Got Milk Run?: Why I Love Flying in the Canadian Arctic


milk-run.jpg

A version of this post originally appeared on the Go Girl Travel Network. Header photo by Ornab Momin.

Travelling within Nunavut is not easy. We have over 1.8 million kilometres squared of land, three time zones, 25 communities, and no roads between them. This means that almost all travel in Nunavut is by plane, though some communities are linked by snowmobile trails in the winter. Airports are certainly the only year-round, all-season point of entry to the territory's remote towns. So, if you want to see the Canadian Arctic, you'd better be ready to fly.

Plane flying over arctic mountains, just outside of Iqaluit.

A photo posted by Anubha Momin (@_anubha) on

Dash 8's and Detours

Getting around Nunavut isn't quite as easy as hopping on and off a plane. From my experience, your trip will inevitably include some or all of the following: high prices, small aircraft, delays, and detours. While the expense can be prohibitive (a flight from Iqaluit to Cambridge Bay will cost you over $4000) and the delays due to mechanical or weather issues frustrating, the small planes haven't been an issue for me (most commonly I find myself aboard a Dash 8, a twin-engine airliner that is suited to fly into remote locations).

As for the detours, what I am referring to are the multitude of stopovers (usually scheduled, sometimes not) on many Nunavut flight paths. This means that what could have been a 1-hour direct flight between two communities may only be available as a 6-hour milk run (this happened to me...twice). What do you lose? Time. But what do you gain? A chance to see for yourself the beauty and diversity of more northern towns, even if it's sometimes just from the plane. Pit stops on milk runs or other routes have become my favourite part of flying in the north, namely because I may have never stepped foot in some of these hamlets or towns otherwise. Below are a few photos I've taken while en route to a final destination.

Flight from Montreal, Quebec to Iqaluit, Nunavut Stops: 1 (5+ hours)

Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Quebec (pop. 2,375)

Milk Run Flight from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut to Iqaluit, Nunavut Stops: 3 (6+ hours)

Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut (pop. 313)

Flying into the hamlet of Chesterfield Inlet, #Nunavut.

A photo posted by Anubha Momin (@_anubha) on

Coral Harbour, Nunavut (pop. 834)

Coral Harbour airport, #Nunavut.

A photo posted by Anubha Momin (@_anubha) on

Flight from Iqaluit, Nunavut to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut Stops: 2 (23+ hours)

Kugluktuk, Nunavut (pop. 1,450)

Stunning #sunset in Kugluktuk, #Nunavut last night.

A photo posted by Anubha Momin (@_anubha) on

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (pop. 19,234)

Flying into a twinkling #Yellowknife last night.

A photo posted by Anubha Momin (@_anubha) on

You may have noted the extremely long flight times. It takes almost an entire day to get from Iqaluit (eastern Nunavut) to Cambridge Bay (western Nunavut); this includes a necessary overnight stay in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Yes, that's right: sometimes, in order to get around Nunavut, you have to leave the territory. Again, this is all a part of the charm of northern living, and anyone who comes up here has to be both prepared and patient. What I've learned to accept, nay, enjoy is that travelling in Nunavut is as much about the journey as it is the destination.