The following morning and we were out fishing on the bend again. The fish were particularly suicidal that morning, but every time we reeled on in we decided it was too large to justify as breakfast. Four released fish later we gave up and let them be.
A short paddle took us around the lake to the start of the pass to Kangerluk Fjord. It was here that we realised how much we were about to suffer! In front of us stood a seemingly endless thicket of birch trees which had so nearly beaten us the week before.
Now restocked with food our packs were brutally heavy. Harsharn, unable to even balance correctly resorted to an additional front pack to help balance the weight. He looked ungainly, particularly with the full length paddle, but it did the trick.
This high pass between Tasersuaq and Kangerluk was incredibly beautiful. With high rock walls on all sides and an azure river winding its way through green pasture it was hard to imagine a more stunning scene. Yet it didn’t give up its secrets easily. We were often left guessing at what the best route might be: A direct line from A to B? Follow the river? Zig-zag between patches of cottongrass? Go high onto the slopes? In the end we did a mix of all of them but once again, the defining experience was forcing our way through birch trees at a painstakingly slow speed. We covered the first 4 km in 4 hours.
As we hiked through this mountain paradise I couldn’t help but wish we had more time. You could have spent a week photographing this valley alone. In the image above you can just about make out waterfalls which were pouring from a lake at the head of one of the side valleys. Oh for the time and energy to have gone there!
Arriving tired we set up camp and planned a short hike for sunset. Heading up the walls of the pass we found little enthusiasm for going higher and, in a somewhat enclosed situation, enjoyed a remarkable sunset without taking a single photo!
The following day a quick glance at the map was all it took to suggest that our route down to the fjord on the opposite side would be easier than the previous day, and so it proved. A short climb over some old snow was followed by a quick descent onto a comparatively flat pasture – a hanging valley above the fjord below. Even better, a strong breeze was blowing and for once we were completely insect free – BLISS!
With the majority of the days hiking over we had a short route down to the fjord. Originally we had planned to camp at the bottom, but given that there was still plenty of daylight left we thought it would be better to crack on. I have to say, I was pretty excited about packrafting again and getting the weight off my feet!.
We started rafting with the wind at our backs and the outgoing tide helping us further. We barely even paddled but still managed to go a few miles an hour. We made camp at Issortusut, part way to Aappilattoq, which we planned to reach the following day. We spent our evening enjoying our surroundings and looking for compositions on the nearby river.
A magical sunrise greeted us the following morning. The opportunities for strong images were a little limited in the local area and, not having anticipated the light I was caught a little off guard. Ultimately the image is a little disappointing but I had long since come to realise that this trip was more about the experience than the images.
What started as an incredibly colourful sky soon became a plain, overcast sky. We packed up the tent (which was starting to get incredibly repetitive by this point) and paddled out onto calm waters, staying close to the cliff edges to give a sense of speed!
We didn’t really know what we would find at Aappilatoq – information on these remote Greenlandic settlements is comparatively thin on the ground. Stopping in this tiny village was one of our best decisions.
We pitched our tent on the edge of the village and within minutes were invited to a 66th birthday party. It would have been rude to refuse and we were soon crammed into a tiny living room full of people. Photos covered the walls and the overall decoration felt dated yet cosy. Each of these tiny houses had room for a living room, a small kitchen and a tiny bedroom or too. Some had showers, but many made do with the communal facility.
For most of the time we stood there like lemons, smiling and wishing we could speak a single word of Greenlandic. Fortunately one of the men in the room, Seth, did speak very basic English and we chatted a little. When we showed everyone our plans for the following days they looked concerned “Bear here two days” was one phrase that caught our ears. After a while trying to figure out exactly what was being said, we discovered that two days previously a polar bear had been seen swimming in the fjord. They asked if we had a gun.
We had plenty of questions: How long do polar bears hang around for? What’s the probability that it would be there when we paddled through? What should we do if we see a polar bear? Nothing really got through, the language barrier was simply too great. Eventually the response came “YES, polar bear VERY dangerous, Big Teeth, Big Claws!” accompanied with wonderfully dramatic miming.
Harsharn was excited to see a bear and said something to the effect of “Wouldn’t it be great to spot one in the fjord!?”
“NO” came the response, clearly Harsharn had taken leave of his senses!
That afternoon we went on a little food shop. Everything was expensive, but that didn’t stop us buying a few luxury items for dinner. The wine and pizza went down very well indeed! Attached to the shop was the post office complete with an internet connection. We asked for a weather forecast. 60mph winds were forecasted for the following day, and, with boats the only way of accessing the village and no route out we were completely stuck! HOORAY!
Back at the tent we looked over to a large flat gravel area where two boys were having a kick about. Keen to take part in a bona fide international football match I suggested to Harsharn that we head over. I blame my hiking boots mostly, but the final score finished 10-0 under the watchful eyes of half the village. The teams grew larger for the second game but we were clearly a disadvantage to whatever team we were on. Seth, who it turned out was father of one of the boys, invited us back to his house so we could shower. He regaled us of how the village football team were regional champions. We felt better.
After eating I headed up to a viewpoint over the village, finding myself briefly joined by a couple of locals on an evening stroll. It was remarkable to see just how isolated the settlement was.
That night the wind picked up and the rain fell. I couldnt have been happier to be camped low down with an enforced rest day ahead.