scratching the surface of the spinning globe
After four years on the road, I am getting ready to try sedentary life again. If you come by Barcelona next year, please do contact me, I will have swaped my tent for a solid roof.
In the past six months, I started slowing down, settling for a few weeks in Huaraz, Peru, at the foothils of the Cordillera Blanca, then visiting my family in France, before heading to the Arctic to take care of my brother's boat near Baffin Island.
As I reached Ushuaia on May 30th with my bicycle Caracola, I thought more than ever to all of you, all the people who helped me on the road, the family and friends I love and miss dearly, and the experiences I had the chance to live for the past four years.
In the next few months, I will update these pages with some of the images and unusual stories I have in my mind. For a starter, here are some recent news from the icefield.
That morning, it was tempting to go explore the ice a bit further. On the nearby peninsula, I could see some dogs. With the binoculars, I even thought I could see a group of three people. So despite the silence on the radio channel of the village, I headed off to cross the fjord by foot.
Three kilometres of suspense hiking on water, the ice pick in my hands to test the ice ahead of me. As I got closer, the human shapes I had seen on the peninsula became some old rusty remains again.
But the prints of dogs in the fresh snow were not lying: at least, they had made it through. I kept going.
About forty minutes later, I was at the village, moved and relieved to reach solid ground and civilisation.
A memorable evening at Yves and Céline's, with Anita, Andrew, and Mark, sharing good meals and playing music. I could not dream of a better way to break up with my solitude.
It's here! The ice is here! The silence took the place of the sound of the waves. The calm the one of the swell. The blue became white.
This time, the boat heads in the right direction: northbound. The ice thickens, day by day. When the wind stops, I like to sit outside to listen to the silence. I can hear the seals scratching under this ice. A dog barking away in the village. My heart beat in my ears.
A few days back, I tried the moving experiment of crossing the rail. Climb down the steps. Put one foot on the fresh ice. Then another. Hands off... It holds!
The ice is now about twenty centimeters thick. I have installed the dinghy and folded open the ladder. My domain became suddenly bigger, and it's shyly that I start exploring the largest garden of the bay.
Soon, I should be able to walk across the three kilometers of the fjord and to join my neighbours, after more than two weeks enjoying alone the landscape around me.
In the end, it was on the third take that the ice settled. The first sheets of fresh ice were blown away by the dozens of knots of wind howling in the night, scratching the hull in the strangest noises. Twice I woke up in the morning to discover the ice had gone and the waves were back.
With their little boats, locals keep hunting when the ice is still only a few centimetres thick. That's when Robbie came to share a coffee a few days ago, breaking the fresh ice. And all the ice went again. Starting over.
On a clear day, the sun came to greet us in what will be its last apparition of the year, casting its oblique rays in the bay, crossing the fjord horizontally from one hill to the other and in less than an hour.
Yesterday, the ice had settled again, and Johnny visited me. This time, to take me to shore, only a few hours, enough time to share a lunch with Yves and Céline. So nice to break my solitude, be it for a few minutes.
On the way back, I asked his brother Amo, on his powerful boat, to push Vagabond so it would point North, the bow heading to the dominant winds. He told me no straightforwardly, but started driving in large loops, breaking the thin ice around the boat. Free once again, Vagabond kept swinging a few more hours in the wind before stopping in the cold of the night.
Already three weeks on board, and I still have a serious pile of books to read, and a a long list of things to do. I tried though, to make use of a full week of heavy snow falls to stay warm inside and get used to withstand the siege of the ice.
And snow there is, a lot this year. Even locals seem to agree on that. It is good news: more water for spring, and less stones under the skis.
Friday, movie night at the Hamlet, the town's council house: Céline had organised the projection of "Vanishing Point". A chance for me to meet part of the community, and to fill my eyes with smiles amongst all these kids.
Saturday, back on the boat, I almost wished it would be my last ride on the water. But the ice didn't seem to come. An elder was remembering how a few years ago, the little bay where the boat is was freezing much earlier; they would come to hunt seal.
Yesterday afternoon, a boat approached before turning around Vagabond: Yves, Céline, Anita and Andrew came to pay a visit! So nice to have guests on board, and share the delicious food they brought.
Tonight, clouds made place to a sky full of stars, and a vast brush came to paint a dim green light: my first northern lights.
When I went out to admire the show, I felt a strange silence, and found the boat suprisingly still. The ice has started forming around the boat.
After reaching a safe haven with a nice collection of tiny flights, I joined Vagabond at her mooring about ten days ago, moved to board again on her red hull that I know well, more than three years after leaving her under the same latitudes, on the other side of Davis Straight.
I quickly found some of my marks and habits again, and thanks to the precious help of Yves and his excellent onshore routing, sorted out the few remaining technical questions. And here I am, ready for a few weeks of immobile navigation. I enjoy each moment passing by, the few rays of sun that still come to dazzle a porthole, and the stunning view on the neighbours "cruise ships", those large tabular icebergs that came to cast their anchor at the entrance of the fjord.
The news from the antipodes and from Brittany are good. The complete crew will join me just in time to celebrate winter solstice. In the mean time, "country food" stew simmered on the stove, home-made bread with chestnut flour, season's soups and broths, the crossing of autumn also promises to be culinary.