Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stage 2 Kuujjuaq to Purivrituq

Hello everyone,
Ok, So we're stuck with a enthusiastic 4 year old in a strange town, in a strange airport,and we've been up and travelling for 6 hours when we arrive. Now I forgot to mention one thing, we had left all our travel food on the dryer in Kangiqsujuaq. We also only had about $6.00 in change, and you won't find any change machines in the Kuujuaq Airport. Christopher was pushing all the limits he could find and Mom and Dad were ready to crack (OK, Mom had already cracked).We were to leave Kuujuaq at 2:15p and had high hopes that for some reason the flight may be pushed forward in a attempt to get us and our son out of the airport... wishful thinking. 2:15 came and went, 2:30, 2:45, 3:00, 3:15 finally we have a commitment, we'll be leaving in half a hour according to the same surly ticket agent who also explained to us the definition of confirmed 4 months ago. Now after three hours Dad was on the edge, So Mom gave me some relief and took Christopher out side to play for a few minutes. About 5 minutes later we were asked to board the plane... Ok this is what happened, I stood up and walked 5 feet to the door and told Melissa and Christopher to come quickly. I walked back to our stuff and put on my jacket and picked up our bags, I walked back to the door and asked them to move it. I then walked the 15 feet to the gate to find it locked, and no one to be found. This is less than 2 minutes after the call. The ticket agent grudgingly came back to the gate and was about to give me a lecture on being on time, until he saw the look in my eye I imagine that this look might be the same one that the condemned see as the noose is being applied. So we walk out to our plane.
One of the fears pet owners who travel, is that your pets won't make the flight and be left somewhere without care. For us this wasn't a concern as we realized as we entered the plane that our animals had made this connection. We realized this swiftly due to the fact there were two crates strapped to the floor inside the cabin. It seems the next leg of our journey would be on the twin otter, anyone travelling in the north gets shivers when this realization is made. We had never been on one, but I had heard stories. There were 8 people on this plane, two pilots, three passenger and us. The seating resembled something similar to the seats on a school bus from the early sixties. two on one side of the plane and a single on the other side. The double seat on the one side of the plane was large enough for couple of 90 lbs debutante lesbians to be very comfortable in. For a "large boned" lady and her son it looked to be very awkward. My seat on the other hand was about a foot wide, which wasn't too bad, my problem came from the fact that the cabin was only about 4 1/2 feet tall meaning the curvature of the airplane left me sitting on a angle to avoid putting my head through the side of the plane.
Now, I know of a comedian who did a skit about small planes but for those unfamiliar with this I can assure you he was speaking of the Twin Otter. Before the engines started the pilot turned around and asked us to fasten out seat belts, no intercom, no safety lecture, he turned around and asked us to fasten our seat belts, in a plane of this size I was sure I could smell what he had for lunch as he turned to confirm to us of this wonderful piece of advise. Then the engines started, which you not so much heard as felt (the equivalent for sitting inside the speaker at a Motorhead concert), it was obvious that the pleasantries of conversation could be alleviated on this leg of the journey. Now cruising altitude for this plane seemed to be about 30 feet (I'm sure we were at 1000 feet, but it was most definitely not a perspective we were not used to from a plane. You also had the distinct feeling that if we met any other air traffic up there the pilot would lean out the window and wave the oncoming plane around. There is something mildly disarming about watching your pilot do his job (the cockpit didn't have a door), I felt it was my obligation to watch very carefully in case something happened, in a plane of this size you definitely realize your all in this together and since I wasn't able to see the parachutes I wanted to see what he was doing. I have some wonderful pictures of this however since my computer bit the dust I cannot retrieve them until I find my backup drives in our luggage. One other interesting piece of information about the Twin Otter is that the cabin isn't pressurized, I know this due to the fact that I could see out the cracks around the emergency exit door, there was at least a quarter inch of free space around the bottom of the door. The fact that the wind freely blew through these cracks just emphasised the fact that if the plane did have a heater, it was of the type that was designed to heat itself and anything else that actually received residual heat should consider itself lucky.

After three hours in the air (and on one of the most uncomfortable seats I have ever been on we arrived... not where we expected but in Inujuaq, where we had to assist with a medical evac to Puvirnituq. I mention this as the look on Melissa's face when I told her it wasn't POV but somewhere else was too disinheriting to imagine. Did we discuss food service on this flight, the attendants name was Beatrice, or at least that was the name on the milk crate that contained a few cans of pop and some cookies that was tucked under one of the back seats. This was after 14 hours of no food for my wife and child (Myself, I don't mind stretches without food). After twenty minutes we re boarded the plane to set off for POV, Did I mention at the airport we met a gentleman I had kicked out of my store in Kangisujuaq for theft (I told you the north was a small place, we traveled 1200 km and still saw familiar faces). We arrived in POV 3 hours late, with no one to meet us and long story shorter, we are safe and sound and fed at this moment.
Take Care
P.S. pictures still to come.


Unknown said...

Hey Curtis, Melissa and Christopher! I just wanted to say that I am glad I made your acquaintence at the Kuujjuaq Airport and I am glad to hear you made it intact to POV. I hope things go better for you all in the big town. I know that the twin can be a bit disheartening but, according to the oldtimers up here, it is one of the safest birds to fly in.

Anonymous said...

Glad you hace arrived safely - sounds like a real nightmare and to go so long without food is disastrous.
We look forward to hearing from you with all the stories etc.
Love Mum

Morrie Portnoff said...

Love reading about your journies in my old community. I was sorry to read that it did not work out. When I was in Kangiqsujuaq the Bay (was not the Northern then) was also at odds ith some people. Part of the problem (from my perspective) is that you are locate on the outskirts of the town, kind of isolated and you control peoples needs for essential goods when they have no money. Its a no win situation.

When I was in the north the Twin Otter was the only plane. Lots of excitment. I remember one flight during Christmas that ended with a night over in Quaqtaq due to zero visibility. In fact the pilot had his window open and head out looking for the landing strip. Every so often we would here the plane's stall buzzer going off. We were so low that it felt like the waves would hit us. Next day made it to Kuujjuaq but naturally missed the fligt to Monreal. So another day in Kuujjuaq. Foryuently working for Makivik meant that accomodation was not a concern.

All this brings back memories. I never got the chance to travel on the Hudson coast. Only made it up to Salluit by boat on the way to Cape Dorset. But that is another story. If you every see Charlie Argnak ask him about it.

I will continue to read your blog.

Good Luck,


Anonymous said...

hope pov is a happier place for you. it's larger, sees more coming and going, but it can also be a tough town because the people are smart and sometimes angry at all the changes in their lives over the past 30 years. the presence of booze and dope doesn't help keep the rocknroll under control...being a native english-speaker may help because a lot of people are tired of hearing french- most of the qallunaat are quebecois in fact, apart from english teachers at the school. be forewarned that there's also some long-standing resentment against the northern for not helping during famines in the past and this is a strongly-coop place, so the northern is sometimes looked at as taking money from the community. if you can get involved in supporting some youth or community project, that will help you get into the groove. if you play any sports, that will also help you. nunavik is, as you have said, a small place, so any of your difficulties in wakeham have probably made the rounds in pov (but people will look at you before they make their own judgment). i agree with morrie and c'est moi that twins are good aircraft. i'd rather be in a twin than a dash-8 or jet any day.just be glad pov has an airport now. when i first went there the twins landed on an icy runway. no terminal. nothing. i hitched a ride into town on the ambulance truck, but that's another story.

Rob, Tina and the boys said...

Loved the story but makes me nervous at the same time when we travel with 2 kids, one only being a year old. Looking forward to the rest of the story!

Morrie Portnoff said...

When I first arrived in Kangiqsujuaq there was only the old airstrip. My belonging were dropped off on the ground and loaded into the dump truck that is normally the garbage truck. You just have to go with the flow...


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that you finally reached your intended destination. Travelling with children is hard under perfect circumstances, but what you describe must have tested the ultimate limits of your patience.

The conversations now showing up on your blog are quite interesting. As you mentioned, even though it's a large expanse of land, there are only so many inhabitants and eventually you become familiar with them. It sounds like you are going to have quite the experience there, but knowing the history of "recent" events will surely give you insight and may prove helpful during your stay.

I wish you the best and look forward to upcoming chapters in your adventures.


Anonymous said...

As I continue to read through your blog (it'll give me a heads up for what I am in for when I move north ...) you had me laughing right out loud. Your flight blog is hilarious!

Your blog is informative, frank, down-to-earth and sometimes uproariously funny... bless you all and thank you for sharing!