Rodebay 8 Hour Hike to Ilulissat-Last Full day in Greenland

My last full day in Greenland was yet another adventure…I tend to get antsy to get home about 3 days before if I am traveling for 3 weeks or more…so I decided to plan something to look forward to on my last full day so I would have it to look forward to…I booked a small boat to take me about 45 minutes north(about 26km or a little over 16 miles) to a very typical Greenlandic Village called Rodebay. Instead of taking the boat back, I hiked back to Ilulissat…16 miles may not seem like a lot  but the terrain was typical Greenland…up and down and all around with lots of mushy parts where snow is finally melting…it usually takes between 6-8 hours…I was so excited and thought the last day was great because I was in the best shape after all my other hiking AND anything that happens will be at the end! (-:

I headed to the dock where a wonderful Greenlander named Ole in a very small motorboat(small for this area that is)picked me up and off we went traversing between the Icebergs and occasionally hitting some ice…he spoke English quite well, which is an anomaly…most people here who speak English are the Danes, who run most of the tourism…He was telling me that the Locals think it’s funny how we marvel at the Ice Bergs because they find them frustrating…many boats are damaged and it’s quite costly…Again, the Ice Cap covers most of Greenland and there are tongues that jut out all over…like the one in Eqip Sermia…Ilulissat has a large tongue(entrance to the Cap)…and it is retreating at 50km per day, whereas the Eqip Sermia is retreating at 2 km per day…which is why there are so many large Ice Bergs in the Ilulissat Bay…While at Eqi Camp I saw a small cavern become a very large one in just 3 days….The cracklings of the breaking of the Ice off is quite intense…sometimes it’s thunderous and some times it sounds like an explosion…both Ole and the woman who runs my hotel told me a few years ago, a large piece broke off and caused a huge Tsunami that went over one of the coastal hills…some of these Ice bergs are kilometres long and wide…Their size in this bay is quite unusual. Everyone here, including all the scientists studying the Icel levels & the retreat know that Climate Change is real and are quite baffled at how mainly Americans question it…here it is NOT political…it is fact…if you can see the ice retreat at record pace with your own eyes, there is no question…now that is not saying there is not a natural ebb and flow to the ice. But there is no question that pollution is causing great damage and the fear is if nothing is done, the retreat could become irreversible. Since the greenlanders are so dependent on this Ice, they worry a great deal about the changes the retreat is already causing with the Mammals and Marine life.

Once we arrived in the lovely little village of Rodebay, Ole put me gently on the dock and then did something very unexpected…he gave me his phone number and asked me to call him when I returned to the hotel because he was quite concerned I was hiking back alone…he feared I would get lost…hahaha…someone must have warned him of my abiding lack of direction! What was so surprising, is that most people just send you on your merry way and assume you are capable to take care of yourself…in the States, everyone is always so concerned about liability that it is almost impossible to feel lost or truly on your own…and then there is always wifi in an emergency…Here that doesn’t exist in most places and I don’t think they would know what Liability is…This is one of the best things I have enjoyed about both Iceland and Greenland…they just send you on you way…no signing documents or feeling like your hand has to be held…a true adventure…truly able to get really lost!

Rodebay is a very small town between 2 Bays filled with very large and small Ice Bergs…it’s had an amazing population growth…went from 25 residents to 37!! I am telling you there is no birthrate issue here. I immediately ran into some of the people I was a Eqi Camp with, including Margit, the 79 year old I did the hike with…A group of them stayed at the local Hostel…8 to a room, Margit informed me…funny that none were aware of the Hotel Rodalys(Ole runs it…I read about it on a blog on trip Advisor and that’s what gave me the idea of the hike)…at least there you could have their own room and I think there is even a flush toilet…the hostel had dry toilets(no running water) and the flush one was across town and cost 2 danish Krona to use and a shower for 5 Kr…After exploring town, I went to the hostel where I was told they would make me a sandwich to take…but I soon discovered that I had been misdirected…Good thing I brought some power bars and cookies and 2 chocolate bars….that would hold me over for an 8 hour hike…especially since I was told it was fairly easy…yep,  another misdirection….what the Greenlanders and the local Danes think is easy…definitely is not! And certainly not for a Florida girl who considers strolling on a beach easy!

I asked the nice Danish proprietor of the hostel where to get the trail…and he directed me to walk out of town a bit to the cemetery and I’ll find it to the left…oh goody, I love cemeteries…this bodes well for my journey…I had been told there really wasn’t a trail but that as long as I kept the water on my left…or was it my right? Hmmm… that was my first dilemma…it was on both sides but I needed to be on one or the other and could not remember which …and, of course, I didn’t have a map…BUT I had looked at one at the Eqi Camp and knew I needed to head south away from Rodebay…and remembered how the boat came…the only ways to get to Rodebay is via Boat or Walk…or in Winter, you can add Dog Sled or Snow Mobile…NO Cars…No Roads…lots of rocks and small boulders

I saw a little trail and then to my happiness, I saw a big Orange Circle that marked a trail…so I followed…yay there would be markers…the circle headed up a rock cliff…oh boy…another height challenge…but at least these rocks had moss growing on them to grab…and then the mosquitoes hit…and suddenly I was swarmed by them…I guess they were fully awake now from their slumber…all that buzzing got my head a bit off kilter and before I knew it, I had lost all sight of any Orange circles…I went back down to be sure this was the correct trail and there was the Orange Circle, just as the Danes taught me at the Eqi Camp…follow the colored markers…so back up I went and since I saw these circles on tiny ledges that were considered “Hiking Trails” at the ice cap and ventured on with complete confidence I was OK…Yeah…this is where my issue with being directionally challenged comes into play. The Circles disappeared as I was literally grasping a small piece of moss, telling myself, it would hold me! I clutched a rock, petrified to move…I was to far along the tiny ledge to comfortably climb down…or up for that matter…instead, I did what I kept telling myself NOT to do…I looked down into the Fjord that was very very far down with craggy boulders to greet me if I fell. I took a deep breath and turned my head to see if Ole with the boat was still there. Sadly, he was gone & so was any alternative option I had to return to my comfortable Hotel in Ilulissat. I continued to cling to the Rocks & Moss as I pondered my situation. I did what I did in the Nepali hospital, when I was scared that I would not return to tell my story. I closed my eyes and breathed deep until I stopped feeling my heart trying to exit my body. Then I created an image that propelled me forward with great gusto. I imagined the entire town of 37 people were at the little Hotel/Hostel and were watching me. And I imagined they were saying things like, “I can’t believe she followed your crazy directions”…”Let’s make a bet”…”Who bets she falls?” “Who bets she makes it up?”…Yep, this fictional story i was creating was helping me find each foothold, as I imagined proving the whole town wrong…I would make it up! And, to my own surprise I did…but it definitely was not pretty!

Once at the top I began to hop from Boulder to boulder…Ocean on the left….right? I wandered for awhile and realized that I, already, was lost…this was definitely not a good start & I am not counting the complete misdirection that caused me to scale a rock face!…. I soldiered on…and after a good hour of moving over terrain that was certainly NOT easy, I decided to climb to the highest area, pull out my camera and use the zoom to look for any orange marking I could find…great idea…in theory…but it seems much of the rocks are Orange under that lovely green moss…and then, I saw it…not an Orange Marker but one of those Stone Markers…I decided that at least was a trail…or at least someone had walked it…and I was certainly safer on that then hovering over the cliffs…so off I went  across to the other side, where now the water would be on my right! Within 15 minutes of walking I saw what made me so very happy…an Orange Dot painted on a rock! On the trail again…yay…and then another…now I could relax…I wandered on and on and on…I was about an hour behind because of my my little detour but all was good now. The scenery was breathtaking and I was totally alone…When I looked back I could still see Rodebay far in the distance…and I saw a boat of a few people getting off and wondered if any of them were going to try this hike…I know of 2 who did it over the weekend but most don’t want to take the time…I will say it was beautiful…and so quiet…I would stop every so often just to take in the amazing view of mountains meeting ice bergs…and then those obnoxious mosquitoes would interfere with their buzzing…I pulled out my baseball hat(no I couldn’t do the safari hat thing here) and put on my very attractive mosquito net(sarcasm!)…but glad I could finally put it to use…and now I could relax with those little buggers swarming my head…Being on top of these rocks, the sun was beating down…and even though it was 45 degrees or so, I was sweating and very hot…Off came the wind breaker…then my top layer…if I could have gone topless, I would have…but I didn’t have a mosquito net for my body!

The next time I got off course was a couple of hours into my little jaunt…this time, I was walking in some very thick tundra…thanking God that there are no snakes here!… or leeches or rodents or any other critters that might greet my toes and feet…Once again, I lost sight of any markings…I headed toward the coast line since that had been the path to this point and decided once again to climb up the rock faces to get to the highest point to scan the valley for my markers…my fear of these rocks has been conquered and I was now deftly making my way up and down like a professional…One of the young Danes at Eqi Camp taught me to handle these and the river rocks quickly because that helps manage your balance. He seemed to be right…Once at the top…I used my zoom on my camera  again to check out various places that my eye thought might be a marker…and lo and behold way way across the valley on the OTHER side…across more tundra was my little orange dot…I was beginning to hate this tundra…especially since sometimes it was just a thin layer over a hole or water…so you had to be careful and not assume it was solid….Back on track again…and another hour lost…at this rate I should make it back in 10 hours…no stopping for me…other than the quick picture…but that was OK since every time I stopped, I got swarmed…my favorite place to be became high on the rocks(odd since they were my nemesis early on) because the mosquitoes didn’t seem to like it there…Eventually the trail led to the other side and now I was hiking only on rock…There I crossed paths with the only other people I ever saw on the trail, other than a Greenlandic family fishing in a river…it was a Swiss couple coming from Ilulissat…they had been hiking for 5 hours! Which meant I had 5 more to go…7pm arrival if I stay at 8 hours…Once I passed them, I took out my Power bar and a candy bar and munched…and then drank half my water…I started to worry about my water supply until I saw a small waterfall off in a distance…and yes, off my route…I worked my way over and climbed, quite judiciously onto the slippery rock…well aware that this was dangerous…reached my bottle under the falls and filled it…Yikes…I had neglected to consider the process of turning around on the slippery rock and getting off the ledge…Problem solved…instead, I very carefully, backed up…triumph! I guess I am learning.

While walking, the glaciers, on one side or the other, were almost always a presence…and if not visually, I could hear them…I was startled a few times, at the beginning, by their explosions of calvings…it seems the Ice bergs are so big that when they break off, the noise is less thunderous and more explosions. I would stop and wait to hear them but it usually happened while I was walking…but a few times I could hear the cracking when I stopped…It is a wondrous sound…and I finally go to hear my “Greenlandic Silence” I had been so looking forward to…at the top of the rocks, I would stand there and just listen to nothing…it was spectacular…especially while looking out into all those glaciers just sitting on top of the water like silent statues…I will miss this…such a treat to have experienced it.

Now that I was supplied with more drinking water, I continued on…I love that you can just grab water anywhere…Iceland and Greenland are really the only countries I have ever done this…so sad that most rivers and streams in the world are so polluted…I even grabbed a small piece of Glacial Ice out of the bay while waiting for my boat…so tasty…cleanest water I have ever tasted.

I only got slightly off track one more time trying to avoid huge water holes in the Tundra…One bad thing about planning this for my last day is that I need to pack my boots…and wet & muddy boots will not bode well for my backpack!

After hours of trying to avoid water, I finally hit, what I was hoping , my last hour of my journey…I am definitely tired…and my feet have blisters from the wet socks caused by the constant soaking of the soggy tundra… and my legs are growing quite heavy…but I have to go on…and then I see the airport in the distance…the woman running my hotel told me that the trail comes out this way…yay…OMG a great site…but unbeknownst to me, I still had quite a ways…it was like a mirage…and that little tiny runway that is so short for planes…is very very long if you have to walk beside it…and the entire trail is in wet…very wet tundra…all that trying to avoid the water was for no use…my boots were now fully saturated.

I think the last couple of miles tried my constitution…I saw the airport and fantasized about trying to get in and have a cab take me the last couple of miles…Ironically when I told the woman at the Avannaa hotel how the last few kilometres were the hardest, she told ME that when she did it, she wanted a cab at the airport to take her the rest of the way…Now I wonder how many of us shared that same dream! But it would have done us no good…last flight comes in the afternoon and it was now 6:15PM…I had been walking without even sitting down once since 11AM and 8AM if you consider my walk in town in the AM and standing on the boat! My poor tootsies! They have served me quite well on this Arctic journey…I think a great foot massage is in order.

I dreamed of a hot meal and knew if I went to my hotel I would collapse…so I decided when I finally got to civilization, I would go straight to the Arctic Hotel(the posh hotel I was to stay at but decided to downgrade so I could upgrade at the Ice Cap…one of the best decisions I’ve made) and call Ole…since my hotel reception closes at 5pm…and eat something…When I finally made it to the Arctic Hotel, it was 7pm on the dot…8 hours…I had hoped to do it in 6 but with all my scenic and watery detours, 8 hours was a triumph for me!

Once I sat down, I thought I would never get up…and I am sure I looked rather ragged compared to the rest of the showered and dressed people…but at this point, I could care less what I looked like…a hot meal was on my priority list…and since my hotel is slightly out of the main town, this was my only option.

Once back at my hotel, I gingerly took my boots off and feared what I might see…so I didn’t look at my feet, I just jumped…or rather tip toed to the shower and almost fell asleep under the hot water…

Since the internet wasn’t working, I hopped into bed( early these days)…and read a bit…something I have had almost no time to do…I am actually looking forward to my flights so I can just read…no need to take pictures at 30 thousand feet…although maybe the flight to Iceland will offer some nice views…as it did on our arrival…

At 1am, I was rudely awakened by this constant buzzing…Well, It seems, in my need for cool(I was quite overheated…even in the cold 30 degree night…and my room is situated to the west so the sun beams in hard), I left the window open(no screens here)…forgetting the obvious…and only to find I had invited a party of at least 50 mosquitoes…who seemed, after I killed a few and saw blood, to be noshing on my exhausted body! I spent the next hour…killing every last one of them…These guys got the better of me a few times on the trail…this was pay back time! If there had been a hidden camera in my room, watching me jump on anything and everything swatting with my hands AND a wet towel, that I found to be a great weapon, there would be blackmail money I would have to pay!

Today, I am off to Iceland…Keflavik to be exact…I wish I had scheduled a day there but unfortunately I won’t get there until late tonight…I have a connection somewhere else in Greenland and then to Reykjavik…where I take a cab to the bus station…a bus for an hour to the Keflavik airport and then call my guest house and supposedly they will pick me up…if all goes well I can be there after 11pm…but if I have learned anything, surprise and altering of plans are a constant…thank goodness, I am used to that as a Production Manager! So now it’s time to say goodbye to Greenland…I will do one last blog after this with final impressions…and then you will be free of my travel banter!

Here are a few iphone pics(until i get home and can upload pics from my broken camera)

Me at the Dock waiting for the boat…and look I discovered a glacier…I was thirsty so I broke off a piece and ate it…it does pop a little in your mouth

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Dog Sleds resting for the summer in Rodebay

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Me in the Mosquito net(which I somehow lost at the airport section of the trail)

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No Matter how tired I was..or how lost i was, I always found time to look at the Flowers…the pink one is the greenland National flower…don’t know the name

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Me being so happy I am on rocks

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My “beloved” tundra”

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This was a strange area…the path disappeared into this new plant..and I ewasn’t off course because smack in the middle, I saw an Orange marker

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My dinner…Lamb Fricassee and potatoes…and I drank 2 bottles of their 32 ounce bottles

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4 thoughts on “Rodebay 8 Hour Hike to Ilulissat-Last Full day in Greenland

  1. Merrill Tilghman says:

    Em, what a hike! I’m very impressed. But I think you should acquire a compass and a portable GPS system–no kidding! I think your guardian angel was working overtime keeping you out of potholes in the tundra.

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