Our Greenland trip - let the adventure begin!

Why Greenland??? Has anyone even heard of the place? Do you know roughly where it is or could you point to it on the globe? Well therein my dear Blogfans lies the answer. Although the age of pure exploration has long since passed, Greenland is about as close as you will get to being unexplored. I remember browsing through a Lonely Planet guide in the late nineties and came across the northerly settlement of Thule, it mentioned a museum there that opened in the early sixties and the visitors book still hadn't been filled!

It was blinkin' freezing!

at first we were very unsure about walking over this!

It's mystique has enthralled me since I was a child. It was when I was very young, perhaps eight or nine, I was a keen Stamp Collector, wonderful thing Philately, it geographically unveils your global address to the world around you. I regularly used to cart home the massive Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogues from the local library, before giving the value of all the country's stamps it would give a brief overview of the land, I thought this Greenland place sounds interesting I would love to go there. Forty two years later and all credit due to Deb spending hours tapping away on the internet we finally made it!

wonderful hotel

Here are some bullet points showing some interesting facts about Greenland at a glance:

* 82% of Greenland is pack ice.

* Greenland is the largest island in the world at 837,000 sq miles, that's 9 Great Britains!

*  Greenland is the most sparsely populated country in the world with approx. 56,000 inhabitants.

*  Greenland has a total of 90 miles of roads but all of these are within the settlements. There are no
     roads connecting one settlement to another.

*  There are no airports, railways or inland waterways in Greenland, main form of transport is Dog
    sled through winter and Boat in summer.

*  Most visitors to Greenland are from Scandinavia or Canada. Britts are a novelty.

*  Greenland is the only country in Europe that is permitted to hunt whale.

*  Greenland voted for home rule in 1979 then pulled out of the E.E.C  in 1985 because the E.E.C's
    stringent fishing regulations conflicted with Greenland's family fishing traditions.

*  There are 118 policemen on Greenland. In 2013 there were 234 infringements of the law of which
    95% were alcohol related.

*  Some Greenlanders illegally brew an alcoholic concoction by adding yeast to various fruits and
    allowing it to ferment. It tastes like fox urine mixed with Tesco everyday value turps!!!

On the subject of bullet points, if you felt the urge to go and buy a gun, that's not a problem in Greenland, you just go to a Gun Shop and buy one. There is no need for I.D, a license or any other paraphernalia. Anyway Blogfans after hours of painstaking research I am now going to present you with a ' potted history of Greenland '... Nothing to report/ still nothing happens/ still nothing doing/ hold on a minute, some lads from Canada land, too cold, move back down south/ nothing happens for ages/ guy with red hair lands in the south where it's green, calls it Greenland moves further up north realises it isn't green, hits the road/nothing happens for ages again/ Inuit from Mongolia migrate via Ellesmere Island (Canada) and Siberia and adopt to the harsh climate... That's it! No centuries of mindless bloody battles, pointless civil wars, ages of chivalry, usurpings of the throne, being flayed alive and being hung drawn and quartered. To be candid Blogfans, I'm impressed!

It really is a different world out here, it seems to be the tradition to paint your house in a vivid striking colour, these houses are enough to illuminate the most gloomiest of winters and incidentally it isn't pitch black all  through the winter, it's just that the sun doesn't shine for three months. Now look closely at those houses, what do you notice that's missing? That's right, no drainpipes or gutters! Now why would this be? Well obviously the volume of snow and swelling and contracting of ice would create it's own problems but believe it or believe it not, it hardly ever rains in Greenland, from September to May, most precipitation falls as snow and June to August is mostly settled weather.

no drainpipes or gutters!

The town centre!

Sleighs outside most houses

Just patch up that little hole and it'll be the finest boat that ever sailed on the seven seas!

Two other 'pieces de resistance' averted our gaze whilst sauntering around this charming township, they were the practise of hanging out laundry to dry in temperatures where the mercury plunged to as low as -30 degrees and the bizarre spectacle of 'hanging fish' embellishing peoples window sills. The explanations to both instances are totally feasible . Because of the low humility washing will dry in any temperature. As far as the fish goes, you have to appreciate how important the sea is to these people, it is their livelihood. Fresh fish can spoil in half an hour, dried fish is a speciality, many patrons of Greenland don't even have fridges... nuff said.

Deb features on most of the photos!

Washing should soon dry it's only minus twenty six!

spot the dried fish!

fish and clothes hanging out to dry everywhere

mmmm apetizing!

everyday life!

Our rationale for visiting Greenland wasn't the icebergs, fjords and glaciers although these were awesome beyond belief, it was just to see the everyday Greenland way of life, Mothers going to pick their kids up from school, men going to work, gangs of youngsters excitedly heading to the Sports Centre for a game of Football! In most seaside towns you will hear seagulls, in Ilulissat you will hear barking Husky's instead! Dog sled is still the main form of transport for the Inuit and it takes about fifteen  Husky's to pull a fully ladened sledge. Hence Ilulissat has around two and a half thousand canine residents, mostly on the outskirts of the village. It is a stunning display on a lavish scale to see the dogs haul their freight up a mountain pass, on the way down the dogs go at the rear to act as a brake. We were crossing the road back into the village after walking a dog sled route, on hearing a hustle and bustle behind us we were stupefied to see a dog sled just bolt across the road on to the next ice track while the traffic patiently waited! Inuit have priority here and rightly so, cars came later!

Inuit have priority, cars came later

Two and a half thousand canine residents!

The local Sports centre, don't think the picnic tables get much use!

a way of life

The School, well it's there if the Parents decide they want to send their kids to it!

a bus serves the far flung corners of the village!

We were surprised at how well stocked the shops and supermarkets are here, you would walk into one of the five Spa shops ( yes Spa shops! ) and you wouldn't know where to start. You would pop your head into another room and wow it's full of electrical appliances and cameras! However it has to be said I don't think they've quite got the finesse of a visual marketing display yet, the first thing to greet us when we walked into the Spa near the harbour was about five hundred tubs of engine oil! In between the deli and the sweet isle was a random display of paint! Who cares, it works.

well I suppose Greenlanders have to eat! (Deb just loves getting in the pictures)

gaar lugit!!!!!!! can't find out what this means.

When we were waiting in an office for a tour guide we were entertained by an elderly gent who distributed to all the guests grapes the size of plums then proceeded to explain to us why it is that the Greenlanders want for nothing. " It is because of the sheep" he said " now we have the sheep we can get anything we want, when we want" As I caressed my temporary goaty beard I must have sported a glazed expression. I was thinking ' do they graze sheep here now? Funny I haven't seen any and even if there were how could that be related to getting anything you needed and grapes the size of plums? ' Something wasn't hanging together here but it got better, " because of global warming, the sheep can get through at any time of the year" I thought ' eh, you what! ' Then the penny finally dropped, 'sheep was SHIP!

It gradually dawned on me on our visit why there have to be so many shops in one small town. In an illustrative way Greenland isn't an island, it is sixty five islands dotted around a sea of ice. Due to the fact that none of the settlements are connected by road it would cost you hundreds of pounds to get to the next village by boat so your wife isn't going to say to you " o darling would you mind popping to Nuuk for a bottle of Hardy's Crest, they've ran out of it in Ilulissat" . The upshot of it is if you're born in Ilulissat you will stay in Ilulissat therefore everything you need from a bottle of wine to a table will be purchased in Ilulissat.

a small town of nearly four thousand, about the size of Market Rasen. Third biggest town in Greenland

I feel duty bound to ratify why as Motherland trained hikers we needed a tour guide, why couldn't we have gone on the walk ourselves alone? Well the long and short of it is we were for all intents and purposes at the back end of beyond and I didn't want to foster a 'devil may care' attitude . However after a short but very expensive Land Rover ride we were at the start of our hike. What did I see? Miles and miles of 'boards' as far as the eye could see! When we finally got off the boards, it was all waymarked! The actual fee for the walk pains me too much to mention it but I'm sure if you ask Deb she will take great delight in telling you. My only anxiety is that this dilly dally doesn't reach the ears of local hill walking legend Tom Beertins otherwise I might have the G.C.S (Golden Crampon Society) knocking at my door.

On a serious note the walk was sensational, it took us round the Ilulissat Ice Fjord and it was a euphoric experience. A formidable display of icebergs on a sea like a bath of silver mercury. Some of the icebergs were wreathed in serene detachment while others were a sprawling mass of ice sculpted magnificence, it was a dazzling display. On a day of magical crisp clarity it was understandably an emotional experience.

some Icebergs wreathed in serene detachment...

ice sprawled magnificence

a dazzling display

on a bath of silver mercury

it was a day of magical crisp clarity

an unforgetable experience

Deb and myself took two days to explore the area fully and I have to admit it was winter walking of the highest order. We walked up one of the small valley glaciers. It was engaging to hear the graunching of our spikes on this gargantuan body of ice as it lurched and bumped and scraped through a rock strewn cataract of ethereal landscape. A brittle blue sky and a pristine winter's day sparkled all around.

gargantuan bodies of ice

a pristine winter's day sparkled all around

rock strewn cataract... ethereal landscape

At first we were very judicious walking on ice, reason being, if you fell into the icy water you would only have seconds to live! The policy for any seafaring person is, if one of their number falls in, you just keep on going, the only reason for wearing a life jacket is if you want your body to be found! As the week rolled on we realised that it wasn't ice forming over water here, it was just consolidated ice, hence our confidence soared as we crossed rivers, streams, glaciers and wonder of wonders the local harbour graciated with half the Greenland shipping fleet!

at first we were very judicious walking on ice

the inimical cold vibe found it's way in!

one of the small valley glaciers

It has to be said I didn't handle the cold as well as I thought I would, in fact Deb handled the cold better than I did. We experienced lows of -26 degrees and no matter how many base layers you put on, the inimical cold vibe found it's way through the layers. Although the humidity is low over here I dare say this is compensated by the manically low temperatures and with the wind chill factor I dare not hazard a guess at what that equivalent temperature would be.

getting a bit more confident on the ice!

a wee hardy fella!

I think it's sad when people chase after the Northern Lights as if nothing else matters, there are many other things to see and do if the Lights are illusive and that is certainly what they are, you will here expressions like 'you're too low' 'you're too high up' 'you should have been here last week' or 'next week is going to be good'. We did tick the box but it has to be said it wasn't a stunning display, a luminous green pall streaked and swirled across the sky but what confounded us was that it wasn't moving and dancing about. The following day a Danish gentleman asked us if we had seen the lights the previous night we said that we weren't sure because nothing was moving, he replied " O they don't do that here you have to be further down the country to see that!"

wonder where he's taking those skins?

can you see him making his way over the mountains?

winter walking of the highest order

Throughout the week I'm afraid to say Old Ingo was up to his usual tricks, we visited an art museum, it's very rewarding to touch the heart of the country. The Curator resided in the building I was completely oblivious to this until as I was going from one room to another looking at various works of art, I opened a door only to see him loading up his dishwasher! I promptly apologised only to do the same thing on the opposite side of the room, he was making a cup of tea, Deb called out "milk and two sugars please"! After the visit I apologised for my minor infractions, he assured me that there was no problem, I then proceeded to exit the building only to get the wrong door and walk into his bedroom!

The Art museum. Curate lives on site as we were about to find out!

One day while walking back to our hotel we saw a group of men down to our right on a rocky outcrop. They were heavily laden with photographic equipment. I thought 'I dare say the light is perfect down there for some superb shots around the bay, I thought I'm going down there myself' and indeed it was arctic perfection. Next thing I knew a helicopter was coming towards us with what seemed to be some sort of a package attached to the end of a rope, I thought 'this looks interesting' and proceeded to get into all sorts of contortions to get some memorable photos. It was during my perambulations I heard simultaneously two voices in a deep Canadian drawl, one said "camera rolling" and the other "get that prat out of the way!" Yes Old Ingo had wondered on to the film set! It was a commercial for Samsung aimed at the Asian market. If you youtube it and see some dude prancing around with a big bright yellow Berghaus coat on, that's me!

mmm this looks interesting..

heavily laden with photographic equipment

camera rolling!

''get that prat outa the way! ''

The icing on the cake on visiting any foreign land for us, is a visit to the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. To witness first hand that the Good News is being preached in every corner of the globe is truly a highlight. Ilulissat lies over two hundred miles beyond the arctic circle on the remotest place on earth yet people from all walks of life and nationality can come together and unite to worship their God! In this Congregation there are thirteen dedzxctzicated gotk, sorry I just slipped into Greenlandic then, more about that in a moment, there are thirteen dedicated hard working publishers and fifteen were in attendance at the midweek meeting. One of those in attendance was a native gentleman having a bible study, he has no doubt witnessed friends and family attend the meetings but he was curious as to who we were, Leo his study conductor explained we were Jehovah's Witnesses from England, he was astounded. He had just seen first hand the unity of a Global Brotherhood. A modern day miracle.

Most Northerly Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses?

The only natives present at this meeting

Now, this Greenlandic language, it is very difficult to learn because where syntax and rules of grammar are
concerned it is a law unto it's self. It is a very descriptive language which maybe explains the very long words, the longest having one hundred and forty letters and takes twelve seconds to utter! Just to give an example the simple word 'knife' would be 'a metal implement used for cutting meat'. Two young Pioneers Silas and Pernille have moved from Denmark to serve where the need is greater here in Greenland and are learning the Greenlandic language! We had a meal with them and Leo on the Thursday evening and had a lovely time it was as if we had known them for years. As we walked back to our hotel under a Holst of stars and the moon hanging like a Chinese lantern, we felt absolutely on top of the world, actually a few more miles up the coast and we would have been!

How can you read that!

The two Pioneers Silas and Pernille


On another evening we felt duty bound to visit a Greenland pub, have you ever had that experience when you walk into a place and it is totally different from what you expected? Well we walked into the  'Neleraq'   expecting to see a bunch of Eskimos sat round a roaring fire, that is not what we got, the first thing to greet us were the toilets ( ! ) through the next double doors, were strategically placed tables and chairs and a rather large dance floor but at 10:00 p.m it was empty! The way it works in Greenland is the shops all shut at 11:00 p.m therefore the workers will go home shower, change etc and be in party mood by midnight and the pub will start to fill up. It closes at 3:00 a.m! I surmise in this little town there will be people trudging around in the snow at all hours, the town never sleeps! Through all of this though we felt completely safe, Greenlanders are the most non aggressive amiable people you will ever meet. The Government own all the land here, nobody owns anything, you can walk where ever you like. Nobody acts like they own the place either.

Inside the Neleraq, it was early, 10:00pm not quite buzzing with activity yet!

Well it started with stamps and fittingly concluded with stamps. On our final afternoon we visited the local Post Office, true to form I led us through the wrong door as we fumbled our way through the sorting office and baggage area, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid. I bought some commemorative stamps whist Deb bought some current issues that she has very artfully mounted on top of the architrave that goes round the shoe cupboard, well where else do you put them! As we wended our way back to the Hotel for the last time children were still playing on the ice covered slopes. I asked a Danish man if it was half term he said that it wasn't but there is a very relaxed attitude towards school here, the natives attitude is 'nature will look after them'!

''nature will look after them''

we were surprised at how the native Greenlanders have Oriental features

On the final evening the surrounding landscape seemed to exuberate a satiny mantle that demanded one last photo shoot. It felt like you were flipping through the pages of 'National Geographic', man and beast cradled in an arctic evening's sweet embrace. It was the first week in march and we had ten and a half hours of daylight which was more than what we expected, mind you when dusk fell it fell like a curfew!

cradled in evening's sweet embrace

Greenland was a right chore of a destination to get to but well worth the effort. We had to book our Iceland flights first not even knowing whether we could secure a booking on the old twin prop that landed us on the Ilulissat airstrip.I will always remember we flew from Iceland at 11:45 a.m for a three and a half hour flight but due to crossing three time zones we landed in Greenland at 12:00p.m! Poor old Deb she had to cross language barriers, broker deals with officials who just happened to be working from home! The transfers and the fact there are two airports on Iceland only added to the confusion without Deb's ingenuity the whole thing simply wouldn't of happened.

when dusk fell it fell like a curfew

When we got back to Reykjavik it was 1 degrees and felt warm, when we landed at Manchester it was 12 degrees and felt like mid summer but in Ilulissat in early March winter was still in full control!

In Ilullisat in March, winter was still in full control!

Well that's it Blogfan's, you've maybe heard the old saying 'if you've toured the world you can always go to Greenland' well I can see why. I promise you the next Blog will take you back to the heart of the Motherland!

Slide on,


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