Camping in Greenland

Camping in Greenland 

Rupe held up his hand. Even those of us who didn’t speak Finnish, understood that we were to stop while he conferred with Mary about the route. We were following a traditional dog sled route but, being Summer, there was no traces left as they had melted away with the ice and snow. The tundra flora also grows quickly to take full advantage of the short Summer. We didn’t argue as it was wearing to walk over such rough, rocky ground carrying all our supplies from the boat, so we were glad to sit down and slide the rucksack straps off. We sat there in the afternoon sunshine enthralled by all that we could see.

We had left Tasilaq that morning after spending the last few days walking further  and higher each day to get our “polar fitness legs working”. Each night had been spent back in the Hotel Nansen where we prepared the food for the group in turns. We had spent the previous evening paring down our kit to the essentials and taking as much food as we could carry. Our guides were Rupe and Mary, who would guide us on the trek after we had crossed the Polar Stream of Sermilik Fjord from Tasilaq to Isetoq – Ice Bay – on the mainland. It is well named because, even in September, it was choked with ice floes. There were twelve of us in the trekking Group, fourteen including Rupe and Mary. There were two open boats to carry us, gear and food across part of the North Atlantic so we were dressed for cold and wet. In the event the weather was kind and the sea fairly calm – allowing us a perfect view of the leviathans making their stately ways down to the Atlantic Ocean to slowly shrink to their melted death.

 Death of an iceberg

I am an ice child of the Arctic North, 
calved from my mother into alien waters.
A sibling procession down the Polar Stream.
We are Leviathan, Behemoth, Titanic and Growler.

( This way up—-> )

Sweat trickles down my icy flanks as I heat in the sun. 
My bottom is licked away by warm ripples
until I topple to reveal old tidemarks
as I shrink to a melted 
death
.

After some discussion about the right inlet to take, we entered Ice Bay and dodged our way through the smaller icebergs at slow speed. We realised why when we looked down through the clear blue water to the underwater shelves sticking out like hydrofoils from the ‘bergs. We dipped our hands into the water and scooped up handfuls of ice to taste – ice that had fallen as snow  fifteen thousand years before.

We eventually found a possible landing point. Dinas kept the engines running to keep the boat in strong contact with the rocks as we unloaded ourselves and our baggage. When all was onshore we waved Dinas and his mate off and the silence slowly draped itself around us. After the cold boat trip we felt we needed a warm drink so we got out the stove and brewed up a mug of tea each. We stood there on the edge of the inlet, looking at the mass of icebergs jammed together in the bay. It was unreal to see that a seal was sunbathing on one of them while keeping a close eye on us. 

Suddenly the seal slipped off into the water and we saw that the ‘berg the seal had been laying on was starting to rotate. There was a grinding noise and we realised that the ‘seal ‘berg’ was rolling over and grinding against another as it did so. There were then a series of waves as the bergs jostled for a new position. Eventually the bay returned to a contented equilibrium. We thought it was amazing that it should have happened just while we were there to see it, but Rupe explained to us that most ice bergs were unstable as they were melted more by the sea water under them than by the warmth of the sun above. That is why it is best to keep well away from them as they can roll over on top of boats.

It was time to get our packs sorted and loaded up ready to clamber up the rocky wall to the rough, landscape above. It was difficult to pick up the packs so we used the  Army system. Lay your pack on the ground with the front facing up. Lay down on the pack and do all the straps up tight. The get your mate to pull you up on to your feet – simples!

We started the trek to find a camp site for the next few nights. It took a while to get used to the heavy packs and the rocky tundra. We eventually got to an area that we voted as our camp site  – our home for the next few days. 

The sound of the quiet was overwhelming. It was as far below silence as standing by Heathrow airport runway while a 747 takes off is above it. No traffic, no aircraft, no animals, no birds. Then as your ears became more sensitive to the unfamiliar lack of noise, we could hear a gentle tinkling of the glacier lake trickling down its outlet channel on the way to Ice Bay.

We quickly set up our tents on the tundra while the cooks for the day constructed the kitchen and put the water on to boil for the pasta. We all tasted the water from the stream coming from the lake. It was icy cold, fresh and had a wonderful taste. The lake was clear of any vegetation and had the usual glacier flour diminishing its etherial blue clarity.

We sat on the rocks by the stream gazing along the lake as we sipped a mug of tea while waiting for our dinner to cook. We looked towards to the glint  of the ‘Inland Ice’ – the Greenland ice cap that we could see the sun setting over at the head of the lake. What a wonderful place to be.

We had our meal and all helped with the clearing up. We then stood in a circle sipping a mug of tea for our now traditional evening talk about the day, what we had seen and what we planned for the following day. The many moths fluttered around our heads, so we put on our head nets – luckily there didn’t seem to be any biting insects. Rupe told us that we were now at least 15 miles away from the nearest human being. We decided to go for a trek the following day along the bouldery shoreline of the lake, Isertupimiq, towards the Inland Ice.

The temperature was dropping with the sunset so it was  time to burrow into our sleeping bags and listen to the peace before dropping off to sleep.

© Eorodraca 2019

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The Tin Towns

Lois finds inspiration from a fellow writer:

A friend in my family history writing group strayed away from writing about his family’s history in Yorkshire, and wrote a most interesting place where he had lived with his wife and own famiy for many years in Buckinghamshire. They had moved to live near the Thames-side town of Marlow which was originally Great Marlow or Chipping Marlow, I’m not sure if the Great and the Chipping Marlows were separate places which merged, or different names for the same place or part of the place, Anyway… my friend’s story is not about Marlow, Chipping, Greater or otherwise, but about another Marlow, Marlow Bottom. (it also seems that Chipping Marlow might have been called Chipping Wycomb… ) Marlow Bottom was so called because it was a part of Marlow which ran along the bottom of a valley, Marlow coming from the word mere meaning pool or lake, so i guess the valley was originally a little on the soggy side.

The interesting thing about Marlow Bottom, as my friend recounted, was that it was also called Tin Town… not because tin was mined there but because before it was a town, people had built little temporary shacks in the valley – I thought they might be for some workers on a project who needed accommodation but it seems these cheaply built places were more for weekend homes for Londoners. They were there right up until the 60’s when they modified, rebuilt or replaced as proper dwellings. They were called Tin Town, and even though now it’s properly called Marlow Bottom, the nick name still gets bandied about.

I was looking this up, and discovered that there are other Tin Towns. There was one in Luton, but this was from accommodation built after the war when a lot of housing was needed. Birchinlee in Derbyshire was also Tin Town, and its little shacks were built for workers and their families who were building local dams for the the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. I have a muddled memory of seeing a tin town somewhere, little shacks built among trees… but I cannot remember where or whether it was even in England.

When my friend was telling me about the Tin Town he knew, it struck me it was a great idea for a setting for another novel… I don;t think a Radwinter story, but maybe a 1950’s Mike Scott story!! I shall have to ponder!

I have no images of Marlow or Luton, so here is Kent!

 

 

Train journeys… (v)

I’ve met many very interesting and lovely people on train journeys, some at a time when there were no mobile phones, no social media but if there had been I’m sure we would have extended our fleeting friendship to something more. However there are fellow travellers who can cause a completely different response. I’m not talking about the rude, the aggressive, the sometimes scary, I’m not talking about the drunks, or the weird people, but people who are just inconsiderate or discourteous.

I’ve shared this story before… and maybe it shows me as being intolerant – although it was private, my thoughts were just in my head! I apologise to the lady concerned for my thoughts, but…

I was looking forward to our train journey, travelling through Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, passing through pretty towns and interesting cities.

I had my latest book to edit, and if I became dull with that I had other things to read, and a pad to write on, and my tablet too… we had a packed lunch, we could buy tea from the tea-trolley, we had window seats so a lovely view was guaranteed especially as it was a decent day, lots of blue sky and sunshine.

Across the gangway, sitting by the window on the other side was a woman of maybe late sixties, seventy. Well, by the time she left the train two hours later I knew everything about her life, her daughter, the famous bands she had sung with, the school she went to… she just went on and on… and on and on… She wasn’t shouting but she projected her voice so I could hear every detail about her family history, her Austrian and Russian connections, her daughter’s job, catching the train to Gatwick, problems with security guards at Butlin’s in Minehead… She spoke about her knee replacement and how she had progressed from a wheelchair to crutches to a walking stick… She just never stopped…

She was talking to a man who was sitting opposite, and surprisingly he didn’t make an excuse to start work on his computer, he didn’t move to another seat, and his ears didn’t explode…

I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t block her out, I could just hear her prattling on and on and on… She was loud enough for people across the aisle to keep glancing and frowning at her. Someone sitting directly across the aisle tried to have a conversation, but it was no conversation, it was just the woman steam-rollering over any attempts to converse.

Maybe I should feel charitably towards her, but if she had been a young person talking endlessly about stuff, I’m sure they would have been asked to lower their voice. If it had been a sweary man, someone would have complained to the guard. If she’d been someone who didn’t have a posh accent, I’m sure comments would have been made.

In the end I fell asleep, and didn’t edit my story, didn’t see the lovely views, didn’t read… driven into sleep by this woman who just WOULD NOT STOP TALKING!

Train journeys… (iv)

Today’s train journey is from last year’s Father’s Day:

Yesterday we had a belated Father’s Day celebration and went by steam train (yes a puffing Billy) from the little town of Bishops Lydeard to the seaside town of Minehead. When we were children, steam engines were an everyday but still exciting feature of our lives. A vivid memory I have is of walking with my grandma to visit my great-grandma and stopping on a bridge over looking the railway. I always hoped to see the little green engine, There was that wonderful steamy, coaly smell, and all the chuffing and clinking and rattling sounds.

When we went on journeys there were diesel trains I guess, but I only remember the steam engines which powered along like mighty beasts. There was that evocative smell and always the exciting change a smut might fly in the window – exciting to a child, but not to the mother who had to wash the clothes! For my next novel I’m planning to write something set in the 1950’s – there would have been lots of steam engines then, so I will have to dredge up my memories – and maybe even go on another train journey!!

As we were passing through the beautiful Somerset countryside, to Crowcombe Heath, to Stogumber, Williton, Watchet, Washford, Blue Anchor, Dunster and finally Minehead, I remarked to my husband that the sound of the railway and travelling on a train like this was so embedded in my mind and my memory that I didn’t really ‘hear’ it, and had to especially make an effort to listen to the song of the track!

If you want to share this experience, here is a link:

https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk

 

 

Train journeys (iii)

I’ve been writing about my small adventures on trains, mostly involving meeting interesting strangers. This journey is from last year, and we met two very happy and excited fellow-travellers:

Girls on a train

We were away for the weekend and travelled by train – our preferred way of getting somewhere. OK so it’s not so convenient when you then have to walk a way to your accommodation but just that whistling through the countryside, just relaxed and chatting, or not, reading or not, doing a crossword or not, waiting for the refreshment trolley to arrive…

Our journey set off well with a friendly couple opposite who nodded and smiled and were generally cheery. We made our connection and it was a bit of a muddle and ended up sitting not with each other but across the aisle, which was fine as we both had the aforementioned books and crosswords. Various people came and went as the train stopped at different stations. We stopped at Warminster and two young women plumped themselves down opposite me. They looked very excited, and I thought it was because they were going somewhere on a day out, but then I noticed they were wearing sports gear, so wondered if they’d been out running or cycling and were catching the train home.

Well, it was far more exciting than that! These two young women had just done a sky-dive! They were absolutely buzzing with it and I was an interested listener and they told me all about it. They were absolutely bubbling over with the thrill of the experience and they described it all from their disappointment when the previous booking had been cancelled because of the weather, and how they had wondered whether doing something so adventurous on Friday 13th was a good idea, and how it had been a birthday present…

As we got into conversation we began to talk about travelling and different adventures – they had been to so many exciting places, and done so many interesting things, and had had so many weird and funny things happen… The journey passed in a flash, and when they got off after saying goodbyes in such a friendly fashion, they waved to us as we chugged on along the rest of our journey.

Thank you Molly and Lillie for being such great travelling companions, even though it was only over a short distance. We really enjoyed your company, and good luck on your next adventure!

Picture credit: http://Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/Robert-Owen-Wahl-2077322/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1238275″>Robert-Owen-Wahl</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1238275″>Pixabay</a>

Train journeys (ii)

I was once travelling back to Somerset from Manchester by train. Sitting opposite me was a smiley elderly lady, plump in a comfortable grandmotherly way; I don’t remember what she was wearing except, she had glasses and a pale blue feathery hat. Sitting beside me was a guy about the same age as me, in his twenties, slightly chubby, dark hair, tanned complexion and a pleasant, good-looking face.

We had nodded and smiled politely as we took our seats in Manchester, and had made the occasional comment about the weather as we raced through the evening countryside. All was going well until the train slowed and stopped and announcement came over the intercom to say we had experienced a technical problem.

After a little while we began to converse and before long we were chatting away, enjoying each other’s company. It was one of those odd moments when we all really hit it off, elderly lady, and two young people. I was a teacher, he was an opera singer (yes really) with the Welsh National Opera. We talked about all sorts of things, ourselves, our journeys, life, the universe… you know the sort of conversation! There was an empathy between us, a connection, a shared sense of humour and slightly off-beat view on life, and a sort of platonic attraction between the young man and me.

We were stuck on the train for a couple of hours which just flew by and then we were on our way. I think the elderly lady got off in Birmingham and he got off to make a connection for a train to Wales… it was before the days of cell phones and the internet, there was no face book or emailing, so I never met either of them again. I did once see his name on a listing for the Welsh National Opera. I don’t remember his name now, maybe he was Anthony, maybe he wasn’t. In another life or world we could have become the best and closest of friends – the three of us, I’m sure.

I thought afterwards we would have made a great trio of amateur detectives in a TV drama…

 

Train journeys… (i)

There was an item on the radio this morning about train journeys and the interesting, odd and sometimes exciting things which happen. When I first lived away from home, travelling by train was the only way to see anyone or get anywhere, but over the years, even though we now travel mostly by car, we still love train journeys.

I was on the train coming back from a holiday abroad; I must have flown into Gatwick or Heathrow, probably the latter and I was heading west, back to my family. It was a time when there were compartments on the train and I was in one with a few other passengers. I was sitting opposite a man I guess in his thirties, He had very black hair, a rosy complexion, a smiley face and wire rimmed glasses. He was with a young teenager who I think was his brother – it’s a long time ago and I can’t quite remember, certainly he was a young relative, a typical schoolboy.

After exchanging a few remarks, as people used to in those days with only newspapers, magazines or books to pass the time, we began a conversation. The man was very friendly – I must have been about twenty at the time, but he was a little stuttery as if he was shy. I can’t remember all we talked about, only that it became a very interesting conversation. I told him I was studying history which was something he knew a lot about and the Etruscans came up in conversation – as they do!!! Actually I have never ever had another conversation with a stranger about them, in fact can’t remember talking very much about them to anyone – ever!

The man was extraordinarily well-informed and at the time I learned a  great deal from him in a lively conversation, I’d thought the Etruscans were a mysterious civilisation about which little was known – but no, he said, a great deal was known, and he proceeded to give me a friendly seminar on them. The boy chipped in from time to time and it was a very pleasant, interesting and yes, intellectually exciting way to pass part of the journey.

Unfortunately it was only part of the journey because they left the train an hour or so before I did. I was so sorry to say goodbye as he was such an interesting and knowledgeable and engaging man. I’ve never forgotten him and that journey and often wonder who he was – was he a lecturer at a university, a teacher, was he just an interested amateur historian… who will ever know. The distinguishing feature about his appearance was a huge red birthmark across his cheek and nose; within a few minutes of beginning the conversation, I no longer saw it, it became invisible, and it’s only now thinking back that I remember.

I wonder where he is now?

The Etruscan civilisation is the modern name given to a powerful and wealthy civilisation of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, south of the Arno river, western Umbria and northern and central Lazio. As distinguished by its unique language, this civilisation endured from before the time of the earliest Etruscan inscriptions (c.700 BC) until its assimilation into the Roman Republic, beginning in the late 4th century BC with the Roman–Etruscan Wars. Culture that is identifiably Etruscan developed in Italy after about 900 BC, approximately with the Iron Age Villanovan culture, regarded as the oldest phase of Etruscan civilisation.
Wikipedia