Monday, November 4, 2013

Our (Unexpected) Stay in Rankin Inlet

When we were coming back from our holidays, we had an unexpected stay in Rankin that delayed us getting back by a day. Everyone we've met refers to Rankin as "the black hole" or a similar version - because you never know whether your plane will leave when it's supposed to, and if it does leave it doesn't mean your bags will follow. It's a central hub in Nunavut that planes must stop over, and I fear the traffic is overwhelming for the small facility. It's also in a community where weather is always questionable to boot - so there's a lot of stuff that can go wrong when you reach it (if you can reach it).

We have been lucky to date that none of our trips have meant that we needed to stay overnight in town. Yes, we have been delayed (once by 6 hours...which, in an airport that is the size of a small school gymnasium feels like a LONG time), but we have always managed to get out the same day we flew in. Until this time.

Our flight left Winnipeg shortly after 4pm and we arrived in Rankin around 7pm. It was supposed to be earlier so we could catch the 6:40 flight to Baker, but we had to make a fuel stop in Churchill. Why they did not get fuel when we were in Winnipeg I have no idea. (Grr.) Pepper's sedatives were not working well on this leg of the trip, so we were anxious to get home sooner rather than later! We got off the plane and immediately went to the counter (a good rule to follow every time you arrive in Rankin) to ask if our flight was still waiting for us. Turns out our plane went "mechanical" in Arviat and wasn't coming in tonight, so they were scrambling to find hotel space for all the stranded passengers. 2 things I didn't like about that: 1. We were staying overnight in Rankin and 2. There may not be hotels for everyone?  I asked if we could switch to the other airline who had a flight to Baker, but we had just missed it by 15 minutes (oh look, if we didn't stop for fuel, we could have made that flight!)

This was not boding well for my mood.

Finally, they found enough rooms for everyone and gave us vouchers for cab rides to/from the airport, the hotel room, dinner and breakfast the next day. Luckily, we didn't have to share a room since there were 2 of us - but just something else to note - hotels in the north don't necessarily rent you the room when they are charging you the hundreds of dollars. They are renting you the bed. So it is not all that uncommon when situations like these occur and you will have to double up with a stranger if there are not enough rooms available. I have never been happier to be traveling with my husband before!

Eventually we all (there were probably a dozen people or so) get to the Siniktarvik (aka the "Stinky Carpet" as dubbed by everyone) and checked in. Now, we're all starving since the majority of us hadn't eaten since early afternoon and ask where the restaurant is so we could use our dinner voucher.

"Oh, the restaurant closed at 7:30." Surely you will open it for all of us since it is just 7:40!?
"No, sorry. You will have to find somewhere else." What is open in town right now?
"Nothing, everything is closed." Then what are we supposed to eat?
"There's a vending machine over there..." Ok,..can you change this $35 voucher into coins for the vending machine?
"No, the voucher can only be used in the dining room. But you can combine it with the breakfast one tomorrow."

At this point, we just gave up and went to bed. Thankfully all our bags were with us so Pepper had dinner that night and I always have portable snacks (granola bars, nuts, etc.) in my bag, so we didn't starve. The next day we had breakfast and called to confirm that our flight was still leaving at 12, and were told all systems were ready to go. Until we got to the airport and were delayed twice more...argh! When we finally landed in Baker later that afternoon, everyone on the plane clapped. It was so good to be done with travel for a while!

So what are some takeaways from this?

1. Always pack your most essential items in your carry-ons in case your bags don't make it with you. (Good travel tip regardless of where you are going.)
2. Pack some food with you in case you are stuck and nothing is open for you to get food.
3. Always check in at the counter when you arrive at any of the airports as you fly through.

Guess it could have been worse - we could have had to stay at the airport all night or shared a room with a stranger. Or, we could have been delayed by weather, at which point all the costs associated with having to stay over would not have been covered by the airlines!

Oh, and I took this lovely picture of my handsome husband while we were out for some fresh air before our flight.

There's always a silver lining!



  1. Quite the adventure! I know how you feel as I've had the same situation happen to me before. It once took me 3 days to get a flight out of Iqaluit and even though it is a bigger centre the extra hotel costs were rather annoying on the credit card. The last night I was stuck there all the hotels in town were full so I spent the night in a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor of a lady whom one of the teachers I was traveling with happened to know. Definitely a unique experience to say the least.

    1. It's horrible to have those extra costs, isn't it? I would have been SO mad if that happened on our way back....though the whole not-opening-the-restaurant-10-mins-after-it-closed thing made me pretty angry!

      Your use of "unique" is much more generous then the word I would have chosen! It's definitely an experience!!

  2. Great post! I, too, have been stranded in Rankin. The flight from Yellowknife (en route to Iqaluit) just decided at the last minute to skip Rankin Inlet entirely. This was on a Friday, and if I hadn't been squeezed into the Saturday milk run, I wouldn't have made it home until Monday!

    Love the tips for things to bring in case of unscheduled stopovers. I also like to bring along my modem when travelling in Nunavut, to ensure connectivity/my sanity.

    1. Great idea to bring the modem. We have had to stay in hotels with "free wifi" and it is a crap-shoot if it will actually work when/if you can log in!

      Now, Yellowknife is somewhere I wouldn't mind being delayed - at least there are things to do there! :)

  3. Forgive me and please don't take offence but had you done your homework prior to traveling you'd have been far better prepared for that which has a tendency to occur in Canada's North. Your derogatory spin on your "(unexpected)" stay in Rankin Inlet smacks of pretentiousness and perpetuates the stereotypical Southerner attitude. I'm going to make the assumption that you're used to a very structured, defined life in Ontario and lack the capacity to adapt. In fact, I'll assume further that you don't reside in Baker Lake at this point due to the aforementioned. The number of people who'd be thankful for the experience to visit another of Nunavut's wonderful communities far outweigh those with your perspective. I'm from Southern Canada and have lived in Nunavut for 11 spectacular years. I've made what will definitely be lifelong friends and have experienced everything from storm stayed for 10 days in a community of 200 +/- (having to pay for my own accommodations and meals) to no running water for just under 2 weeks.......and I'd do it all again.....twice. I'm, of course, not privy to "Everyone we've met" though have never once in my time in Nunavut heard Rankin Inlet referred to as "the black hole".
    I certainly hope your future affords you time for reflection on how fortunate you were to be able to experience anything of Canada's North. Having lived in GTA, I am 100% positive that I never will again yet already think of how much I will miss Nunavut when I do eventually leave.
    Should you find yourself traveling anywhere in the future may I suggest you do so at all-inclusive agent booked destinations? In doing so you'll be able to blame a specific person/company for any bumps in your plans as opposed to a community and Territory.
    All the best in your future travels.......