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  • Writer's pictureSiv Harstad

Dogsled with Inuits

The day after we arrived at the fjord where we ended kiting/skiing expedition we were to be picked up by Intuits with dogsleds. We got a message saying that they had one sled that was ready and were waiting to get hold of the second one. They did not know how long it would take because of the ice condition on the fjord. We got an estimate of time and felt we did not have to stress to be ready. So, we did some packing and then we spent some time taking some photos and had planned to pack the rest and find a safe way out onto the ice until they arrived. Where should we aim for meeting them?

While we were in the middle of taking the photos, we suddenly heard dogs… OMG, it was so exciting, they were already there! We had to hurry and finish our packing.

A few minutes later they were there. Two dog-sleds. We jumped over a few cracks in the ice to get out to where they were. So interesting to meet with these two men. The Intuits are hunters and live from what they hunt. They only speak Greenlandic, which is very different from Norwegian so we could not understand one another. In Greenland, many people speak Danish, which we understand, but the Intuits don’t. Somehow, we managed to communicate. I was sitting on the older man’s sled and he had brought a musk skin for us to sit on to keep warm on the trip. Sitting on a sled like that is cold, so I was happy it was there.

Yes, a bit wet out on the ice:

A seal peaked up from a breathing hole. The men quickly stopped the sleds and the youngest of them took out his rifle trying to shot him. The seal quickly dived down and avoided being shot. So, there we got to see how they do it and live. The trip took almost twice as long as normal because of the bad ice, so we stopped and gave the dogs a good break about halfway. We also got to see a hunting cabin they had on the way. What can I say? It was very simple and low standard compared to what we are used to in Norway.

I’m sure it would get warm when they had a fire in the oven, but the door was missing, one of the windows were broken and there was a lot of trash outside. The part with the trash is what makes me sad, because it is so unnecessary to leave all the trash in nature like that. Rusty cans, plastic, glass etc. do not disappear. It will be there for hundreds of years if not forever. It’s just a reminder that we all have to make an effort to not leave trash in nature like that. Unfortunately, I do see things like that all over the world.

Approaching the City of Qaanaaq

Just as we approached Qaanaaq, the northernmost city in the world with only 650 inhabitants, we saw a large 3,5-4m wide crack in the ice. Along it the Intuits had their fishing huts on sleds on the ice. They were looking for a good point to be able to cross the crack, and I have to say it looked a bit too wide for us to be able to cross, but they found a spot. Some of the dogs ended up in the water because they could not jump far enough, and I felt really sorry for them. Wet and in that cold. To my big surprise they shook off the water and after a minute or so they looked as they had before they’d jumped. Something I was really happy to see. There we were, at our destination. There was a bit of hassling to get all our gear to where we’d stay, but that was nothing after what we had just completed.

Qaanaaq was an interesting place. Ill tell you more abut it next time. We arrived around 8 pm so the store was not open. There is only one store and as far as we found out there is one or possibly two restaurants but you have to book in advance. Good thing we had plenty of food in our sleds! As always, having a shower and being able to sleep in a nice bed are the most important things after an expedition. That we got.

Shopping in Qaanaaq

The following morning, we headed down to the store, eager to buy some food – maybe eggs for breakfast and some fresh fruit. The shopping was interesting to say at least. The store had everything you need, from perfume, TV’s, clothes, fridges and other electronics and when you got to the food part the vegetable area had onions, peppers, and a few potatoes. We asked a lady if they had eggs and she almost laughed when she said no. They have one plane arriving there every Wednesday, so on Wednesdays they would have eggs, other days not. The same goes for most vegetables.

The city has two boats arriving with everything they need, one in July and one in October. After and before the fjord freezes over. Then there are a few things that arrive with the plane every week, but not much because it is expensive transport. I just realized how “spoiled” we are in Norway with access to fresh fruit all year and everything else we take for granted in the shops.

We shared the place we stayed with a young family of four from Greenland that was there on holiday. They were from a city further south and also found it very interesting to learn about this part of their country, the differences, and how the people lived here compared to what they were used to.

After a couple of days, the people started to greet us as we passed them on the street. We got an opportunity to visit a few homes, the museum, and to understand a bit more about life here. While we waited for our Wednesday flight.

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