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The highlight? A seven-year-old tour guide.

On a 12-day expedition cruise around the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, AFAR contributor Sarah Purkrabek discovered that befriending a seven-year-old was just as thrilling as spotting polar bears and icebergs. 

My guide wanted me to see the grocery store. She was hoping I’d buy her a soda, but I couldn’t justify spending $6 on can of Coca-Cola, no matter how good she was at her profession.

Did I mention my guide was a seven-year-old girl? I first met her when she ran excitedly to hug me as I stepped off a Zodiac boat that had just pulled into her hometown of Ikpiarjuk, an 870-person hamlet in the territory of Nunavut. Along with 180 other passengers from the Ocean Endeavour—a vessel operated by Adventure Canada—I had landed on Ikpiarjuk during a 12-day expedition cruise around the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. The trip is a dream for adventurers enamored with arctic landscapes and wildlife: We saw polar bears, narrow fjords, icebergs half-submerged in turquoise water.

The only way to reach this remote area is by boat or plane, and the Ikpiarjuk supply plane was late. The town’s soda stock was dwindling, so the price had been jacked up higher than usual. My grade-school guru overcame her disappointment quickly and marched me across the village, pointing out landmarks. There was her cousin’s house, the school, the moored sailboats where she and her friends played. There was another relative, her step-step-cousin, in a traditional amauti (parka) hand-sewn from seal skins and caribou hides.

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And there was the jungle gym. By this time our group had expanded to include a bunch of little kids from the village. Clearly the playground was the grand finale. I spent the next two hours pushing swings, boosting kids up to the monkey bars, watching a series of informal gymnastics competitions. Looking back on the trip as a whole, I have the fondest memories of Ikpiarjuk, where I was more than a sightseer. I had the privilege of being someone’s playmate. adventurecanada.com

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Exploring Canada’s Northern Territories
Click through to follow Sarah Purkrabek’s arctic adventures.
By Sarah Purkrabek, AFAR Contributor
Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Devon Island
    Sarah’s group spotted this iceberg near Devon Island, which boasts the title of largest uninhabited island on Earth.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Price Leopold Island
    To the left is Prince Leopold Island, known for its many bird species.
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    Kayaking off Prince Leopold Island
    The vibrant water and distinct rock striations entice kayakers and geologists alike.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Arctic Bay
    Travelers savor a peaceful stroll along Arctic Bay.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Tour Guide
    Sarah’s guide (left) concludes their tour at the playground.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Expedition Cruise
    From a distance, the Ocean Endeavour appears relatively petite.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek
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    Pond Inlet
    Sunset is the perfect time to capture beautifully refracted light.
    Photo by Sarah Purkrabek

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