Arctic Circle Trail Day 1 – The First Weigh-in

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 19.7 – Steve: 19.1 – Anna: 16.1

Our hostel in Kangerlussuaq
Our hostel in Kangerlussuaq

It has been really sunny today. We were walking by 08:45, following the road west. The hoped-for 18kg pack did not materialise, and I started the walk with closer to 20kg. I’ve walked with more, though, and never yet had to carry ten days worth of food. I’m hoping for this weight to drop off quite rapidly. Today was the only day where we won’t have easy access to drinking water as we go, so my water container was full and contributing 2kg alone. It proved a wise choice to carry so much with the heat.

Looking back to Kanglussuaq
Looking back to Kanglussuaq

We set a good pace, and watched planes come and go. The cries of “plane” each time one was spotted will presumably become less frequent as we get further away from the airport in the coming days. We had our first break just after 10:00, on a rock overlooking the fjord. All the drivers wave to us as we pass. We took the detour down to the harbour, but there really isn’t anything to see, aside from a horribly graffitied rocky outcrop. It was pleasant enough to have a last sight of the sea at close range though, which will be our last for a few days.

Graffiti at the docks
Graffiti at the docks

At around 11:30 we began the gently climb up to Kellyville. This is the last settlement before the trail starts properly, and we did briefly debate getting a taxi and skipping the majority of this first day’s walk. We met a Swiss couple while on the icecap tour yesterday who were doing exactly this, but it seemed a little too much like cheating. Plus, we came to Greenland to walk so walk we did. The Swiss couple have a flight one day later than us, and were planning to take it easy, so we should catch them up at some point.

Welcome to Kellyville...
Welcome to Kellyville…

We had lunch at the old mast site, sat on one of the concrete plinths, the first cairn and red semi-circle in sight. Our lunch was only cheese and bread as we did not have enough water to make a hot drink. Some local woman and children were collecting berries from the surrounding area. We hope to find lots of bilberries and crowberries as we go to make a tasty addition to our morning porridge.

The first cairn
The first cairn

About a kilometer after the first cairn, we collected some water at the last freshwater lake for five miles. There are a series of brackish lakes in this section, and we banked on being able to use this water at least for cooking our freeze-dried dinners. A German man we met at the airport, who had walked the trail last week, told us the water was perfectly drinkable and that we would have no issues.

The Hundesø caravan
The Hundesø caravan

Finally on the trail proper, we continued making good time and we reached the caravan by the Hundesø lake at ~14:00. Although it was still early in the day, we decided to stop here for the night to rest feet. The afternoon was sunny, and we decided to try not to push ourselves too hard at the start to give us the best chance of all making it to Sisimiut.

There are quite a lot of flies about, but they are not bothering us yet… My knee – weak and painful after the aborted cycle to the ice cap – has been OK. There have been a few twinges – worst when descending from the radio mast to the lake – but overall it’s been manageable. I only took one ibuprofen today, before the ascent to Kellyville.

No hunting!
No hunting!

I brought a harmonica with me on this trip, intending to learn how to play in the evenings. While messing about with it in Kangerlussuaq, I could not get the “draw” (suck) note on the second hole to sound properly. I thought this meant the harmonica was broken, which was sad, but today I discovered that it does work, I just need to open my throat more and move more air through it. Curiously, it’s harder to play than the lower note of the draw 1 hole, but at least it’s just my poor technique and not the harp.

We saw a walker go by as we ate a mugshot at the caravan. This was the first hiker we’ve seen on the trail, but they did not stop at the caravan. Two more walkers went past later. This couple did come up to the caravan for a look, but opted to continue walking and camp a little further on.

The caravan has a paraffin heater, but the fuel tank seems to be disconnected. There’s a lot of “stuff” inside and around it, including a fair amount of leftover food. It has two verandahs/platforms: one to the front and one to the rear. We had lunch and dinner on the one overlooking the lake, and it is very sheltered from the prevailing wind. In the wind the air is cool, but sat on the deck it was almost too hot!

Playing Race for the Galaxy
Playing Race for the Galaxy

Steve went on a bilberry hunt and found a good amount, and I collected a few as well. Will they last till breakfast? Anna wishes it to be noted that she had a wash in the lake! She did, however, stop short of going in for a swim.

Near the hut is a wooden outhouse; a “loo with a view” (so long as you leave the door open)!

To while away the evenings, we brought a card game with us (in addition to my harmonica): Race for the Galaxy. Anna and I have played it before, but Steve is still learning. At the moment I’m winning the games, but it seems unlikely to last.

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