Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More Life

I've adjusted the blog template back to a static (correct term?) template.  Hopefully it will render "normally" again.  I like how the dynamic ones look but it is causing problems when going back and forth between pages.  And I do not have the inclination to fiddle with it.

It's been a challenge yesterday and today maintaining a Zen state.  I don't know how I managed it, but I missed a home delivery (got one other though) and a visitor while I was home!  Didn't even have music on either.  We have great sound proofing but the timing of the one miss will mean another miss tomorrow as there won't be anyone home. 

Missing the visitor was a good thing.  I wasn't up for talking with the representative from the property assessment board.  I sent my reconsideration request back in Dec '12.  They are just coming around now after the letter said it would only take 30 - 60 days?  Taking care of it over the winter would have been great.  But now?  Their timing leaves a bit to be desired.

I got my hair cut just before heading to Iceland.  Apparently 2 inches was too much because since then, I've had a heck of a time putting it up for dance class.  There are probably permanent indents in my scalp from all the extra bobby pins needed. 

It was a bittersweet last class -- Was sad and relieved.  Relieved because I have found it challenging to commit and focus.  Made for some hilarious moments where I would move in the opposite direction immediately after nodding I understood the choreography completely...Perhaps I'm not nearly as disciplined as I remembered being. 

There's been a lot of emotions rolling around at work.  Being a bit of sponge that way, I've been more exhausted than normal.  But once I leave the office, it goes away.  Mentally, it has been challenging in a good way so that helps to neutralize some.  I've been making more exceptions with my time lately so am feeling the limits of work tolerance as well.  It doesn't take long before that voice inside says "Stop it, you've done enough".

Calm and quiet back canals of Venice would be great right about now.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Regular Life Update

It's easy to garner an impression from the last year's worth of posts, I don't do much other than travel and yak about it for a long while afterwards. 

How far from the truth.  I don't necessarily even want to travel full time but the truth is, I too live in an everyday world and am not immune to your everyday ups and downs. 

Our house now has a new roof after 4 1/2 days of banging and $8700.  The first day of pounding nearly sent me over the edge until I smartened up, started listening to music and moved to a different part of the house. 

They did a great job.  Cleaned up after every day.  The pitch made it challenging so extra safety harnesses were used.  The shingles have a lifetime warranty so expecting not to have to think about this for a long time.

The saga with D's work has come to an end, we hope.  After what seemed to be never ending interviews (5 each with 2 of the positions!), he received 1 offer and am waiting for the 2nd one to firm up.  He prefers the 2nd one but because of the time delay (2 weeks), he is being supremely trusting that the offer will come through because he needed to let #1 go this week. 

To say I haven't enjoyed this process is an understatement.  I was ready to wring D's neck a few times -- And deservedly so, in my opinion.  He was getting too stressed.  And doing nothing about it to decompress.  All I heard were excuses.  And I needed to remind myself, my role was not to be his mother. 

I know it is easy when you are the outside one observing to be able to offer all sorts of suggestions.  He is an adult.  But he is not a bachelor.  Our actions affect each other.  Thus our ability to manage our own "stuff" is imperative when there may not be an end in sight for a long time.  You'd think that being a veteran marathoner, he'd know that...

I felt it would be useful to sit down and discuss what is happening, what will be happening and figure out a plan for everyone involved to manage the sorts of emotions that might come out from all that.  It is my home too and I need it to be a place where I can feel peaceful in. 

We cannot always control outcome but we can make sure we are being extra diligent about things like meal planning and eating because stress has a way of derailing proper nutrition.  Same with getting good quality sleep and exercise.  It is even more important to make sure you are feeling alert and strong, to handle whatever comes your way. 

To me, it is simply preparation and by doing this, you are diverting energy that is otherwise getting wasted in the waiting/stewing game into something productive while keeping yourself competitive. 

Seriously, I had to literally kick D out of the house to go for a run one day.  And what happened?  He came back feeling tonnes better...go figure right?  Same with joining a riding group (road bike).  You need to do things that remind you of life outside of work.

Why should a stressful job hunt make you sick too?  And if you don't get the position, you lose twice.  Makes no sense to me.  And when you piss off your spouse too, you lose big time.  Why would you want to create that type of environment for yourself??  Apologizing after the fact is never the most effective way because the damage is done.  The point of all this is to not hurt your biggest supporter.

There are times when you just need to get a grip and regain some self control.  Knowing what action points work or even to try when you are stuck makes a big difference.  Sometimes I think D has had too sheltered a life.  I wouldn't necessarily wish my upbringing on others but somewhere in between might work. 

Both job positions mentioned above are parallel moves in a different division.  He found out that had he opted for a position that was in a lower salary band, he wouldn't be paid less.  It's not possible.  Neither of us had ever heard of that before.  Apparently there are many people within the organization who make their way around to get a feel for the company as a whole and they encourage and expect that if your goal is to climb.

Here's where I get to say that I often do not have my crap together.  I am far from being a model anything.  There have been many many times over the last 5 years where I'm sure D wanted to throttle me.  And he is far more patient than I.  I guess I am guilty of stereotyping when I expect him to keep it together better because he is the guy.  And I know living with someone like me isn't the easiest because I just like to ask too many questions. 

In other news, I'm moving offices next week.   Nothing major, just next door to a bigger one.  Timing isn't the greatest as I have time off soon and it's beginning to look like the painting might not be completed in time.  Work otherwise has been busy. 

Life has continued to be busy.  Think I've managed to develop triceps tendinitis from the violin.  Ballet is coming to an end too.  My instructor has decided to go back to University to become an Occupational Therapist.  She'll be great at it.  I will miss her.  Ordered a gift card from her school's bookstore as a gift.  

Have found another dance school out of town so potential there.  Painting classes have been cancelled due to low numbers.  So it looks like I have a fairly quiet summer aside from 1 trip to look forward to.  With all that has been going on, I'm not complaining. 

And the bombings in Boston?!  Like many I know people who run the race yearly.  I even went as far as reactivating my Facebook account after leaving it over a year ago when I realized that was the only way I kept in email contact with a lot of people.   Fortunately they are OK. 

I didn't realize when you deactivate your account, you still get emails and people aren't notified you aren't there anymore!  I got an baby shower invitation last fall from a friend from South Africa I've known since grade 4 who didn't think she'd ever get pregnant at age 40.  Various email questions about travel from another, etc etc. Oops.

Also missed cheering on one of my sorority sisters in her first ever fitness competition.  Personally I'm not into the spray tan, big hair, big muscles and metallic bikini look but OMG she looks fierce.  The amount of work she would have done to get into competition shape is impressive.  

There are probably 2 more posts left to wrap up Greenland and Iceland.  I will likely not be able to get them out before I leave next week, but know they are in the works. 

Sometimes life can feel like the aftermath of an earthquake.
Thankfully this hasn't really been our reality.
Taken from the exhibit in Hveragerdi.
The earthquake simulator (in pitch blackness) was scary.  I did let out a small scream.
Way louder and more physically violent than I would have guessed.
Now, a 6.3 actually means something to us. 
It's amazing buildings can hold up as well as they do.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Return To Reykjavik

I saw Iceland as the near perfect country.  Vast, rough, educated, large enough, strong values, stronger people, environmentally ahead of almost any place I've ever been to or heard of, refined and "wealthy", even with the downturn.

It is nice to be in a place where I didn't have to worry about people eyeing what I owned.  A place where I didn't feel like I had to dress down to fit in.  If anything, I could have dressed up more.  Cost of living is still high.  Food, clothing are still pricey.  In line with other Scandinavian countries. 

The first thing that struck me upon my return to Reykjavik was the increased traffic.  It is a 45 min ride from Keflavik airport to the city and I did not remember so many cars last time around (more people moving to the city for work?). 

The types of vehicles have shifted away from luxury German SUVs to Japanese (Toyota and Subaru, and not new ones).  The sprinkling of luxury vehicles this time around leaned towards Range Rovers and Cayenne Turbos. Things have changed. 

The second thing that struck me was how developed tourism was compared to 3 years ago.  When Icelanders take on something, they Do It.  The tourist infrastructure is impressive and so has been their recovery.  They've managed it without bailing out their banks, something they're very proud of.  The majority of the population no longer wish to join the EU. 

Icelanders are so fiercely proud of their country, it made me feel ashamed I was not more proud of mine.  And there was no time to wallow in the "economic crisis".  They are so very present and focused, being there was like getting a shot of adrenaline.  However, I was dismayed to find out they will be "getting rid" of a waterfall by damming it to create power for a new aluminum plant.  Our Superjeep guide felt it was poor business.

The airport itself is undergoing renovations to handle the greater visitor loads.  Visitor numbers are expected to be double their population (700+K) in another year.  For example on our departure, they had 2 major transatlantic flights (Toronto and Boston) boarding within 5 min of each other from this small departure hall.  That's at least 500 people trying to line up.  You can imagine the chaos.  They need to restructure the logistics. 

One cool thing you can do on Icelandair flights is use your "Saga Miles" to pay for anything available on the plane from food to duty free.  You will need your membership card, not just the number.  A great way to use your miles.  The card itself will cost $4 if you need a replacement one like I did.

 This video may make you dizzy.
(should a picture appear beside the video, I see it too but
wasn't able to make it go away)
We couldn't leave the country without
seeing some of these fellas.
And I couldn't miss attending this concert.
Until next time,
one last look from above.
 Urridafoss Waterfall, before it disappears.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Village Life

In lieu of my dog sled excursion, I ended up spending more time out on the water as well as visited a neighbouring village to learn more about life there and share in a traditional meal. 

Our host was a young woman (27 years old), mother of 2 cute boys and wife of a hunter, fisherman, small engine repair man, and contractor.  One has to be able to "do it all" to make it out there, to take care of your family.  In such a small community, you know everybody, and you look out for everyone.  There was a palpable warmth there.  People hung laundry out to dry even in the winter. 

She spoke with such pride of her home.  Her husband and 2 neighbours took 4 months to build their one storey home (concrete foundation, crawlspace), clad in royal purple siding.  It was solid.  All supplies arrived by boat.  Just moving it all up from the dock would have been a huge workout.  And it took another 3 months before they were able to get hydro.  Up till then, they lived with her family.

The village of Ilimanaq has a population count of about 250.  From Dec to Apr, they have no way of buying groceries as deliveries to their "supermarket" do not occur as the harbour is mostly frozen over.  So families save in order to stock up one final time and then rely on fishing and hunting until spring.   

There are no roads in Ilimanaq, so no need for cars.  You should have seen her face light up when she told us they had a boat.  That was a big deal!  The addition of an aerial tower meant telephone, cable and Internet was available.  The school was brightly decorated with art.  The church was cozy.  And if you remember a picture I had posted earlier asking if you could find the helipad?  It was taken here. 

Lunch was muskox stew and it was delicious.  If no one told me, I would have thought it was just beef.  No gamy taste to it at all and not made as thick as the stew I know.   Her husband had just hunted it a month prior not too far north of the village.  The interior of their home was modern with a composting toilet.  And heated by electric radiators. 

An interesting emphasis was made, when someone mentioned how young she looked.  First of all, she didn't think she was young at all, which made the rest of us, ranging from late 30's to 70's, all smile at each other. 

She credited not smoking or drinking and being active outside for her youth and it was how she wanted to raise her boys.  The way she said it made it seem like more than a conscious choice.  I also got the sense she wanted us to know their lives there were as modern as could be (we weren't all that different) under the circumstances.  Just like us Canadians do not live in igloos and not all native people live in tee pees, they didn't either.

You can probably imagine all the thoughts that went through our collective minds while we toured the tiny settlement.  It was hard not to place ourselves in her shoes and wonder how we'd do living there.  What challenges would we face mentally, emotionally, physically?  Could we rise up to the challenges?  How different life would be from what we knew to be "normal". 

What did she think of us?  These people from all over (France, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Chile, Singapore, England, Taiwan), sitting in her dining room drinking the local berry juice, eating muskox stew and later a wonderful homemade dessert egg bread filled with nuts and fruit. 

I felt she was amused we would come all this way just to see the Northern Lights (normal nightly experience), Icebergs (literally her backyard), sled dogs (normal necessary transport) and visit her (small village that wasn't near as exciting as Nuuk or Copenhagen).  I didn't get the impression she thought of her life as "exotic".

It had been 1 1/2 years since she started hosting people in her home and she has gotten to meet more people than she would have been able to otherwise.  A glance through her almost full guest book, beautifully covered with seal skin, mirrored our group's appreciation for the experience. 

Fishermen coming in with their catch.
You can see the blood trail from an earlier catch to the left.
 Our ride

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ilulissat Residents

I found the Greenlandic people to be warm, welcoming and quick to smile.  Also got the sense that when you live in such an extreme place where plans may have to change often, you learn to just go with the flow and the vibe coming from the locals reflected that.  Good for someone like me to witness as I tend to like to control stuff...

You can tell who the tourists were by who needed to wear sunglasses to shield against the wind and brightness.  And by who still needed the heavier coats and clothing during the warm spell. Parents were teaching their toddlers, dressed in full snow suits, how to ride bicycles (training wheels) on the ice laden sides of the roads.  People had windows open at their homes.  You could hear teenagers belting out the tunes.  Everyone was taking advantage of the unseasonable weather.

Normally I would make an effort to speak the local language but even with my cheat sheet, I could not remember or get out of my mouth quickly enough much other than hello in Greenlandic.  And you can never tell if someone is going to speak to you in Danish (mine was non existent).  Kids are brought up with both languages. 

As my hotel room faced Disko Bay, each morning at around 8:15 - 8:30 am -- "Rush Hour", I would see dozens of small older looking aluminum fishing boats zoom across the bay towards the Icefjord.  Apparently fish like to gather around and under the ice.  The fishermen knew the dangers of being so close to icebergs as well as the signs when one was going to calve.

It's not an easy life there.  This is still a culture of the One Man, One Boat for fishing and seal hunting with the goal of feeding their families.  You can tell when a fish was caught by the number of sea birds that would suddenly come out of nowhere to follow the boats back into the harbour.

Interesting as well, I did not see one PFD on the fishermen and when I spent time on the water, there were no talks about safety nor did any of us wear one either.  Maybe it was because we wouldn't  have much hope anyways should we fall into such cold water. 

You could hear a pin drop during the moments when one of our captains decided to plow through some solid flats of ice to get to the other side...

The Icefjord changes constantly.  Some of the giant icebergs extend 1400 m below what towered over us.  We see only 1/7 - 1/10th of its total size.  And the ice field extends about 67 km upstream from the mouth of the fjord, solidly packed with ice and icebergs.   The clarity of the ice, the absence or presence of bubbles all help to indicate its age. 

On our last afternoon out on the water, a small chunk of ice was captured so we could all enjoy a Martini on the rocks, out in the middle of the Icefjord, surrounded by silence and the setting sun.  An artificial moment amongst the harsh reality all around us, I realized, but for the half an hour we were anchored, it felt peaceful.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Go?

If you have been wondering if the reason I went to Greenland was just to see the ice fjord and northern lights, the answer is yes.  Those were reasons 2 and 3, but the primary one was to go on a dog sled excursion in a country where it is still the dominant and preferred mode of transport between villages.  You gotta love a place that is otherwise only accessible by boat, plane or helicopter. Snowmobiles are not allowed here.

So why haven't I showed any pictures of my excursion?  Because it was cancelled.  For a month before my arrival I had been tracking the weather.  When we came home from skiing, I had brought back my ski pants and base layers in anticipation of Greenland.  It was going to be a game time decision, the final packing list, all dependent on weather.  Iceland was going to be down right warm in comparison.

Average temperatures in Ilulissat had been cold, -25 to 35 C.  In preparation I tried on a number of different layering combinations to make sure I could still move my arms and squat because dog sledding is more active than you think.  You're not going to be just sitting there.  You will have to be ready to get off and push the sled.  Plus if you noticed in my pictures, the sled is pretty primitive -- Read:  Hard surface.  So I expected a bit of jarring.  You could rent seal skin clothing and boots if you do not have appropriate gear. 

A week before, there was a massive heat wave, so large, it melted a lot of snow in Ilulissat and warped the dog sled trails to the point they weren't safe to be travelled on.  You risked breaking your arm.  I didn't find this out until I arrived to the tour office to pay for everything.  You can imagine my disappointment. 

Dog sled excursions run from Feb - Apr usually and the lot of us who came to do this were surprised at this turn of events.  That's why the in town pictures didn't show a whole lot of snow.  I was hoping everything would be stark white and windy with a portion of Disko Bay frozen, dotted with icebergs.  A true winter wonderland, my vision of what I expected Greenland to look like.

Ilulissat is a pretty small town -- around 4000 people with just as many sled dogs.  The town map has hatched areas showing you where the majority of dogs are kept (perimeter) with many private homes having a few of their own.  You are not to approach them.  They are working dogs, not pets.  And are built to sleep outside in the extreme cold.  They are often deadly silent. 

A few times I'd be walking along the road (no sidewalks or sewers, so very slippery in the morning) and all of a sudden I'd feel like I was being watched.  They never barked or charged at me but witnessing a whole rocky field of them can be intimidating.  And I would have to admit, when a loose one ran right out from behind me in town, it did make me brace.

It was fun seeing them get all animated when their owners were in range, all jostling to be picked.  At first sight, because I was projecting the North American pet culture, I felt sad seeing them all chained up sleeping on the ice.  But upon careful observation, they give off a contented feeling. 

Had my dog sled excursion went ahead, I would have had to learn to channel my alpha side as that is the only way you can get the dogs to respond to your commands.  You also learn quickly to check the length of their chains as well as location of dog poop piles.  Some chains will allow the dogs to reach the edge of the road where people are walking.  I found it to be pretty obvious when you were approaching a sled dog area from the smell. 

Because the town is small, you end up seeing the same people who flew on the plane with you at restaurants, hotels, shops and on various excursions.  There are a number of tour outfits and if numbers are low, they group you together anyway.  With all dog sledding out of the picture that week, people had to scramble to secure hotel accommodations for the nights they now had to spend in town as well as organize other things to do. 

Because it was low season, (most people go to Greenland in the summer) there were pretty much only 4 restaurants/cafes open for food outside of hotel restaurants.  Don't let that deter you because you can still eat very well.  Their ice fjord halibut (poached and finished with sea salt and curry sprinkled on top) quickly became a favourite which surprised me because until now I only like my fish raw or deep fried.

Should you wish to cook, the main supermarket is fantastic.  The seafood and wild game selection was incredible.  You could literally buy a quarter of an animal.  Fruits and vegetables were not the freshest but look where you are.  For a town so small there were about a dozen smaller supermarkets too.  The only explanation I could come up with was that the winters are so harsh, you don't want to have travel far to get food?

I encountered a minority of travellers who had this idea that the Greenlandic people were Eskimo.  They are Inuit and in my observation, do not take kindly to being mistaken for Eskimo (Alaska and Canada).  So don't go around hoping to see and take pictures of "Eskimo kisses" because you won't find any. 

Surprise to find this as part of my hotel room binder. 
Obvious, no?

Thursday, April 11, 2013


S. B. made a comment earlier he thought my pictures seemed better this time around.  When in reality D's camera has gotten more beaten up over the last couple of years.  I'm being emotionally biased when I say I feel my best pictures are of Norway, with Cinque Terre second and this last set a close third. 

As mentioned before, my background is with manual photography and I remember learning a bit about the various types of filters available to bring out certain elements. 

What I noticed immediately in Greenland was the clarity of the night sky.  I've never seen stars shine so sharply that their sparkles and flickers were as distinct as metal.  And the amount of stars!  I wish I had access to a telescope.  Whereas in Iceland the daytime light had a clear gray tone to it even on a bright day.  The nighttime sky in the city wasn't remarkable enough to stand out to me.

The glacial ice in Greenland had a tinge of blue or turquoise and sometimes gray blue.  My thought is, when sunlight went through/reflected off of it, it acted like a lens filter, and our eyes took it in as clearer, sharper, brighter.  As if a polarizing filter was used.  Even a scratched up camera lens caught that.  Should I return with a new camera, it would be interesting to compare picture quality.

Also the quality of the ice was something I've never encountered before (not counting cruising by).  Glacial ice is really really hard.  In Iceland we went to what remained of the glacier that was melted when Eyjafjallajokull erupted and our guide got us a piece to chomp on.  We couldn't break into it and D is a veteran ice chewer. 

In Ilulissat one morning I decided to walk to the mouth of the ice fjord and there were quite a few moments where I questioned my judgement.   Crossing small areas of glacial ice melt was extremely slippery and treacherous.  Once you got sliding, you just couldn't stop easily.  I'm not sure sitting down would have helped much. 

And trying to go back uphill...Scared me...No traction.  I ended up leaving the trail and climbing over lichen covered rocks to go around.  Should you find yourself in the same situation, watch your footing because there could be streams underneath the ice and always test your next step as moss may not be covering anything solid.  Getting submerged thigh high and your ankle caught between rocks wouldn't be desirable.  I saw a few scarily misplaced foot prints. 

I had read that when camping in the winter, you need to screw down sleeping bags into the ice because if you get sliding, you may not stop until it is too late.  Didn't understand what that really meant until I got on the ice.  I didn't have my ice cleats with me as I was expecting snow and an "easy" walk but I would definitely remember them for next time.  The less than 5 km took me 1 1/2 hours!  I do question whether they would have been strong enough to penetrate the ice but won't really know until I try them out next time.

And the wind!  You don't realize how surprising wind is when there are no sound indicators (no trees).  In Greenland, you would just suddenly get slammed.  I found I had to turn around to catch my breath because it was so strong.  It was strong enough to physically stop me in my tracks.  I now completely understand how wind and ultra slippery ice form a potentially deadly combination.

One other thing to remember -- Your cell phone (even a world one) will probably not work in Greenland.  Hotels will offer you free use of theirs'.  You just have to pay for air time.  I forgot to get one.   And had no whistle on me either.  You can imagine I felt pretty silly when I found myself with no one around for hours and I wasn't even that far out.  Or it could have been locals had more sense than to be where I was that morning.


Post Eyjafjallajokull eruption site.
Crossing this stuff was crazy!
Easily could have been blown into the water.
I remember standing here thinking, OMG do I keep going?!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Start

Some days it would be easier if I was Vulcan and not anonymous.  I would be able to just share my experiences using a mind-meld. Would save a lot of time!

In case it wasn't obvious, I attempted to re-create in my photos, the progression of what I saw so it could be as if you just took a walk with me.  What I obviously wasn't able to do, was show you my reactions and can only hope you might have oohed and ahhed and caught your breath too at sight of some of the same scenes.

D has enjoyed showing some of our photos to his co-workers as it has been satisfying witnessing their reactions.  Our destinations were not on the top of any of their lists.  All of them asked him how did you come up with the idea to even go there?!

After a few of those show and tells, D said that despite my best efforts, I will never get the satisfaction of seeing all of your reactions. And he's right.

Yes there are limitations to this medium.  It was always there.  But since Norway, Cinque Terre and now Iceland/Greenland, not feeling like I've been able to convey the depth of how those places affected me has bothered me a little.  But I share what I can as I'm obviously not trying to make it as a regular blogger, much less a travel blogger.  So don't worry -- I'm not going to start tweeting or start a forum or put up a blog facebook page.  I have enough trouble managing time and technology as it is. 

The genesis of this trip came during the conversation I had last summer in Barcelona with the fellow who sold me my watch.  We talked about how neither of us had seen the northern lights yet despite efforts and how 2013 was going to be a stellar year for solar activity.  He was going to try his luck in Alaska and I told him I wanted to return to Iceland and thought I was ready for Greenland.  If I bump into him upon my return, I will certainly ask him how his trip went.   

That was last summer.  As it has happened often enough I do not question it anymore, I'd be working on something and an email or voice message or some other perfectly timed sign would show up to help me make up my mind during a pivotal moment.

It was New Years day 2013 and I was online out west looking for the apartment rental site for the place I rented in Reykjavik.  I had just shockingly found out the apartment was no longer owned by the same people which to me meant they had sold their gorgeous home.  I immediately thought maybe things had deteriorated financially and they were not able to keep it.  I also noticed their other rental in Italy was gone too.  And I knew what type of strain financially they were under 3 years ago.  It made me sad.

Right then I got an email from the owners wishing me a Happy New Year!  And news of how they are launching a new rental venture.  My mind was immediately made up at that point and the research into Greenland began shortly after I firmed up the Iceland leg.

Our ride in Iceland.  
A modified Nissan Patrol Super Jeep capable of going through
rivers hood deep and inclines that made you feel like you were hanging over a cliff.  
Diesel.  Huge torque, huge tires 
which were deflated before entering the interior.
People who chose to live in the remote areas (which is most of Iceland interior) 
have to be able to get their families in and out safely. 
We got to experience the fun side for about 10 hours.
Cost of modifications alone:  100K+.  Vehicle cost is just the start.

 Volcanic soil very loose.  Took a couple of goes for the Patrol to get up there.

 Took 12 min for our able guide to deflate tires for the rough terrain ahead.
Took about 20 min to inflate them back up on the way back.  

There were 12 earthquake alerts that day.
Something about that made me feel extra alive.  I know I'm crazy.
Iceland has gotten 1000 earthquakes a month before.  
Think about how it would feel to live in a country so active.
When Eyjafjallajokull erupted in 2010
exactly a week after I returned home,
Icelanders flocked to see the eruption in person.
By super jeep, by helicopter, by plane.
They were not deterred one bit.
Employees told their work places they were going into affected 
areas to help with the evacuations of animals and farms affected by ash and just went. 
Employers continued to pay them.
Engineers voluntarily rebuilt parts of the country's ring road washed away from the glacial melt
and the country figured out how to pay for it after.

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.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Views From the Water -- Late Afternoon

Can you see where the helipad is?

That's it for iceberg pictures. 
It was hard choosing from the hundreds I took.
And I still haven't finished sorting the Iceland ones either.
D told me I set a new record this trip for number of travel photos.