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Here we are !


Day 1 : the trip

August. Taking off from Paris... First stop over at Copenhagen to give us a slight nordic foretaste. We have 3 or 4 hours to visit the danish capitale, of which we probably don't estimate the true worth, then we take the plane again.

Four more hours during which we fly over the North Sea, off the British Isles and the Faroes...
At last I see my first iceberg ! A little white splash in the vast blue sea... When we arrive over Greenland, everything becomes white, except the blue shadow of the clouds on the ice cap.

Warning: turn off every electronic equipment
during the takeoff and the landing of your plane.

We set foot for the first time on greenlandic soil at Kangerlussuaq for the last connecting flight. The wait is a bit long before a little plane takes us to Ilulissat. With its coloured wooden houses nestling in a rocky austere environment by the sea, the town seems rustic and pleasant. We are at latitude 69,2° North, 300 km beyond the artic polar circle.

Our local correspondent, Silver, welcomes us and drives us to the hotel. The area is more or less in construction and isn't much to look at to begin with. Nevertheless we now hold the key of a small bungalow facing the sea.

Day endlessly draws to a close on the horizon. Dark shapes of icebergs slowly glide to the open sea. We savour the unspeakable feeling of beeing in a place, instead of seeing it on pictures... That's it, here we are !!! ^__^


Day 2 : Ilulissat and Ataa

In the morning we have time to have a walk in town. During the night, the bay covered itself with small pieces of immaculate ice. In front of this unusual landscape, I feel like I'm making our planet's acquaintance a little further.

The numerous chained sledge dogs are waiting for winter on a lead in the gardens.
From time to time a car passes, and it is strange to think it is used only in Ilulissat, as towns are not connected by roads in Greenland (people travel by boat or by plane between two ones).
We discreetly watch a native woman pulling up a piece of ice on the rocks with a spade, then crushing it in order to bring it back home in a bucket. Do you need any fresh water? Oops! A piece of iceberg...

After lunch, we take a little red boat to Ataa, an ancient fishing village offering a tourist infrastructure.
We are delighted to be the only guests this week (sorry for the travel agency, but... ^^): it's strenghtening our impression of running away at the back of beyond.

We first sail under a dazzling sun that makes icebergs blinding. Halfway some mist forces the boat to slow down while it was already slow, and the landscape becomes more unreal. We will take almost five hours to cover the 60 kilomètres separating Ataa from 'Ilulissat !

As a matter of fact, we are not alone there: a group of hikers led by two guides from Terre d'Aventures is also staying at Ataa this evening, so that we can hear their enthusiastic tokens about the region. Together, we have fresh fish for dinner, caught in the neighbouring lake by Leonardo the cooker, and radishes, planted by our own guide, Jeff, whom acquaintance we also make. We already took a turn round the area with him doing the commentary. We learn Ataa's history, and which local plants are edible - that will be useful later...

Day 3 : Eqi, Port Victor et kayak

It is already daylight at four o'clock in the morning, and the rest of the "night" until sunrise seems endless. Our track of time is turning upside down. All day long, the sun seems to wander the sky slowly.

The boat we took yesterday leads us to glacier Eqi in the company of Terre d'aventures' group, which leaves us once arrived at Port Victor. As the others unload their equipment, we're doing a quick reconnaissance. The hikers saved us with their advice to put mosquito nets on our heads. It is certainly ugly but to hell with aesthetic ! Once we go ashore, an armada of voracious midges attack us !

Port Victor's wharf

Port Victor is very small, but what a view! After the wharf, a sheer footpath snakes up to the old red cabin of Paul-Emile Victor, the first camp from which the French Polar Expeditions started to study the icecap between 1948 and 1953. This vast expanse of ice, also called inlandsis, permanently covers 85% of the entire land. Explorers did not laugh everyday. Inside the cabin, on the yellowed paper-covered walls, one can read these handwritten notes: "What did we come here for / We would better be home"...

Hikers use the cabin as a refuge nowadays. The French Track to the inlandsis begins here. We will go there during our stay, startinf from another point. A little further, we notice several small brand new bungalows: it is Ice Camp Eqi, which of course offers a wonderful panorama.

Glacier Eqi

For the moment, we go back to Ataa. The sea carries along the multitude of fragments of ice fallen from the glacier, among which the boat makes slow and careful progress. Cold is enlivening in this magnificent landscape. Yet, travelling by boat seems all the more to be lasting forever, because distances seems shorts on the map. In the meantime, Jeff put a plan together, which we will carry out the day after...

In the afternoon, Jeff introduces us to sea-kayaking. Preparing the equipment is a bit tedious. We pull on waterproof suits and boots over our clothes. It turns out that paddling is quite exhausting for us beginners, but the experience is exciting. We carefully approach one of the icebergs parking in Ataa's bay, so that we can touch it with the hand... It is relatively small on the surface, but its submerged volume is truly impressive.

However, caution is advised. The mass and shape of an iceberg change as it is melting under the sun; its centre of gravity moves; and so the iceberg can suddenly turn upside down. It can also split up into pieces. These movements raise waves that can be very dangerous when you are close by, a fortiori in a small boat which can overturn. We always keep an eye and an ear towards the surrounding icebergs, ready to face the wave if one of them begins to move.

Ataa by evening

As we stop in a little creek, our true Greenland lover guide gives us more informations about the country, especially about the inuit civilization. We also gather mussels for dinner. We spend a quiet evening, making better acquaintance of our hosts and taking full advantage of the solitude of the place.

Day 4: hiking and speedboat

We plan to climb the hill overhanging Ataa int he morning. We have been told we would be able to see the inlandsis in the distance there. "Count two hours to climb", are we also told. It first seems exaggerated to us, as the hill does not seems to present any difficulty.

However the unevenness of the ground confirms our hosts' words. The more we climb, the less easy it is. The slope is much more steeply than it seemed from afar.
After two hours, we are still sweating blood and tears climbing the rocks; the top is still far, and we have to think about the return ! If there was a track among these scrubs, we missed it.

Fortunatly, our efforts are not vain: even so, we can see the inlandsis from the rock promontory where we stand before going back. It is like a white luminous line crossing the horizon.

Doesn't look hard to climb when you see it, eh...?


to be continued...

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