Friday, April 5, 2013

Far Away Places

As you've likely gathered by the skewed number of pictures, the goal of this trip was for me to get to Ilulissat.  Iceland was the cherry on top. 

I was so happy D decided to come along (for the Iceland leg) as I got to experience his wonder and excitement in a new place.  He's heard me go on and on about Iceland ever since I stepped foot on its soil 3 years ago, returning with a subscription to Iceland Review, despite falling off a horse and being pummeled by sleet the whole week.

Some people dream of Hawaii (Maybe a bad example as when I think of Hawaii now, I smile and think helicopters! But I think you know what I mean.).  I dream of vast open places where conditions are extreme, harshly beautiful and the people (and animals) are tough and few and far between.  Where silence out weights human sounds and where nature's sheer scale takes center stage.* 

I want to go there to be visually and emotionally stunned.  To learn to be stronger, to understand what skills one would need to survive there and what it would take to achieve the basic levels of Maslow's hierarchy.  To see first hand how important it is to preserve our delicate world.  To be reminded of what a truly "easy" life I have in Canada.  To step out of my "self".
It's probably no surprise that the harshest areas on Earth are often the least accessible and most expensive to get to.  It takes more planning and preparation than usual and you will need to build in leeway on either side in case of weather.  Mother Nature does not take your need to get back to work on time into consideration.  When there are only 2 flights a week in a fairly small plane and it is winter, you decide how much risk you're willing to take. 

One reward is you get the pleasure of meeting some true adventurers.  From the moment we walked into the small domestic airport in Reykjavik we were immersed into a world we've never witness before. 

Dozens of people with plastic wrapped sleds, huge waterproof expedition sacks, large serious packs, dressed for extreme and fit fit fit.  It was obviously there were a number of groups going on multi day/week treks.  And gaging the energy coming from those people, if anything should happen, I'd want to be on their team.  We were excited to be in their company.

One does not decide to go to Greenland by mistake.  Expect to be thoroughly "checked out" visually.  People were curious about what type of preparation others made.  Judging from the language, the groups we encountered were from many difference countries around the world. 

There were 2 flights leaving for the east and west coast of Greenland that morning versus many hourly flights within Iceland.  The destined for Greenland people's gear took up 80% of the small airport's space.  March and April are the prime months for dog sled and human expeditions.  March is also the last month where you will be able to see the Aurora before the growing daylight gets too strong. 

I finally saw the Northern Lights!  Ironically stronger in Reykjavik than Ilulissat.  They really are dynamic.  I didn't know what to expect.  I thought they would just show up and stay there.  Instead they come in and out of view, sinking down and you can almost see particles.  We witnessed mostly green and yellow with some blue/purple.  You need to have a camera capable of 30 sec exposures to be able to capture them.  I'm sure D's camera could but neither of us bothered to figure it out in advance. 

The day I departed for Greenland (wouldn't you know it?), that evening, D saw such a magnificent display from our apartment (magazine beautiful -- we had access to a high deck), he actually got bored when it just went on and on, and thought he might have gotten sunburned from the strength of the lights...Meanwhile I'm standing there in Ilulissat at 2 am getting neck cramps from looking up and seeing (imagining?) small wisps of them and wondering what this over 95% chance of seeing them is all about!

*Until I have the time, energy and funds to get to such vastly harsh places, I will continue to explore the many other more populated parts of the world.


  1. I remembered reading this article about Greenland a few years back. Sounds like a formidable place to visit.

  2. Thanks for sharing such a riveting article! It captured the feel of the country and the practical survival mindset excellently. The strength of mind and straight forward clarity is what I found very similar between the Danes and the Greenlandic people.