to Iqaluit in July 2012. Former host of the arts and culture radio show “The Lie” on CHUO 89.1fm, he has written for the Torontoist, community and university papers, as well as thecaen.ca. He is also the author of the very funny, "Moving to Iqaluit Made Easy: Ted's 8 Easy Steps" (if you haven't read it, you must!). Ted now works for the Government of Nunavut and writes mostly to make sense of what’s going on around him.

Ted Cousins is originally from Ottawa and moved to Iqaluit in July 2012. Former host of the arts and culture radio show “The Lie” on CHUO 89.1fm, he has written for the Torontoist, community and university papers, as well as thecaen.ca. He is also the author of the very funny, "Moving to Iqaluit Made Easy: Ted's 8 Easy Steps" (if you haven't read it, you must!). Ted now works for the Government of Nunavut and writes mostly to make sense of what’s going on around him.