A Travellerspoint blog

Dog Sledding Trek

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Today started early with breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of bread and various toppings: cheese, jam, honey, Nutella, butter. I was disappointed that there was no selection of meat to go with the bread and cheese, but the jam was quite delicious (I’m not sure what kind of jam it was though). The coffee was rather good and helped warm me up for the day.

Our excursion for the day was the 2-hour dog sledge ride; since our group was so large, we were split into three groups that were staggered throughout the morning. My time slot was at 10:15 – 13:00. We were driven to a local shed where we were outfitted with seal skin polar clothing; the pants and jacked fit over our regular clothing and proved to be quite warm. The pants were rather tight, but that was to help keep the cold out.

We arrived at the departure point and found four dog sledges waiting for us; the dogs were beautiful and many of them were yelping and howling at one another. Each sledge could accommodate two or three people; I was assigned to one with the only other English speaker in my group, an older German woman named Edith. Her English was good, though spotty, but far better than my German! Our sledge driver was a native of Greenland named David. He remarked that I was the first American that he had ever met! To sit on the sledge, I sat with my back supported against the back and legs spread across, feet hanging off the side. This style allows additional passengers to sit in front so as to accommodate as many people as possible. After Edith had sat down (she sat sideways due to some leg injury she had), we were off!

The dogs quickly picked up speed across the snow, which actually turned out to be a frozen lake. David took position not at the back of the sledge, as I had expected, but at the very front. He guided the dogs by shouting quick, short commands and they were quick to respond. The sheer strength and power of the dogs was amazing and impressive. Several times they would yelp at one another or one would stray from the pack, which required David getting them back in line. At times he would use his whip to help guide the dogs, whipping to the sides of the pack to help direct them. The youngest dog, who was four, was clearly still being trained as he kept straying and falling behind the pack or getting tangled in the leash ropes. As he would run along, he’d scoop his mouth down to eat snow.

We rode for about an hour, going over land and several frozen lakes, before taking a break to let the dogs rest. The rest of the sledges met up with us and one of the other drivers handed out hot juice, almost like hot cider, but sweeter. During the break most of the dogs laid down and rested, though several played around and got somewhat aggressive with one another. After about 15 minutes or so, we set off back the way we came. This time the pace was slower as our sledge was following behind the others; often we would come up on another sledge and we’d have to stop to let them get farther ahead of us. During the return journey the wind began to pick up and even the seal skin clothing couldn’t keep the chill out. My feet especially felt the cold; I regretted not putting on a second pair of socks for the trip. By the time we returned to the bus, the wind was even worse and I was glad to get out of the cold.

Dinner was at the same restaurant and I sat with a wonderful Danish family this time. The mother, who I sat next to, had lived and worked in Greenland (in the capital, Nuuk) years before as a nurse, but returned to Denmark when she got married and wanted to have kids. She had brought her husband, her son, her parents, her in-lows, and two family friends. They were all very welcoming; I had a very nice time sitting with them. After dinner I thanked them for inviting me to join them and they said I could join them for dinner any evening, which I may take them up on since traveling alone makes group dinners somewhat awkward.

Dinner turned out to be what I had dreaded: fish. Tonight it was halibut with mixed vegetables and rice, which also came with a delicious onion and shrimp sauce. Since there were no other food options, I decided to try the halibut. Thankfully it had a bland taste to it; plenty of lemon juice and salt was needed to give it some flavor. There was no strong fishy taste or smell to the meal.

After dinner we ventured outside to wait on our bus and I marveled at the number of stars in the sky. Being so far from light pollution, I could see more stars in the night sky than I had ever seen. It was breathtaking! I was eagerly watching for the northern lights as well. After returning to the hotel I walked around the town several times in the hopes of seeing the northern lights, but they failed to appear for me.

Posted by Glichez 17:00 Archived in Greenland Comments (0)

Off to Greenland!

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Early wakeup call today so I could return to the Copenhagen airport for a 09:00 flight to Greenland! The four-hour flight was quick and uneventful; they served a rather delicious breakfast and were very generous with their beverage service. There was some skiing group from Norway on board the flight (which was packed!); it looked like a school group, perhaps high school age or younger. Flying over Iceland and the approach into Greenland was spectacular! The scenery was breathtaking!

Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq, I was met by the “tour guide” (I use the term loosely, explained below) and was told how to reach my lodgings. It was a short walk, perhaps 2 minutes, from the airport itself. Being an artic town, there is not much in the way of formalities. The hotel is very similar to the one I stayed at in Svalbard: basic construction, simple rooms with shared bathrooms. The bed is comfortable and the room is warm; that’s all I need!

There was a welcome meeting held at 11:00 where our “guide” reviewed our schedule for the next four days. The majority of everyone else in the group is from Denmark, so the guide gave his speech first in Danish; after they are finished, he repeated it in English for me and a couple from Estonia. I use the word “guide” loosely because this is not a typical guided tour of the area; rather, we flew in and they are organizing events and excursions, though not everyone is doing the same activities. The schedule of events is as follows:
Friday, March 4 City Tour
Saturday, March 5 2hr dog sledge ride @ 10:15
Sunday, March 6 Excursion to Icecap, Point 660
Monday, March 7 Excursion to Russell Glacier
Hunt for the Northern Lights
Tuesday, March 8 Depart for Copenhagen

Kangerlussuaq currently has a population of around 550 people, which has grown since the locals assumed control of the settlement in 1992. The area was settled in the 1940s by the US military as a staging and refueling base during the Second World War. At that point around 120 planes would land and take off from the city each day. During the Cold War the base was still active, though reduced; several radar stations were built across Greenland to monitor Soviet missile activity. Finally, the Americans closed the base here and sold it to the local government for $1 in 1992.

Before the city tour began I ventured out for a walk and to get some water at the grocery store. The city is quite small, without much to do, so I returned to the hotel and read for a little while. The city tour lasted about two hours and was very interesting! Our first stop was the harbor, which was frozen over; the ice nearest the land was thin, but further out it got thick enough that it would have been able to drive on. Next we drove up to the abandoned power station that the Americans built; on the way we saw several dog sledges and wild reindeer. The power station still had the old machinery left inside; it was fascinating to walk around freely and look at it all. Finally, we drove through town and the various buildings were explained to the group.

That left around two hours until dinner, which I spent reading and playing games on my phone. The internet here isn’t free, so I’m saving that expense for a later day. I opted for the full board meal plan, which cost an extra 160 EUR and includes lunches for the next three days, dinner each night (one of which is a large Greenlandic buffet). Each dinner is at the same restaurant and we are given the special meal for that day. Dinner tonight was muskox wrapped with bacon and potatoes, which was quite delicious. I am excited to see what we get to eat the next few nights. In the corner of the restaurant was a small group of people, one of whom was the crown prince of Denmark! He had flown in earlier in the day and was continuing to Nuuk the following morning for the start of the Arctic Games! (I was told the skiing group on our flight was part of the Arctic Games.)

At dinner I sat with the Estonian couple, who speak excellent English. They have a passion for traveling like I do and are able to travel quite a bit due to their generous vacation packages. They were very kind and welcoming when I asked if I could sit with them; the rest of the group being Danish, I had no one else to sit with. We shared stories of our travels; they provided many good tips on travel in Brazil and Iguaçu Falls, which will come in handy this fall!

The drive back from the restaurant, which is 4km outside of town (quite literally in the middle of nowhere), was eerily fun: pitch black with virtually no lights around. Sadly there sky was overcast and we could not see any stars (or northern lights).

Posted by Glichez 16:00 Archived in Greenland Tagged kangerlussuaq Comments (0)

Let the trip begin!

The trip started off on a bad foot, even before leaving the airport in Raleigh. The flight, direct to London, was supposed to depart at 18:00, but a delay of five hours was announced at about 17:00; they claimed some mechanical part needed replacing and it was being flown in from New York. Thankfully the repairs were completed earlier than expected and we departed around 21:30. The flight to London was uneventful; I put in my headphones and listened to my recordings of The Howard Stern Show, specifically Eric the Midget from 2007, as I slept through most of the flight.

The delay in RDU caused me to miss my connection to Copenhagen, but I had already been rebooked on a later flight at 13:40. During the transfer process the airline bumped me up to a flight at 11:20, without my having asked! The good luck didn’t last as that flight too was delayed due to a repair; this lasted for around two hours, only this time we had already boarded. Thankfully I managed to sleep through the delay and I hardly noticed that anything was wrong!

After arriving in Copenhagen, I took the train to the city center where I was staying at the same hotel from my previous visit to the city in 2014. The City Hotel Nebo is a basic hotel, more of a hostel really, with shared bathrooms; overall a very clean and pleasant place to stay. I dropped my bags off and ventured out into the city to use what little daylight was left (it was around 17:00 by this point). I managed to walk around a bit, seeing the PALACE and the CHURCH. I had hoped to revisit the wonderful Tivoli Park, but it hadn’t quite opened yet (and given the frigid temperatures, I can understand why!).

Dinner was Dunkin Doughnuts, but not the usual variety you can get back in the States. I got a double strawberry (strawberry frosted with jam filling), lemon frosted, some blue frosted one, and, best of all, a white chocolate cooking crumble (white chocolate glaze with cookie bits crumbled on top with a white chocolate cream filling – delicious!!). I’d planned on eating a proper dinner, but I was tired and didn’t feel like wandering around much.

It was lovely being back in Copenhagen; the city has a youthful energy about it and I feel safe walking nearly everywhere. I had planned on doing far more, but the flight delays disrupted those plans. However; Copenhagen was merely a stopover and not a main attraction for this trip.

Posted by Glichez 15:00 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

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