The woman sitting next to me on the plane flying into Whitehorse tells me she knows the mother of the person I’ll be staying with. The chances of this seem wildly remote, until she tells me that she thinks the population of Whitehorse is around 20,000. The plane itself is relatively small, and the interior reminds me of a seaplane I had seen not that long before in an aeronautical museum. It’s a disconcerting first impression, given that, unlike a plane in a museum, my life is rather depending on this one working properly.
As we near our destination, the pilot announces that it’s 4 degrees Celsius outside. The woman next to me says that she heard it snowed last week, and the mountaintops weren’t covered in white – as they are now – when she left two weeks ago. From the air, Whitehorse looks like a grubby collection of ramshackle sheds, nestled against a grey cliff, on top of which sits the airport. We circle the city before coming in to land, and I can see that, further out, it is indeed ringed by snow-topped mountains.
Even stepping out of the plane and onto the telescopic walkway, the air is noticeably colder. The small band of fellow passengers and I walk through the tiny airport to collect our bags. As I realise that, for some reason, it reminds me of a Swiss railway station, in the blink of an eye, the rest of the passengers retrieve their luggage, meet loved-ones and disappear out of the door. I wander outside too, to look for a taxi, and all of a sudden can see my breath. It’s very cold; to me, at any rate. To residents who experience the place during the winter, when it gets down to minus forty, this might just be slightly cool.
Also waiting for a taxi are an English couple, now resident in Phoenix, Arizona. She’s very friendly and chatty, but he’s a bit cooler, and not just in a physical sense. It seems that their visit here is his idea, but she does not appear to be wholly convinced by the plan, and is not reticent about this. I suspect she may have made this clear to him a few times, which might explain his defensiveness.
Eventually, just as I am running out of readily-accessible warm clothes to put on, a taxi arrives and the couple get in. The taxi driver offers me a free ride with the English couple to their hotel, and from there to the B&B where I’m staying. Although the English guy’s expression makes it clear that this is the last thing he would like, my only alternative is to stomp about in the cold outside the airport, tying to keep warm until the taxi can return, so I eagerly accept the offer and jump into the front passenger seat.
Even waiting overlooking the airport car park, it’s clear to me that Whitehorse has a charm of its own. My first reaction that it’s bleakly beautiful, although it also looks like one of those places where, no matter what people may do, it’s Nature that calls the shots.