Most travellers will share stories about that one trip or experience that changed their lives forever. For me, that moment was a trip to Greenland.
Travel to: Greenland
But first, let me rewind and tell you a bit more about myself and how I got the chance to explore the coolest (or chillest!) island on Earth.
I hate hiking and really hate the cold
At first glance, I appear to be a rather tall and slender woman, one who you would assume partakes in regular physical activity and enjoys it. On both counts, you would be very wrong. My Sub-Saharan African genetics are to blame for my misleading physique and faux-fit demeanour. In fact, I can count how many times I’ve been to the gym and supposedly worked it out on one hand (which isn’t a huge bragging point – trust me).
When I found out that I had the opportunity to embark on an epic adventure to Greenland you could only imagine my reaction. I was well and truly terrified. Do people go to Greenland? Will it be cold? How active will this trip be? Am I going to survive? This, of course, was followed by a series of prayers begging God to give me the strength and stamina to survive seven days in one of the most remote places on Earth. Did I mention that I really hate the cold?
Bring layers, lots and lots of layers! I travelled around Greenland during summer, so when the sun was out it was hot, but as soon as it dipped behind a cloud I got cold very quickly, so it’s important to have multiple layers to strip on and off.
For me, Greenland is all about the landscapes. It has this raw rugged beauty you just can’t find anywhere else in the world, and wherever you turn you’re greeted with the most incredible views. It’s rare to find a country so untouched by mankind, yet in Greenland nature rules. Because of that it’s a very humbling experience travelling there. – Macca, An Adventurous World
How to (mentally) prepare for a trip to Greenland
You might not be surprised to know that my first thoughts weren’t about how I would prepare, or what I would pack. It was, “Does this mean I have to give up on my daily Tim Hortons Iced Capp?” I mean, giving up my daily habit and formidable routine in trade of visiting a freezing cold, hiking-friendly, glacier-filled, remote and mysterious destination? Not as easy as it might sound!
After about a week or so of pretending that I didn’t need to make some serious life changes (you know, kick my daily Iced Capp addiction) before my trip, I did what most logical people do. I researched. For hours. First, I scoured the internet for everything from what the weather in Greenland would be like in July to whether mosquitoes can survive in Greenland and more.
Then, I spent more time than I’d like to admit to watching YouTube videos that had the slightest mention of Greenland. Next, I binge-watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty three times only to later find out that the scenes said to have been shot in Greenland were actually shot in Iceland. Imagine my dismay when this fact was revealed to me in Greenland (whoops).
I read every blog post I could get my hands on about hiking and eventually went out to buy my first pair of sturdy hiking boots (because hiking in Nike runners is not ideal). I honed my hiking skills every chance I got. How I hear you ask? It’s easy, I just began taking the stairs everywhere I went and occasionally taking a break when needed because that’s what hikers do, right? I even changed my diet which previously consisted of 97% sugar, 3% water and began taking iron supplements to ensure that I wouldn’t meet my end in the land up North.
Arriving in Greenland, aka the moment I fell in love
As the months and weeks leading up to my trip quickly turned into days and hours, the excitement slowly began to creep back in. My response to questions about my trip started to sound less oh-my-god-I-am-going-to-die-in-Greenland to OH-MY-GOD-I-AM-GOING-TO-GREENLAND! How many people in the world can actually say that they’ve been? It was this thought that comforted me as I set off to Nuuk in one of the tiny Dash-8 airplanes that makes up Air Greenland’s fleet.
I can’t begin to adequately describe the sheer beauty that meets your eyes as you fly over Greenland. Nothing will ever compare to looking down into a sea of icebergs floating along, or curving around giant mountains that seem to gracefully emerge out of the water and stretch as far as the eye can see. Sure, the thought of landing between two giant cliffs onto a runway that is a mere 950-metres long was seriously nerve-wracking even for the most level-headed of travellers, but the breathtaking sights that surround you make up for it.
I was completely awe-struck and enamoured with Greenland by the time we landed. Nothing could come between us, nothing could tear us apart. Not even the nine mosquitoes that I may have accidentally swallowed as we stepped off the aircraft.
You know that feeling you get when you’re about to open your birthday presents? That excited feeling of sheer possibility? Hope? The feeling that no matter what lies ahead, you’ll be happy? That was how every minute in Greenland felt.
Plan to spend at least 2 weeks exploring Greenland, and don’t think of it as a side trip from Iceland or a stop-over destination. It is a huge island and transportation is not easy (I traveled by small planes, helicopters and boats). Going to see just the capital city of Nuuk would not mean you have seen what Greenland really offers. You must stay in an igloo hotel overlooking Ilulissat’s ice fjords, trek Kangerlussuaq’s ice sheets, sail among blue ice in Narsarsuaq, and experience the local culture in Qaqortoq. Also, carry a lot of snacks! Food is very expensive and there are not a lot of restaurants outside Nuuk.
Greenland is such a remote destination that it feels like you have reached a different planet. I loved being surrounded by nature (glaciers, mountains, grasslands, sheep farms), breathing fresh clean air and not seeing many people. Everywhere I looked there was so much beauty! It is the first time I saw the northern lights, humpback whales and icebergs the size of a house! – Sucheta, Beato Goes to Greenland
When in Greenland, hike, boat and do as the locals do
As the week progressed, I began feeling more attached to this crazy country than I ever had before.
As I hiked the 9-kilometre, 12,000 plus steps trail of Lille Malene in Nuuk, I wasn’t terrified that I would fall off the side of the mountain, or that my legs would give out from the effort. I was at peace, slightly wheezing, but generally at peace.
As I sailed through massive icebergs in the fjord, I was excited to be cruising past giant frozen chunks of history, not thinking about how long it takes to get frostbite (and to be fair, it wasn’t that cold).
As I made it to the top of a small hill in what is aptly named Mosquito Valley that overlooks the famous colourful houses of Nuuk, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was being feasted on by mosquitoes on steroids, I was inspired by how magnificent the midnight sun was.
Everything I did in Greenland was something I thought I would never do before. I never saw myself going deep-sea Arctic fishing and not only catching a couple of fish but later feasting on the fruits of my labour.
Was I freezing cold when in Greenland? Yes, without a doubt 95% of the time. Could it have been the fact that I am iron deficient? Most likely.
But am I a different person having explored a small part of a beautiful big country? Absolutely.
Is Greenland at the top of your bucket list? Read here for 18 Bucket List Adventures You Need to Experience in 2018.