The sun has almost sunk behind the horizon, and the subarctic tundra around our buggy seems to stretch on forever, its surface a mottled painting of scrub, half-frozen pools of water, snow, and dirt. The 12 people aboard slowly lower their binoculars and cameras are placed back into padded bags as the darkness settles in. There are audible sighs that say: No more chances of seeing polar bears today.

We all slide the viewing windows of the buggy back up into place, as we were taught after boarding, and settle into our rows of seats. The buggy is like a very wide bus, with a row of seats on each side beneath the windows for wildlife viewing, and a large space in the middle for everyone to move around comfortably.

Most importantly, as we find out in the coming days, there is a back deck that is basically a large grate, so that guests can see through it, and the snow can escape.

It’s only an hour since we left the parking lot where the tundra buggies meet the buses that travel out from Churchill, and everyone is already laughing at the slapstick humour of our Canadian interpretive guide and tundra buggy driver JP McCarthy, and our charming Scottish guide for the next few days, David Reid. The two have worked together for years, and this shines through in their their amusing banter and rapport.

From the driving seat at the buggy’s front, JP points to a pinprick of light in the distance. “There’s home for the next four days, people!” We all peer into darkness and the sense of adventure in the buggy becomes palpable.

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