With my desire to “live the North”, I am answering an inner call to pursue this lonely trek of almost 512 kilometers starting at George river, at the mouth of Ungava Bay, going up to Nain village in Labrador Newfoundland.
Physically I am “top shape “and ready to carry my two back packs. I have to travel with minimal packing including dry food, axe and fishing rod. I am fully aware that I’m going to be hungry and lose weight, but I am psychologically ready for it.
I am not seeking for an achievement since my willingness and my passion to explore, write about, photograph and picture the north are much more powerful than the self satisfaction of my ego.
The departure and the original trail were supposed to begin at the mouth of Qurlutuq River and the Ungava Bay at the beginning of July. I had planned to ascent the Qurlutuq River up to the Rapid Lake and take a short cut up to north east land and then meet and ascent the George River on my way to the Norpack lodge. From there I was supposed to cross the River using a canoe in order to continue my trip heading north east toward the head of Fraser River in Labrador to follow its course in order to reach the village of Nain somewhere around mid September.
After a quick chat with Veronique, a resident from Kuujjuaq, about the price of my passage from kuujjuak to my starting point (about 140 kilometers), I decided that it would be easier to change my departure spot, so I went to an Inuit village named Kangiqsualujjuaq located at the mouth of George River and Ungava Bay on Friday July 10th 2015.
That is when I met Charli Munick director of the Kuurujuak Park and Darell the ranger of the park.
It’s around 7 O’clock the morning, when Darell helped me cross the George River with his motor launch. It was about 8 kilometers to reach the west coast. After a good chat and a strong handshake, I went back to my dream; A journey of 512 kilometers all by myself.
On this bright sunny day, my adventure begins, me and my 80 pounds each back packs!
At first, my idea was to ascent the George River for a few days, and then to head west in order to go back to follow the Qurlutuck river, but on my third day I realised that the weight of my back pack was my biggest problem. In fact, the one that I was carrying on my shoulders was way too heavy for such a long run. On this morning I had the feeling deep inside of me that I had to ascent the George River in order to reach the Norpaq lodge. It was the point where I was supposed to cross back the river.
On my fifth day, I have the joy to find a small Inuit camp but unfortunately, it’s locked! Hopefully not so far away from it there is a small beach where I finally set my camp base. I am at 150 feet from George River. It is 22h00 when the water and the cold woke me up! I could hear the sound of the water getting closer...I was aware that the river had tided from the Ungava Bay, but I thought that 150 feet away was safe to set the camp. Many pieces of my equipment were floating around everywhere in the tent and the tide was getting high. I got out with unlace boots only wearing underwear to set off the tent while my boots are filling in with water, cold water!
I am screaming from despair. I needed a good night sleep and to rest for a while. I needed as well to relax my back muscles from the heavy back packs. It was not possible to pack my bag with all those wet clothes and just leave without knowing where I would find a suitable place to spend the night. Hopefully the night was quite clear even at 10h00 pm on this time of the year. I knew though that darkness was coming.
I finally decided to move my camp base 60 feet farther from where I was before. I got dressed and throughout the alder I walked to a clear spot with a flat land to lay down and rest a bit protected from the wind with my sleeping bag. Later on, it started to rain so I grabbed my tent to cover myself.
Curiously, sleeping in a tent makes me feel safe even if I frankly know that it is only a piece of fabric. It represents the walls of our house even if anything or anyone can tear it easily.
It is my first night under the moon and mainly under the rain but still; I am not feeling threatened or endangered. Obviously, I am cold, so I am shivering like a leaf, but I slept a little bit.
I promised myself to go back to the Inuit camp tomorrow and get in this time even if I must break in!
And that is what I did...
I spent the day in the small camp heating the fire camp to dry my clothes and feeling a little bit weird being not use to break in a place with an axe. Before leaving the morning after, I decided to leave a message and some money to cover the damages.
At the end of the seventh day, I am close of two Inuit camps again, one is lock and the other one has the key on its lock. Of course, I chose the unlock one to spend the night. On the morning after, soon after leaving the camp, I have a strong feeling that I forgot something....
I realised that it was my insect repellent!
The river gets larger and form a lake as I walk on in the early afternoon and I decide to put on my warmer clothes to cross the meanders lining with trees. I put on my rain boots and my isotherm pants to walk in the water knowing that the weight of my two back packs makes it hard to go ahead. I need to keep my energy. I finally set the camp 75 feet away from the water on a small spot where there is ericaceous but not much of alder and willow. By the way have you ever heard that the North was the” bug and fly paradise” well I confirm...
My fire camp and its smoke are working well but I have to stay close to it, so not be attacked by the “monsters”. I can hardly get in my tent without being surrender by a thousand of thirsty flies seeking for my blood!
All through the day, I’m repeating myself; take your time, trust yourself and stay focus at all time during your journey.
I finally fell asleep trying to ignore the cloud of flies in my tent.
I take the road again on the morning, walking in the water followed by thousands of flies.
Early in the afternoon I cross a meander and since I have to go forward keeping the right direction, I must cross it over. Facing the meander, I am trying to carry on, but the water is way too deep! I decide to keep going and enter the water which is about 50 feet large. It seems to me that the water was around 3 feet deep at first but now about 20 feet left to get on the other side the water is deeper and getting inside my isothermal pants! `` Too bad`` I’m thinking! I’m not going back A few steps forward, the water is getting deeper and deeper, I realised I am not touching the bottom anymore. I know that I must stand straight to make sure my bigger back pack is staying dry and not panic. My head must stay out of the water, and it is my main concern. I am thinking to myself “I can’t believe I’m going to drown here today”. While I’m fighting to stay afloat the idea comes to use my small bag as a float. Great idea since I pushed with my legs up to the moment, I felt the bottom again.
I must explain here that I never was the type of person being scared of everything! I was aware of the danger early in my life but never to stop me from my pursuit of adventure.
Once I reached the other bank, I was very happy to have come through this hindrance, I was short of breath but very proud. I realised how life could take a flip in a moment and the danger whatever being alone or in group. Obstacles we encountered throughout our lives are good for self-esteem and are made to help us grow stronger. Never hesitate to get out and face your dreams in life.
To keep on with my bug’s story, it’s been 2 days since I am walking without any insects repellent on. My eyes, ears, wrists and hands were much swelled and the man in my shaving mirror was kind of scary!
I was thinking of a way to get rid of all those bugs’ bites. I recalled had read once that the Natives used to mix oil and mud and spread it on their skin as a protection. It came to me that I had mink grease to protect my boots. I created a new kind of insect repellent with this mixture and succeed my bugs hunt at last. Using it three to four times a day I got rid of the swelling.
Fear, doubt and rocks
Twelfth day, early in the morning I walked by Helen’s falls lodge, located on the other side of the river. Maybe I was getting tired that would explain why the walking was getting harder. I crossed flat land, steep land and rocks on different shapes and sizes. My body experimented being vertically and even sometimes horizontally. At the end of the day, I was happy to see a small camp over the Helen’s falls rapid. I was happy to rest a little bit in a cozy camp until I looked at my card and realised with the help of my GPS that I was 150 kilometers away from Norpaq lodge. I was surrounded by doubts, again, where did I go wrong?
Maybe it may have been easier to travel by the ground instead of the river. I even though of taking short-cut by the mountains and in this way save some kilometres. Surprisingly, I even though of putting an end to my trip. At this moment, I wished I had a partner with positive thinking to cheer me up and it would have been easier to face obstacles. Being alone put me in the situation where I had to only be on myself. Finally, I picked up my bags without any enthusiasm and hunted by the doubts and the fear of failing my journey.
Like every morning, I left without looking back. One of these conversations with God; really useful to calm me down, I realised that I was having a really bad attitude toward my adventure. I had to change this state of mind quickly and I must develop a positive thinking regarding this journey. It’s a part of my life that I wished to manage as I was controlling everything else, but I could not do. Right here, right now had to be my new mode and learned to just let go. Looking ahead makes me scare and hopeless; its right to say that each hard day are worth to be lived. The next days are going to be easy, since I’m walking on flat rocky trails, which are putting my ankles to test during climbing of cliffs and downhill.
In midmorning on day 21st I was surprised to see 5 canoes coming down the George River on the same side than I was. At first, I am convinced that it is Canada gooses but as it gets closer, I realised it is really canoes! After some greetings, I meet Kate and Emma; they explain to me that those people were all Americans leaving Shefferville to go to Kangiqsualujjuak. Kate was the guide in charge of the group. I already knew that I could trust her and after a good chat she offered me some help. I explained that my main concern was related to my back packs. My kit was obviously too heavy, and it would be nice of her to carry some of my equipment to the other village in order to ship it back to Quebec. Of course, she accepted right away, and I gave her some money to cover the charge.
From Emma, I received food and I sat on a rock soon after they had left to eat a little bit and celebrate my good instinct in agreeing to let go a part of my too heavy pack. I never thought about the fact that I might never get my equipment back! I had put all my trust on Kate and fortunately I was right. When I got back from the north all my equipment was there. Trust is the key to happiness and the more you trust your instinct the more you get served! On this 21st day of my journey I thanked god!
When I put back my pack on, I could feel it was 10 pounds lighter. My energy was getting stronger and I was filled by a new state of mind since my adventure was so much easier independently of the path.
On the mid afternoon of my 25th day I met M. Peter May, owner of the Mont Pyramid lodge, while he was fishing. I introduced myself and began to talk about my journey. The man was very impressed by my story but mainly by the fact that was travelling alone. I invited myself for dinner, sleep over and have breakfast to his lodge which he accepted right away! Later, he called Catherine his wife to inform her that he had just met a man on his way to Nain and that I was coming for dinner and breakfast the day after. She did not believe it at first but when we arrived, she had to.” It is the first time that I’m going fishing and I come back with a traveler instead of fishes...” Peter said!
Peter’s family was very nice, and I was so happy to have met those people since they were bilingual as well. I found myself as a prince when I settled down in my small cottage and peter even offered me to shower which I accepted obviously!
While eating and after the meal, I talked for a long time about de North and my passion for it. Peter was the first one with whom I could share the same interest for this area in Canada. He was a Native and very generous on sharing about it. Because of this meeting with two generous and easygoing people, my love and desire of being part of the North will never fade away. They became part of me and as the branch on the tree, it’s indissociably. The morning after, we had breakfast, I took pictures, did some sewing, and I accepted with joy the food offered by Catherine.
The Mont Pyramide is located in front of the lodge on the east bank. The place is very special and important for the Inuit’s culture.
I had a wonderful time with Peter and his family, and it helped me somehow to fulfill my energy. Peter and Henry drove me on their VTT up to four kilometres to help me on my trip and after some grateful and honest handshake I went back to my adventure.
On mid afternoon of the 28th day I noticed a bear on the other side of the river going upstream as I was. I thought to myself joking; no fight since we are each on our side! I kept walking without minding about it. Later on, I was surprised to see the bear coming out of the river 50 feet in front of me. Once on the ground, it shook and climbed on rocks for about 50 feet then it sat to lick and dry itself. I stood still, of course, and was looking at it and since it was not moving, I decided to start walking slowly along the river. Few minutes after it started to walk again behind me in the same direction as I was. I thought to myself “the bear is on its territory Laurent, so be respectful, Step aside and let it lead!” So, I stopped, put my 2 back packs on the ground and waited for the bear to take the lead. Around 40 to 50 feet far from me it stopped suddenly, sniffed the air, noticed my presence and looked toward me. It seems to me that it realised I was there only from this moment. It was coming back to me when I decided to grab my axe and wait. I was a little bit scared and worry about what was coming next. It was getting closer with no aggressivity in any way so I was calm hopping that it would go back the other way, but it smelled the rocks, looked at me and finally went back, following the river, heading up for the forest. With a big relieve I started to breathe again! Sorry, no pictures this time....
I arrived at the Wedge lodge on my 29th days. The place was vacant for many years and there was a lot of building to choose from. I chose one with the fireplace in good shape! I like to camp but when I have the opportunity to sleep in a real bed and sit at a table to have a meal without any bugs, I enjoy the moment! I am feeling so good in my small shack that I even decide to take a day off... My body is exhausted, and I will benefit of this break.
In the night, I woke up and as I was looking by the window, I saw a wonderful emerald green northern light coming down from the sky leaving a magic touch to the moment.
The next day, to my surprise, I saw two hydro planes landing at the lodge where I was staying. Those four persons were on a fishing trip and they were convinced that nobody was there. The owner had told them it was vacant. Once I had explained them, they said that I was quite an adventurer. They shared their catch of the day with me and they left soon after with few packings left behind and the intention of getting it back later the same day. They gave me some more fishes and I asked them to tell Pierre that I was on my way and to wait for me in about 5 to 6 days. I thought to myself; going to the Norpack is 15 to 20 minutes on a hydro plane but I was going to walk for 5 to 6 days to get there, depending on the field of course...Don’t try to understand!!!
I was walking on moving slippery rocks because of the rain and I had the impression of staying`` on the spot” instead of moving forward. As I moved along, I found two big caribou horns and since they were close one to the other, I was convinced they came from the same animal. Even if I already knew that they were not valuable as a trophy I had to chase away the idea of bringing the horns with me. I was holding that kind of horn for the first time and I must admit that I was quite excited. It came from a mature male caribou and had a shovel on the right one. I set my camp on a small beach lining by some rocks. I was thinking to myself how beautiful and graceful this river was. For a minute I felt bless to be there and I forgot about the fatigue and the pain. I loved this river and I was proud of myself with the distance covered since July 11 at the starting point. As I looked in the distance tears are rolling down my face and I was emotional. Today again I tried to control my trip instead of letting it go and welcoming it with love.
On my 33th day of trekking, I met again five canoes going down the river. They stopped to talk to me as they passed by. They were stunned to meet a man walking by the river carrying two big back packs. It was nine Americans and a Canadian from Shefferville and they were all English speaker. We talked for 20 minutes and then split up. On this evening my camp was set on a curve named Bay des millionaires, it’s a desert spot with moss lots of field berries and small black pine trees. I had to get used to the trails since it was going to be the one on the other side of George River.
On the rising sun, the morning after, I took a picture of the black clouds with a few sunrays getting through. It was pointing to a small camp on the Norpaq lodge. My trek started this day at 7 o’clock in the morning and I was heading for Falcoz camp. I had planned to reach it at the beginning of the afternoon. Once there, I realised that I appreciate a lot of this little shack. During the night the weather got cold and windy and it was stormy the major part of the night.
Friday August 14, I am at my 35th day of trekking. I am walking away from Falcoz camp and it is raining. The place is located in front of the mouth of Falcoz River. I am on my way to Norpaq lodge, 10 to 11 kilometres upstream from the river. It is very hard to walk since there are lots of big slippery rocks all along the trail. I am eager to arrive and somehow very tired too, so this short trek causes me lots of falls.
Just before arriving to the lodge, a small skiff with 2 persons on board was coming toward me. It was Pierre Paquet, the owner, with a customer. He said to me “Hi Laurent, I am happy to meet you and we have been expecting you for some days now”! I am speechless and tears again, are rolling down my face. I feel so proud, content, courageous, confused feelings are fighting inside of me. The first part of my journey is completed, and it was not an easy one.
Pierre told me he was quite impressed with my accomplishment...
After this brief chat, I took to road again for about 20 minutes before arriving to the lodge. I met there Dominique the cook. Later, I met Hugo and Simon, the first one was working for the minister and the other one studying at the university and both geologists. They were there to study Iceberg. A helicopter pilot was there as well, Luidgi, and was working for Peak Helicopter company.
They were aware that Pierre was expecting a lonesome walker so when they were flying over the river, they were vigilant.
It is a day off and I make the most of it. I take the time to think back about my 292 kilometres along the George River. I remembered those mornings when it took so much courage to carry on under the rain knowing about the weight of my backpacks and the fatigue haunting me at the end of the day, always wondering about finding a safe and cozy place to sleep. The George River has no campground, no campsite, no vacancy site to offer, but when I look back to my pictures it reminded me of the wonderful landscape and exciting discoveries made from curves to curves helping me to carry on, to pursuit my journey. Deep inside I have the fabulous feeling that I have been here once. I am thinking to myself; this wild and pure River is a beauty for a nature’s lover.
To pursuit my journey I had to cross over the 2 km large river in front of the lodge and I had an agreement with Pierre to use a rowing boat but when Hugo offered me to join in on a helicopter I accepted right away!
“No Man’s Land” and Fraser River
Sunday August 16th, 37th day of trek done. I had no idea of what was coming next and it was just fine! I was still working on let it go and I surrendered to God will knowing that everything is for the best... Before getting aboard the helicopter, I met and thank again Pierre for his hospitality. He was hanging in the north for some years now and generously gave me some strong advice; “Laurent, don’t ever push because nature is always going to win!” I was thinking to myself “it’s question of survival! Right now, I’m scare!
About my flight, it was short, but I liked it. I observed a different part of the George River and noticed how wide the North was. Once landed there was a lot of encouragement, pictures taken and strong handshakes. I put on my two back packs filled with dry food freshly arrived at the lodge. It was a return to reality and get to the road again. The day was going by easily; the road was flat and rocky for some part and my GPS was serving me well since the course was drawn on cards. I was happy to see some dry woods to light my fire and set my camp base.
The day after it’s raining and later the wind is getting stronger. It is going to be the forecast for the entire day, so I’m surprised to observe that it is calming down and the clouds is going away. I decided to set my camp behind a big rock. Tonight, no fire, no trees around so peanuts and granola bars for lunch... On the early evening, the clouds were getting darker and it started to rain on and off. It was lightly windy when suddenly it got stronger and stronger. My night sleep became filled with worries if my tent was going to hold on. I had a rough night.
When I woke up the next morning, it was sunny even though still windy. While having my breakfast this day, I learned to always look for a place to set my camp base safe from the wind. This “new country” was a windy one!
The field was barely the same for the next days; sometimes flat and sometimes undulating. The weather was cool and windy with not much of sun and lots of small precipitations. My meals were always about the same since there were no woods to light up a fire and cook food. I ate rice, peanuts and field berries. On my 41ᵗᴴ day, I decided to stop my trek at noon. It was raining a lot and the wind was quite strong. I was thinking back to Pierre’s advice. I did settle down my camp base in a lower site safe from the wind and spent the rest of the day “feeling sorry for myself.”
I must admit that the sun has a positive aspect for me and even though I accepted the consequences of the rain and the bad weather, it was hitting on me. I was shivering and was afraid that I had caught the flu since the weather was pretty cold. I was eager to see the sun and was dreaming of a hot meal and a very hot cup of tea.
I woke up, the day after; quite excited knowing that, if everything was going well, I would cross the Quebec/Labrador border. I took back to road, under the rain, the strong wind and the fog. I couldn’t see 200 feet ahead of me which was very strange since there was no tree in this area... Hopefully, I had a GPS to direct me. It was 14h40 pm. According to my GPS I am precisely on the border but on the field, there is no crossing lane, nothing...it is the same ground! I am thinking to myself how bizarre it is. It is strange to realize how the human is eager to possess, to control, to own, knowing that it is a major cause of fight and argument.
43 days of walk behind me, I settled down at the head of Fraser’s River which has two tributaries, one being north and the other one south, where I am. I realise while looking at the map that those two tributaries are looking like a snake tongue. At the spot where my camp base is settled, the river flows on a flat land.
A little further upstream, the river rush into a huge canyon up to Nain village which is at 700 meters of altitude. It would be adventurous to follow the river down the canyon. My trail is high up there.
For a few days, I am having a hard time dealing with the lack of sunlight and warmth. The weather is cool, foggy and humid. I feel ok as long as I am walking but at the end of the day, when it’s time to settle down, I always feel chilled to the bone! My sleeping bag offers good isolation but when the morning comes, I’m always cold.
There are three major bad habits to change if I want to keep on with my journey and feel connected. First thing first, stop to worry about the weather. It won’t be sunny all the time and I am having a hard time to cope with the rain; it stressed me out! It might be because I don’t have the possibility to dry my clothes, but it can also be the trauma of so many windy and stormy nights haunting me!
Second, I am obsessed by the distance; I must keep on until I reach my goal of the day, but I know that the matter is to find a place safe and cozy to sleep in. I keep in mind that Nain is still far from here and I might think one day at a time but it’s hard to control the urge to always walk a little bit further and further.... Let’s be honest and admit that I’m not there yet.
Third, I must surrender and trust life. I must stop to worry early and throughout the afternoon to find a place to settle down safe from the wind knowing that every day there is a shelter waiting for me.
On Thursday august 27, it’s my 48th walking day and it’s raining. After breakfast the rain stop, and I pack my bag to leave. Since I crossed the Georges River, it’s getting easier to carry on because the field is flat and I must admit, boring! It seems to me that I am walking on the moon and hopefully, I cross small lakes and streams to bring me back to reality.
I only met 3 caribous on different spots and some ptarmigans. When I stopped to rest a little bit, I tried to figure out how it uses to be few years ago; It might have been filled with caribous and nomads.
I’m convinced that life was hard but peaceful and connected with nature. I can imagine wolves and natural selection, small animals taking care of the left over!
On the left side of the river, where I am, the land is undulating, and it is still quite easy to walk but when I look to my map, I realise that it is going to get harder on the next days. I get closer to the canyon where I can take pictures of the Tasisuak Lake, which is 40 kilometers long. On the other side downstream, the land is mountainous with big slides digged by the glaciers. On the top, on many spots there is no vegetation because of the passage of the glacier and the erosion.
At the bottom of the slides there is black spruce, alder and larch which and some greenery.
The landscapes are wonderful, and it is all because of the roughness of the climate that preserved everything so well.
Hurray! Tonight, there is firewood to burn and I might eat a hot meal (even if I’m still having rice!) and a hot beverage. The last one was 15 days ago so I enjoyed the warmth because I know that once in my tent it is going to be different.
52th day of trek
the weather is fresh with almost no wind. I’m making reserve of sunlight and I enjoy the energy given to me since it’s been difficult to carry on with the mountainous field and the cliffs cut by nature. Hopefully with no fog it is still possible to move ahead safely, and my GPS is helpful. Tonight, no woods to light a fire, I’m standing alone in my tent, I’m cold and chilled to the bone, again....
It is Tuesday September first; I have been walking for 53 days
I am finishing my meal; cold rice, and I clean up to take to road again under a wonderful sun, heading down east on the same mountainous field. 2 kilometres further it is 9h30 when I arrive to a slide starting far away on the south and ending north, deep in the Canyon of Fraser River. At first sight, this slope with rock face is as deep as 275 meters. I realized after a short exploration walk that it is insurmountable for a trekker with two huge back packs to cross it neither south or north. I have to back up and I am so upset that I’m beating myself up... No way that I’m going to give up so close to my goal! I decided to put my back packs on the ground and walk a little further south west. After 15 minutes I stopped and concluded that I’m stuck.
On my way back to my starting point, I already know that the Fraser River is 500 meters lower than where I am and there is no point to be stubborn. I feel that I must calm down, to think... The advice of Pierre is coming back to me; I must surrender, to give up, to withdraw. I press the button HELP on my spot machine and small lights are flashing to indicate that my message and my location are being sent. It means that I am not endangered, but I need help.
I am seated on the ground, close to my backpacks and even if the sun is warm, I am shivering with the wind. This is not the happy ending that I was expecting but I don’t think of it as a failure. Nain is at around 40 kilometres and I have been walking since 472 km on different fields and different weathers all by myself...
I am proud of myself! Oh yes, I am proud of myself. At the end of the afternoon I worry, and I am eager to be rescued and I press the button again. Around 5 pm I set my camp base mechanically, without any emotion. I dream of hot meal and tea, I am tired of being chilled to the bone and the wind reminds me of hard days. Later on, I fell asleep knowing that tomorrow I’ll surely find some help.
Wednesday, September 2nd, day 54
When I woke up, it is raining again, windy and quite cold. As usual I got dressed, put on my raincoat and went outside for my morning routine. I was completely in despair when I realized it was foggy as if I was blind! I thought to myself “nobody will rescue me today”! I was convinced that it was going to be a long day....
I took my breakfast with my raincoat on and press again the button “help” for the third time. I let my system on the rocks, for I knew that it would keep flashing for an hour again. I was not sure if my system was efficient anymore and I was feeling frustrated. Right at that moment I wished I could receive a message saying, “copy that”! As the morning goes by the weather is getting worst and the rain is strong all the sudden almost stopping and completely calm the next moment. The strong north east wind is shaking my tent as much as I have to hold the top to make sure nothing would break.
While feeling sorry for myself, I am thinking that this tent is my house, my roof; my shelter. It is 11h25 when I decided to press the “other button”, the S.O.S one! I am fully aware that it is the one to press when your life is endangered. If my tent is out of service, I really am.
Before I left for my journey, I had to activate my system on internet using my laptop. In doing so I chose two relatives close to me. The first one was Karolann my oldest daughter and the other was Nadia, one of my sisters in law. One hour after having pressed the button, I went outside to check the system and make sure the lights were still flashing. I thought to myself” you better be”!
At supper time, no improvement but I dreamed hearing helicopter’s sounds. It is on and off and makes me think of my two daughters, at that moment I pray not to lose my mind...I have to remain faithful: The great one is taking care of it, I keep repeating myself.
At home, Karolann received a call from Global star Company saying that I was endangered. She stayed in touch with the RCMP in Goose bay many times during the day. In the evening she learned that the rescue had failed because of the bad weather. She knew she was about to experience a long sleepless night.
Before going to bed, I placed my two backpacks in the lobby of my tent hoping that it would help to control the strength of the wind and thanks to God it helped a little bit. I got undressed, put on my isothermal pants and slid in my mommy sleeping bag. It was a hard night sleep with the wind and rain rocking my tent. I was praying for the next day to be smoother in every way. I was exhausted by the cold and the rain.
Obviously, the night sleep was not a good one with the wind and the rain rocking my tent. I prayed for the next day to be smoother in every way. I was tired out of eating cold and chilled.
Day 55, Thursday September 3rd
It’s 5:45 am (It is Quebec time since I forgot to set my watch when I enter Labrador). Suddenly I hear a helicopter and this time I am convinced to be right. I look out of the tent; it’s raining again, and it is windy and foggy. As the noise is coming closer, I’m praying for some rescue. It is so cold outdoors I can hardly catch my breath. I can’t see but the sound is very close now. I’m experiencing an adrenaline rush when I see at last the big helicopter called Cormoran coming out of the fog from north east. I get back in my tent to take out my red coat and wave my raincoat to them, screaming I’m here, I’m here!
The machine finally land, 50 meters next to me and I get back in to dress and say thanks to God.
It seems to me that I’m part of a movie and the rescued one is me...
A man opens my zipper and asks me “are you Laurent Lemieux”? “Yes, I am, and I am really glad to see you”. When he started to talk again it was way too fast for me to understand and hopefully the second lifeguard arrived, and he was speaking French. I notice he had a gun to his side, and he explained that a bear was around. Their names were James and Dominic. The French one told me to hurry up because the weather was getting worst. Dominic, the French one, told me to gather the important stuff and get in the helicopter. The tent was going to stay behind and there was no regret....
Once in the helicopter, Dominic helped me to sit and buckle up. In front of me there is a man, another one, standing next to the door stayed open. His name is Pepin and it seems to me he was giving directions to the pilot. Short after the lift off, the pilot was heading to a valley and then north east in the canyon, to follow the Fraser River. At that moment I knew my daughter Karolann was aware that I was safe, rescued by the Canadian Forces.
Once in the air they placed me on a stretcher to run some tests. Both men were paramedics and they had to make sure I was in no danger. My body temperature was low, and I was in hypothermia. They covered me to increase my body temperature and gave me food and hot drink. They completed the tests and reassured me saying that I was in good health. I was on my way to stop in Nain and take the plane back to Quebec, but they preferred to transfer my case to Goose Bay in order to send me to the hospital to be sure I was ok. We flew for about 1hour and 15 minutes and on our way, I had earphones to communicate with the crew members. I told my expedition to Dominic and he translated to the other one. Of course, everybody was quite impressed with my trek. Before being transferred to Goose Bay, I received a topo map they had used to find me and a badge that I pined on my trekking hat with a lot of pride. We shook hands and I noticed at that moment that the pilot was a woman.....! I thought to myself It was always great to see women dare to work in non traditional jobs with success.
Thumbs up to all those women who dare to pursuit their dreams! It makes me think of my two girls so adventurous and willing! Karolann is a forester and Jaël is policewoman.
I arrived at the hospital at around 9h30 for different tests; my weight was 137 and at first, I was at 165 so I lost 28 pounds throughout my trek... Before they released me, I had visitor from the CBC news who wanted to plug me with Jay, a reporter, to tell my story if I wished to. I accepted but asked for a translator since my English was at 40%. I met Jean-Pierre Arbour, Director of the Boreal school, who was my translator for the interview and spent the rest of the day with him. Jean-Pierre is a north lover and I was his guest for the night. The day after he was kind enough to drive me to the airport! Thanks again....
My departure was fixed for 10h40 on Saturday afternoon and meanwhile I was having a hot meal at Bigland bed and breakfast!
What can I say...? It was an adventure, a thrill of a lifetime, a difficult experience and a life learning psychological test. It was difficult for me to carry on with my life for quite some time.
My journey was hunting me, and I was constantly looking for a place to set my base camp, fighting against the wind, the rain, the stream! My body was back in Quebec, but my spirit was back there! I was a lonesome walking man and I was having a hard time all by myself...Everything was kind of unknown for me and I learned to let go. It was my choice and I have no regret since it built my self esteem and courage.
Last year, I lived quite the same experience when I left for Manic 1 up to Kuujjuaq on canoe. Through the unknown, we can’t control a thing just as we do in the everyday life anyway. If we think we can control it, it’s an illusion...
Events that come in our life are difficult to manage since we might choose to go right or left but it will never be possible to predict the future. This state of mind occurred only 3 days before the end of my journey.
According to me the freedom of the nomad is to be in peace with who you are, listen to your heart, jump in and be courageous. Surrender is not a weakness but an awakening to courage and strength from within the human spirit.
I offer my adventure to the north protection, the one who must return to its first mission without any human boundaries.