Arviat family goes 'back to tradition,' travels to Winnipeg sans plane ticket

It may have taken a year to plan — and some not-so convenient modes of transportation — but Kevin Kalluak says it was well worth it.

5 family members travel more than 1,200 km via boat, train and car

It may have taken a year to plan — and some not-so convenient modes of transportation — but Kevin Kalluak says his latest trip from Arviat, Nunavut, to Winnipeg "takes me back to the tradition." 

Kalluak, his nephew and three brothers-in-law made the trip without stepping on a plane once, something that's nearly unheard of from an isolated community that has no roads in or out.

"We just wanted to see how it was to travel from home without ever flying," Kalluak said.

Arviat, pop. 2,300, is in southern Nunavut, lying along the coast of Hudson Bay. 

For many people living in the hamlet, Winnipeg is their hub; a popular spot to go shopping, check out a concert, or in this case, a summer hockey camp for Kalluak's son.

Kevin Kalluak says he hasn't heard of anyone else travelling from Arviat, Nunavut, to Winnipeg without boarding a plane. (CBC)
Kalluak and his relatives hopped into two boats Thursday, July 14 at 11:10 p.m. CST, bound for Churchill, Man., the first leg of a more-than 1,200-km trip.

After seven hours, the group reached their destination and met up with more family members, who then boarded a train to Thompson, Man. It was the cheapest part of the journey, costing each person no more than $40.

"Cheap, but long," Kalluak said. "It was a 16-hour train ride one way."

Then, they were on to their final leg: eight adults and 12 children piled into one mini van and two cars, and drove the 7.5-hour trip from Thompson to Winnipeg.

Kalluak doesn't think anyone has made the journey quite like they did.

"We never took a plane. We were always on land and water.

"I think this is the first time."

Kalluak says he and family made a few more stops than expected, but he says they also saw animals some family members had never seen before. 

Kevin Kalluak and 19 relatives had a feast in Churchill before boarding a train to Thompson, Man. (Kevin Kalluak)

"The kids got to see cows on the road. They were excited to see that."

A flight from Arviat to Winnipeg and back can cost up to $2,000 per person on Calm Air, the only airline operating out of the hamlet. So Kalluak's way of travelling was a huge cost-saver.

But he says it's about more than the money.

"When I think about it, it's harimanaqtuq [a sense of pride]," Kalluak said. 

"It's part of our culture to travel long distances, whatever transportation we can use. And it takes me back to the tradition, eh? Like, without ever having to fly."

Kalluak and his family will start travelling back to Arviat this weekend via — you guessed it — boats, trains and automobiles.

Some happy young hockey players at a summer camp in Winnipeg after some of their family members travelled from Arviat, Nunavut, without boarding a plane. From left to right: William Uppahuak and Mark and Jimmy Ollie. (Gleeson Uppahuak)