Search Results for: south greenland

Qooroq Ice Fjord – South Greenland

My final excursion in South Greenland was a boat trip out to the Qooroq Ice Fjord to see the calving glacier.  Unfortunately, I was the only one going on this particular day, so it was a small, fast boat out, and a rather solitary experience 🙁

Qooroq Ice Fjord boat tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Just me and the captain!

On the way across to the glacier, however, we did swing by some of the larger icebergs in the Tunulliarfik Fjord for a closer look.   Although I’ve see a lot of icebergs in the past couple of years both in Patagonia and Antarctica, I never get tired of them.

Large icebergs - Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Then it was on to the glacier itself.  Apparently, we got a lot closer than what most trips get (having a smaller boat and all), but we were still 6km away! 

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

As close as you go. And we got closer than most!

I had expected to get right up to it like you do with the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, so I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

But, just because I was the only passenger didn’t mean that I missed out on my cocktail with a chunk of million-year-old ice in it.   I initially opted for water, but then thought “stuff it” and had a very small sip of the proffered pre-mixed martini.   Hmmm… I don’t think I’ll be ordering one of those anytime soon … I admit, most of it got tipped overboard!

Million-year-old ice in a drink - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

After enjoying the peace and quiet for a little while, it was back to Narsarsuaq to get ready for my flight to Nuuk.

Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Goodbye South Greenland.  It has been a lot of fun!

 

Time: ~1.5 hours (though if you have other people, you get a bigger boat and it can take up to 3.5hrs)

Notes:  You don’t really get that close to the glacier.  If you have the chance – I’d suggest doing the boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentinian Patagonia.  It is infinitely more spectacular.

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Narsarsuaq Glacier hike – South Greenland

The weather in Greenland can be a little like the weather in Melbourne.   When I set out on the Narsarsuaq Glacier hike (green trail in the below map) at 8:30am it was very overcast and started to spit with rain.  By the time I started the return journey at 11:30am, it was bright sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky.  By the time I got back at 1:30pm, it was overcast again.   You have to be prepared for all weather!

Narsarsuaq hikes - South Greenland

The first several kms of this hike, I have to admit, are pretty boring.  You simply follow the flat, bitumen road out of town through the Hospital Valley.  There’s not that much to see – a big hill on the right, a smaller hill (where the Ridge Hike goes) and a small lake on the left, and eventually, a chimney which, I can only assume, used to be part of a hospital.

Hospital Valley - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

I guess the chimney is all that is left of the hospital?

When the bitumen ends, well, you can probably guess what follows if you’ve been following all my posts from South Greenland

Narsarsuaq Glacier hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Bloody pebbly roads!

Another pebbly gravel road! 🙁   Actually, this one wasn’t too bad because the pebbles were larger and it was actually possible to walk beside the road for a lot of it.   

This went over a small pass, at the bottom of which was the Flower Valley

Flower Valley - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Looking back at the pass to Narsarsuaq from Flower Valley

After some more nice, flat walking with the occasional stream jump thrown in for good measure, you arrive at a waterfall and the almost vertical path (with ropes!) to take you up to the viewpoint over the glacier.

The ascent to the Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

Yes, it is steep!

I think I mentioned this in a previous blog post somewhere – I actually prefer this type of hiking (where you end up using your hands and your feet to climb) as opposed to just an uphill slog – and in this case, it was only about a 250m vertical climb.    Lots more flowers similar to yesterday’s hike, and some pretty spectacular views back towards Narsarsuaq!

View back towards Narsarsuaq on the way up to the viewpoint - South Greenland

View back towards Narsarsuaq from about 2/3 of the way up to the viewpoint

At the top, there is a very picturesque lake which, unfortunately, the mosquitoes also find to be quite a good place to hang out.  It turns out that my 50 cent insect repellent from Iran does work quite well, and again, thank you head net!  😊 

Lakes on the way to the Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

Then a little further along – the viewpoint of the Narsarsuaq Glacier.

Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

I love glaciers!

It is a gorgeous place, and really, you can never marvel at too many glaciers!    

I decided not to do the hike down to the Glacier itself.  The ice looked pretty dirty and I’d been up close and very personal with the Viedma Glacier in Argentina a few years ago when I went ice climbing there (sorry – before I started blogging 🙁 ).  My recommendation: if you really want to explore a glacier – go ice climbing (not ice hiking) – you have to hike on the ice to get out to the crevasses anyway!  

So, admired the view from the top for quite a while, then headed back to relax in the amazing Narsarsuaq Hostel (seriously – all the hostels in South Greenland are incredible!) and read some more of my book, and watch another couple of episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6 😊  Yes, I am a year behind…

And just for fun – look who was there to greet me when I got back!   Yes, even the dogs wear head nets in Greenland to save them from the insects 🙂

Head net on a dog - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

 

Distance: ~14km

Time: ~5 hours (I didn’t hike down to the glacier, only to the viewpoint)

Notes:  If you are at all unsteady on your feet, this is not the hike for you.   The up-and-over the waterfall to the viewpoint is very steep (there are ropes to help you) so if you don’t like using your hands as well as your feet while you hike, best do the Ridge Hike instead.

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Ridge Hike – Narsarsuaq – South Greenland

My transfer from Qassiarsuk to Narsarsuaq didn’t leave until 2pm, which meant that I didn’t really have time to do much of a hike at either place, despite the glorious weather!   Fortunately, the Ridge Hike (yellow in the below map) from Narsarsuaq is a relatively short hike up to a view of the Narsarsuaq Glacier (Kiattuut Sermiat), so I decided I would head out and do that one when I arrived.

Narsarsuaq hikes - South Greenland

Unlike some of the hikes I’ve done in previous days, it is a very easy trail to follow (no red dots, no need to follow contours) and the walking is not strenuous.  There was also tons of relatively tall vegetation lining the way – something very different to what I’ve become accustomed to over the past week or so.

You can't really miss the trail for the Ridge Hike

The Ridge Hike has a very easy-to-follow trail.

The added bonus – many of the wildflowers were out (Greenland has a lot them in the right season), so I took my time stopping and photographing them along the way.  “To stop and smell the roses, no matter what” is a philosophy I adopted about 2 years ago, and although these weren’t roses and didn’t have a smell, they were very pretty 😊  

Wildflowers - Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

In the end, the viewpoint overlooks the river, and the face of the glacier is hidden behind more rocky outcrops.

View from the Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Still, it is a nice view of the sheet of ice with some spectacular-looking mountains in the background.

View of the glacier and mountains - the Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

So a nice gentle hike today – ready for the full hike to the face of the Narsarsuaq Glacier tomorrow 😊

 

Distance: ~7km

Time: ~2.5 hours

Notes:  Stop and admire the flowers 😊

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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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