Sometimes you want to do something more adventures than normal. You want to go back to a simpler life, escaping the hectic daily routine. Focus on the simple things: Find something to eat and drink, keep warm, dry and safe. To escape my daily routine, I decided to spend two weeks paddling with a kayak through in southern Greenland. It was a wonderful experience in a beautiful country. In the post I want to give you a glimpse of what it was like.
Arrival. You do not have many options for a flight to Narsarsuaq, the settlement with an airport, a hotel and a few houses. Your only options for international flights are Reykjavik and Copenhagen. In the descent to Narsarsuaq you can see what to expect the following days. A landscape shaped by ice, hills and some grass and small bushes.
Descending to Narsarsuaq
Just before touchdown
After the, presumably, long flight you can stretch your legs on some nice hikes. One hike winds through a little forest which was planted by researchers to study why there are no native trees in Greenland. If you want to test your fitness you can also participate in the Leif-Eriksson-Marathon which usually takes place in August. After some casual hiking we went to the next bigger village Narsaq by boat. In this case boat means RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat). It gets windy, wet and you should put on as many layers as you have, because at the latest when the sun goes down it gets cold. Narsaq is a village with a population of 1500, so not particularly big either.
Boat transfer to Narsaq
After spending one night in Narsaq we went straight to the kayaks to start our trip. On the following map you can see our track. We hiked and paddled about 200km in 11 days.
Our track including the camping spots (starting at the star, going clockwise)
Day 1. The first day was really impressive. We got up early in the morning and prepared our kayaks in the fog. When doing the first strokes the fog lifted and we could see icebergs all around us. We had already seen icebergs on our ride from Narsarsuaq to Narsaq, but it is different passing them quite close in a kayak then passing them in a very fast RIB. Throughout the trip it never got boring watching icebergs. They come in so many different sizes and forms. They look drastically different when the sun shines or when it rains.
It was a very good start into the trip. Packed with enough food for one week, great weather and everything you need to put up a campsite, we enjoyed our first day in the boat.
The first day in the boat
One of the great things about traveling Greenland is, that you won't see many other people. So you do not have to worry about someone taking your camping spot. However you have to know good camping spots with fresh water from a nearby creek. Camping in Greenland is purely wild and once your are a couple of day-trips away, you are truly on your own. A satellite phone is definitely required to get help. Your mobile phone will only work in some special locations (the "telephone bay") and near villages.
View from the first campsite back to Narsaq
Day 2. On the second day we headed towards an abandoned farmhouse. We had sunny weather and enjoyed the landscape. In this part of the fjord you see icebergs only occasionally. By rule of thumb you see the more icebergs the closer you get the the icecap. The farmhouse is located in a very narrow side-arm of the fjord. The area around it is flat land suitable for farming, which is quite unusual for Greenland and from the nearby hill you can see the icecap. However, the farmhouse is a bit spooky. When it was abandoned they left everything behind. From toothbrushes to clothes and family pictures. You have the feeling they are about to come back every minute.
The abandoned farmhouse with our tents and the icecap in the distance
In the part of Greenland we traveled most hills are not higher than 300 meter and you can quite easily hike to the top. Some of those hills provide beautiful views. Looking down from those hills you also get a feeling why this land is called Greenland despite covered in ice.
View from the doorstep of the farmhouse
Day 3. On the third day the weather changed and it got cloudy and windy, but the weather was still good. If you are afraid that it is really cold in Greenland I can reassure you that it is usually around 10°C in the summer. That's not exactly warm, but if the sun is out comfortable. We paddled further south towards the ocean. That means less icebergs and somewhat more vegetation and wildlife.
A bird that crossed our way on one of our hikes
We camped at a freshwater lake with pretty nice places to put you tent on. After putting the tents up, we hiked in the surrounding area. When hiking in Greenland you have to keep an eye on the distance you are hiking. There are very few landmarks that help you judge distances. You never know how big a boulder really is or how many small uprising there are behind the uprising in front of you. At least for us the boulders were always bigger than we thought they were. Getting lost is not really an issue when hiking in Greenland, but getting back before it gets dark, really is.
The view from a hill near our campsite
Day 4. This was the day of the "big crossing" on our way to the icecap. To get closer towards the icecap we had to cross one of the bigger fjords with a direct opening to the Atlantic. It was a really fun ride on big ocean waves. Before crossing the fjord we paddled through smaller arms and had lunch at an hunting cabin. During the crossing we saw bigger icebergs. One of them tumbled over as we passed by.
A big iceberg tumbling over
In the picture above you can see the different layers of ice quite well. The darker the blue is the older the ice is. When the ice builds up layer after layer, the layers at the lower end are getting compressed by the weight of the ice above. Pressing out oxygen leaving more hydrogen and creating that deep blue color.
After we reach the other side of the fjord we are already quite close to our next camping spot. The entrance to our camping spot was kind of blocked by smaller icebergs that got pushed into it by the wind. So we had to find our way through the icebergs to reach the camping spot.
The entrance to our camping spot
There was one very special iceberg close to the entrance. It was a medium sized iceberg and about 30 meters in height. What was special about it, was that it had a lagoon inside. It was very tempting to paddle through the lagoon. With ice to both sides and underneath you. However we refrained from doing it, because there is a real danger that some big chunk breaks off. Even if no ice hits you, the impact into the water is massive and the resulting waves can easily capsize you. Capsizing in 3-4°C cold water with help hours or even days away is not something you want to get into. As there is always a risk of capsizing you should always wear dry-suits when you are in the kayak.
Big iceberg with lagoon (approximately 30 meter high)
Day 5. It started to rain in the night from day four to five and wouldn't stop until the evening of day five. This was our first day of bad weather in Greenland and it was worth it. Everything is different when it rains in Greenland. The icebergs seem to glow from the inside. It is a very special atmosphere.
Iceberg in the rain
This was also the first day we saw a pod of dolphins or small whales. Our destination was a campsite closer to the icecap. We searched for the driest spots to put up our tents. Not all of us were equally successful. Some found themselves in a puddle the next morning. But all in all we were prepared for some rainy days and enjoyed the experience. Of course we were hoping for better weather for the next days.
I will cover the remaining days in an other post. Stay tuned!
Bird on small piece of ice