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Kuururjuaq Park: land of plenty and nordic oasis


08 JANUARY 20210




An experienced adventure explorer with several expeditions in her logbook has decided to describe here part of her exploration of Kuururjuaq Park that she crossed independently with her co-director Florence Pelletier and 3 other women to do the feature film Traversées (link to view at the end of the article).

Text by Caroline Côté.

When you travel to the far north of Quebec, you definitely want to go back. I had the chance to go there twice and visit Kuururjuaq Park when I was making the documentary Traversées, which tells the story of 3 women who follow a 160-kilometer passage taken by Inuit hunters for millennia. . Florence Pelletier, my co-director friend and I feel the desire to make everyone want to leave the house to explore this magnificent place that we still know so little about.

For the filming of the documentary Traversées, we were looking for unusual, vast and exotic terrain. I was immediately drawn to Kuururjuaq Park, a remote place in northern Quebec, when I read an article about the place in the outdoor magazine Espaces. I fell in love with this place, part of the Nunavik Parks organization, whose mission is to protect the natural and cultural resources of Nunavik through conservation plans and education programs. Local communities are in charge of its management. I wanted to introduce Quebecers to this magical land. We sometimes think that we must travel internationally to have unforgettable experiences, but I believe that Quebec's hinterland is so vast that we should be interested in it before we even venture elsewhere.

The park covers an area of ​​4,460 square kilometers, from Ungava Bay to Mont d'Iberville. The film project was born out of the desire to expand my borders, my vision of the world. A term in Inuktitut; “Qamaniq” aptly designates this vision: Where the river widens. The meaning of this term inspired me to want to learn more about the place.

Was it really realistic to bring a team with me to experience the challenge I had dreamed of for months now? Would we be able to carry our own equipment and cover a significant number of kilometers without doing a food refueling? And I, would I be able to make this documentary and live the adventure simultaneously? Crossing Kuurrurjuaq Park with our own equipment on our backs was going to be quite a challenge. Would I be able to overcome the obstacles that stand in my way? Fortunately, I trusted my instincts to guide me in the decision-making of the last days of preparation.

At the end of June 2019, we leave Montreal and go directly to Kuujjuaq, one of my favorite cities, where there are no borders between the home of an inhabitant and that of his neighbor. Dogs run around freely. I notice that in this place, sharing is not just a concept, but a way of life. You can see for miles, because the trees are only a few feet long; only the strongest survive. Bison and arctic foxes are present all around. We spent three days there to rest and acclimatize to this new environment before leaving for Kangiqsualujjuaq, the most eastern village in Nunavik, which is 25 kilometers from Ungava Bay. It is a remote place where the movements of the tides are felt.

With Florence, I meet Tivi Etok, an illustrator and artist living in the town closest to the park. At 90, he gives us his recommendations for the trails to use to cover the planned distance. We listen to his words as a teaching. The biggest challenge, he said, was going to be putting one foot in front of the other when the head wants to give up because the body will then use its maximum capacity. I tell myself that he is certainly right, it will take mental strength to get to the end of the planned course.

On the plane to Kangiqsualujjuaq, we are busy with the final preparations for the big departure: counting the gas containers, reviewing the itinerary, distributing the last bags of freeze-dried food in our bags and making a few calls. test with the satellite phone. During the flight, the Torngat Mountains, a mountain range where Mount Iberville, the highest peak in eastern North America, could be seen through a few cloud breakers. In Inuktitut, Torngat means "place of the spirits". After forty minutes of flight, we finally arrive on the ground. Before stepping outside of the little Twin Otter which has just dropped us off in this immense territory, meeting the gaze of my compatriots, I perceive confidence in their eyes. I hope I will not disappoint them.

We are on a makeshift airstrip on the banks of the Koroc River, whose source dates back to a glacier near Mount Iberville. Despite the brutal north wind which whistles piercingly, we open the door of the aircraft, and confidently begin to descend the small metal steps and finally set foot on the vast isolated territory of Kuururjuaq Park. We find ourselves in the center of a valley surrounded by awe-inspiring monument-like mountains of impressive height. The heavy misty air makes the place a little gloomy. The plane leaves us to ourselves, and heads back to Kangiqsualujjuaq. Taking on the roles of directors and organizers of the expedition, Florence and I realize all the work that awaits us in the coming days.

Forty-five minutes after landing, we're finally ready to go. We then take the first steps of our expedition. Between the jagged peaks and the fjords cut by glaciers, where polar bears and caribou roam, we remember the Inuit legend of Sedna, Inuit goddess lurking in the depths of the sea and great protector of nature . We have to be careful not to break her rules, because then she gets angry and the harmony that usually reigns in their world is broken. After the people have appeased their anger, Sedna frees the game and reestablishes good relations between the Inuit and their world. At all times, hunters should remember to respect all living things if they are to maintain a good relationship with the goddess. At all times, we will remember that we are in Inuit land called Nunangat, and that we must respect the mountains and the land, rocks, water and fog at all times, which all have a spirit.

On this first day of our expedition, the descending light reminds us to hurry. We must arrive at the camp before dark.

Long kilometers remain to be covered in the next few days, but for now, the day ends as the light fades behind us, leaving a delicate glow in the winding trail of our wet footsteps. At our feet, in front of us, lie magnificent grasses, the pollen of which begins to spread in the cool breeze of Nunavik. As I fetch water to fill our gourds, I scan the vast sky and thank Sedna for allowing me to be there and have this fantastic adventure.

Meanwhile, on the coast, polar bears hunt seals on the ice floes of Nachvak Bay. We have heard that he is getting closer and closer to one of the sections of our route due to lack of food and changes in his lifestyle, no doubt caused by global warming. I stay alert, often glancing towards the horizon.

We contemplate a black sky filled with shooting stars which offers us the chance to witness a spectacular merry-go-round of green lights appearing quietly behind the neighboring peaks. Soft and weak at first, their movement gains momentum, and the dance of the aurora continues until midnight. The difficult day turns into a gift for our eyes amazed by so much beauty.

On the same runway that saw us take off, Florence and I think back to the adventure we just had. Back in Montreal, the adventure does not end there. This is what is complex about being an adventure filmmaker. You have to come home and accept the fact that you will be spending the next month video editing in front of a screen and sending hundreds of emails. The part of my job that takes place in the field is very therapeutic, but the return to urban life is a real shock for me each time, after having been disconnected from everything for days. I realize that we are adding so much the superfluous to a way of life that could be much simpler and more harmonious. This is what I take away from Kuururjuaq Park and this documentary project which has just ended; the search for simplicity.

To see the documentary Traversées:

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