“I will give you four tips for your time in Iceland, I give these to everybody and they are free:
Number one; you can drink the water straight from the tap.
Number two; You never need to tip anybody whilst in Iceland.
Number three; Only ever buy beer from the supermarket.
Number four; you can use your credit card everywhere.”
The taxi driver taking us from Reykjavík international to the smaller domestic airport that flies to Greenland hadn’t seemed to grasp when we told him we only had a few hours in the country. With eight bags laden with kit, four pulkas and 2 sets of skis we were hardly traveling light and were penned into our seats by a mountain of expedition equipment. Glancing at Louis who rolled his eyes I grimaced whilst our driver veered between lanes as he turned his attention back from us to the wildlife documentary he was watching on his phone. Relieved to survive the journey we overnighted by the airport.
After a few hours sleep and some breakfast, we checked our gear in for our flight to Greenland. The girl behind the baggage counter smiled at us as she handed us our boarding cards without charging us anything in excess weight which had us smiling from ear to ear as we boarded the plane.
Taking off we left the mist swept volcanoes behind, and stared out our window in awe as icebergs began to speckle the sea. Approaching Greenland a wall of mountains and ice greeted us, that ice would soon be our home for the next few weeks. Excitement spiced with fear at the task that awaits.
Reunited with our gear we sat under the ominous glare of a skinned polar bear as we waited for our helicopter into Tasilaaq. The terminal milled with tourists and locals alike, many of the latter were already on the hard liquor despite only 10:15am .
We boarded our first helicopter since the chinooks that took us out of Helmand 7 years ago and flew to the small town of Tasilaaq where we are staying for 2 days to arrange transport to our start location, and sort the last few things we need before we leave.
The number one concern on both our minds was getting our hands on a firearm. The risk presented to us by polar bears in Greenland is minimal, and only really during our first two days whilst we make our way onto the ice cap. However, taking a chance with something like that is beyond what the Mad Explorers would dub an acceptable risk. That and having a shooter makes for plenty of “Gucci phots”
After leaving our bags in our hotel we wandered through the small settlement. It was an arrangement of painted sheet metal buildings that contrasted beautifully with the towering mountains that encircled the natural harbour they were sat next to. Walking into the towns department store we browsed through the selection of weapons on offer before asking a local what he recommended for bear protection. Seek local knowledge (those who know, know)
After getting the other necessary bits, we spent the following day cracking a monumental kit muster and tinkering with the last remaining bits of equipment. With everything in place we are due to travel to our start point this morning, and from there across the crevasse filled ice fields onto the ice cap.
Our time in Tasilaaq has been short but pleasant, it is a beautiful place with many very friendly people.
There is however a very tragic undercurrent that is present here. Greenland has the highest suicide rate on earth, and Tasilaaq has the highest rate in all of Greenland. Without someone knowing this it may not be apparent but it is clear something is not right. Many locals are drunk on the streets throughout the day, and wonder almost lost as If void of purpose.
As with many places we have visited on our journeys, the local population have face a huge change over the past 60years. The upheaval of a nomadic hunter gatherer culture to one based around western economics in such a short space of time never works well anywhere, and many of the locals in Greenland have been left behind in a world that revolves around money. That coupled with readily available hard liquor and firearms has had a dramatically tragic effect on the Inuit population in Greenland. We witnessed a similar thing in Papua New Guinea however the difference was that this social change had bought about much more violence between the communities. It is a sad affair but thankfully one that is starting to be addressed by the authorities and community leaders within Greenland.
Well that’s it for now, we will endeavour to keep you updated as we make our way across the ice. Thanks as always for following, we both truly appreciate it and look forward to sharing our adventure with you all.
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