The edge of the freeze

At 180km inland, Kangerlussuaq is the most inland and thus coldest and warmest of the inhabited Greenlandic settlements. If anything, it was at least a welcome (but belated) explanation for the moment of horror that TC and I had when we first found out in Stockholm that the temperature was a whopping -36 deg. Celsius and thought that the weather app was at its most cynical self. It wasn’t the most romanticised introduction of Greenland – and definitely one not of the idyllic kayak-vacationer weaving his way among the floating icebergs, but a realistic cold-cock to the face that made us go on a pants/gloves buying spree in Copenhagen.

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Repeated checks of the weather yielded the same results and grudgingly, we admitted that we were entirely unprepared for the brutal weather, even from that short walk from plane to airport, the latter of which is like a bus stop and a cafeteria stop for world weary and jet-lagged people.

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Surreal and soulless but for the fabulous ice-cap 40 kilometres away, Kangerlussuaq grew out of the remnants of an ex-military base that served several . Most tourist activities are simply little drives (or what’s better known as the ‘Tundra Safari’ and ’Sightseeing in Town’) in modified heavy-vehicles on the roads that snake in and out of the town centre.

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There are empty, old ‘hotel’ buildings for stranded tourists and the Polar Lodge, my accommodation for 2 nights, is a staggering 50 metres walk from the runway. Several tour groups following different itineraries are cramped into this space and with only a harried-looking guide coordinating the activities, mix-ups are common and frequent. We were told to go for a briefing at the wrong time, only to find out that the briefing we were meant to be at was already over. A poor guy got left behind during the first sight-seeing tour and dinner at Rokklubben restaurant felt more like army boot camp mealtime with Christmas lights. The chef had a black eye and since we don’t speak Danish at all, it was fun speculating how he got it. Maybe a customer didn’t like his food enough?

Seeing the Northern lights was a treat and the driver happily got himself drunk on Greenlandic coffee (a mix of whisky, grand marnier, kahlua, a little coffee and cream) as he drove us back. The Danes (un)fortunately reign supreme here – both tourists and inhabitants and English is an afterthought, which is getting to be an annoyance when jokes, stories and presentations are made in Danish and left untranslated.

After-note: I wished that we’d a few more options when it came to choosing accommodation, instead of packing ourselves into Polar Lodge which seemed to be the favourite (or only) choice of World of Greenland. There was Hotel Kangerlussuaq, whose entrance and cafe are weirdly shared with the airport entrance and a spick-and-span youth hostel on the other side of town run by the tourist office. 

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