Refuge Le Draveur

This is a video (my very first!) I edited from images shot during a week-end in the woods. With a bunch of great friends, we spent the night in a cabin, ate fondue and hiked under an autumn sun. Enjoy!

The Shrimpiest Story

A_AquariusX_s

Aquarius X

Every year around spring time, the Aquarius X and her crew leave port to do one thing and one thing only: catching shrimp. As soon as the ice clears the surface of the St-Lawrence River, in the general vicinity of the small city of Matane, the operation starts. While they will be fishing until the end of August, the first six weeks are crucial and hectic enough to hire additional hands.

Shrimp like cold water. Very cold water. They are at their happiest when the ice has just retreated from the river and they tend to follow this movement. Starting around Matane, the shoals then progressively moves Eastwards and the Aquarius X crew follows. Due to a narrower passage between the Anticosti Island and the North Shore, the ice only retreats completely from the St Lawrence Gulf mouth around July. This predictable journey makes for much easier captures.

But life on a shrimp boat is not easy. The constant fight against seasickness, short bursts of sleep, an insanely intense schedule and the disconnect with one’s life can take its toll; this is truly for dedicated individuals! At any time of the day and night, shrimp are there and the crew must not miss the shoals or else the next boat will get them.

Suprisingly, it is the capturing process itself that gives the crew some of its much needed rest. After dropping the net in the cold waters, they have between 2 to 4 hours before it becomes full and must be brought back on board. During that time, the workers make sure to catch some sleep, eat something, get cleaned up a bit.

Once on board, the net is opened and its content is brought to the triage area. While the net is conceived to only catch shrimp, some fish do get stuck from time to time and those have to be thrown back into the sea. The shrimp are then stored in the ship’s hold under a thick layer of ice to keep them fresh for a maximum of 5 days. During the busiest weeks, the boat usually returns to the transformation plant when the hold is full, but afterwards the crew needs to take into account this very short window.

The following map shows the four shrimp transformation plants available to shrimp boats.

aquarius_map

A- Matane B- Rivière-aux-Renards C- La Tabatière D- Magdalen Islands

The money obtained from the transormation plants varies from year  to year but also during the season itself. And different plants pay differently! This means the captain needs to constantly reevaluate where he will get the best price based on the boat’s location. Sometimes it makes sense to travel a bit further to get a better price, even though the St Lawrence River and Gulf are so vast. While travelling from Matane to Rivière-aux-Renards takes about 3 hours by car, the same trip is about 12 hours long on a boat!

For security measures, the machine room is accessible to one crewman only. This individual will have received proper training and is the only one that can work and maintain the engines. As for the food, most items purchased are ready to eat as there too little time for cooking meals during the first six weeks. The crew still has to eat constantly in order to fight seasickness. But as the season advances, supply runs will bring more and more ingredients to be prepared in the tiny kitchen area and life gradually goes back to a more normal pace.

The Shrimpiest Story / Une histoire de crevettes (Intro)

(la version française est incluse plus bas)

I was born in Matane in the province of Quebec. For some of you, the name will ring a bell as this city has been associated with shrimps for many decades now. I’ve seen the famous Matane shrimps appear on menus from as far as Europe but also in Florida, Las Vegas, etc.

For a while, Matane even had its own shrimp festival. It was a week-long celebration revolving around this little pink crustacean where beer and music flowed together and where shrimps were sold everywhere in town in a small plastic container usually accompanied with chili sauce (not my preferred choice!).

I have long since left Matane, which also decided to drop the festival entirely. But I recently had the chance to resurface those memories when I received a few emails from my sister who still lives there. She was sharing her boyfriend’s voyage and work on a shrimp boat last Spring with photos and a whole lot of information I never knew or even tried to imagine about nordic shrimp boats. It’s a fascinating piece from a very different life we’re used to, so after she agreed, I decided to share this here as well.

Working on it… stay tuned!

Spring in Matane / Le printemps à Matane

Spring in Matane / Le printemps à Matane

Je suis né à Matane dans la province de Québec. Pour certains d’entre vous, le nom sera sans doute familier puisque la ville a longtemps été associée avec les crevettes. J’ai même pu apercevoir les fameuse crevettes de Matane sur les menus d’Europe, de la Floride, de Las Vegas, etc.

Pendant un temps, Matane a même eu son festival de la crevette. Les célébrations d’environ une semaine avaient comme thème le petit crustacée rose et la bière et la musique y coulaient à flots. Les crevettes étaient vendues un peu partout dans un contenant de plastique et servies habituellement avec un cure-dent et de la sauce chili (pas ma sauce préférée pour des crevettes!)

J’ai quitté Matane depuis longtemps et la ville a depuis décidé d’abandonner le festival. Mais j’ai récemment eu la chance de me remémorer cette époque quand j’ai reçu une série de courriels de ma soeur qui y vit encore. Elle y décrivait le voyage et le travail de son conjoint sur un crevettier le printemps dernier, avec photos à l’appui et des informations que je n’aurais jamais pu envisager. C’est une description fascinante d’une vie complètement différente de la nôtre et avec l’accord des personnes concernées, j’ai pensé la partager avec vous.

Je travaille donc là-dessus et je vous reviens!

Guiness Draught

All you need to take cool pictures is light. And sometimes beer.

But not light beer.

Guiness Draught

Wine Store Mondays

I interrupt the regular programming for an important announcement. I don’t do this often. In fact, it’s the very first time I do this. I can’t promise it won’t be the last because unlike most of you, I can’t see the future and thus can’t predict if I am going to interrupt this site’s programming again.

Did you hear that?

“That” was the sound of you missing one of the most glorious days on the internets (this one included). It was yesterday, by the way. It’s the sound of awesomeness.

I can’t hold it any longer, I gotta say it right now: Wine Store Mondays is in the house!

Did I ever mention I can’t predict the future? Well I totally lied because I KNOW you won’t miss next week’s edition of Wine Store Mondays. And it will change your life. Visit and subscribe to mnftiu.cc or click on the beautiful image of a wine glass below to jump on the wine wagon of life!

wineglass

Know hope.

Horseshoe Bend (Arizona)

[Click on the images for larger (and better!) versions]

From Mesa Verde, we had quite a drive to do in order to come back in the general vicinity of our base of operations (Las Vegas). After all, this is where our plane was going to take us back home a few days later.

On the road near Page, AZ

On the road near Page, AZ

So after a long ride, we finally stopped to spend the night in Page, AZ. If you remember, this is where we had visited Antelope Canyon earlier. This time, we had much less time to spare, but we did manage to visit a spot not very well known called “Horsehoe Bend”.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

The Colorado River

The Colorado River

Horseshoe Bend is free to visit. One simply has to park in a small area on Route 89 and walk about a kilometer to get to it. The area is actually named after a horseshoe-shaped meander in the Colorado River and the cliff side is approximately 1000 feet high.

Even with my wide angle lens, I couldn’t really get it all in the same frame. Still, I think the pictures give a good sense of the place. For a really cool panorama shot, you can also head over to the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Wide Angle at Horseshoe Bend (shot by Julie)

Mart at Horseshoe Bend (shot by Julie)

My feet over Horseshoe Bend

My feet over Horseshoe Bend

And for this picture, we asked a fellow tourist to snap it. No we don’t suffer from vertigo. After handing me back the camera, he admitted that he almost jokingly asked us to take one step back.

Julie and Mart at Horseshoe Bend

Julie and Mart at Horseshoe Bend

Mesa Verde National Park

[Click on the images for larger (and better!) versions]

While we were in Monument Valley, we realized we were still a full day ahead on our schedule. So we started looking at other interesting places to visit in the general vicinity. It quickly dawned on us that we could get our money’s worth out of that National Park annual pass we bought in Zion AND visit a brand new state by driving over to Mesa Verde National Park.

On the road from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde, we also stopped at Four Corners Monument, the only point in the United States where the boundaries of four states intersect: Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. This spot is also on Navajo territory, so you have to pay a small fee to get to the actual marker. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but still quite impressive to stand in four different states at once.

Mesa Verde is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features numerous ruins of homes built by the Anasazi people around the 12th century. The most spectacular ruins are actually cliff dwellings where the Native American tribe has excavated part of a steep cliff and built small villages with basic masonry inside. Abandoned less than a hundred years after being built, those ruins remained hidden from modern civilisation until a gold prospector accidentally stumbled upon the site in 1873.

Mesa Verde - Cliff Palace

Mesa Verde - Cliff Palace

Mesa Verde - Inside a cliff dwelling

Mesa Verde - Inside a cliff dwelling

We first walked to a spot where we would have a good general view of Cliff Palace, the park’s most popular “village”. The setting is impressive, as all the houses seem to be hanging over a gorgeous valley of juniper trees. But we wanted to visit up close, so we paid for a small guided tour that brought us to Balcony House. A visit to Balcony House requires some physical work and that’s probably the main reason why we chose that one. Steep ladders and extremely narrow passages tend to discourage quite a few people!

Mesa Verde - Climbing the Balcony House ladder

Mesa Verde - Climbing the Balcony House ladder

Mesa Verde - Inside Balcony House

Mesa Verde - Inside Balcony House

We finally ended our visit with a short and easy (despite the heat!) 1-mile walk to Spruce Tree House where the well-preserved ruins include a kiva (a round room used for religious rituals and social functions) with a restored roof and many “appartments”.

Mesa Verde - 2 kivas in front of houses

Mesa Verde - 2 kivas in front of houses

Mesa Verde - Spruce Tree House

Mesa Verde - Spruce Tree House

By then it was time for us to head back to Arizona. We still had a few more places to visit…