A local prawn? An
outsider? I don't know.
Within hours I
had failed to finish my drink. My companion was on the phone to the house
doctor. My vision was contracting. My gorge was rising for the 10th time. I
felt the Canadian Pacific was not what it was cracked up to be. I called for a
We were going
north to Smithers by way of Williams Lake. The fellow passengers were more
promising than the tour group—a few sports like ourselves, some surveyors,
timber cruisers, a geologist. The minute the aircraft had elevation a country
revealed itself that was so tortuous, folded and empty that some trick of time
seemed to have been done.
The sky came down
to a jagged horizon of snow, and for 360� a coastal forest, baleful and empty,
rose to the mountains. Past the bright riveted wing, the ranges succeeded each
other to the north in a blue eternity.
We landed at
Williams Lake on the Fraser River, dropped off passengers, taxied, flew a few
yards, landed again, taxied again, took off again and landed. The pilot came
out of the cockpit with his shirt unbuttoned and remarked with appalling candor
that the plane felt like a Model A.
We got off the
plane. I stopped under the starboard engine with the pilot. "Popcorn and
marshmallow sauce seems to be pouring out of that motor," I said. It did,
They sent us into
Williams Lake to eat while they fixed the plane. In the cab we learned the
airline we were using was bankrupt. It had come to seem so. But at the
restaurant they told us to return to the plane immediately.
When we boarded,
the pilot said, "I hope it goes this time. Occasionally you're not
So we flew into
the wild blue yonder, over the increasingly remote wilderness, hoping that we
would be lucky and that the plane would work and be better in all ways than a
At Smithers, the
seaplanes rested very high on their pontoons beside floating docks. A mechanic
tapped away at a workbench nearby as we boarded a De Havilland Beaver.