Andy Round discovers that if you want to get ahead in Greenland, get a sled. Ideally with team of well-trained dogs. And a man called Erasmus. [25 images in total, text continues below]
My all-weather anorak, comprehensive kit and all-terrain boots may have been the epitome of 21st century innovation, but my preferred mode of transport was as timeless as the snow in Greenland: a team of panting dogs whisking me across the great white nothingness of the biggest island on Earth – on a sled.
Forget sports cars, if you feel the need for old-school speed go dogsled. It felt one part Narnia snow queen to two parts Arctic explorer and was infinitely more entertaining than being shown the sights of Hockenheimring by Schumacher. It also felt childishly exciting. The last time I was this snow exhilarated was when I went sledging down a Scottish hill at the age of 10.
Sensory overload doesn’t do it justice. The world raced past in a smooth abstract blur and it took a while to relax, savour the moment and appreciate that the February sky was ice-blue, the dogs’ snow tracks were paw punctuation, the cold was shaking my molars and sled driver Erasmus’ commands were like melodious incomprehensive poetry.
But I soon settled into the hypnotic scraping rhythm of the runners, the bobbing of the dogs and the rush-rush of wind against the furry frame of my hood. Sitting on [surprisingly] comfortable reindeer skin perched on a dog sled gives you time to think. And there was plenty to think about. My watch told me I was about 30 minutes away from Kangerlussuaq (population 550) across frozen valleys and solid ice lakes, but my brain reminded me I was in the middle of nowhere. For the first time in years there was no signal on my mobile phone. Ridiculously it felt incredibly daring.
Space, space and even more space. Greenland in winter is one big fat nothingness with a population of just 56,000. It has four time zones, but not all of them have clocks. In many places the ice is so thick you would have to drill three kilometres to touch rock. For most of the year the country is cut off from the world by snow. There are no roads connecting towns so you travel by helicopter, aircraft, kayak or dog sled. And, in Greenland, a team of sled dogs is more reliable than a car.
“They don’t run out of petrol,” laughed Erasmus with a snort like a frightened musk ox. “They can go everywhere and don’t break down. If everything goes wrong they can normally find their way home. They have a very powerful survival instinct. I don’t know any snowmobile that is so reliable. Even with GPS.”
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