A weekend in Kangerlussuaq

The back country of Kangerlussuaq is a mosaic of gorgeous dry tundra, arctic flowers, skulls and fleeting wildlife. Unlike all of the other coastal towns, it is an inland destination like nowhere else I’ve seen in Greenland.

Ironically, Kangerlussuaq was where I first landed in Greenland 2.5 years ago to start a new life. I was supposed to fly straight to Nuuk but then my flight got delayed by 7 hours. Not knowing what was available just outside the door, I sat immobile in the airport with too many pieces of luggage to handle…

Because of the minimal information at the airport of what one can do in the area, it is easy to discard Kangerlussuaq as a place just to catch a plane. A former army base for the US Defence Force, the Americans left a few decades ago and 500 locals now live here mainly servicing Greenland’s main airport. There are a few tours available with WOGAC (ice cap tours) and Greenland Outdoors (kayaking and hiking tours), but it is also possible to do things yourself. If you do get the chance to visit the area’s surroundings I think you will enjoy it.

J and I suddenly had a weekend to explore the Kangerlussuaq area by ourselves this July. With some help and direction from Jens Pavia from Greenland Outdoors, we headed about 13 kilometres out of town and hiked up to a plateau by Lake Ferguson. Gradually the dirt roads and lego-lookalike buildings of Kangerlussuaq transitioned into lush green landscapes, rolling hills, and pristine waters. I felt like I was transported to the Scottish highlands… but a musk ox cantering by quickly swiped that idea away!

Hiking and carrying everything including your own food, tent and sleeping bag on your back was a totally new experience for me. Unlike some of my friends in Australia, I did not grow up camping. In fact, I remember that my father was a little nervous about the idea in general. So it was only when we grew a little older that my girlfriends and I began to go ‘soft camping’, staying at parks where shared bathroom and kitchen facilities were available. It was totally organised in comparison which made it easier in some ways, but on the other hand we didn’t see another living soul the entire time we were out in the tundra. There’s also something soothing about that.

Anyway, we decided to keep it simple and just go hiking and fishing. There were millions of mosquitoes (apparently July is the worst month) so we returned one day earlier and took a tour to the Greenland Ice Sheet. Called Ice Cap Point 660, the tour is surprisingly good value for money, also because one can drive on a road all the way out to the ice cap…thank you Americans!

If you only have a moment to spare in Kangeroo-suaq (as it has been dubbed), drop by a few cute shops located right outside the airport. Boutiques such as Butik Frydkjær and Shop Arctic – Vivips offer mostly musk ox inspired arts and crafts and seal skin products. Chat with the friendly women at the stores and you will gain a sense of what life is like in Greenland, too. You’ll soon understand why they call Kangerlussuaq home.

PS Thank you for all our friends who helped us to loan things at the last moment.

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