Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 9 - blissed out! Part I

I won't pretend to have found the following quotes through anything other than the internet.  Whilst I might think I am well-read, it all depends on the titles.  I have read absolutely none of the following although I have dabbled a little in Thoreau.

One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.
Thomas Jefferson

The doer alone learneth.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
Henry David Thoreau

We are rarely proud when we are alone.

Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.
John Muir

I have heard so many people say it is irresponsible to travel alone.  Throughout my entire Outdoor Education career I have worked in groups, taught safety in numbers and planned to the strengths of the weakest link.  My only real experience of solitude was a 24-hour assignment set during my Philosophy of Outdoor Education class at the then Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside, Cumbria.  Colin Mortlock was my lecturer and he challenged us to spend 24 hours alone.  A friend of mine crawled into his wardrobe - he managed two hours before his room-mate got fed up of hearing him fart in such a confined space and pulled him out.  Another friend was doing well until it started raining and she was in danger of being drowned on her little island that used to be a small rise in a sheep field.  I don't remember anyone lasting the full 24 hours.  I lasted three.  My orange bivvy bag filled up with rain as I tried to wait out the weather on the fell top.  My sleeping bag was drenched and I was absolutely miserable and promptly gave up.

At eighteen I thought the outdoors was about survival.  I never realised that being outdoors was not about working against nature but living with it, in harmony. 

Don't push. 


The late Bill Mason taught me that through his books and videos.  Journeys with Wilderness Inquiry as a "plug" showed me the way and all my subsequent adventures with Jane have helped build upon this philosophy.

Last year I spent my first real solo time in Uummannaq fjord.  Five days with the Folbot Kodiak and a humpback whale, hundreds of icebergs and little old me in between.  It was amazing.  Both liberating and a real test of my expedition plans and the boat.

I have wondered if having contact with the outside world during TSS2010 makes a nonsense out of the idea of solitude, but there were plenty of days where contact was not possible and this beautiful campsite was one of them. 

In returning to my thoughts of safety in numbers I can only add that I honestly think my days of travelling with groups are over.  Small groups maybe, Jane and I definitely, but I really need to make time for me and the big sky, the open water and the call of the wild.  Jack London is on my reading list.  He is partly responsible for this whole northern adventure.  But when you have lain in your sleeping bag and heard the Arctic Fox announce his arrival, the whale exhaust his lungs when passing by, boulders crash and icebergs calve then the wild has truly called, and I wish to live long to answer that call again and again.

Of course, the last quote I have chosen is just going to make you wonder!

You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.
Al Capone

Day 8 - uncharted waters

It took me simply ages to leave Raven's Death Campsite.  The thought of tidying, packing, loading and then paddling just zapped me everytime.  I realized, as I have always known, that I am best suited to camping with Jane or alone.  I don't think anyone else would put up with my tempo.  I just like being out there and not having to think about anything other than moving on and settling in before moving on again.  Ah, the simple life.  The problem is my simple life was way too simple and I needed a serious kick in the arse to get going again.

I was not completely idle in camp though.  Apart from copious cups of coffee I did fix the tent as I mentioned previously.  The fix was proving to be very reliable.  I was also perfecting my bannock-baking - although a few mishaps were tough to swallow - adopting the mantra "the kilos are better on the inside!".  Packing all my rubbish with me I never wanted to travel with waste food no matter how badly I had burned it. 

One thing I did leave behind was a fine fishing line on a wooden reel.  I had brought it along with the idea of fishing.  Lots of people fish when camping, but I have a confession ... I hate fishing.  Really, it is so monotonous!  A slim chance of reward for a whole lot of effort.  As my food supplies did not rely on me catching anything I placed the reel where I am sure some kids will find it.  A little offering in thanks for a great campsite.  (Anyone worried about kids finding a fishing line?  You have to remember these kids could fish before their grandparents were born!)

Of course, I didn't leave empty-handed.  I had an idea that I would take a raven claw with me.  After snapping off a single claw and placing it in my map case I suddenly realised that I could take the whole bloody foot if I wanted too.  My friend, the dead raven, was not going to need it and it would surely make little difference to a fox who had the whole body to snack on.  Armed with my Leatherman I returned to said raven, offered some words in thanks and clipped his foot off.  I have serious plans for this raven's foot - a bit like the plans I have for the pilot whale jaw hanging off the sledge on our terrace.  I just have to convince Jane that neither of them smell.

What you can't see in these photos is the fact that the wind was blowing north-east onto my port side, the waves were coming from both the port side and head on the bow, while icebergs were moving against the wind on my starboard side towards me.  I was in some choppy water and making little headway.  So much for idling about in camp, I was paying for it now.  I aimed for a small island - population twelve sledge dogs - and waited out the worst of the wind and tide for the next hour and a half.  I then took to the water again and paddle directly upwind towards the island of Agpat before catching the waves along the shore and hanging a left into the Torssukátak fjord.

I succeeded in besting the wind and waves and then ran right into the midnight sun.  Couldn't see a thing.  I only realised how spectacular and barren it was when I looked at the photos later. 

Instead of paddling along the coastline of Agpat towards the old marble mine I decided to blast across the fjord and camp in what I hoped would be a suitable spot.  On the map it looked like a little cove with a natural harbour.  I was to be rewarded with one of the best campsites of the entire journey.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 7 - Saattut

A good day dawning!  Starting with a cup of "mud", my own recipe of Nestle Choco Hot Creamy chocolate powder mixed with copious amounts of instant coffee, whipped into abandon and then chewed until I have to employ my finger around the edges to get the last bits of goop.  The orange Swedish folding mug in the photo above has been on many a trip in the wilds and has the stains to prove it.  Whereas I am interested in maintaining good hygiene standards when in the wilds I won't get any smilies pinned onto my tent!  Boiling water for drinks I boil enough for the flask plus one drink.  I might start with a soup.  To clean the soup out I follow up with an instant coffee - usually a bog-standard Nescafe.  A little later I might try a powdered Latté or Cappucino mix.  To clean that out, and dissolve the lumps I missed despite frantic stirring, I finish off with a flavoured instant coffee. 

At this point, completely out of my skull on caffeine, the tent starts to spin ever so slowly, uncannily in tune to my full bladder.  Depending upon the weather and the presence of winged-teeth I barrel out of the tent to pee.  If the weather is fine I stay out and take photos, if not I barrel back into the tent and boil up some more water for that final cup of mud. 

In this northern Buena Vista Social Club I pass the time by poring over the map, writing in my diary, reading whopping great books and listening to my MP3.  Being quite dated with a chunky MP3 player of limited storage space I have to seriously consider what I want to take with me.  This trip I chose to take the BBC dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings.  It is pure dead brilliant though unfortunately spliced with some frightful music in between.  I can't help thinking Mr Jackson might have been inspired by Gollum in this series developed for radio.  I can heartily recommend it for all LOTR fans.  Of course, with all this entertainment packed into my tiny living space it is quite an effort to pull myself out and visit the settlements.

Leaving Frodo and Ned Stark to fend for themselves a bit I wandered through a Tolkien landscape into "town".  Saattut is about 21km as the raven flies from Uummannaq.  I have been here a few times previously in the summer and once drove here across the ice in a pick-up together with Lars, Suzi, their son Tiuri and Jane.  Arne, Hotel Uummannaq, drove us all the way to Ukkusissat and back that day.  I have, however, never arrived in Saattut by the back door as it were.  It was a totally different settlement that I experienced.

I was a little late for the service house where I hoped to get a shower, nor was the shop open.  I had mixed my days up and thought that is was Saturday already.  However, I learned from a man hoping to buy "strong tobacco" from me, that everything would open again in an hour.  It was lunchtime on a Friday.  I decided on a shower first and tried out my Greenlandic in the council office where I paid 15,- dkk for a key to the shower.  The toilet bucket was a welcome sight too - do remember that Jane and I have been using a metal toilet bucket for four years and this council bucket was pure luxury! 

To say my skin was greasy is a serious understatement, so I'll leave it at that and we'll move on shall we?

I met an old student in Pilersuisoq, Aqqa, who I remembered as being bright and cheerful and very studious.  She had not changed and it was fun to catch up.  She knew I was moving to Qaanaaq and would be there herself on holiday when Jane and I were due to arrive. 

Splashing out on ice cream and bottled water I checked in with Lars and was rewarded with relief associated with no worries from his side regarding the garbled satellite phone message.  We agreed that the satellite phone was now defunct and took it off the safety plan.  It was interesting to note, for me anyway, that I was reluctant to tell both Lars and Jane, later, that I had ruined my dry suit.  If I went in the water the failure of the dry suit would be more critical than the satellite phone.  I felt that if I confessed about the dry suit I would have to make a more serious decision.  We brushed over the topic quickly as I changed the subject each time.

The church in Saattut.

The view form the centre(ish) of Saattut towards the harbour.

Clean and content I wandered around "town", careful not to take photos of people.  I could not hide the fact that I was a tourist but I did not want to offend the locals either.  I had been just as curious about arriving in Saattut as I had been the other day in Ikerasak.  Whereas I did not really talk with people here either, I did get a much warmer feeling about the settlement.  Previously, while translating for tourist groups in Saattut, I had felt very distant from the people.  This time I realised that more people knew me and it felt as though my presence was accepted.  The Liverpool Football Club baseball cap I was wearing helped too, especially when meeting former students - avid Man United supporters to a man!  (I should perhaps apologize to Folbot that I rarely wore the cap they sent me with the Folbot logo.  I have a big head ... no comment necessary ... and the LFC hat just fit better is all.)

I made my way back to Raven's Death Campsite and could almost taste the first cup of mud on my tongue!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 6 - can't stop the signal

I broke camp and packed the boat - badly.  The take-out point consisted of various boulders of less-than-helpful shapes and sizes, slippery when wet and clearly the local hang-out for the "winged-teeth" chapter of the local mosquito clan - ravenous bastards!  Suffice it to say I got hot, wet and sweaty before clambering into the boat and paddling.  I would later find just how badly I had packed the boat.  Earlier, I had been having problems when deploying the rudder - my left leg and buttock would cramp up about one and a half hours of paddling every time I used the rudder.  Today I started paddling without.

Today's crossing was going to be around four to five hours depending on various factors.  I had already decided to abandon any unnecessary detours and go straight for the island on which the settlement of Saattut is situated.  I needed to make contact or at least be in a position to make contact with Lars and Jane as soon as possible.  The weather was in my favour and the bergs were again in the minority.

About an hour away from the end of the island, after an uneventful crossing, I found out how badly trimmed the boat was.  The weather picked up and I was weather-cocking, bow-heavy with a stern like a sail.  I might like to have bulging biceps but I didn't fancy sporting a half-Schwarzenegger as I used way too much left arm to compensate.  I decided to drop the rudder and had to grit my teeth as the cramp problem started almost the instant the rudder hit the water.  Weird.  I couldn't figure out if it was mental or physical pain I was experiencing.  I now think that I am abnormally long in the leg and can't cope with one leg pushing on the rudder pedals and the other not.  I do have to admit that I have never had much luck rigging the rudder - I can never get the lengths of string/cable right.  Regardless, there was nothing I could do about it. 

Paddle on.

I like naming campsites.  My favourite being Reasonably Flat Rock, because it was.  On arriving, finally, at the beachy cove at the far end of Saattut island I explored a little before tossing my dry bags up the incredibly steep slope between the sea and the flat ground on which to camp.  I found a dead raven and immediately christened the campsite: Raven's Death Campsite

I love ravens. I have seen them tease my sledge dogs, hopping into their territory and hopping just out of reach of the dogs' chains.  I have tried umpteen times to take good photos of ravens and never succeeded.  I have been amazed at their vocal range and variety of calls, and even more amazed at those of my pupils who could imitate them.  Ravens are said to be as smart as dogs and I believe they are - sometimes perhaps even smarter.  They are big, tough, carnivorous buggers and they are very common in the Arctic.  There is no question as to why I have them on the TSS2010 logo. 

Of course, this fella was dead. 

Time to unpack the boat and set up camp.

It doesn't take long to develop a routine, especially when paddling alone.  I knew which dry bags I needed first and in what order I wanted to set up my camp.  No matter what, the tent comes first.  In foul weather it is a priority of course, but in the sun with a good breeze I can relax and take my time.  When I am tired after a long paddle, I just need to keep going before crashing inside the tent.  The worst possible conditions for putting up the tent and organising camp is warm, wet weather, no breeze and a shit-load of midges.  Mosquitoes I can cope with and the bug repellent holds them at bay, but midges ... midges and I have danced together on countless occasions in Scotland.  If the midge population in Greenland ever reaches Scottish proportions ... well ... I would have to seriously consider relocating!

On this fine day though everything went well.  I set up camp in good spirits, secured the kayak way above the water and "iceberg" line, then trekked up the cliff side a little to find a signal for the mobile.  I sent a few text messages and then decided to settle in for the night and hit "town" in the morning.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 5 - some trouble brewin'

As the fog cleared all my excuses evaporated.  It was time to get moving again.  Looking at all the gear I had to get in the boat I was constantly reminded that my hectic and stressful start had resulted in at least one dry bag too many.  Packing was getting easier, so long as I was on a beach.  The Folbot Kodiak has a lot of volume but one has to think carefully about how to pack it to ensure best trim.  Trimming the boat made all the difference for each paddling stint.  If I had a beach to pack from then I was guaranteed good trim.  Give me a bad launching point and a couple of clouds of bugs and I suffered all day, especially in wind and waves.

Paddling along the coastline of Hydralgskis Pensinsula I kept a wary eye on some whopping bergs on the horizon.  Bergs make great waypoints on open crossings.  Until they begin to explode of course.  As I neared the point of the pensinsula and began to edge into deeper water a monster berg decided to calve spectacularly.  I was between the resultant icy wave and compassion-less rocks of the point.  Perfect.  With nothing to do but keep paddling, I kept paddling.

It was a particularly smooth crossing after that with very little iceberg activity.  I had hoped to see some sign of whales but knew that they rarely ventured this deep into the fjord.  Completely alone, with nothing and no one in sight, I got to grips with solitude and found I kind of liked it.

I pulled into the desert at the bottom of Stor Øen to stretch my legs.  It was then that I discovered a rather large amount of water in the bottom of my boat.  I began to fear that hasty building of the folding kayak and some "interesting" landings had put a hole in the hull.  I started to think about the consequences.  It was then that I decided to get out of my dry suit and take a pee.  Pulling at the seal on my left wrist I tore off a huge chunk of rubber and reduced my dry suit to a glorified rain jacket.


This was just the start of my problems in the desert.

While contemplating the combined consequences of both a hole in the boat and a hole in my dry suit I kicked around in the ubiquitous green fishing line and rope that can be seen all over Uummannaq area, perhaps even Greenland?  Anywhere you can fish anyway.  As the clouds began to build and the sky to darken I decided I might not push for Saattut this night.  I decided to paddle a little further to take a look around the corner.  On seeing icebergs move against the wind in the opposite direction I wished to travel I figured the tide was against me and the paddle would be a trifle challenging.  I pulled into a bay and found one of the worst take-out points of the trip and made the best of a bad deal.  (The pictures below are not the take-out point in question.)

Still annoyed at the holes I went ahead with putting up my tent, wanting to get out of the rain as soon as possible.  As I started to push the poles into place I found that the bottom of one pole was missing an end.  Damnit!  That was three things I had discovered that had failed in the space of a day.  I didn't know how long it was going to take to fix the different bits of kit and therefore knew that I was approaching my "window" of five days without contact.  It was soon 48 hours since I checked in and there was no mobile signal in the desert or for many kilometres in all directions.  If the weather and repairs allowed I could easily get to Saattut within 5-6 hours, but if not I would be approaching the safety margin agreed with Jane and Lars.  This was as good a time as any to try out the satellite phone.

I called Lars' mobile in Denmark - a little after midnight Danish time (sorry about that Lars!) - and I got his answer service.  I know I said I had a hole in the boat, but I did not remember saying whether or not I was all right before the battery died, completely.  It was fully-charged 5 days ago and had not been used.  But I had a feeling that it would not hold very long as it was an older Motorola model that I had borrowed from a friend.


This was a testing moment.  I had included the satellite phone in my safety plan to compensate for my being alone.  The Chief of Police in for the North of Greenland had told me that it was not smart to travel alone.  In light of the recent tragedy and the annual rescues and deaths in the wilds of Greenland I was conscious that I should do everything I could to compensate for being alone.  My margin of error just got bigger.

Apart from the annoying failures of different bits of gear I was frustrated that I could not get a message out.  I now felt that the very bit of kit that was supposed to save me in an emergency was now going to force me to paddle in order to get to Saattut to get a signal for the mobile and to let everyone know I was okay.

Of the entire trip this was the single best learning experience for me.  The fog outside Ukkusissat came close but in a different way.  I suddenly felt that I could relate to how others must feel not knowing how I was or even where I was.  In many ways the failure of the satellite phone was the best thing to happen to me.  It made me safer.  I never wanted to take it with me in the first place, I figured it would be a white elephant that I would lug around and never use.  Now it had become a potentially dangerous white elephant depending upon what I did next.

It sounds like I am making a mountain out of a molehill but I was alone.  I was however in an area where I knew people fished and even the hotel boat visited during the week.  The only thing I didn't have was water - the desert is appropriately named!  With nothing I could do about the weather I decided to find iceberg debris for my drinking water.

I heard a dinghy sailing by and on impulse crawled out of my tent to wave at them just for a little insurance.  If I missed my check-in at least someone had seen me alive and well on this particular date.  Over a fresh, steaming mug of iceberg-coffee, which is basically coffee made from the inland ice sheet, I mulled over my day.

On closer inspection the Folbot Kodiak had no real holes to speak of, I had just had one too many hasty wet entrances and exits - the spraydeck on the Kodiak is not the easiest to slide in an out of when launching.  My tent - a trusty Quasar from back when Terra Nova was called Wild Country (gear-geek info) - was about 15 or so years old and this was the first breakage during a hard, outdoor life, and I fixed it with a tent peg inside of ten seconds anyway.  My only problems were the dry suit and the satellite phone.

At this point, provided I could get a message through, I did not think the satellite phone was such a problem - only the problem it had created needed fixing.  The dry suit however, was another issue altogether.  But, surrounded by water, anywhere I went would requiring paddling, so I decided to conveniently forget about it.  Stupid is as stupid does and all that.

I crawled into my sleeping bag and waited on the weather.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 4 - foggy excuses

I found plenty of excuses not to paddle the next day.  Amongst the best were the "promises to be safe" and "not take chances with calving icebergs in the fog".  Pretty convincing arguments when you are a democracy of one, in a pup-tent, with a particularly good book in your hands.  My most convincing argument was of course the need to "air my finger"!


Remember the slice I took out of my finger on Day 1?  No?  You're not missing much but I was missing a tiny chunk of skin which I kept cutting away as it dried out.  I was taping my finger up when paddling and I needed more air to make it heal faster.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Day 3 - Ikerasak

It was an overcast day that greeted me when I crawled out of the tent.  The heat of the day before had made me reconsider the merits of sleeping through the day.  An Arctic Fox woke me and I decided to get going, not least to arrive within the opening times of Pilersuisoq - the local store in the settlement of Ikerasak; I would be arriving at the first of the Seven Settlements today.

The paddling was very pleasant.  Overcast and cool, I spent a lot of time looking along the shore, still half-convinced I would see something of interest or even see sign of the unfortunate men lost in the tragic boat accident earlier.

Paddling along the coastline; there is always another point to round.  It is like the false summits when hiking in the mountains.  What you see before you is rarely the final destination.  There is always a little further to go.  I found that when I could see my destination I usually had a few more hours of paddling, especially on open crossings.  When I could taste the campsite before me I had yet one more hour.  It was frustrating at times and paddling faster just didn't seem to make any difference.  Getting used to the distances in Greenland is difficult.  Geographic features, be they islands or mountains, are always, always further away than one thinks they are.

Nearing Ikerasak I started to see life on the tiny outlying islands.  On these islands, Greenlandic sledge dogs would roam free, not even tempted to swim to the mainland - smart dogs!  They seemed to be more content than the dogs chained in the larger settlements and towns, and the pecking order was firmly established.  The dogs stared at me as I paddled past, losing interest as I showed no sign of dropping off a hunk of seal meat.  (Some days later I would meet more hungry dogs on several islands outside Saattut.)

I was a little curious as to how I would be received in Ikerasak.  I have been there twice before; once by snow scooter, a second time in a taxi across the sea ice, never in the summer.  Each time I have been in Ikerasak it has been to visit Betina and Thomas, colleagues of mine teaching in the settlement school.  I have great respect for their work as teachers and could see the results of their hard work when I received the 10th graders from Ikerasak during their final year of schooling.  Jane and I drove across the ice to be at Betina and Thomas' wedding a few years ago.

My friends have now moved on and, short of a few student connections, I don't really know many people in Ikerasak.  I must have arrived at a particularly quiet time too as there were few people wandering about that I could see.  Most people were at work or inside on this cloudy day.  Some people might even be sleeping as it is not unusual to be active at strange times due to the 24-hour light that can play havoc on one's daily rhythm.  As it turned out I met just a few of my former pupils and spent most of the few hours in the settlement making the promised progress calls to Lars Simonsen, Jane and, of course, my mum!

In the build up to the expedition I had talked a lot with my mum about being safe.  Jane and I had avoided talking too much about the subject while Lars was extremely practical and a lot more switched on than I was.  I would soon discover what it was like "not knowing" when my blasé attitude was put to the test.  However, I did enjoy making contact and assuring everyone that I was well and enjoying myself.

Betina and Thomas' house.

The church in Ikerasak.

The kindergarten. 

A thin house.

After a little sightseeing in Ikerasak I was actually ready to leave again.  It just wasn't what I had anticipated.  Maybe I just slipped in unnoticed or, more likely, I was just another "Dane"/white faced tourist poking around with his camera.  I have come to the conclusion that cameras are crap in areas frequently visited by tourists.  I don't think Ikerasak has as many visits by cruise ship passengers as Ukkusissat for example, but I definitely stood out.  One thing I did find amusing was my sudden need to talk to people - and you think the camera was the problem! - and when I spotted Michael, a student of mine, I launched into verbal diarrhoea.  Clearly I had been out in the boonies too long with nothing but foxes for company.

It had been three days!

Leaving Ikerasak I got my groove on and found the boat and paddle responded well and I blasted away for an hour across the bay to my next campsite.  It felt good.  All my somewhat dulled expectations of the first settlement though resulted in an interesting diary entry that night:

Now I realise, as I perhaps have always known, the Seven Settlements are purely way-points on a deeply personal journey proving to myself that I have what it takes.  Pissing my territory and putting ghosts of inferiority to rest.  The language be damned, I am who I am and I can do what I say I will!  As the icebergs crash and fall around me I paddle on, playing it safe and making progress all the same.  I know my limitations but I also know my strengths and capabilities: paddle on!

Growing up in a split family, being raised by my mum alone, competing for the attention from my father and his new family, encountering problems dealing with men in positions of authority during both my schooling and professional life, I have always carried a bit of a chip on my shoulder; an inferiority complex fostered, I believe, by the fact that deep down I might have believed that I wasn't good enough for my father.  This has been frustrating at best and downright destructive at worst.  I can, fortunately, thank my mum for the drive I have to experience new places, cultures and experiences, to suck the veritable marrow from the bone of life.  This ambition to prove myself, however, has often resulted in challenging conflicts where I have always known I have the capability to do a thing but lacked the sense of self-confidence to show others.  It was interesting for me to see this manifest itself through the words I wrote on the pages in my diary.  This expedition was turning into an inner journey, and I could feel that it was coming perhaps 20 years or so late.

Paddle on!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 2 - the hot arctic

On day two I paddled from Stor Øen to Ikerasak Island, aiming for the "Reasonably Flat Rock" campsite that I visited last summer.  There was little in the way of ice compared to what I experienced last year on this stretch of water.  I chose an open crossing as I am way too familiar with the coastline of Stor Øen having paddled it many times now.  Whereas Uummannaq fjord is pretty sheltered by the Nuugssuaq peninsula it can still be adventurous paddling in iceberg choked waters.  Sadly, a couple of weeks before I started, three young men lost their lives when, we presume, their boat hit a wooden pallet lying flat in the water.  Their bodies have yet to be found.  Being aware that local people have lost their lives in the very water I was paddling is very humbling.  Whilst wanting to make the safest crossing at the shortest point at all times I also wanted to avoid large concentrations of ice.  As I could clearly see a channel between the bergs for the 18(ish)km ahead of me, I decided to go for it.

Lars Gram of Gram Kajak in Denmark heard of my expedition on Facebook and he generously offered me a Greenlandic Paddle to use on the expedition.  When paddling canoes I have always favoured a wooden paddle for both aesthetic and performance reasons.  When kayaking, however, I have been won over by the lightweight carbon fibre models that glide through the water.  I was a little sceptical about paddling with Lars' Greenland Paddle.  I know what you are thinking ... I live in Greenland, surely I should at least try a traditional paddle, especially as I have made sure people see my Folbot folding kayak as a modern interpretation of the Greenlandic skin-on-frame qajaqs.  With this in mind I gratefully accepted Lars' offer and arranged for him to deliver it to Lise and Sander in Denmark and they would send it on the ship with our other goods when Jane visited them in May.  I just thought I could try the paddle a few times and then strap it onto the kayak and get back to my carbon fibre wonder-paddle.

The above picture is VERY misleading, but fitting if you want to believe that I ditched the wooden paddle at the earliest opportunity.  The tape around my finger is from my sacrificial blood-letting the night before.  Whereas I did get a few blisters from using the Greenlandic Paddle in the beginning it was nothing I did not expect and was more likely a result of technique than anything to do with the paddle. 

I have to say I am a convert.  I LOVE the traditional Greenland paddle!  (I even took it as baggage on the flight to Qaanaaq.)  It took me some days to stop twisting my wrists with each stroke - I am used to a feathered paddle.  It took several more days to begin to work up a good rhythm and enjoy the effortless paddling that it allows.  Not once did I use my carbon fibre paddle.  I started paddling with Lars' paddle from that bloody first day and I stopped using it only when I arrived back in Uummannaq twenty-four days later.  During all of the days paddling and especially the long stretches, I would need to stop to stretch my legs before I ever felt the need to rest my arms.  Thanks Lars!  And to Fat Paddler ... you were right!

I have always said that I paddle after midnight to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes and tourists.  Actually, I paddle mostly at night as I used to think that the weather was more stable and it was always cooler.  There were many nights when the weather was not so stable, but the worst part of paddling after midnight was sleeping through the day - the heat was unbearable!

Brace yourselves for a scary image, me, naked, sweating in a tent.  Not pleasant I can tell you.  During the start of the expedition I slept a lot.  Okay, I admit that I slept a lot during the entire expedition, I could have easily made it shorter, but the truth is I enjoy the wilderness as it is there that I truly relax.  As I sleep so much out there I need more days to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.  Sleeping during the heat of the day was not good.  At this particular campsite, a little to the left of Reasonably Flat Rock I definitely got a little feverish and dehydrated.  The root of the problem would be arriving in camp around five or six in the morning, eating dinner, reading too much (I can thoroughly recommend "A Game of Thrones" - thanks to Jes for suggesting it!), and then finally falling asleep around nine in the morning, just as the Arctic starts warming up.

Sweating through a fever during the day does have some benefits.  It is during the night that the wildlife is most active and the light is better for taking photos too.  On the days  and nights when I didn't paddle I would often wake to the yip of an Arctic Fox declaring its' territory.  Scrambling out of the tent we would stare at one another for a few minutes until one of us blinked.  He, or she, would then turn tail and scamper off only to stop again to see if I was coming.  We played this game over many nights, different campsite, different fox, same behaviour.

All in all the expedition was progressing very well: already by day two I was slick with a layer of salt and sweat, turning my days into nights, abandoning modern technology and flirting with foxes of unidentifiable sex. 
What could possibly go wrong?