Our guest writer Anna tells about her voyage to Greenland. We’re not jealous. At all.
When dreams come true: Greenland, part 1
In the Spring of 2016 an opportunity arose to participate in a trip to one of my dream destinations, Greenland. We grabbed the chance with curious minds, with canoeing, dog sled rides and hiking awaiting us. We took a flight via Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, a city on the west side of the Greenland. Our next stop would be the neighboring city of Sisimiut before Ilulissat, our final destination further up the coast. This is also where a Unesco World Heritage Site – the ice fjords – is located .
When it comes to outdoor hobbies, weather plays a pivotal role and one needs to pay close attention to packing. The mental image of Greenland in Spring was fairly vague so, not counting bikinis, I packed a large variety of clothing to go. We were fortunate enough to experience a temperature from -5 °C to +10 °C with the sun shining through the whole week.
Canoeing in the birth place of the kayak is humbling experience
We got to visit the shed of the local canoeing club, learning how kayaks are make, what gear they use and how to properly wield the paddle.
The kayak is still used in fishing and hunting birds and seals but it’s no longer something people know how to use instinctively. You can’t buy kayaks from the local shops and no one there uses the more globally known plastic or fiber ones.
You make your own kayak.
The hull is made of wood and there’s a painted canvas stretched over the whole frame. The spray deck is sealskin, the paddle is wooden and narrow, a proper Greenlandic one. There are no seats or beams for leg support. They even lack the modern cargo hatches because well…they didn’t used to do this as a hobby, did they?
Between the icebergs
With all that said, the ones we got to use were still the plastic ones or “kayak-like boats” as the locals liked to call them.
They were very particular about people not mistaking real kayaks with the touristy ones.
It was an ordeal of its own to squeeze into the wet suit and neoprene slippers/gloves/headgear. Haven’t really needed anything like that back home. After a thorough safety check along with a route plan, we took off. And yes, I felt butterflies. For someone who has only canoed inland, something as ridiculously endless as the sea was a brand new opponent.
The cove was still under a thin layer of ice. We quickly abandoned its safety and glided into open waters, facing wind, strong currents and riptides. The first few feet I was gripping the paddle knuckles white and swinging it around like a madman. It took me a while to relax and find the correct technique. Surrounded by the clear blue sea and the rugged snow-covered mountains. You have no idea!
Our local guide lead us to some inspiring locations along the coastline, telling us about the area and its colorful buildings. Each color used to represent a store, a public building and so on.
As we moved on, we came across icebergs. We needed to be very cautious around them because they could turn upside down or a part could break off. We also had to remember that most of an iceberg is underwater, so you don’t want to get too close. But the color spectrum we saw: turquoise, different shades of blue and brown and grey and even white! Not to mention the different shapes and sizes of those ice giants.
We took lunch on a sandy beach.
This was when I needed to pinch myself. The sheer contrast of nature, combining icebergs with sandy shores.
Later in the day we had a chance to see the canoe club members’ rope training. It’s an old method to work on and maintain physical form, flexibility and coordination. This simulates different kayak control techniques such as the Eskimo turn. The cherry on top was witnessing the performance of Greenland’s Eskimo turn champion.
The initial experience in Greenlandic nature was astounding and there were plenty of unbelievable things to come but that’s for a later time.
Anna Laakso calls herself a numerically middle-aged hiker who fuels on nearby locations and dares to venture farther from time to time. The fellowship is completed by the Cartographer and Paw Patrol.