Joshywashington ventures to Churchill, Manitoba, the “Beluga Capital of the World.” This post is part of Matador’s partnership with Canada, where journalists show how to explore Canada like a local.

IT’S ONE OF THOSE THINGS that mustering words to describe is nearly an insult to the thing itself. How then, when faced with the obligatory “How was it?” should one respond?

“Amazing?” It was, but so is everything — my leftover pizza is amazing, that movie was amazing. So what?

“Beautiful?” Yes, but that hardly separates belugas from begonias.

“Way-better-than-it-sounds” is getting nearer to the thing, but I seem to get closest to the heart of the matter when I allow myself liberal use of expletives.

“It was fucking nuts,” I say. Belugas (which at this point I describe as “like a dolphin on steroids”) are so curious, so playful, and there are SO MANY OF THEM that at times I was sure they would swamp my kayak. Imagine scores of 12-foot whales gliding just below the surface of the tannic-brown water of the Churchill River, jostling the underbelly of your wobbly boat.

Imagine them breaking the surface with their shiny, polished-bone backs to the blue sky. Imagine shifting your focus from the cluster of whales surrounding your kayak to further afield and realizing you are surrounded, near and far.

“Cold.” That is how I describe swimming among them. The Churchill River feeds into the Hudson Bay and neither are exactly tropic in temperature, although the river is slightly warmer. Warmer in this context means slightly less numbing and slightly more tolerable. Even in the double-layered 7cmm full-length wetsuit I was shocked when my naked face hit the Hudson.

But how to describe the feeling of awe — of feeling lucky to the point of happy-tears? How do you distill some of life’s most exhilarating (and cold) seconds into a few sounds borne on a puff of bad breath?

You can’t.

Or rather, I can’t.

So I settle for “It was awesome — watch this video.”

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