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arriving in town

I start to dream of Whitehorse long before I get there. Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory – the territory has a population of around 32,000 and 26,000 of those people live in Whitehorse. It is my first break since Anchorage and my real introduction to Canada.

I arrive on a day that marks the beginning of an uncommon heat-wave. The temperature is close to 40 degrees Celsius and I am weary. I make straight for a bakery that has come highly recommended from not one, but two, separate sources on route. The café is the height of regional hip – original artworks adorn the walls, the menu is vego/vegan, the organic fairtrade coffee blends have whimsical names. The place is buzzing and the my gaze is instantly riveted by the refrigerated gelato display: the queue is enormous, it is clearly today’s main attraction.

I get to the front of the line and I am confronted with a sign instructing me to pay before ordering and I suddenly realize that I still have no Canadian dollars. I retire in disarray. Towns are confusing after some time in the wilderness. My belongings are vulnerable on my bike and so I ask someone to keep an eye on my stuff while I search out an ATM. I return armed with money and obtain an ice-cream from the girl whose workload has clearly doubled with the sudden temperature spike. I bet the demand for gelato is not so high in January.

The gelato revives me enough to tackle the task of phoning strangers. I am phone phobic and ringing people I don’t know well terrifies me. I have hedged my bets by being in touch with two people from Warm Showers and now I have to sort it out. The dilemma resolves itself semi-naturally when one call goes straight to voice mail, I know the guy is a fireman and he is, not doubt, busy with a number of blazes across the state. I phone Tracy and she agrees to meet me at Baked. I settle down to wait, sunburnt, weary and subject to the unwanted attentions of an old German man with an extensive portfolio of photos of mountain sheep.

Finally, I am rescued by Tracy’s arrival. She has some things to do but gives me directions and the keys to her house which is back up Two Mile Hill and across the highway. I arrive ready to pass out and am struggling with the door when Lea, Tracy’s flat-mate, appears opportunely, lets me in and administers gin and tonic and food. As Lea disappears for a lakeside picnic, Tracy materializes and barbeques salmon. We eat in the garden and exclaim at the heat, instantly easy in each others company.

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