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Published: October 25th 2013
The awe inspiring Ice Fjord in Ilulissat has been granted UNESCO world heritage listing, and is one of the most spectacular travel destinations in the world. If I were a rich man, perhaps I could find it in my power to purchase an iceberg. After all, the staggering scale and beauty of what is on offer in Ilulissat has UNESCO singing it's praises. I can't think of a better location, and a well appointed ice garden amidst such breathtaking Arctic scenery would leave me most content. However, it's not possible to nurse this fantasy with any sense of conviction, as icebergs do not succumb to the petty whims of mankind. They are prone to dramatic displays of awesome power at the most unpredictable moment. An iceberg, no matter it's size, may suddenly tip itself over to secure a better connection with the sea floor, or perhaps a huge chunk the size of a building may break off and float away down the fjord. It is here in Ilulissat that man is made aware of the majesty of nature, as she has chosen this particular location to make the most emphatic statement of intent.
The journal continues, dear reader, from where
we left off in Nuuk. My brief visit to the capital set the scene for more adventures in Greenland. A morning propellor flight with Air Greenland took less than two hours as we headed north to the legendary Ilulissat, one of the most remote travel destinations in the world. I can't recall the last time I've felt such amazement arriving in a remote location, in fact this probably takes the prize as there are no roads between the towns in Greenland. There's no other choice in this exotic country but to catch the red flying bus under the power of Air Greenland to get around. I've been carrying on like a madman, well according to the locals no doubt, in rocking up without a booking. The plan is to see if I can blag my way into half way reasonable accommodation at a price that will not break the bank. I tried it in Nuuk and failed, and inevitably failed again in Ilulissat. The locals tend to look at me like I'm a bit soft in the head, and proceed to ream me regardless! But it's all worked out for the best, as the gorgeous Hotel Avanaa has unparalleled views
of the incomparable Ice Fjord over Ilulissat. Every evening as the sun slides below the horizon has been a feast for the eyes, the likes of which will live on in your memory forever.
As you may now be aware, visiting Ilulissat has certainly rocked my world. I've been galvanised to an extraordinary extent, such that every waking moment has to be treasured as if it's the last. It didn't concern me how many times I had to rug up and go back out on the hotel balcony, as the views are so stunning that perfect photo may be just around the corner. Who wrote this script anyway, for if you haven't been to Greenland it's hard to believe it could be true. Picture this; the sun sets over the Ice Fjord of an evening painting the sky and water in colours I've never borne witness to. Then as darkness takes hold a full moon has been shining in all it's glory, providing incredible contrasts on the fjord.
And finally, there is the chance to see the Northern Nights, as the hotel staff informed me of the ideal time to witness incredible dancing colours shimmering across
Dog sled team
Alpha male in the middle
the pristine Arctic sky. A tourist operator in the centre got me organised for activities for the duration of my stay, and all systems are go. The first adventure he booked was dog sledding on the outskirts of Ilulissat. There are close to 3,000 dogs in the town, all separately chained in the Arctic tradition, and champing at the bit for the musher to harness them, and let them do what they do best. Greenland dogs are hardy and strong animals, and live out in the elements all year round. Now as winter closes in and there is a covering of snow on the ground, I had the chance to tear around the Arctic wilderness with one of the top mushers in town. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and as a dog lover, watching the interaction between the dogs and their master is a wonder to behold. When he gave the team a break, the dogs slumped down in the snow as a pack and watched him intently, perhaps munching on some snow for sustenance. He pointed out the alpha male, and also the previous alpha who is getting a bit long in the tooth.
His sled is pulled by nine dogs, and each has his own personality. At the end of a thrilling ride amidst spectacular Arctic scenery I was half frozen, yet exhilarated by this once in a lifetime experience. The musher pushed on without a farewell or even a backward glance, and I mean to say, don't you know who I am ha ha! Seriously though, he's a legend in the area and treated me to a special time.
The next day I headed out on an afternoon boat cruise on the mighty Ice Fjord. I met the captain and my fellow guest, a lady from Denmark who has been teaching in a town north of Ilulissat. We rugged up and headed out on a fantastic cruise amongst the majestic power of the giant icebergs on the fjord. The captain told incredible tales of huge icebergs tipping over to get a firmer connection with the sea floor. We are talking bergs bigger than buildings, yet this incredible phenomena can and does happen in Ilulissat. He has been on the water to witness nature putting on this incredible show first hand, and said it's a scary experience. The icebergs are big enough
to generate mini tsunamis, such is their power, and the locals never bring their boats close to the giant ones. The people of Greenland are full of awe and respect for their natural environment, and know it's something that can never dream of mastering.
My adventures in the Arctic seem to comprise of a series of sad farewells, amidst all the wonder and joy of course. Once again, as in Iceland, upon realising my time is coming to an end in Greenland I've been filled with a strange sense of melancholy. It's as if the heart instinctively knows there aren't many destinations that come close to matching the experience of travelling in the West Nordic countries. The phenomenal scenery and ever so helpful locals bring on a euphoric feeling akin to finally reaching paradise. I've never been in a location with views to match those of Ilulissat, and it's been a genuinely moving and intense experience. Every time I look outside the window of my hotel I just gaze in wonder at the Ice Fjord, as if I've become frozen in time. I chatted to the hotel owner about my impressions of visiting her town on the final morning,
and this lady came to Ilulissat from the Faroe Islands nineteen years ago for a little break, and she is still here! Ilulissat is quite possibly the most majestic travel destination in the world and I feel like shouting from the rooftops, basically all of you should be here now!
"Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting. Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear." George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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