Sunday, 26 July 2015

Back to dry land

I've got back from my eventful boat trip around the local settlements. It wasn't totally successful due to the generator on the boat breaking down resulting in the loss of cooking and toilet facilities. We can back to port on Wednesday night to fix it and then back out on Thursday morning, only for it to fail again so we abandoned the trip on Thursday night which meant that we missed out on visiting 2 settlements.

The above didn't really affect me as I was just along for the ride, but obviously it was a problem for the hospital who had arranged meetings and maintenance visits at all of the settlements, and had chartered the boat at not an inconsiderable expense.

That's the negatives over.

We left on Sunday evening and travelled north through the icebergs from the ice fjord to a town called Kullorsuaq, which I believe means Devil's thumb, and from the pictures I've seen I understand the name. Unfortunately due to cloud down to sea level I never got to see this impressive natural feature. I don't envy the ship's crew navigating through the ice in thick fog, but they had radar and are used to it. We felt the impact of 1 growler (small iceberg), but apart from that it was an uneventfull journey.

Once we got up in the morning and had eggs and bacon it was off to meet the local staff and to asses the building and any maintanance issues. These health centres are essentially a house with 2 rooms dedicated to health care. This once was a little bigger, but not much. I had to see a couple of patients while I was there, but it wasn't anything sygnificant.

The we were back on the boat to travel south to the next settlement. Here the health centre was a house. These are designed to see patient's downstairs with accomodation upstairs for visiting staff, this may be a dentist, Dr, or health visitor etc.

The rest of the trip was along a similar vein to this, visit a town, short journey and then visit another.

The main departure from this was when we spent a night in a town called Nuussuaq. This is the only town that is on the mainland and not an island in the Upernavik archipeligo, We arrived in the late afternoon and due to tides we were unable to leave for many hours, due to the length of stop over and the first good weather we had experienced.

As soon as dinner was finnished I packed my rucksack with water, some snacks, first aid kit, crampons and camera. Grabbed my gun (a local had mentioned the "ice bear" risk) and went for a walk. I was hoping to get to the top of the highest hill in the area which is around 850M. The summit was only around 10km away from the harbour and I had plenty of time. But I hadn't bargained ont eh local terrain. My first problem was the heat, the sun was beating down even though I started at 8:30pm, next was the ground I was walking on. It was like a Martian landscape (very high iron deposit levels) with big rocks and boulders everywhere. I had no map to the area, apart from a sketch I made from a nautical map. I had my garmin gps with some homage to a base map with me and the weather was clear. I also had a compass and as I was walkign along a thin strip of land I figured I couldn't go too far wrong. I had my SPOT tracker with me incase it all went horribly wrong.

Once I had go onto the ridgeline I was planning on walking along to get to the hill that was my goal I was greeted by a cloud inversion on the other side, this was all of the cloud that had been plaguing us whilst we were at sea, I was glad to have my camera with me at this point and I spent some time photographing this scene. Once I got going again I was walking along the stony ridge wondering how the landscape was formed. There was nothing smooth like a glacier deposits and even on the ridge the rocks were smashed and large. As I was traversing the ridge it became apparent that it wasn't a flat ridge, but my goal should be attainable. Most of the walk was hard going, but uneventful. I had a chance encounter with a grouse, which made me glad I packed nearly 1.5kg of long lens for my camera. Just after seeing this is became apparent that to get to the hill I wanted to summit I had to descend all the way to sea level before I could get to it. At this point I turned around to start to walk back to the boat. I chose a different route, which turned out to be even harder with pretty much 7 km of boulder fields. All the time I kept thinking of the film 127 hours as the rocks rolled around as I walked over them. I was certainly glad I was wearing boots with a rigid sole even though I didn't end up wearing crampons.

One other highlight was the slight detour the boat took so we could see what I believe is the biggest sea bird cliff in the world, even though it was freezing due to more fog, we had a good view of the birds.

The last town we visited was called Kangersuatsiaq which is reported to be the prettiest town in the region and it didn't disappoint. It seemed very sheltered from all sides so had longer grass than anywhere else and was kept much tidier than other settlements. When we first got in a Brittish flagged yacht was blocking the jetty so I was asked to try to get them on the radio, they we ashore so didn't answer, but they came back once we sounded the horn a few times.

Once we had got alongside and they had tied up to us I got chatting. They are a family from Hungary with Mum, Dad, a daughter of 19 and a son of 6. They are planning on sailing half of the north west passage this year before leaving their boat to finish it next year. They have less luxuries than other boats I've seen so as they were in Upernavik the next night I offered them a shower and to check the ice reports online. They seemed very grateful as they have no shower on board the boat. In the ned we ended up in my house having dinner, they were excited to have pancakes as on board they need to ration their gas so pancakes are a luxury.

This week I'm back to hospital, but I hope to climb the hill on a near by island which is still very snowy.

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