Here we are, landed in Greenland, the land of ice.
The Kangerlussuaq airport is simply amazing. It is amidst iced mountains, ice and only ice. The landing was brilliant when the little plane lands on the Ice.
To Illulisat from Kangerlussuaq it is a 40-minute flight and delays and rescheduling is a common occurrence here, due to the extreme weather conditions. However, the airport is sufficiently equipped to handle such extremities.
It is indeed an experience to never forget the sight of ice from the plane, the blue sheet of joy evoking both romance and mystery.
3:30 pm is already dark when we arrived at our hotel Ice fjord, Ilulissat. It’s dark out there. Feels like night already. This is a quiet and nice hotel with modern refurbished rooms. Room heaters are efficient and the hotel and staff seems to be nice too. Our room opens to the beautiful view of the floating ice fjords. Balcony beautifully decorated with newly formed snow on the balcony railings and the deck.
Cool wind on the face, a little walk in the knee-deep snow, the only sound you hear is the snow breaking under your snow boots and going crunch crunch all the way into the winding streets of the city.
This city of 4417 habitants is quite and charming in its own way. We started from main square which was all covered with snow and hardly looked anything like main square that I have seen before.
We started by visiting a small video parlor that was in the 90s the busiest place and that today’s it was closed down for good. The guide when he was young used to frequent a lot.
Moving on, we went into a place that processed whales, seals etc into souvenirs. Btw whale, seal hunting is very much legal over here. They cannot hunt humpback whales and other species. Killing whales is also very much legal for their oil.
We walked through winding snow-covered streets uphill downhill to the main port of Ilulissat that was no longer a port but a iced and ice covered platform with frozen boats.We also discovered Royal Greenland, the biggest fishing industry in the world.Halibuts and shrimps are exported majorly from here.About 2 hours we covered and walked around the city.Quickly saw a coat church and headed towards the main office of Greenland travel for some hot tea and coffee. After a while, we went to meet the Sled dogs. Learnt quite a bit about the sledding. It was fascinating to see the owner of these dogs so passionate and so knowledgeable.
Learning few facts about dogs are always an advantage here in the land of dogs where you have more dogs in comparison to human population.
Youyou go left,
- From 6 months on, the dogs must be chained.
- The official dog shooter can kill loose dogs.
- All dogs North of the Polar Circle must be Greenlandic sled dogs.
- If a dog passes South of the circle, it can never return.
- The municipality provides chaining sites, water and vaccinations.
Somethings to remember
- Usually female dogs lead the sled since it is the smartest and follow/understand the commands very well. There are various commands used to lead the dogs while on the run, Yuyu to turn left, yelleyelle to turn right, mangpee to stop!
- Among the 16 dogs she had, few names I noted were Maajorhuaq which meant Precious, obivan the only one.
- A dog’s life-the elders told stories of brown dogs, because according to them, brown dogs can see things invisible to human eyes. It is said that if you hold the brown dog’s eyes up and then put your hands in front of your eyes, you will gain the brown Dog’s ability to see what is invisible.
- The long-haired dogs are called Meqqujuut.
The following day it was time for our 2-hour Sermermiut hike. Sermermiut is an old settlement which is located at the mouth of the ice fjord. No one lives there today, but was once a settlement area around 2400 BCE.
In the years 2400 – 700 BCE Saqqaq culture lived here, while it was the Dorset culture in 800 BCE – 0.
Then the Thule culture came in 1100 CE and has been living Here in Greenland ever since, which means these are the ancestors of Greenland people.
This is a 6.9km boardwalk starting from the old heliport, there was not much of board visible due to snow. We had the trail marked by footsteps and we followed that assuming that was the board to walk.
It is a very interesting trail; some spectacular view of the icebergs is from certain points of this trail. This is also a UNESCO protected site. Since this is the old settlement, though nothing is remaining of it today, we could see some remains of the hut, again assuming this must have been built a long time ago.
I say this from the honest core of myself that my eyes have not seen such a beauty of icebergs and snow till date. Spectacular views of floating icebergs. All so white so white that’s everything is white, as far as your eye can reach, all is white and intimidating. Evening, Christmas dinner.
Did you know: The tradition of Greenland is that all the dog hunters and dog people have their name and their year of birth in their caps.
Wearing the sledding gear is like hugging a snow giant, huge and heavy. I must have also looked like one of the giants from the Game of thrones, a night walker a heavy walker. A large heavy outer coat and outer pants with thick boots go on our already heavy coat and pants. These clothing are made up of Seal skin and polar bear. It was quite funny and strange to wear it, as it smelled strange and funny.
As we sat on the cold and hard sleds that were led by 13 dogs, just sped off nonstop.
The musher has his commands for his dogs, I could pick up some like YouYou for left and heehee for right and mangpee for stopping. Was interesting to see how the dogs are rained to just run run and run.
Some dogs were overtaking our sleds and used to get tangled with ours. I felt these mushers are real ruffians. One of the dogs came on our sled but the musher just tossed him away that went flying across the other sled and the other went underneath and came out from the other end, no I am not exaggerating. Total 14 Kms of non stop fun about 2 hours. After the first break we had coffee tea right in the middle of nowhere and somewhere that was all snow. Frozen hands gripping desperately for some warmth in the tea cups besides the view of the snow, here and there stained yellow due to Dog’s pee is certainly one hell of an experience.
Around 12:30 it was finally the hour of the much-awaited Boat trip “The Magic of Arctic”. Chasing the icebergs. Sailing through these mighty icebergs, the Ice sculptures of nature, is indeed, truly magical and intimidating too.
Something to remember: Greenlandic people once used these icebergs to distinguish the seasons and to identify towns.
- There are 2 types of ice in Greenland waters- fresh water iceberg that valve from glaciers into the sea and saltwater park ice that forms at sea.
- Ilulissat ice fjord has the largest icebergs in Greenland.
- The part of the icebergs that is seen from the water above the water is only 10% of the total iceberg.
- Blue icebergs have very little air inside while white icebergs have air bubbles.
These icebergs travel from 70 miles from here and travel more towards the mouth of the iceberg that we saw it Sermermuit. They are sometimes 1 km deeper under the sea and 100 mts higher above the water. They sometimes flip over and continue to sail.
Back on the boat whiles it’s cold outside all we have is a small sitting area for 4 people with coffee and tea supplies. It’s warm here however, it’s the outside which is more fun and full of surprises.
As our Greenland adventure comes to its end, we are leaving this land of surprises with a heavy heart. A small ATR plane carries us through the beautiful snow capped mountains and lands in the most difficult runway of Kangerlussuaq Airport.