Greenland98.JPG (13903 bytes)Wojciech Dabrowski - Greenland - travel report
    Every time when I was flying over large, white area of Greenland on my way from Europe to America I  thought: Is there a life at all?...  One day I departed to check that...   I arrived to Greenland through the "back door".  There are only two large airports which can receive jet passenger planes from Europe: Kangerlussuaq (SFJ)  and Narsarsuaq (UAK) - on the west and south of the island. But I arrived by small turbo-prop ATR plane filled by one-day tourists from Iceland to Kulusuk - small village on the empty and inhospitable east coast. The luck of Kulusuk to have small, gravel landing field has come from USA - during the cold war time Americans established here their radar station. grenl.jpg (24781 bytes)
Kulusuk.jpg (38101 bytes) My first impression from Greenland was crystal-clear air... From airfield to the village of Kulusuk is about 2 kilometers, you can walk there or take a dog sledge paying 100 Danish crowns which act here as monetary unit. Village itself is very small and very picturesquely located.  Small, different colors painted houses stand on the slope of the hill over full of ice bay. Is such scenery old Inuit lady (that is how they call Eskimos people now) wearing "national" costume performs for us drum dance.
Wd2dog_sled33.jpg (38209 bytes) In Kulusuk, and also in the other Inuit settlements north of the Polar Circle there lives still more dogs then people. The dogs of course still work  pulling persistently traditional sledges packed with supply and sometimes also with tourists. They do not look so neat (how Inuit can care of thousands dogs?) and are fed mainly on dried fish. Off the season - during summer - they are bored tied around houses and to the rocks on the outskirts of Inuit settlements.

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    My skin bag - bought some day in hot Paraguay always aroused great interest of  lovely puppies wandering around houses.  Inuit dogs are very social and manifest great respect for the man.   In Ilulissat when I was going out for mountain walk one vagabond  broke his string and joined me for 6-hour walk!    He was guiding me all the time never going more then 20 m ahead... I was really sorry leaving him at the end in front of the youth hostel !
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Ice cap of Greenland from the plane

   They are saying that Greenland is the largest island of the world -  (it has 2 million sq. km, Poland has 312 thousands only).    85 percent of the island is permanently covered by thick ice cap.  Only edges of this ice cap are ice-free and inhabited by people. All this life-suitable area (still larger then Poland) is inhabited by 55 000 people only.  It is population of small Polish provincial village.  There is no single road between Inuit settlements - they use boat or plane to visit neighbors.
If the destination is not too far they travel by kayak or dog sledge.  Demand for transport is so limited that small plane flying across island (from Kulusuk -KUS to Kangerlussuaq- SFJ) flies only once per week.   And do not be surprised that they removed from the cabin half capacity of seats and put there large load of packages containing different supply.


White ice cap of Greenland on the satellite picture...

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And here you can see western coast of Greenland from the plane  - color of the water is unusual, but during summer icebergs are visible only north of Sisimiut.  You must be lucky to take such picture - weather is very changeable here. Half an hour later we were cruising over the misty Ilulissat airport. We were cruising around more then an hour and finally flown back to the airport of origin. Two hours later we departed again and successfully landed at our destination.
Wd5GreenlHouse.jpg (30753 bytes) If you wish to see Greenland of our dreams: navy-blue, smooth like a mirror waters with sailing icebergs you must go north - at least to Ilulissat. I my opinion you can omit capital city, but Ilulissat is a must for foreigners coming to Greenland!

The settlement (There is about 4 thousands inhabitants and slightly more dogs) lies on Disko Bay - full of sailing ice float and icebergs.   Landscapes are incredible here!

Wd12fiordzikJAV33.jpg (20640 bytes)     Walking few kilometers on foot (the rest of passengers of my flight took taxis) from the airport  to the settlement I was admiring rocky mini-fiords and icebergs floating in the bay. Around the bay there are other (much smaller) settlements sprayed out. In the summer it is possible to reach them by boat. Unexpectedly you can find in Greenland youth hostels (they charge 180-200 crowns per night):  heated, with well-equipped kitchens, but you must bring your sleeping bag with you...
       In Ilulissat there are two big and well-supplied  supermarkets (expensive - kilo of bread costs around 6 USD!), and in the morning on the small market in the center of the settlement they are selling fish and... the meat of seals. Inuit hunt for seals from the boats using rifles and double-barreled guns. I was tasting that meat prepared on the grill: very tasty, reminding liver.      In Ilulissat there is tourist information office (they are even responding e-mails). And in the office there is souvenir shop with a stack of well-tanned seals furs. They charge around 50 USD for the seal skin and for the westerners it is not expensive, but due to environment protection import to the majority of western countries is forbidden.  But what the Inuit have apart from fish and seals?  It is also true that they have less and less of seals - during one-week stay I did not see single seal - this is not Antarctica!

Seal meat on the Ilulissat market

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Satellite photo of Ilulissat. South of te township you can see huge glacier with floating icebergs.


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  Ilulissat lies at the bottom of the peninsula - on the other side of this peninsula great glacier is sliding to the navy blue sea with the speed of about 30 meters per day. They say that this glacier is the most productive out of Antarctica. It is it who is calving non stop icebergs floating in the Disko Bay and surrounding.  The best idea will be to go to the other side of the peninsula on foot and on your own - it will give you enough time to enjoy the scenery! It is worth to spend there minimum half a day !
Wd3Iceberg33.jpg (18442 bytes) And here is one of the biggest icebergs I saw in Greenland - it is taken from the hill at the very end of the peninsula. This iceberg has some  400 meters in length and is about 30 m high. Since only 1/8 of the total capacity of the iceberg is sticking out of the water you can imagine how large mass of ice is still hidden in the depth of the sea !        Motorboats owners from Ilulissat offer excursions to the fiord and the bay - but you must collect small group. Prices starts at 50 USD per person - Greenland in expensive!

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     In my opinion there is something definitely worth to spend 50 USD - it is midnight cruise by former fishing boat to the face of the glacier.  During the summer from mid-May to the end of July it is light in Ilulissat all over the night.  At midnight sun is wonderfully dying  the face of the glacier: icy walls, spires, and towers. And this face is up to 80 meters high... The cruise takes about two hours and if the weather is suitable it is wonderful experience! But dress yourself warm - gloves are a must!
Wd17Oqartsut33.jpg (36586 bytes) Inuit names which are in use now in Greenland  (instead of Danish ones) are very difficult to pronounce...       Here you can see Oqartsut - typical small village located north of Ilulissat.  Sixty or seventy inhabitants only. They wear blue jeans and nylon jackets.  There are little, color houses on the rocks.  People make a living out of fishing and seal hunt. during summer in the niches between the rocks some grass appears. You can approach this place by boat only, and in the winter also by dog sled.

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  From Ilulissat I was sailing south along the coast by ferry calling tiny harbors. They are small enough to visit all interesting things during one to two-hour stopover. Some of stopovers are in the middle of the night but during summer it is light all over the night!

Village of Kangamiut - Inuit houses on the rocks. It was the only harbor on my route where is no jetty and passengers are transferred by tender...

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Cheapest way to travel in this expensive country is just sailing by ferry along west coast...     Demand for tickets is so heave that you need to make the reservation at least six months ahead to get the space. And here you are my discovery:  all Greenland ferry sailings are listed in the airline reservation systems using GL carrier code. So the reservation can be made and ticket issued by any travel agent who sells air tickets!

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Kangerlussuaq taken from the rock over village

     And this is very strange place - Kangerlussuaq.  Huge airport left by  Americans at the end of the longest (200 km) Greenland fiord.   Even Concorde planes can land here. Jet passengers are changing here to small turbo-props and helicopters heading north and south.  Location of Kangerlussuaq determines very mild climate and largest number of sunny days in Greenland.  During summer Kanger... suffer from plague: small, biting flies (yes, yes! - here, on icy Greenland!). Flies swarm also in other places but in my opinion there is not so much of them.

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Historic quarter in Nuuk

Nuuk (Godthab in Danish) - capital city and biggest town of Greenland. Only 13 thousands of inhabitants, but they have here even city buses. But small airport can host turbo-prop planes only. In the old seaside quarter there is a complex of old historic buildings and the museum. Also tourist information bureau including post office accepting Santa Claus mail (they believe that Santa lives on Greenland). half day is enough to see all that places...
   Domestic flights in Greenland are expensive and Greenland Air does not offer any air passes. Flight from the capital city to the southern tip of Greenland will cost you more then 200 USD...

     First Europeans who sailed to Greenland were the Vikings.  Eric the Red banned from Iceland for robberies established in the southern fiords first settlement. You can visit the ruins of this settlement  across the fiord from Narsarsuaq. Surrounding area it is the place where Greenland is really green during the summer. Motorboats and cutters are sailing here in the labyrinth of narrow and wide fiords. You can walk here with your backpack through the mountains and pitch your tent anywhere - there is no restrictions. It is rear place where you can one by one: meadows in blossom, snow-capped mountains and icebergs floating in the navy-blue waters of the fiord.  Nature in this country is wonderful and unspoiled!    But it is advisable carry all the time rainproof coat with you - weather is very changeable and there is no shelters or trees on the trails...

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     Narsarsuaq is tiny settlement including hotel, youth hostel and "butik" - how they call groceries here. And there is of course runway left by Americans.  It is worth to spend 5 hours of time on walking excursion to the Kiagtuut Sermiat glacier (see picture). Along the trail there are small waterfalls and mountain lakes. Unfortunately it was already late afternoon when I reached my target and the lighting was not so good , nevertheless it was still great, farewell ending of my visit to the Kalaallit Nunaat - "Land of the people" - how Inuit call their country.

                         Wojciech D±browski

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