Writer Anant Nagpur at the Arctic Ocean
Anant Nagpur at Tuktoyaktuk
By Anant Nagpur
Writer Anant Nagpur first attempted this trip to the Arctic Ocean in 2018 but was unable to reach the ocean due to hazardous roads. He chronicled that trip in the Glebe Report of October 2018. This past October, Anant tried again and succeeded!
My recent visit to Arctic Ocean via Tuktoyaktuk was both numbing and mesmerizing.
I had always wanted to go there. There is no direct flight to Tuktoyaktuk (fondly known as TUK) from major cities. One needs to go to Yellowknife and on to Inuvik, and from there you can fly or drive to Tuk. The Tuktoyaktuk population is under 1,000, and Inuvik is about 4,500. It’s a short flight from Inuvik to Tuk but not frequent. Driving 138 km on a gravel road to Tuk is for very experienced drivers, not for someone like me who hardly drives. As soon as I got to the airport in Inuvik, I looked for a taxi to go straight to Tuk and see the Arctic Ocean. To my surprise, there were several taxi drivers ready to go. Most of them were originally from Africa.
I chatted with Azim from Sudan, and we left around 2 p.m. I sat in the front seat to look around and chat. We shared a bag of chips, candies, coffee and cookies throughout the drive, and we shared our stories. He was sincerely thrilled with my sitting in the front seat rather than in the back seat, where conversation is hard. During the drive, about three hours plus and three hours back, I learned a lot about Azim, and it became his story rather than my visit.
Azim has two boys and three girls. Both he and his wife were in the accounting business. One son is an engineer, a graduate of the University of Calgary, and the second son will soon be an engineer. One of his daughters wants to be a doctor; the two other girls are still too young to decide. He is very proud of his children for their dedication to education.
He said there are roughly 100 Africans from various countries like Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Nigeria in Inuvik. He moved with his family to Canada in 2001, first to Calgary. Because of a family connection, he moved to Inuvik in 2005 and became a taxi driver. He said he is very content. He drives many tourists to Tuk to see the Arctic Ocean, even in winter (but not as many as in summer) and a few to see the Arctic Circle signpost. He said he loves it.
He owns a house. His neighbour is Punjabi, and they often share food. There is one Lebanese restaurant in Inuvik run by a family since 1988. I had my dinner there that night.
During the drive, I realized that what I was experiencing was “nothingness,” just me and nature all around, and big sky extending as far as the eye can see. Some people are afraid of big open space – nothing there, no Timmy’s for coffee or anything like that. Surprisingly, there were two guys from India taking photos by the frozen Arctic Ocean, who said they have a vision of opening a Timmy’s franchise in Inuvik where there is none.
You have to drive well prepared. If by remote chance you go off the road, you must just sit and wait till help arrives. Cell phones may or may not work since the connection is not certain. Azim said governments (both federal and territorial) are building fibre optics all over to improve internet connection. Throughout our drive, I saw hardly any cars passing us and maybe three or four oncoming.
On our way back, Azim said he would drive me back to the Inuvik airport for my flight back to Edmonton. I was touched by his offer. He showed up right on time as agreed. Instead of saying goodbye, I said “phir melenge,” which means “until next time” in Hindi, and he smiled and agreed.
Anant Nagpur is an Old Ottawa South resident who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers.