THE BLOG
10/01/2014 03:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Getting the Labrador Show on the Road -- Back to Square One: Canadian Odyssey on the Looney Front, Part 16

We have to be at Goose Bay airport at 0655 in time for the 0755 flight to Makkovik, the first village we're visiting in Nunatsiavut, Labrador's autonomous Inuit area, and I'm making great strides in getting Madam organised. She's ready with her suitcase, which weighs in at 41.8 pounds for one week, about double mine for six weeks. And let's not forget her litter of hand luggage - and that bloody smoked salmon sandwich in the styrofoam container.

We don't even have to go through security - the first time that's happened to me - for the 45-minute flight to Rigolet, then a further 25 minutes on to Makkovik, aboard a 19-seat clapped out old DHC-6 Twin Otter STOL (short take-off and landing).

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Our plane

My first concern: there are no life vests. There are just wide open spaces under the seats where they should be. The rationale, apparently, is: well, we don't fly all that much over water. Secondly, I can see both pilots up front. Now it always concerns me a little when I see pilots reading what looks like a how-to users manual.

Rivka's just discovered she's left her ruddy smoked salmon sandwich in the airport and it's all my fault because I rushed her out to the plane. But we're soon up and away. Rivka's reading a book, having given up on thumping me on the shoulder every few seconds to take photos of identical thick banks of clouds.

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Inside the plane

The plane smells terribly of fuel, it's as noisy as hell, bumping along like a jack-in-the-box, and we're in the tail section, which is swaying around like a weather-vane on steroids. I'm Walter Mitty-ing that I'm aviation pioneer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in that ruddy Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) book I had to read in French class at school.

Rivka's saying how she doesn't like the bumping about and she's frightened, and I'm saying: just imagine you're an aviation pioneer like I am. You can be Amelia Earhart. Bad choice. Amelia didn't make it back home in the end, did she. Come to think of it, neither did Saint-Exupéry.

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Another interior view

The various breaks in the clouds reveal rivers, forests, islands and headlands, and then again banks of clouds.

We break through the low cloud ceiling and land in Rigolet. Rivka's none too pleased and wants to get off. No more shaking about for Madam. It's at moments such as these that she can produce a rabbit out of a hat - in this instance her ruddy smoked salmon sandwich, which she has in fact taken on board and stuffed under her seat, where she now finds it while rummaging with the litter of hand luggage.

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Views from the plane

Nearly everybody gets off. A few new passengers board. And we're off. But not where we thought. An Air Labrador lady has emerged from the hut that serves as the sole premises of Rigolettiup Miffinga - or Rigolet airport as they say in the vernacular - to announce that Makkovik is fogged in, there's a weather hold there, and we're flying straight back to Goose Bay.

Rivka's saying 'I don't want to be here in this plane,' and threatens to tell the kids about all the horrors I'm inflicting on her. And I'm saying 'you've got to be kidding,' a double joke that only Yours Truly can truly participate in since in French 'rigoler' means to kid about.

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Another in-flight view

That's how we land back at square one again. We're just inside Goose Bay's small terminal when Madam realises she's left her ruddy smoked salmon sandwich on the plane and sends me back to fetch it. On the way I meet an Air Labrador employee who is bearing the holy grail in his hand. It has to be the best travelled smoked salmon sandwich in the world.

It's now gone 1400, we've been sitting in the little airport café for five hours and they've still got the weather hold on Makkovik.

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In-flight view

Rivka's partaking of her ruddy smoked salmon sandwich at last but still leaves half of it so that we can still cart the bloody thing around with us and I'm saying it'll be the Albatross around my neck, and she's saying she doesn't understand what I'm talking about, and I'm saying well it comes from Coleridge's poem 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and means such-and-such, and she's saying: 'Great, you've brought me to the end of the world so that I can sit in an airport.'

More than 10 hours after we arrived at the airport this morning, and after numerous weather hold announcements, they finally cancel the flight. So it's back to the Goose Bay hotel and an early rise again tomorrow to see if the flight leaves then.

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Rigolet airport terminal

On the plus side, the long enforced residence in the airport café has had one felicitous result: Rivka's boredom has led her to nibble and nibble and nibble, and now the ruddy smoked salmon sandwich has been nibbled into extinction, and with that the albatross around my neck has flown.

On the colourful side, some frigging jerk has just pushed right past us and taken the taxi we ordered back into town, and we have to wait 20 minutes more for another one to materialise, piloted by the clear result of generations of close in-breeding among the Anglo-Celtic settlers, an incredible mutant of a beanpole with a squashed pointed head and an accent to match.

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Rigolet airport

What's more, he's a pure-blooded Canadian version of your reddest redneck. It's f...ing Indians here, and f...ing Indians there. Do you mean people from India, quoths I, fully apprised of Canada's First Nations terminology for the indigenous peoples whose land our driver's ancestors stole.

'Nah,' snorts he, 'the f...ing people from here. They f...ing don't work, they f...ing steal, they f...ing cheat, they f...ing f....'

He's none to pleased, either, with the Filipinos and other 'f...ing foreigners' who have blown in or been blown in hither, just like his own begetters.

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Another Rigolet airport view

Back in town it's off to Pizza Delight for dinner. Here we install ourselves in a booth. We're discussing the world in Hebrew, our usual language of conversation, when it suddenly dawns on us that the group of rough-looking slobs at the next table are also talking in the Holy Tongue.

This is the second time this has happened to us in wild places, bumping into Israelis at the furthest ends of the world, giving immediate birth to my fantasising that we've hit on a nexus of Mossad agents - and Rivka's slapping me down with a 'Yes, right, they're going to be blowing their cover by speaking Hebrew.'

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Back in Goose Bay

The first time was in a remote corner of the Amazon jungle 38 years ago, in the little Bolivian riverside town of Guayamerin across from Brazil, when the Lloyd's Boliviano flight attendant joined in our Hebrew conversation. This immediately sired my scoop that I'd come across the Israeli posse seeking out German 'Angel of Death' Mengele - again quickly shot down by Madam.

A convoy of huge 20-wheeler tractor-trailers is revving up on the parking lot across the way and most likely my 'agents' are reaping huge salaries taking huge loads along the Trans-Labrador Highway for Labrador City and Wabush, the twin mining cities hundreds of miles across the pine forests to the west, and home to one of the largest open-pit iron ore mines in the world.

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Good old familiar Goose Bay

Rivka shoots that one down immediately, too. They're clearly in some 'business,' quoths she, without being more specific.

And so to bed for another 0600 trip to Goose Bay airport in the morning.

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In-flight view from plane

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By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon.

And Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.