Travel journalist and Crystal blogger Katie Jackson has returned to the luxurious comfort of Crystal Serenity following her most intrepid Northwest Passage adventure to date. Today, she shares the epic experience.
A massive musk ox serves as sentry over the bar. His beard hides a bottle of Kahlua. while the beer, brewed here in Greenland, is highly visible. Overhead, Christmas lights are strung around reindeer antlers and between rafters holding a traditional Inuit qayaq. Eventually, white man would mimic the construction, substitute plastic for wood and call them kayaks. It’s fitting décor since the restaurant we’re in is called the “rowing club.” So far, it’s the only dining establishment I’ve seen in Kangerlussuaq, pop. 500.
Bellies full—courtesy of a protein-packed buffet of fresh halibut, salmon, musk ox and reindeer—we prop our elbows on the gingham tablecloths and lean in to listen to our guide. For the next 24 hours, Louise is our fearless leader. The tall, athletic redhead is tasked with hosting all 18 of us at Ice Camp Kangerlussauq. She warns us this will be our last meal on solid ground and asks if we packed warm clothing.
Fresh off Crystal Serenity, we are a bit nervous to trade our well-appointed staterooms for tents. Still, the opportunity to sleep on the second largest ice sheet in the world is too great to skip for comfort’s sake. A two-hour 4×4 truck ride takes us from the rowing club to the ice cap trailhead. Along the way we stop to photograph musk ox, reindeer, arctic hare and some pathetic three-foot-tall pine trees planted as a science experiment. What Greenland lacks in forests, it more than makes up for in ice.
In fact, if Greenland’s ice cap were to melt, it would raise the world’s oceans more than 20 feet. Louise reels off fact after fact as we strap on our crampons and adjust our hiking poles. It’s a three-kilometer hike into camp. We leave the truck at the gravel parking lot by the trailhead and begin crunching and scraping our way across the ice. Within minutes, my mind is blown and my soul is humbled.
Bundled up in our parkas and toting backpacks and sleds, we are aliens venturing onto a planet blanketed with mounds of ice. In the distance, they look like ski moguls. It’s nearly impossible to tell where the blindingly white ice ends and the colorless horizon begins. There are no animal tracks or plants to identify, no birds or planes flying overhead. It’s just virgin ice. Except it isn’t.
Louise stops and points out the holes, cracks and crevices. These bottomless turquoise-filled fissures are like whimsical ice sculptures. What appears white or opaque at first glance can contain an entire spectrum of hues upon closer examination. The color of the ice is determined by age, and most is more than 100,000 years old.
Eventually we find ourselves in an ice meadow filled with blues, greens and oranges The blue tents are for couples. The green tents are for singles. The orange tents are the kitchen and dining tents where a three-course dinner awaits our arrival. We sit down to a salmon roll starter and raise our wine glasses. It is my first time toasting in a tent.
By the time the berry pie dessert is served and a few of us are ready to curl up in our sleeping bags, we recognize the chefs serving us in the dim-lighted tent. It is the kitchen crew from the rowing club, our last meal on solid ground.
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