05.03.2016 - 05.03.2016
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.