Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 21 - fragile earth and Greenlandic chicken

Walking along the black sands I saw many craters in the sand. I could feel my feet pushing through the crust but it took me a while to figure out that ice was the cause of it. Ice that had once detonated from the side of a berg had been washed up and deposited on the beach by the tide. The weight of the ice broke through the hard but thin crust of sand on the beach. Before I saw the clumps of ice I found craters with dark patches; I later realised that this was melt-water where the ice had been.

The midges were rather hungry here and, seeing as it was a beautiful day for a paddle, I saw no reason to linger.

Further along the coast was the hunting camp of Ikorfat. The remains of one cabin, a turf-built and wooden beam construction, took longer to find as I was more than a little preoccupied with the newer cabin with B number 1240 (B for "bolig"). All houses in Uummannaq area are given a B number, including the tiny water stations dotted around the towns and settlements. B-1240 is a classic example of a well-used permanent camping cabin with an all purpose room for cooking and sleeping in. I think they see more use in the winter months as hunters harness their sledge dogs outside, seeking shelter from the elements on the inside. I was also more interested in sleeping inside my tent - we had become well used to one another by now - but the inside of the cabin was worth checking out.  A big stone in front of the door suggested no one was home and that foxes were not welcome!

Time doesn't quite stand still within the cabin. It is possible to move between the ages, back and forth, as one explores the items left behind and some left ready for the next occupants.  Coffee-filter papers had been used to write messages, while the occasional piece of licorice testified to the effectiveness of the stone door-stop. A tea-towel hung over the petroleum stove, the bed boards ready, hunters could arrive any minute and find it just as they left it.

Time had already stopped for me that summer as the sun circled continuously about the horizon and I was quite taken with the alarm clock hanging from the curtain rail, ornamented by the dried curlew (?) head and a small, dried skin bag. Quite taken until I peered out of the window and checked out the front yard. When real-estate agents talk about "location, location, location", I wonder if they were thinking about Ikorfat?

 Back outside, I wandered back and forth for hours. Just wandering, not feeling the need to go anywhere or do anything but wander, look, listen and breathe deep the sea air tempered with the freshness of glacial ice.

I couldn't get enough of this place. It was full of rich finds and stories drifting through the tall grass about the tent, between the cracks in the walls of the cabin and among the pebbles eroded by the sea and tumbling ice. As the icebergs crashed and boomed at incalculable intervals, I wandered some more.

Once, in Uummannaq, I had the chance to buy Greenlandic chicken - seagull, 20,- dkk per gull. I have yet to taste one but imagine they will be a bit ... well, like chicken. This fella had been enjoyed by a fox, perhaps, as his footprints showed where he or she had loitered about the camp.

It was damn fine here and I crawled into my pup-tent and fell asleep to iceberg artillery in the near and far.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 20 - sleeping beside spirits

From my diary:

It is amazing how much I got out of speaking Greenlandic yesterday. It is important to note that Niaqornat has overwhelmingly shown/revealed/exceeded my cultural goals for the expedition. I got by on my level of Greenlandic - with lots of small confusions, but I got by. I sorted it almost without Danish. In fact, Danish did not help one bit! I got a good feeling about the settlement and deliberately left good gear there almost just to prove that I can.I must be sure to mention Niaqornat in this way on my blog, in my trip report. I think the Sermitsiaq article might have helped. Malene certainly saw it, followed the link and recognised me as I walked into their house. Cool, eh? Yes, Niaqornat has been a success, but I might be here a while.
Venturing further [away from the tent], looking for a place to shit, I saw a model turf house not ten metres from my tent. Five metres beyond that are the foundations of an original dwelling - I must have been tired or preoccupied with the beach not to notice them yesterday. I wondered at the Greenlandic hunters who called this place Tuperssussat- the camping place. I hoped their spirits would watch over me when I left this place as the breakers were going to make mincemeat of my folding kayak.

I actually left from the main beach in the settlement itself and spent a long time talking with a hunter who was very familiar with kayaks and a brother to my next-door neighbour in Uummannaq. We talked - in Greenlandic - about the differences between our kayaks and I was introduced to his qajaq that was parked not far from my own. As we talked he was very patient with my stumbling Greenlandic. At the same time he was polishing a polar bear skull.

Interestingly, the cruise ship had entered the bay and was shuttling tourists into Niaqornat on zodiacs. They were gathering on the main beach to see a seal being butchered. Niaqornat has a good relationship with the cruise ships and I was pleased to see the positive response they created among the tourists.

It was time to move on though and I thanked the hunter before pushing off and paddling on. I paddled along the coast, enjoying the long stretches of beach, a truly beautiful coastline and one I had not experienced before. I made a rough landing in light surf and bent the rear deck strut as I exited the cockpit a little too quickly. The Kodiak is a sturdy boat but, as Folbot themselves say, it is not intended for surf and, although light, the waves were interesting enough to force me to move a little quickly. It was a beautiful place to bend the boat though!


As I pitched camp on a rather open expanse of green, the midges found me and we had some discussion as to how long I was going to remain outside the tent. Luckily a breeze picked up and I enjoyed exploring the black sandy beach. A fox challenged me but I just couldn't get an eye on him. I retreated, content, into my portable home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 19 - video diaries

I didn't do much on this day beyond enjoying the beach, the waves and the bergs, stranded like me. Melting bergy-bits for water I spent some time adjusting the tent for wet weather.

As usual, sleep got the better of me once I realised that I was in no danger of flooding. I have an sad case of paranoia whenever I camp somewhere flat. I just imagine there is an iceberg out there with my name on it!

The scraggly beard I was working on helped with the freckles! Can't do much about the balding though.