About and beyond

The group
Our group consisted of 5 people: Normand Tremblay, Lisette Tanguay, Bruno Lambert, Vinh Lu Hoai and me, Nicolas Baltazar. I had done shorter treks with Bruno and Normand before, but nothing as long and remote as this one. Normand, who is a medical doctor and an anthropologist, is the explorer of the group. He had already visited Akpatok Island four times before, not to mention several other fascinating regions in Arctic Québec and several countries on almost all the continents.

The expedition
The expedition to the Torngat Mountains took place August 9-24, 2001, the departure point was Kuujjuaq, northern Québec, Canada.
Our group's original plan was to spend three weeks exploring Akpatok Island, in the middle of Ungava Bay, in Arctic Québec. The island is known for polar bears (summer retreat and denning area), thick-billed murres, relics and artifacts of Dorset and Inuit culture, and interesting geological features (sinkholes and sea cliffs). We also had plans to retrace part of the route of the 1934 Oxford University expedition, in which one member died. However, there was heavy fog on and around the island on our set date of departure, and because we had planned on flying in on a Twin Otter aircraft, we had to wait for it to clear. And we waited, and waited, but there were no signs of clearing. Finally, Normand Tremblay suggested exploring part of the Torngat range, and the rest of us, tired of waiting for the weather on Akpatok, agreed.

The funny thing was that when we returned from the Torngats, an Inuit acquaintance told us he had gone over to Akpatok Island in his boat, from the village of Tasiujaq, while we were away. He spent a total of 20 minutes on the island and had to leave because in that short time, he saw seven polar bears. Apparently, the ice had broken up earlier than usual in the bay, leaving more polar bears than usual stranded on the island. Who knows, if we had been able to carry out our original plan, I wonder if our movements would have been hampered by the presence of so many bears?

Travel bio
I have visited (or lived in) Japan, the Philippines, the U.S. (most of the northeastern states, California and the island of Guam), Canada (four provinces), Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Hard to identify a favourite, although Europe has been callling me back for a while now. I'd like to visit Scotland and return to France, Provence to be more precise.


Books in my backpack

No books

I had no books, only my travel journal, with me in the Torngats. As our original plan was Akpatok Island and involved some climbing and rappeling, and because I was the only climber of the group, my pack also contained a rope and climbing equipment. It weighed 58 pounds! So you can see, there was no room for even one novel.

A Brit, a German, another Brit and an American

For what it's worth, I'm presently reading Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. I've recently read Gunther Grass' The Tin Drum, Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge and Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. A Brit, a German, another Brit and an American.


My favourite travel books

One of my favourite travel-related books is David Breashears' High Exposure, an autobiography. Breashears is a climber, mountaineer and "high-altitude filmmaker." His film credits include the Everest IMAX film.

I've also read Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (which takes place in the mountains of Spain) and A Farewell to Arms (Italy). A classic, and one of my favourites in any genre, is Thor Heyerdahl's The Kon Tiki Expedition, which describes his 1947 attempt to prove his (mistaken) theory that the Polynesian Islands were discovered and settled by South American sailors who crossed the Pacific in balsa-wood rafts. He and four others built such a raft and succeeded in crossing the ocean, although they were shipwrecked at the end of the voyage. A fascinating read.

(some of these books can be found in the subside bookshelf)