Not long ago I had the opportunity to travel across much of the length of Manitoba during an assignment that took me to the far north of the Canadian province. The two-day, 1700 kilometre journey was made aboard “The Hudson Bay” – the train linking Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg with the idiosyncratic and distant northern port town of Churchill.
Though a far cry from more intrepid routes like the “Trans-Siberian” or even “The Canadian” (the celebrated journey from Toronto to Vancouver by way of the Rockies), it was a chance to avoid yet another anaesthetizing plane ride and get a slower sampling of the land as it morphed with the changing latitudes.
The route runs west out of Winnipeg, across into Saskatchewan, and turns north along the provincial border before cutting back into Manitoba at The Pas. The track continues in a northeasterly direction through a magical and dense riverine wilderness past the village of Gillam (home to the Fox Lake Cree Nation), where it turns north making a B-line to Churchill.
Sky-blanketed prairies and intermittent fields of yellow canola, at the start of the trip, gave way to boggy, spruce-dominated boreal forests and, later, to the balding, thawing, permafrost-laden tundra from which Churchill emerged like a northern mirage.
Joining me on the character-speckled, mini-expedition was writer colleague (and indomitable Vancouverite), Lori Henry. The images below capture some of the flavour of the journey.