Monthly Archives: June 2017

Qassiarsuk – Qorlortup Itinnera – Tasiusaq Hike – South Greenland

I wasn’t greeted with the best weather I’ve had in South Greenland today, but decided to head out to do the QassiarsukQorlortup ItinneraTasiusaqQassiarsuk loop hike (yellow, followed by upper red in the below).

Hiking routes around Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

I had to pass all the way through Qassiarsuk to reach the start of the hike, and that included a short visit to Brattahlid, where Eric the Red built his farm when he settled in South Greenland in 982AD (having been cast out from Iceland). 

There are still the remains of several buildings (church, stables, hall) from this era

Brattahlid Norse ruins - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

as well as replicas of a typical Norse turf house

Brattahlid - Norse turf house - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

a Norse long-house

Replica Norse Longhouse - Brattahlid - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

and a Norse church (Tjodhilde’s Church) – the first Christian church to be constructed on the North American continent.

Replica of Tjodhilde’s Church - Brattahlid - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

After passing through Brattahlid, I found myself on yet another pebbly gravel road.  Have I mentioned how much I hate walking on these things? ☹ 

pebble roads - South Greenland

I learned to loathe walking on pebble roads in South Greenland

On one side, I had the Tunulliarfik Fjord and the other, the most spectacularly “cracked” mountain I’d ever seen.  If I were to describe the look of the rocks – I would say “shattered”.  Again, I really wish I had a geologist walking with me!

the road north - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

The road continued for about 7kms before I finally reached the valley of Qorlortup Itinnera (“Waterfall Valley”) and turned inland to the farm of the same name.  This is one of the interesting things about many of these hikes in South Greenland – they take you right through the middle of someone’s farm!  Nobody seems terribly worried about it – they just wave you on through – though at the minute they are all at a big sheep farmer’s meeting in Qaqortoq, so the farm was deserted. 

Qorlortup Itinnera Farm - South Greenland

One of the sheds at Qorlortup Itinnera Farm. Yes, you walk straight through the middle of it

The unusual thing for me was that although every farm had the usual variety of tractors, utes and quad-runners, they also all had ski-doos!  Which makes perfect sense, but something strange for a country girl from Australia.

Farm machinery - Tasiusaq - South Greenland

Modified quad-runners and ski-doos. Slightly different to farm equipment I’m used to!

Once through the farm, the hike is not marked (actually, it isn’t marked up until that point either, but you are hiking on roads).  Not a single red dot to be seen anywhere, though it is pretty obvious where you are meant to be heading.  Just follow the valley.  I did the “sheep-track-shuffle” all the way up the valley – following a sheep track until it either stopped dead (damn aliens!) or veered off in a direction I didn’t want to go, at which point I would walk in a perpendicular direction to find another that was more or less going the right way.

Qorlortup Itinnera - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

Although I was fighting a biting wind, the valley was very pretty, and very, very green down by the river where the sensible sheep were munching away quite happily.

Qorlortup Itinnera - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

And there were a couple of nice waterfalls along the way, though I didn’t manage to figure out which of the boulders I was passing were remnant Norse ruins (apparently the area is full of them) and which were just boulders.

Waterfall - Qorlortup Itinnera - Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

I continued on the track that followed the river down to the Southern Sermilik Fjord (as opposed to the track that headed straight for Tasiusaq), as I figured that if the weather was even worse tomorrow, I wanted to at least see part of the fjord up close before leaving the area.

Southern Sermilik Fjord - Tasiusaq - South Greenland

It is super-impressive with all the broken icebergs crowding the fjord, and really, you can never see too many icebergs 😊

Icebergs - Southern Sermilik Fjord - Tasiusaq - South Greenland

Unfortunately, from this vantage point, I did not have a view of the massive wall of ice that I glimpsed yesterday walking over from Sillisit.  Obviously that was further around, and so it doesn’t seem like I’m going to get a better view of it given its distance from where I’m staying in Qassiarsuk 🙁   I guess that is what you see from the viewpoint marked at the end of the blue trail on the map.  Damn!  

I did, however, see an Ukaleq (Arctic Hare)!

Arctic Hare - Tasiusaq - South Greenland

No, I agree.  Not quite the same thing…

Arriving in Tasiusaq (I should have stayed one night here so I could have hiked out to the view of my ice wall – if only I’d known!) I officially finished the yellow hike at 18km.  However, I had to get back to Qassiarsuk, so returned along the upper red route (I hiked the lower red route on my way over from Sillisit).

Up to the pass from Tasiusaq to Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

Going up and over a pass is the last thing I felt like at the time, but there didn’t seem to be anyone heading my way so off I set.

View from the pass from Tasiusaq to Qassiarsuk - South Greenland

View from the pass from Tasiusaq to Qassiarsuk

In the end, I had just reached the top of the pass when a tourism minivan caught up with me … and drove right past me without stopping to ask me if I wanted a lift ☹  

Oh well – better for me in the end I’m sure 😊  Though my feet were killing me!

 

Distance: ~27km to leave from and return to Illunnguujuk Farm where I was staying (about 1km out of Qassiarsuk)

Time: ~8.5 hours

Notes:  When hiking up Qorlortup Itinnera, stay on the southern side of the river, and stay relatively high.  There is actually a fence I encountered about ½ way along and then followed (there was a sheep track beside it), which made for slightly easier walking.  Otherwise you are going to have to skirt bogs and other pockets of water if you are down by the river – making the hike even longer, and soggier.

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Sillisit to Qassiarsuk – South Greenland

Another beautiful day in South Greenland 😊  So much so – it was very, very hard for me to leave my perch on the front deck of the Sillisit Hostel for the hike to Qassiarsuk!

View from Sillisit Hostel - South Greenland

View from Sillisit Farm – Sillisut Hostel is the white building

The most common way to walk between the two places is via the dirt road that basically follows the fjord (solid line in the below left image).   However, given my awesome orienteering efforts with the Waterfall Hike near Igaliku the other day, I thought I’d take the alternate route that would probably reveal more varied scenery – yet another “unmarked route”.

Proposed hike - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Left is the contour map I was endeavouring to follow to guide my path.

This route would take me from Sillisit across to Nunataaq (you can see the dashed line on the map on the left, or the orange line on the map on the right), and then along a dirt road (solid line on left map, bottom red line on right map) to Qassiarsuk.

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get my bearings this time based on the contours, and I relied a fair bit on a trail marked in Maps.Me (have I mentioned how useful that App is?) as I bush-bashed through knee, then thigh, then waist deep bushes – definitely no paths here, and rarely even a sheep track heading in the right direction!  

Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

The vegetation was calf deep in most places, but there were occasions where I was bush-bashing through thigh- and waist-deep bushes as well!

It was beautiful scenery though, full of small lakes (which made a direct route impossible) and a very occasional sheep.  This is sheep country. Where were all the sheep??!!

Mountain lakes - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

And then, suddenly, after about 4km (though who really knows given I took a bit of a meandering route) – a red dot!  I was so surprised, I marked it on Maps.Me!

A trail! - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

And then another one!

A trail! - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Can you spot the red dot that indicates the hiking route?

There was still no obvious trail, and after getting all excited, that turned out to be the extent of the red dots for another kilometre at least.   I suspect I lost the “trail” (as it were) by “keeping high”, however, I did have an awesome lunch spot with a view over a large lake and out to another iceberg-filled fjord.

lunch spot - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

I finally decided to descend the mountain that I was “keeping high” on, and managed to pick up a string of red dots and an obvious trail much further down.   There were about 6 dots in a row and each one clearly visible from the previous one! 

A path! - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

I did eventually find a trail… for a while

But I celebrated too soon, and ended up bush-bashing the last of the way across to Nunataaq.  At least I could see the farm towards which I was heading though!  

Locations of red dots - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Because they were so rare, I actually marked the locations of the red dots I found on Maps.Me You can see there was an enormous gap between Sillisit (yellow marker) and the first two dots. Then another gap before I came upon a whole bunch of them AND an obvious trail. Then nothing again until I reached Nunataaq (orange marker). The other red markers mark the road to Qassiarsuk (purple marker)

Along the way, I took a detour out to what looked like it might be an amazing viewpoint over the iceberg-filled Southern Sermilik Fjord.  It was 🙂

Gorgeous views of the ice-filled fjord near Tasiusaq - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Gorgeous views of the ice-filled fjord near Tasiusaq

And a little further towards Nunataaq, I spied something that made me stop dead in my tracks in awe!  Can you see it in the image below?

Nunataaq and Glacier - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Approaching Nunataaq Farm

Can you see the enormous wall of ice??!!   I’ll give you a hint – it’s over on the back-left of the image.

That had to be a massive glacier coming down off the Greenland Ice Cap!  I was incredibly excited about the prospect of seeing it up close, but it was getting late and I still had 2 more days to explore the area, on both of which I would pass through Tasiusaq (the small community on the fjord).  So I headed up the gravel road to Qassiarsuq instead.

Road from Nunataaq to Qassiarsuk - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Road up to the pass that separates Nunataaq from Qassiarsuk

Stunning views back towards the ice-filled fjord and glacier from the top of the pass, and yet more lakes in the direction I was heading.  And some sheep!

Lakes - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Finally arrived at my farm stay (Illunnguujuk Farm) on the way into Qassiarsuq – another very comfortable shared accommodation with a lovely view – and am looking forward to seeing that glacier up close, hopefully on tomorrow’s hike!

Approaching Qassiarsuk - Sillisut to Qassiarsuk via Nunataaq - South Greenland

Approaching Qassiarsuk. The white building you can just see at right is the farm where I stayed (about 1km out of the village)

 

Distance: ~20km via the route I took

Time: ~7 hours

Notes:  do not attempt the “unmarked route” if you are not confident with navigating and would prefer to walk on some sort of a trail.

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Sillisit – South Greenland

Leaving Igaliku turned out to be quite difficult, thanks to the bad weather that had kicked up the day before on my return from the Waterfall hike.    There were 6 of us scheduled to leave, and although we hiked over the King’s Road to be at the dock at Itilleq at the appointed time, they ended up taking us back to the Igaliku Country Hotel, as the boat had been delayed due to the wind and they weren’t sure how long it would be.

We eventually left 3 hours later, but the wind was too strong to drop me at Sillisit – the sheep farm I was meant to be staying at for 2 nights, which is located just across the Tunulliarfik Fjord

Rough seas - South Greenland

Rough seas!

So I ended up back in Narsarsuaq, where I was greeted very enthusiastically by David and the 2 German couples who happened to be having beers in the Blue Ice Café.

It was determined that I would stay the night in the Narsarsuaq Hostel (another awesome, awesome hostel and another dorm room to myself) and, hopefully, the wind would die down overnight so I could be dropped at Sillisit the next morning.    In the end, I had a great night with the gang having dinner at the Hotel Narsarsuaq, so I wasn’t too bummed about missing a night across the fjord 😊

Reunion of friends - Hotel Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Next day dawned clear-ish and not too windy, so was dropped at Sillisit at 10am and shown to the Sillisit Hostel.  Yet another room to myself – I’m scoring well with these rooms!   Sat out on the front deck – which has the most amazing view over the fjord across to Itilleq – and just couldn’t bring myself to move from that spot.  

View from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Grabbed a chick-lit book I’d just started reading, and stayed put for the whole day.  Heaven!

Also talked for ages with a girl from Spain who was working at the farm.  We switched to Spanish pretty quickly and it was awesome to be able to have a long conversation and realize that I haven’t lost too much of my ability to speak that language, even though it’s been 5 months!

We both also had dinner with the owner of the sheep farm, Elna, and her family – amaaaaazing roast lamb with couscous salad and pasta, finished off by banana cake!   I think I ate more in that one meal than I’ve eaten in the past 3 days!  It was absolutely delicious though.

And sunset (at around 11pm) wasn’t too bad either!

Sunset views from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Sometimes you need a rest day 🙂

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Waterfall hike – Igaliku – South Greenland

The other main day hike from Igaliku, is the Waterfall Hike (marked in yellow on the map below), which heads off in the opposite direction to the Lakes and Plateau Hike I did yesterday. 

Hiking map and descriptions - Igaliku - South Greenland

Love that the Blue Ice hostels had these maps and descriptions prominently displayed.

I have to admit, I was less excited by this one, because after almost a year and a half of travel, it has to be a truly spectacular waterfall to make an impression.  But once the fog looked like it was clearing, I headed off again.

Tunulliarfik Fjord from the Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Tunulliarfik Fjord

The first part of this hike was mostly along a gravel road that cut through yet more sheep farms.

Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

And while it was pleasant enough walking, it wasn’t anything to write home about.  The road ended at the top of a steep hill, and after following the red dots for a while, I ended up at this small lake.

Lake - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Checking out Maps.Me (seriously awesome App), it looked like I’d already stumbled off the trail (even though the red dots led me there), and again, anticipating disappointment with the waterfalls, I decided that the string of lakes heading in the opposite direction on the map looked much more interesting.   So off I headed.

Mystery Lakes - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

This is what Maps.Me showed me. Not a lot of detail, but enough to pique my interest. I was at the top right marker and decided to follow the string of lakes to the bottom left marker – a lookout over the large lake

Very quickly, there was no trail, even though there seemed to be the occasional red dot. So, I ended up negotiating bogs (only got 1 shoe in the mud), following sheep trails that seemed to be heading in the right direction until they stopped suddenly (seriously!  How does a sheep trail suddenly stop?  I figure the aliens must like lamb and just beam them up), and bush-bashing through calf-deep vegetation – which turns out to be pretty hard going when also climbing a hill!

Bush bashing - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

OK – so you can see the sheep trail here that I followed for a bit. It soon petered out. What looks like a path going over the hill is actually the stream feeding the lake. There was no path…

Oh – and after 7 days in Greenland during the summer – I finally found the flies I’d read so much about!  Yes, you need to take a head net with you!  Because when you find them (or rather, they find you), they very quickly become unbearable!   Much worse than Aussie flies!   The trick is to remember you have the net on when you go to eat or drink 🙂

The flies! - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Doesn’t matter how daggy it looks – you need a head net if the flies find you in Greenland! My staple food throughout South Greenland – cheese, salami and crackers!

Still, it was worth the effort as the 3rd (large) lake I was aiming for was absolutely stunning – especially with the backdrop of storm clouds!    Really, the image doesn’t do it justice!

Bonus lakes - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Seriously – this view was truly amazing. The image doesn’t capture it at all!

Back-tracked to the initial lake to find the main trail again and, although the “unmarked route” on the map called to me, I decided I would go check out the waterfalls.   I quite literally almost stepped on this little guy and his brother who had decided to “hide” right on the walking track (mum was scurrying around nearby being all concerned). 

Hiding - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Can you spot him in the top left image?

As predicted, the waterfalls were a little underwhelming (not hard when your maximum altitude is ~300m above sea level)

The pick of the waterfalls - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

This was my pick of the waterfalls

So, I followed my first desire and headed back up the cliff to return to Igaliku via the “unmarked route” that skirted around Lake 380 and over the pass heading up to the top of Nuuluk.  This is where I brushed off my orienteering skills (ie map reading skills) from 20 years ago to determine via contours where I should be heading.

The views back over the lake and Tunulliarfik Fjord were totally worth the effort to climb to the pass!

Lake 380 and the view from the pass heading up to Nuuluk - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Spectacular view of Lake 380 and the Tunulliarfik Fjord from the pass heading up to Nuuluk

And once at the top, I could see Igaliku and where I needed to head.

Igaliku from the pass heading down from Nuuluk - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

I can see it! Now how do I get to it?

The question was getting down there!  Another choose-your-own-adventure ensued, but I made it down eventually, having seen some really awesome landscapes and despite the extremely strong wind that had picked up in advance of bad weather.

Nuuluk as seen from Igaliku - Waterfall Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Looking back up at Nuuluk from Igaliku

 

Distance: ~23km via the route I took

Time: ~7 hours

Notes:  Do not attempt the “unmarked route” via Lake 380 and Nuuluk if you are not confident in navigating, and want to walk on a sheep track at least.   I didn’t follow any tracks at all from Lake 380 up and over and down to Igaliku.   I didn’t see anyone else the entire journey.

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Lakes and Plateau Hike – Igaliku – South Greenland

When I arrived at the Gardar Hostel in Igaliku, one of the first things I did was consult the map of hikes in the area.   All of the hostels run by Blue Ice Explorer have the appropriate map displayed prominently in the common area, with brief descriptions of the routes alongside.   Seriously, the hostels in South Greenland are amazing!

Hiking map and descriptions - Igaliku - South Greenland

Love that the Blue Ice hostels had these maps and descriptions prominently displayed. The Lakes and Plateau Hike is marked in red.

The Lake and Plateau Hike (marked in red in the above map) is the hike everyone does when they come to Igaliku, as it ends up at an amazing viewpoint overlooking the Tunulliarfik Fjord and the Qooroq Glacier

Much like yesterday, today started off foggy, but I could see patches of blue sky appearing around 9:30am so, after a quick trip to the Pilersuisoq (grocery store chain) at 10am, I started walking.

Lake and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

The more extensive hike notes (obtained at the Igaliku Country Hotel for a deposit) said to follow the sheep trails along the shore of the fjord rather than the road, but that seemed to want me to walk straight through the middle of a new Solar Plant the 2 Danish guys who were also staying in the hostel were building, so I ended up sticking with the road.

I don’t like walking on pebbly roads 🙁  Gravel is fine.  But not pebbles!

Lake and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Walking on these pebbly roads was really awful. Straight gravel would have been great, but the pebbles made it hard going

Fortunately, this ended at a lake

Lake and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

and then the “red dots”, which (in theory) mark all the hiking routes in this area,

Red marks on rocks show the hiking routes - Igaliku - South Greenland

took me up to the plateau along sheep trails.  Much better walking!

Up to the plateau - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

More gorgeous lakes

The plateau - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

led to the viewpoint.   And it was a stunning view!

The fjord and Qooroq Glacier - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

You can see the Qooroq Glacier over on the right between the mountain and the next hill towards the middle of the image

Although still quite a distance away, the view of the Qooroq Glacier and its cast off icebergs was amazing.

Qooroq Glacier - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Oh, and I ran into these jokers up there too!  David (with the banana) was staying in the Gardar Hostel with me, and I’d met the German couple in Narsaq 🙂

Friends hanging out and admiring the Qooroq Glacier - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

The return route was via a “moon-landscape – a desert with weathered rocks and stones” (according to the trip description), where I could search for “moonstone” to add to my collection of not-Tugtupit.  Unfortunately, moonstone doesn’t actually look that different to regular old granite (the Igaliku Country Hotel had some samples on their counter), so who knows if I saw any or not.  I decided not to add to the weight of my bag in the off chance I actually got it right.

Moon Landscape - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Want some scale? Can you spot the two people in the image?

We all ended up doing a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure to find our way back to the initial trail (in theory it was marked across the moonscape, but in practice…)   And then we found the dots that led us off the road and along the fjord for our return journey to Igaliku (much nicer than walking along the road!).   It turns out we did have to walk through the middle of the Solar plant after all!

Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Oh – and you really don’t get a good understanding of just how many Trans-Atlantic flights there are every day until you do the Lakes and Plateau Hike from Igaliku!  

Trans-atlantic flights - Lakes and Plateau Hike - Igaliku - South Greenland

Seriously – there would have had to have been at least 5 contrails at any one time overhead.  It was like Pitt Street up there!

 

Distance: ~17km

Time: ~6 hours (we took 7 because we spent so long admiring the view at the lookout point 😊)

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Igaliku – South Greenland

“Don’t walk on the grass!”

This is the first thing you are told when you arrive in Igaliku, and it is an anathema to an Australian who loves walking on grass.  Of course, there is a valid reason for this directive – Igaliku is a sheep farming town and the grass is fodder for the sheep.  But they could have at least made a narrow path between the Igaliku Country Hotel (the local hang-out joint and where I had to check-in) and the Gardar Hostel (where I am staying), rather than having to always walk the long way around a very big paddock that sits right in the middle of town.

Igaliku - South Greenland

View of Igaliku and fjord. You can see the circular area in the middle of town with no buildings? That’s for sheep!

I’d arrived in Igaliku having caught my boat transfer up the fjord from Narsaq

Blue Ice boat transfers - South Greenland

This is how you get from place to place in South Greenland – boat transfers. The boats are very nice actually!

and after having walked the 4kms along the very pebbly “Kings Road” that links the dock at Itilleq (located in the same fjord as other key centres in the area) to Igaliku (which lies in a different fjord). 

Dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku - South Greenland

The red boats are those owned by Blue Ice, and were how I got around in South Greenland when not walking.

Fortunately, luggage transfer is included in my trip so I only had to carry my day pack 😊

Hiking across King's Road to Igaliku - South Greenland

Views from King’s Road on the way to Igaliku

Igaliku was one of the most important sites in Greenland during the Norse era, having been settled by Einer (Eric the Red’s best friend) in ~985AD.  The parliament and court were located here, and, once Christianity arrived, the Episcopal residence was also located in Igaliku.  The ruins of this residence, the cathedral and associated buildings (including barns that would fit 100 cattle) are located right in town, and apparently there are other Norse ruins scattered all around the area.

Norse ruins - Igaliku - South Greenland

Also, and unlike elsewhere in Greenland, many of the houses in Igaliku are constructed from the same sandstone that the Norse used 1000 years ago (literally – they raided the ruins).  Though more modern buildings, built after the introduction of the Preservation Act for Greenland in 1937, are constructed of wood.

Stone houses - Igaliku - South Greenland

Gardar Hostel is fantastic (I even have a dorm room to myself 😊), and I found packets of stew (designed for hikers – you literally put the closed packet in boiling water for 10 minutes to heat the contents up) in the Pilersuisoq (grocery store chain) here. 

Guess what is for dinner for the next 3 nights?!

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Searching for Tugtupit at Kvanefjeld – South Greenland

It turns out that Narsaq is a mecca for geology buffs (pick me! pick me!  I was actually very tempted to studying Geology rather than Astronomy at University) so I was super-excited about hiking to Kvanefjeld to search for Tugtupit (also known as “Reindeer stone”) – a rare mineral only found in a few places in the world.

The small amount of information I received about this hike suggested that I take a taxi to Narsaq Farm to cut out the first 7kms of walking – most of which I’d hiked yesterday and all of which is just along a gravel road.  But, tight-arse that I am (and in dire need of exercise), I decided to walk the whole thing: ~25km in total.

I have to admit, the walk along the road is not particularly taxing (though it does climb slowly).  Nor is it very interesting, so this waterfall (with Kuannersuit in the background) came as a very welcome distraction, and a good place for a snack after 2 hours of walking!

Kuannersuit and waterfall - Narsaq - South Greenland

It also turned out to be only 200m from the side road to the old uranium mine.  From the hike description: “In the last corner before the mine, you climb your way further up to the top of Kvanefjeld.”  Right … so straight up that vertical cliff then!

Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

Kvanefjeld is the mountain. It goes straight up! Here I am at the start of the road to the Uranium Mine.

The hike description also stated: “The best place to look for Tugtupit is from the old mine towards the top”, but I was so fixated on making sure I didn’t fall back down the cliff, that I barely had the brainpower to look for stones!  I was at the point of being genuinely worried about how I was going to get back down (all of these hikes in South Greenland, I’m doing by myself), when I stumbled on a “I-think-this-might-be-a”-path, and decided to follow it for a bit.  Before I knew it, I was on top of the mountain with amazing views back down over Narsaq Bay!

View of Narsaq Bay from top of Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

View of Narsaq Bay from the top of Kvanefjeld

It was absolutely stunning up there, with more tarns (small bodies of water trapped in the rocks) and lakes and views to the surrounding mountains, that I decided to hike along the ridge towards the peak.   I’d worry about how to get down later!

View from the top of Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

So, I walked along looking for the elusive Tugtupit and wishing that I had a geologist/gemologist/mineralogist friend with me to tell me exactly what I was looking for.  Or even just a good picture that I’d had the foresight to download off the internet when I still had access…  I’d picked up several different types of pink stones wondering if they were the right ones, but then stumbled upon a pink stone that looked a little bit “special”.   I can’t describe why it looked a little bit special – but it was a deep, semi-transparent, reddish-pink that just didn’t look like anything else I’d seen.  So, I discarded everything else and filled my pockets with the best specimens of what I hoped was Tugtupit.

Tugtupit? - Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

Is this the infamous Tugtupit?

Kept walking along admiring both the rocks at my feet (Kvanefjeld is famous for having over 200 minerals in the one place – where was my geologist friend?!) and the scenery around me.   There were even views across the fjord to the Greenland Ice Sheet!  I can’t tell you how exciting that was 🙂

Greenland icesheet from the top of Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

Looking across to the Greenland Icesheet from on top of Kvanefjeld

I made it to the summit for a late lunch and 360-degree views, which included the even higher mountains further up the valley.

Kvanefjeld trig point views - Narsaq - South Greenland

From this vantage point, I also scoped out the possibility of descending to the North through the pass between Kvanesfjeld and Ilimmaasaq (a suggestion by an Icelander I met at the hotel).   Actually, it looked to be less scary than the way I had come up, so backtracked a little and headed down that way past some more beautiful lakes.

Kvanefjeld lakes - Narsaq - South Greenland

And, indeed, it was slightly less scary.   Still bloody steep, but I decided to head over to the left, where I figured the grass would keep the rocks in place as I picked my way down.

Descent route from Kvanefjeld - Narsaq - South Greenland

It went straight down! I headed for the grass on the left. You can see the “road” below.

Managed to make it down in one piece and started the long hike back along the road towards Narsaq.

In the end, what I collected was not Tugtupit ☹  It took a couple of hours of internet searching to figure out that it was actually another rare-ish mineral called Eudialyte.  But to be honest, I actually thought it was nicer looking than the Tugtupit anyway.   And it turns out that you don’t actually have to climb the mountain to find Eudialyte.  If you walk past the turnoff to the uranium mine and look in the gravel on the river side of the road – there is plenty of it right there!    But it does mean you miss out on the glorious views and adrenaline rush.

Looking forward to turning my rock collection into jewelry whenever I get around to doing that stone cutting and polishing course followed by the silver-smithing course…

 

Distance Walked: ~25km

Time: ~8-9 hours

Note: do not attempt to climb Kvanefjeld if you are in any way even slightly unstable on your feet.  And if you have bad knees, it’s probably also not a good idea, as coming back down is a killer!

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Narsaq – South Greenland

Slept incredibly well at the Hotel Narsaq, then up to a wonderful breakfast of bread, cheese, meat, eggs (with extras packed away for lunch), cereal, tea and coffee at the hotel.   Blue Ice had described 4 hikes from Narsaq and so I decided to set out early to see if I could fit 3 of the shorter ones into the one day.

First up, the hike to the top of Tasiigaaq just behind town for the view over Narsaq Bay.   It is quite a steep climb for an altitude gain of only 450m, but only took about an hour to reach the summit.  And the view was amazing!

View of Narsaq from the top of Tasiigaaq - South Greenland

It was actually Greenland’s National Day, and while I was up there, I saw the start of the sealing competition.  About 20 boats suddenly roaring away from Narsaq harbor in various directions – all vying to be the first to return with a seal.

I half thought about hiking to the top of Qaqqarsuaq mountain (right beside Tasiigaaq, but 235m higher), but figured the view wouldn’t really be any different, and I had 3 other locations I wanted to get to that day.  So instead hiked down the trackless back side of the mountain through low, spongy bushes and headed towards the Narsaq River and Dyrnaes (the destination of another of the hikes). 

You can never really see where you are putting your feet - South Greenland

You can never really see where you are putting your feet – its very common to walk through ankle-deep shubbery

Dyrnaes is the location (apparently) of a quite extensive array of Norse ruins, however, even with the help of the map, I couldn’t make out anything that remotely looked like centuries-old structures.

Dyrnaes Norse Settlement - Narsaq - South Greenland

There are Norse ruins in there somewhere … apparently!

OK – maybe this was one … but I’m not sure.

Dyrnaes Norse Settlement - Narsaq - South Greenland

Norse ruin perhaps?

Hiked a little further around the coast to see what there was to see, and laid down on a rock for ½ hour soaking up the sun and listening to the icebergs crack.   If you hear a particularly loud crack – it’s a good indication that an iceberg will turn – I managed to see about 3 of these in the hour I was exploring this area.

 

From there it was back into Narsaq, where I joined the locals in enjoying the National Day celebrations, listening to a series of live bands.   

Entertainment - Greenland National Day - Narsaq - South Greenland

Surprisingly, 2 out of the 3 bands I heard played a mix of folk/country/Hawaiian sounding music.

 

And yes, even Greenlanders do sausage sizzles at public events!

Sausage sizzle for Greenland National Day - Narsaq - South Greenland

The third hike for the day was out to Narsaq Point (Nuugaarsuk).  This started at Landnama Farm – a Norse long house ruin from about the year 1000AD, and one of the oldest excavated in Greenland.   It is believed to be the first place Eric the Red settled before moving to Brattahlid at the end of the Tunulliarfik Fjord.   I didn’t have any trouble making out this one 😊

Landnama Farm - Narsaq - South Greenland

You can clearly make out the oval-shaped long house

From there, I followed a track along the shoreline around to the point, which has great views back up the fjord towards Narsarsuaq.

Looking back up the fjord towards Narsarsuaq - Narsaq - South Greenland

Then followed the dirt road back to Narsaq, passing lots of small bodies of water trapped in the rocks, something very similar to what I saw along the Routeburn track in New Zealand a few years ago.  For some reason, I think these are called tarns, and I always think they look amazing.

Tarns - Narsaq - South Greenland

Dinner at the Narsaq Hotel was really outstanding, and I ended up meeting a couple of young Greenlanders (one a documentary maker, the other the secretary to the Mayor of Qaqortoq – the largest town in South Greenland), who took me down to the bar and then to another public concert in the community hall.    

Great first day in Greenland!   I have to keep pinching myself to remind myself that I’m actually here!!

Can't believe I'm here - Narsaq - South Greenland

 

Distance Walked: ~15km all up via the route I took

Time: ~5-6 hours

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From Iceland to Narsarsuaq – South Greenland

After 25 years of waiting to visit, I seemed determined not to make it to Greenland!   For the second time in as many days, my brain was an hour out on timing and I went very, very close to missing my flight from Iceland to Greenland!

The first occasion was in Tehran, where I was sitting one gate over from where my flight was departing and was engrossed in writing emails.  Fortunately, it was ridiculously early in the morning and ours was the only flight leaving from that part of the terminal, so the nice Ethiad Airways man came over and asked me if I was on the Ethiad flight – and if so – well, they were going to offload me!  I was completely stricken (and must have looked so) and I pleaded with him not to do that as I had 4 interconnecting flights.  His response, “Well, you are going to miss all of them”…  But then he let me on the plane 😊

This second occasion, I had decided to catch the local bus from the Smart Hostel (fantastic hostel and dorms if you want to stay near the airport in Keflavik) so decided on a departure time in order to make it with plenty of time to spare.   Then, when I was waiting at the bus stop, I looked at my watch and suddenly had a heart-attack with the realization that it was only an hour before my flight took off!   Panic ensued, and I ended up waving down a passing car and offering them 2000ISK (~AUD$30) to take me to the airport immediately.  Fortunately, it was a lovely young lady and she did just that.  Ran into the check-in area and the lady didn’t seem anywhere near as stressed-out as I was as she tagged my bag and handed me my boarding pass.

In all my years of travelling, I’ve only gone close to missing a flight once (when they changed the gate on me and I was again distracted working on the computer) – now twice in 2 days??!!   Pay attention Lisa!

Once I was actually on the plane, the flight from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland was uneventful.  The bonus was that the plane was less than ½ full so we each had a window seat 🙂  Fortunately, the clouds cleared as we approached our destination (the weather was really crappy in Iceland) and the views were incredible!   So much ice!

Views flying from Iceland to South Greenland

Middle-right picture – can you tell what is ice/snow and what is cloud?

Then, suddenly, the uninterrupted ice and snow was replaced with a glacier and mountains that lined our approach to our landing destination: Narsarsuaq.

Approach to Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

The Narsarsuaq airport actually has an interesting history.  It was originally code-named Bluie West One, and was built in 1941 (along with many of the buildings in Narsarsuaq) to as a key base of operations for US aircraft on supply missions between America and Europe during WWII.   These days, it is the second-longest runway in Greenland and so several international flights (from Denmark and Iceland) land here in the high season for tourism.

Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

I met the lady from Blue Ice Explorer at the airport, took possession of my book of vouchers and information for the next 14 days and headed off to the harbor to catch my boat to Narsaq.

Blue Ice Explorer vouchers and information - South Greenland

Vouchers and information from Blue Ice Explorer. Fortunately all the hostels had further information on trekking options.

There were 6 of us heading there and, given the weather was stunning, I decided to sit out on the back of the boat as we made our way down the fjord.  It did get a tad chilly, but was totally worth it for the views.

Up the fjord to Narsaq from Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Our boat (top left) and some of the views heading up the fjord from Narsarsuaq to Narsaq

Arrived in Narsaq and was picked up at the port and taken to the Hotel Narsaq – it turns out I’d been upgraded 😊   Time for an early night (even though it is still broad daylight outside at 9:30pm) to see if I can catch up on some of the sleep I missed while travelling from Iran.  Time to start hiking tomorrow!

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Summary: The Central Asia Budget Overland Tour by MAdventure

Well, my two months traveling across the Silk Road on the “mechanical camel” has come to an end.   This was essentially MAdventure’s Central Asia Budget Adventure trip and, once I’d come to terms with the speed of travel (much faster than I normally move), I really, really enjoyed it!

However, it is not for everyone, and it really is “budget” in every way.  The truck is not air-conditioned or heated.

On the truck

Yes, this is me on the truck trying to keep warm in Tajikistan

You are camping about 1/2 the time (which, personally, I loved)

Campsites along the Silk Road

Just a few of the many, many campsites we had along our 2 months on the Silk Road

And you must take your turn with cooking and cleaning.

Cooking on an overland tour

Grub’s up! (top). Claire, Mick and I in Turkmenistan with our masterpiece (middle). Lauren and I in Armenia with our culinary delight (bottom)

You should not expect even basic luxuries on this trip, and it makes them all the sweeter when they do miraculously occur! 

Hotel in Ashgabat - Turkmenistan

The fanciest accommodation of the whole trip was in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

So, should you consider it?  Well that depends on whether you can cope with the following:

  • Being stinking hot
  • Being freezing cold
  • Being dusty
  • Getting dirty
  • Not showering for several days
  • Bush toilets 
  • Disgusting and smelly squat toilets at service stations and most “quick meal” places along the side of the road
  • Taking your turn at cooking
  • Not being a fussy eater
  • Taking your turn at cleaning
  • Chipping in with whatever needs to be done, when it needs to be done – in our case, this also involved building roads and digging out the truck
  • Sleeping in dorm rooms with at least 5 other people (bring earplugs – sooo many people snore!)
  • Taking your turn on a top bunk in said dorm room
  • Being bounced around in the back of a truck to the point where your teeth rattle (ie it is not for you if you have a bad back)
  • Change and uncertainty – the itinerary is what is intended, but there are no guarantees

It is also not for you if you get bored easily and are unable to entertain yourself in the back of a truck for long periods of time.  And if you have an over-inflated sense of self-importance, please, do yourself and your potential fellow travelers a favour and choose a different trip!

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