Saturday, 1 July 2017

On getting to the Yukon

This entry unfortunately does not deal with me cycle touring. It does touch on the subject.

I am currently in the Yukon. The genesis for this trip began some time after my trip to Australia as that trip earned me a wodge of Aéroplan points allowing me a long haul domestic flight. I am in a well populated group of Southerners who use their points to visit the North.

So where to go? Well, Whitehorse seemed more interesting than Yellowknife as there was the possibility of a loop via Kluane National Park, Haines (Alaska), ferry to Skagway, then over the White Pass and back to Whitehorse via Carcross. This was an idea that I thought about and filed away for future reference.

Last year, I was struck by the thought, "Hey, next year will be Canada 150. Why not cross Canada in one go?" (Or at least Vancouver to Halifax.) I thought that this would be more interesting if I had company so I asked Margo and Chris if they would be interested. Margo thought it sounded a bit too ordinary. Why not cross Canada on a North-South axis? This led to an investigation regarding the Dempster Highway and take a boat on the Mackenzie River. Ultimately, these discussions led nowhere as Margo and Chris decided to commit to trip in Central America which might have led to South America but didn't in the end. I didn't want to do such trip without their expertise at camping and dealing with bears. (The trip would pass through known stomping grounds of all three bears species known to inhabit North America.) Instead, I made plans for my main vacation this summer to be St John's to Halifax and to go to Whitehorse as a "common" tourist.
I left Montreal on a Saturday evening flight on St-Jean Baptiste Day, a.k.a. the official start of summer in Quebec. Consequently, Trudeau was quite busy with a lot of Air Transat (a charter airline) planes in evidence. As I had supper in the Desjardins Lounge in the airport, I looked out at the assortment of planes taxiing to and fro. I was struck by the sight of an Air Inuit first generation 737 equipped with a gravel kit (see above) followed by a First Air second generation 737 outfitted as a combi with a large main deck cargo door in front (see below).  Later an Air Algérie Airbus 330 came in. While, I was taxiing out in an Air Canada 787,  I saw a planes from Tunisair and Royal Air Maroc. The juxtaposition of airlines serving Northern Canada with North African airlines was interesting.
My trip required me to overnight in Vancouver. Thankfully, Margo and Chris were kind enough (and available) to not only give me a bed for the night but also pick me up at the airport. I am afraid I repaid her badly by guessing both bits of her "exciting" news. The first was that her daughter Louise is pregnant. (She had tipped her hand by saying she had exciting news when I spoke to her on the phone from Montreal giving me several hours to guess.)  Her second bit of exciting news that I guessed was that she and Chris had bought themselves road bikes. She had previously mentioned they were think about doing so.

After landing, I checked my email on my trusty iPhone. I was startled to see that Air Canada had cancelled my flight to Whitehorse and put me on another flight. However, the time of the new flight was exactly the same! I checked with a member of Air Canada's ground staff while waiting for my bag. She said the flight number had been changed as the equipment (i.e. the aircraft) had been changed. I later found out that the last flight out of Vancouver to Whitehorse had been cancelled that evening. In order to transport the doubled passenger load on the morning flight, Air Canada had substituted an Airbus 320 for the scheduled Bombardier Regional Jet. As the Regional Jet is technically operated by Air Canada Express and not Air Canada proper, and the Airbus by Air Canada proper, they had to change the flight number.

While waiting to board the next morning, I was asked to go to the counter over the loudspeaker. I went up and was asked to change seats so that a mother and child could sit together. Given recent airline nonsense and the fact that it made very little difference (seat 13C instead of 12C) I said "Sure, no problem." In fact, 13C was actually a bit better for me being one seat back from the cabin divider between first and cattle classes and thus less claustrophobic.

The plane was pushed back from the gate and then stopped. After a bit, there was an announcement from the pilot saying the baggage handlers had goofed and loaded our luggage into lower deck containers which Whitehorse's airport didn't have the facilities for! There was a slightly hysterical laugh from the passengers. So the plane was pull back to the gate so the containers could be unloaded from the plane and their contents loaded directly into the hold, which of course took time.

The flight itself was unremarkable, though the scenery I glimpsed through the window was impressive as we came into the Erik Nielsen Airport, named for the former Mulroney era cabinet minister and brother of Leslie Nielsen. He was also the MP for Whitehorse.

I collected my rental car, nabbed a free map or two and collected my bag. Margo had put me in touch with her friend Karen who offered me a bed and more. Her house is in what passes for a subdivision in Whitehorse. Its streets were named  with a geological/glaciological theme with names such as Cirque, Morraine and Esker. The lots are huge by my standards, and I am talking huge for North Hatley, not just Montreal! Unfortunately, the lots were not well numbered so I had to ask for directions!

I was greeted by Karen and her daughter Kendra and two huskies, Afry (short for Aphrodite) and Cyrus (pronounced "Cirrus" and is a female and less than a year old.) I was shown to my room. I napped for a bit before there was a dog walk in the woods behind the house. As I understand it, Afry and Cyrus are essentially pet huskies and so are comparatively spoilt compared to "true" sled dog huskies. This is not a dig at the latter or their owners but a reflection of the realities of dealing a dozen or more big dogs.

That evening Karen gave me lots of information about what to do in Whitehorse and on the road to Dawson City. As well, she invited me to go canoeing on the Yukon River the following evening.

1 comment:

Margo and Chris said...

Don't keep us hanging. What happened next?