Ever been so utterly enchanted with something that you lose track of time?
If not, then I implore you to book a winter flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq – and by god, make sure you have the window seat.
After a pleasant four-hour flight (Air Greenland – you bloody rock) it was time to descend into the major airport hub for Greenland – Kangerlussuaq. During my last trip to Greenland, my time in planes was spent iceberg spotting, but this time, all I could see was a seemingly endless sheet of ice. The way the sun rose over the ice cap and the natural valley of the tiny town was the kind of beautiful that no words can describe. Utterly magical is about as close as I can think of. It was so bloody gorgeous that I didn’t take pictures of it. Taking pictures would require me to get my camera out, and doing that would require me to take my eyes away from the view out the window, and honestly, that just was not an option.
Finally, I had come back to my most favourite country on Earth.
Finally, I was home again.
As I stepped off the plane into the -39°C arctic tundra (although it felt like -51°C with wind chill – at least according to my weather app) I couldn’t tear the smile from my face. Even the instant headache that one gets with the shock of being exposed to such an extreme temperature couldn’t get me down, and it wore off after a few minutes anyway.
I quickly picked up my backpack, walked to my nearby lodgings and rugged myself up before going off to do a little exploring.
If you have never experienced such extreme temperatures, let me say that it isn’t as unpleasant as it sounds. Sure, your eyelashes, eyebrows and hair all go white with frost, and yes, your nose will run like a tap, and yeah, if you take your hands out of your gloves for more than thirty seconds it will be downright painful; but overall, if you have the right gear, it really isn’t that bad.
However, as the mercury drops, be prepared for your photographic equipment to feel the struggle. My poor 7-14mm lens started completely freezing, and my iPhone got so cold that I couldn’t lock the damn thing – the button had frozen solid! Once inside everything defrosts back to normal – but it takes a bit of time to work out how much your gear can handle, and ways to help it go that extra mile.
After some morning exploring and an afternoon nap (jetlag is a cruel mistress) it was time for me to head out with World of Greenland Arctic Circle and see if I could find some Northern Lights.
Unfortunately, the weather gods decided to make the skies so cloudy that I couldn’t even make out stars, so I knew from the get-go that I was not going to see the Aurora.
I was prepared to just head back to the Polar Lodge and hit the hay, but my tour guide had other ideas. I was the only one on the tour and he was an attractive young Danish guy – now, if you have been following this blog since the last Greenland series, then this story might sound eerily familiar.
I mean seriously, why is it that I can go months in Australia without a guy so much as offering to buy me a drink, but I can’t be in Greenland for more than 5 minutes before a Danish guy asks me to ‘hang out’?
Mr Danish Tour Guide #2 and I ended up just talking and driving around the town for a bit. We said hello to some big sledge dogs, drove up a hill to see the town from above, and visited the Kangerlussuaq Museum after hours.
It ended up being a rather fun evening, and I learnt a tonne about the towns history. At first glance, one could mistake Kangerlussuaq for being nothing more than an airport with a few things built around it – but in reality, it is so much more than that.
For example, I had no idea that Kangerlussuaq is home to a military base that was built by the US during the second world war. The Americans needed a place to stop and refuel their planes en route to Germany, and Kangerlussuaq was a perfect place to do so. The town is built in a natural kind of valley, and as such, it is extremely rare to get weather conditions that would prevent planes from being able to land.
In the 1990’s The United States ended up selling this military base back to the people of Greenland for the very reasonable price of $1 – but this was only on the condition that at any time the US military could return to Greenland and reinhabit the base – should a need arise.
Eventually I became rather tuckered out, so Mr Danish Tour Guide drove me back to my hotel – I needed a good nights sleep so that I had the energy to go and explore the Greenland ice cap the next day!
Getting to Kangerlussuaq: Air Greenland flies directly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq all year round, a one way flight will set you back approximately $500
Getting out of the Airport: Most accommodation is within walking distance, however the cheapest accommodation (Old Camp) is a fair hike – contact them to arrange a pick up if this is where you plan on staying
Polar Lodge: A no frills option that is kinda a blend of a hostel and hotel. It may be a little rundown, but it is kept well warmed and the beds are comfy. A single room will set you back $190/night
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens and M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2/8 lens
Northern Lights Tour: Run by World of Greenland Arctic Circle, click here to learn more
Remember: Kangerlussuaq is further inland than many of the coastal towns in Greenland, and it gets bloody cold! Be prepared to rug up.