September 1st 1981

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

It was a cold, cold night – the coldest we’d known so far.  We learnt later that the first snows of winter had fallen on the mountains nearby.  With some difficulty, we struggled out of our sleeping-bags, and made immediately for a nearby café to have some coffee before setting off.  We sat there awhile, chatting with a business-lady who was just having some breakfast before flying out of town.  I think she could tell we were hungry – she gave us a piece of toast each.  Then on our way.

We walked first to the Gold Rush graveyard – it was more or less on our way – to look at the graves of Soapy Smith, a notorious gangster of the era, + the man who killed him.  Then back to the main road, + a walk out of town, stopping for some lunch on the way, + then picked our hitching spot.  (Actually, it was picked for us by the presence of some large dogs further up the road.)  We hadn’t been there very long when Val noticed we didn’t have our sheet of plastic.  Somehow we’d managed to walk away from it, lying on the floor of the abandoned house.  I went back to get it – it was about 2 miles each way.  A bonus tho’ – on the way back I found a camera case, so I picked it up, without really thinking it would be of any use.  There was very little traffic on the road, but we were lucky – within three quarters of an hour we got a lift out all the way to the Canadian border.  I sat in the back of a pick-up, and tho’ it was a bit cold, the view was worth it.

We didn’t have any problems with immigration, and were standing out in the cold, just inside Canada, looking enviously across the road at a construction crew, +, more especially, their helicopter.  A young guy from there came over to chat – he was getting a lift in the helicopter soon.  Then the pilot came over, + offered us a ride!  Amazing.  A really terrific trip – fabulous scenery, + he took us down closish, to look at things of interest.  Much better than the train ride we couldn’t afford, and all for free.  Then we got a free lift into town from the airport.  John (the young guy) offered to share a camp-site place with us – of course we said yes.  He’d been to Whitehorse before, + was able to direct us to places for us to get some shopping while he attended to business.  We passed a second-hand shop, + went in + found a cheap cookpot – $2.  As an afterthought we offered him the camera case I’d found, + he gave us $4 for it!  And I’d planned to throw it away.

The 3 of us walked out to the camp-site, + then found ourselves a good spot to pitch.  John + I collected some dead wood from across the road, then set about making a fire.  It wasn’t the best fire we’d had, but it served – we were able to heat some soup + bake some potatoes (with far greater success), + that, along with bread, cheese, crackers, tomato, apples + a little milk made a fine meal.  However, it looked like it was going to be another cold night, + our fire was not marvellous, so we wandered over to join another group that John knew – their fire looked better.  It was a guy + a girl – Everett + Marge – they were good fun.  We sat there, chatting + drinking beer, so I decided to pop into town to buy our contribution.  It didn’t take too long – I got a lift in to town, and after a bit of searching + a swift walk back, I had a 6-pack there.

One of our prized picnic tables, John, and Chris

We sat a while longer, just talking, and it was getting colder + colder, so instead of covering the picnic table with plastic, as we had planned, we took John up on his offer to share the tent.  We helped him put it up in the dark, then crawled in.

Saw Northern Lights that night – not as good as they sometimes are.

Falling on our feet once again, it would seem – or at least falling (with huge gratitude) into a helicopter.  If there is an overlying (or underlying) theme to our travels, it is that, time and again, we met good people who looked after us; by opening up the possibilities of relative disaster – such as being stuck on the Canadian border – we also brought about the possibility of a happy accident.

Curiously, no mention here of taking – at John’s suggestion – hot rocks from the fire, wrapped in a towel, to act as makeshift hot-water bottles… and of one of them somehow burning a hole through the plastic groundsheet of his tent.

A waspish final comment about the northern lights.

  1. Pamela J Blair

    I think you were experiencing what I came to think of as serendipity–those chance encounters that lead to something totally unplanned and unexpected, that turn out to be very positive. I think it comes from an openness. My traveling companion (a Canadian woman) and I called it “roll with the punches.” It’s really a form of being very present, I think.

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