Transporting timber is no easy job and burning seaweed can be a bad idea for your nose.

Some middle-aged guys love to take vacations together to drink and chase women. Beni and I prefer cooking outdoors and making fires. Beni is so much of a pyromaniac that he traveled with old newspapers and damaged used books so that we have plenty of kindling. Greenland is not a pyro’s Shangri-La. There’s not a lot of wood on the arctic tundra. In fact it’s considerable work to start a fire in this neck of the permafrost.

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Kayaking north in the Ikasartiviq Fjord and scanning the coastline for wood

The Ikasartiviq Fjord is surrounded by dramatic 800-1000m treeless peaks. Beni and I paddled close to the shore scanning the coastline for driftwood and old lumber. Some half a kilometer from our campsite Beni spotted a giant piece of a drifter and proclaimed, “that’s the one.” We tied the 50-60 kg piece of tree trunk to his kayak. After it absorbed all the water it could, Beni completed the last 500 meters at snail’s pace, struggling with the immense extra weight. It’s pretty much like trying to reach the finish line of a marathon by towing a steamroller on the homestretch.

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Committed pyromaniacs grab anything combustible along the way

We also gathered dry seaweed, algae and whatever dry organic matter we could put our hands on. If it had roots it would burn.

Sun-dried arctic seaweed burns wonderfully, but has the distinct smell of rotten eggs in a ripe polyester sock. Just as Petya and Andras tried to flee to the neighboring fjord, Beni came to the defense of the ill-scented smoke by saying, “It’s perfect to keep the mosquitoes away.”

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Without fire there’s no campsite.

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Beni frying bacon on the smoke of stinky seaweed. Is that sushi grade bacon?

Whatever Greenland is lacking in the tree department, it makes up for in mosquitos. It’s a biological mystery. In freezing cold temperatures and without proper food, mosquito populations thrive in the arctic. They are big, meaty and aggressive. A great many of them ended up in our dinner in spite of our best algae burning efforts.

Dinner was actually quite good considering it was cooked on organic insect repellent and the op-ed pages of the Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Even when fighting legions of mosquitoes and inhaling foul smelling seaweed smoke, this was paradise. The fjord turned glassy by late afternoon reflecting the snowcapped summits above. The sun slowly set behind the peaks as drying driftwood crackled and we sipped whiskey on the rocks, staring at the motionless fjord. Great Arctic tranquility had us once again.

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There’s no smoke without fire. Except in this case.

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Mosquitoes can be so overwhelming that you have to wear a beekeeper suit to preserve your sanity.

Arctic tranquility in the Ikasartiviq Fjord.

Arctic tranquility in the Ikasartiviq Fjord.

And finally my famous wishkey on the rocks recipe.

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The most bizarre tourist brochure entry of the year. The winner is Greenland.

Tourism brochures always have kind and proud words about the local population. The Tasiilaq, Greenland tourist booklet took a different approach to discussing the natives: Don’t be afraid, even if they’re drunk, they’re nice and friendly. Cheers to that!

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Tasiilaq, Greenland tourist brochure entry.

 

 

Back to Greenland 2018. Or even arctic adventure legends make bad HR decisions.

We had to go back to Greenland. Last summer’s kayak trip was an unforgetable experience for all of us. Andras, Petya, Beni and I headed to East Greenland, which is

  1. different from where we were last year
  2. colder than South Greenland
  3. carries a much higher chance of being eaten by a polar bear.

In other words it has all the makings of a perfect vacation.

The good thing about being on top of the food chain is that we have rifles. Or at least we thought we could rent one from Robert Peroni. Robert, a 74 year old mountaineer/explorer has faced the world’s highest peaks, most arid deserts and has crossed Greenland’s ice sheet several times. These days the excitement in his life comes from whiny German tourists who complain about leaky sinks and threatening Trip Advisor reviews of his hotel in Tasiilaq, Greenland.

Robert rented us a gun and gave it to Andras. I only saw it wrapped in generous layers of trash bag and duct tape a week later. During the trip I thought if a polar bear was to attack our camp it would take me at least a half an hour to unwrap the gun, which coincidentally is the same amount of time a polar bear needs to dismember a human. Luckily during the trip I did not realize that the gun was at least 200 years old and pretty much unsuitable for anything other than adding extra weight to your kayak.

 

Robert’s assistant and right hand woman, Marion added some excitement to day one. She didn’t know who we were and what we wanted when we showed up in town. She was as warm and hospitable as an iceberg. She was the kind of person you just wanted to ask: ”Who hurt you?”

She told us that she doesn’t have our reserved kayaks and generally why do we bother her during a busy day. She also explained that we can’t be transported to Quernertivativiq to rendéz-vous with Andras and Petya because it was Sunday.

Beni and I took matters in our own hands, proceeded to find two kayaks in town, hired a friendly fisherman with an unseaworthy vessel and headed to the abandoned village of Quernertivativiq.

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Petya and Andras arriving in Quernertivativiq after a week of hard kayaking. Beni and I were just starting our trip.

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Conditions can be harsh and people must rely on the strength of the community. Small villages die and vanish easily in Greenland.

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Landing in a small bay after a long stage of kayaking

Aqua Rambo vs Paks 2

Feljegyzések egy ökogerilla naplójából

INFO: 48 évesen rájöttem, hogy igazából ökogerilla szeretnék lenni. Most kezdem építeni a CV-met.

KÜLDETÉS: A Paksi Atomerőműből kiáramló hűtővíz csatornája mellé kirakni egy STOP PAKS II táblát.

MIÉRT: Az atomhulladék tárolása a mai napig megoldatlan probléma, biztonságos lembomlása akár 250 000 évig is eltarthat. A megújuló energia korában teljesen elavult és veszélyes az atomenergia.

NEHÉZSÉGI FOKOZAT: 4

NINJA ÁLCA: Aqua Rambo. Ha letartóztatnak, átmeneti elmezavarra hivatkozhatok. Az álcám ezt tárgyi bizonyítékokkal is alátámasztja. Valamint nem jó, ha a szemembe csepegő veríték miatt hiúsul meg életem első bevetése.

Csütörtök, július 26.: A rómairól evezek ki. A Parlament előtt egy szál magam tüntetek egy Stop Paks II zászlóval. Hátulról fújja a szél, vitorlának sem rossz. Megmártózom a Gellért Szálló magasságában lévő híres „hajléktalan jacuzziban”. Az M0-ás híd alatt négy német kajakossal intünk egymásnak. Délután egy energiaitaltól elalszom egy szomorúfűz árnyékéban Százhalombattától délre. A nyers kőolaj andalító illata egy fél órára levesz a lábamról. Este Lórévnél utolérem a német haditengerészet szabadságosait, Passautól kajakoznak a Fekete-tengerig. Közösen skinny dippingelünk a Dunában. Ha vissza tudnék menni 1944-be és a nagyszüleimnek elmondhatnám, hogy 74 év múlva német katonákkal fogok meztelenül fürdőzni a Dunában, nem vennének komolyan és visszakérdeznének, hogy „Miért? Őket is belelőtték?”.

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Hátszélben a Parlament előtt.

Péntek, július 27.: Újabb 60 km. A hőség elől reggel 6-kor kievezek. Tíztől elviselhetetlen a trópusi meleg, amit még a Duna vize is visszaver. Az ipari halászat 2016-os tilalma óta visszatért az élet a folyóba. Halak, vízimadarak és természeti idill mindenhol. Majd Dunaújváros következik. Zuhogó esőben és viharban érkezem meg este Paksra. Jól esik a lehűlés. Helyi horgászoktól a Paks Város Bora verseny idei második helyezett fehérborát, egy üveg chardonnay-t kapok ajándékba. Az emberek kedvesek, a boruk rémes, de örülök, hogy legalább nem a harmadik helyezettet kaptam.

Szombat, július 28.: A paksi éjszakai záporban úgy alszom, mint az atom. A reaktor a város határában a Dunából veszi hűtővizét, a felhevült forró víz pedig gőzölgő gejzír és egy sebes sodrású hegyi patak szerelemgyerekeként ömlik vissza a Dunába. A torkolattól 500 méterre kötök ki, hogy ne lássanak. Átvágom magam az ártéri erdő sűrűjén és felmászom a reaktor forróvíz-csatornájának töltésén. A csúszós, éles, iszapos köveken eldöntöm, hogy legközelebb nem a leggagyibb gumipapucsomban jövök. A reaktorvíz meleg harmata ellepi az arcom, ahogy mezítláb botladozom fölfelé a köveken. Egy ismerős azt mondta,  ettől két másik péniszem nőhet a hónaljamban. Erre elkezdek ráparázni. Aztán megnyugtatom magam, hogy ha ez így lenne, akkor minden paksi pontynak is három lenne.

10:34 Küldetés teljesítve, a STOP PAKS II banner ott ragyog a reaktor vízkivezetőjének töltésén.

TI NE LEGYETEK ILYEN HÜLYÉK, MINT ÉN! Elég, ha aláírjátok a petíciót Paks 2 ellen és a megújuló energiákért: http://www.stoppaks2.hu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the short bus from from. L.A. to Vancouver with Gabor

At some point in his life every man dreams of a motorhome. The smart ones rent, others buy. And the ones most detached from reality just buy and old school bus and convert it. I bought mine on Facebook last December.  The “Dreamcatcher” became my rolling man-cave by late April. I planed on taking kayaks and surfboards to not too distant shores and to sleep, cook and hang out in it with my kids.

Schlepping boats to British Columbia was never on the agenda until some over eager lady fell out of a rental kayak into the icy waters of Vancouver Island and nearly died. She did what most Americans do after coming back from the claws of death: sued the kayak rental company. Since then you have to bring your own kayak or sign up for a closely monitored, guided tour.

The plan was to drive up to Vancouver Island from Los Angeles with my old friend, Gabor and meet up with our third friend and Greenland kayak buddy, Norbi.

Gabor and I first met at my cousin’s birthday in the early 80s. From then on we had no contact for about 30 years. Those were some of the happiest 30 years of my life.

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He’s 100% short bus compliant.

Gabor is a software engineer from West Germany (he insists on using the West part). He can carve a drone out of wood, build an electric motor from a used USB cable and an Altoid box and carries a small arsenal of computer repair equipment in an oversized fanny pack. Gabor made a lasting impression on me when we got car stuck on a Mexican desert dirt road in 2016 and he hotwired an abandoned looking tractor for which we nearly got shot later.

Gabor is a fun travel companion. He has ample stories. He can spend 3-4 hours talking about aerodynamics and is never too afraid to steal farm equipment. Gabor’s problem is hoarding. Whether it’s pebbles, animal bones, leaves, flowers, rusting metal components or broken Palm Pilots, he collects ‘em all. But his worst habit is taking pictures. He takes 500-700 pictures on an average day. It’s not so much about the photography, but scanning his environment and saving every memory digitally. I call his camera, the scanner. He never looks at his pictures again. He just takes them. His hoarding habit can slow any road trip by 20%.

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Updating his Android operating system, reinstalling a couple of apps from Linux, and remotely re-configuring his Raspberry Pi III media server  while Alcatraz looms on the horizon.

On our first day together while kayaking to Alcatraz he got a severe panic attack. It was not because of the waves, the strong winds, rain or the forest fire smoke over the water. Oh, no. His cell phone ran out of memory and his anxiety nearly paralyzed him. While the waves were rocking the living daylights out of us, he unloaded his fanny pack and backed up his entire phone onto a pen-drive in the shark infested, stormy seas of San Francisco Bay.

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Cooking aboard the Dreamcatcher after paddling through San Francisco Bay.

 

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Gabor scanning Canadian asphalt patterns in British Columbia. It doesn’t get any weirder than this. Another 10 minutes we’ll never get back.

 

 

 

 

 

Save orcas. Stop Canadian oil piplines.

Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau once hailed as the golden boy of climate change is about to lose all his credibility as a friend of the environment. The Canadian government purchased a $4.5 billion dollar oil pipeline infrastructure with the hopes of of delivering tar sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia.

The Trans Mountain pipeline project threatens to cause immense damage to indigenous people, nature, water resources, wildlife and climate. In British Columbia the pipeline threatens already endangered orca populations.

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Change is possible. Join the Arcoiris Explorer this summer and tell Canadian banks to stop financing the Trans Mountain pipeline project.  SIGN THE PETITION!

If you’d like to kayak with us ,join our expedition on a 7 day trip off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Broughton Archipelago

expedition.

Final days in Greenland. Whiskey in the hot spring.

We sat out the storm in the ghost village and launched again after a hearty breakfast. The finish line of the trip was merely 7 kilometers away.

Uuanortoq is the perfect place to finish any kayak expedition. The island is known  for its thermal hot springs and natural pools.  They are ideal for getting clean after a solid week of sweating in a plastic suit.

The thermal water just sucked us in. Our options were limited: getting out of the water in the freezing wind or enjoying the soft bubbles and womb like warm water.  After spending a shamefully long time submerged we decided it was time to man up, endure the windchill and kayak north to the area’s most prominent Viking ruins.

Heading north towards the Viking ruins.

The problem with most Viking ruins in Greenland is that you can’t really see them. Apart from a few heavily promoted sights most Viking ruins have not been excavated and are overgrown by grass and moss.

Can you spot the Viking ruin?

We set up camp in an abandoned sheep farm next to the alleged Viking ruins. The afternoon was full of excitement and activity. After guessing the layout of the Viking village, we stumbled upon an Inuit burial site complete with human bones. Later we talked Beni out of setting the abandoned barn on fire, played Greenland’s favorite game show: “Snowmobile Or Jetski.” and read every mid-80s Danish gossip magazine we could find in the farm house.  Did you know Benny Hill’s real name was Alfred?

Looks like the movie set from a Siberian airline disaster movie. “Group of survivors found new life on the frozen tundra.”

The next day we kayaked back to Uunaortoq. Beni chipped off a piece of an iceberg and took it back to the hot spring. We spent the better half of the day drinking whiskey on the rocks and lounging in the 40 degree puddle.

It’s hard to imagine a happier ending to an epic kayak trip in Greenland.

Victory shot in Uuanortoq.

That one will be perfect for the whiskey.

A mellow afternoon of boozing and soaking in Uuanortoq.

Uuanortoq July 16, 2017

We could have watched porn, but we set the phonebook on fire instead

Kayaking from Sydprøven across the fjord seemed like a great idea until it didn’t. Half an hour into our day the winds gathered force. The waves were pounding our yaks from every direction. We were going north, but with every paddle stroke, we were getting farther away from our comfort zone and closer to WTF.

On the other side of the fjord we all agreed that usually disaster movies start this way and we’d better take a break from the elements. Our disaster movie script quickly turned horror as we found a ghost village complete with three and half abandoned buildings and a church.

Here are 5 sentences I never thought I’d hear on a kayak trip, but that day I did:

  • Look, here is a Danish TV guide from 1983.
  • Does anyone know how to use a Singer sewing machine?
  • Guys, let’s break into the church.
  • Do you think an acoustic guitar burns well in the fire?
  • I thought Betamax didn’t allow porn movies.

To escape the wind and rain we moved into one of the abandoned houses. Although the paint was chipping off the ceiling, dark green moss was growing on the carpet and the stove was not connected to the chimney, we were ready to give the house a solid 10 on Tripadvisor. We hung our wet clothes, made coffee, drank whiskey and spent the better half of the afternoon inspecting the archeological treasures in the one room shack.

What started out as a rough morning on the seas turned into a cozy afternoon in arctic luxury.

Peter has an incredible super power. He can fall asleep anywhere. Can you find him in the picture? (Clue:Lime green jacket and blue sleeping bag.)

Dear Mathaeus Efraimsen. Thanks for letting us stay at your pad.

 

This vintage marine radio was just one of the treasures we’ve found.

Clearly not all beach front property holds is value.

The last sign of life was from 1998 in the form of a diploma and a piece of old official mail. Beni quickly observed that the place must have belonged to a priest or a minister. “Look at all these Jesus paintings, and this porn video,” said Beni. His comments got slightly weirder when he examined the video’s back cover and said with an absolutely serious demeanor, “I thought anal sex was invented after the 1990s”.

The last supper with Perverse Sex Games. Both with the original cast.

The last moments of the 1994 Greenland phone book.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading old picture books in Danish and Inuit, napping, smoking, drinking coffee and cooking dinner.

After failing to mend his cheap Decathlon gloves with the sewing machine, Beni explained why books are better than e-readers. “You know, in case of an emergency you could never start a fire with a Kindle,” said the Swiss German engineer.

“Hey Andrew, why don’t we burn some of these books and make a big fire,” asked Beni.
“Beni, the last time your people started burning books it didn’t end so well for my people,” I replied.
“What about a 1994 Greenland phone book. Is that considered a book?”

After a half an hour of moral back and forth, the ghost town elders agreed that it was ethically acceptable to burn a 30 year old phone book. Drying our shoes and socks by the camp fire that night, I realized that sometimes you just need an abandoned beach house, a 1994 phone book and a box of matches to feel one with the universe.

What’s the difference between an acoustic and electric guitar? The acoustic burns better.

VCR manual, 1980s. Quality Street butter cookies, 1990s. Singer sewing machine 1860s. Beni, who knows, probably a time traveler.

Day 4 : Sydprøven and the mystery of the vanishing fish

After two days of intense kayaking among the fjords, we reached the town of Alluitsup Paa (Danish: Sydprøven). AP is the kind of place that politicians refer to as having negative population growth, while everyone else just calls the phenomena, “sh*t, the village is dying”.

The first thing you notice as you sail into Alluitsup Paa is the cellphone tower and the government monopoly supermarket, Pilersuisoq.

Ten years ago 360 people lived here. Today less than 75 souls make up this tiny seaside hamlet. After cod “mysteriously disappeared”, people lost their livelihoods, the school closed and many moved to other parts of the country. This sad story is echoed in coastal communities around the world from Greenland to Belize and Ghana. One doesn’t need to be a climate scientists to know that rising ocean temperatures, climate change related new wind and precipitation models combined with industrial overfishing are the culprits behind the mystery.

Colorful houses dot the harbor in Sydproven.

Amid the decay, Sydproven still has a hotel. The proprietress of the Seaside Whale Hotel looked absolutely terrified when Beni and I showed up. We couldn’t decide what caused the mortified look on her face. Was it that our dry suits and mosquito masks made us look like space aliens or the fact that she hasn’t seen paying guests in years?

Out of mercy, we decided that terrorizing her by being there was not a good idea. We pitched our tents on a rock by the harbor, right behind the town’s supermarket.

The best view in town. Camping on a rock.

Peter and Andras found a quiet nook next to the marine gas station complete with picnic tables.

Later that evening we ventured back to the hotel since it was only place in town to get a drink. We freaked her out again, but this time she has grown somewhat accustomed to our presence. The fear and terror have subsided in here eyes. She told us about all the neighboring villages that have been abandoned years ago, the whales that are expected to return in August and went on to sell us 4 beers for a tiny fortune.

After a cold and windy night, we woke to the smell of freshly baked croissants and danishes permeating from the little store’s bakery. It seemed like a fantastic day to kayak.

World War II US military pilots had trouble identifying Greenlandic towns with their long names full of p’s and q’s. So every settlement got a letter and a number. Alluitsupp Paa became A23. Signs on rooftops are still clearly visible from the sky.

The view at 11PM from my tent.

Day Three – And then there were four

Qaqortoq (population: 3,200) is South Greenland’s largest city. It’s the place if you absolutely need to visit Greenland’s one and only outdoor fountain, must deliver a baby or want to experience a seal skin tannery where dead seals go in and hideous purple and yellow seal skin vests come out. Qaqortoq is also a convenient place to say goodbye.

On the third morning we bid farewell to Bal and Emily who really just jetted to Greenland for two days. We also left 7 others in our group who decided to return to base camp in Narsaq by boat. At this point their kayak vacation from hell turned into a week of leisurely strolls, pub crawls, crepe making parties and taking copious amounts of kayaking pictures from shore and posting them on Facebook.

It was a foggy and wet morning.

At one point we had to take all kayaks out of the water and slide them over a hill to the other side of the fjord. This old viking routine saved us two days of kayaking and gave us two days’ worth of shoulder pain.

Beni, Andras, Peter and I sailed out of Qaqortoq harbor on the morning of July 12th in pouring rain, fog and some sleet. Andras is a 48 year old IT entrepreneur and programmer. Peter is an avid mountain climber and geography teacher. Beni is the guy with the pink bathing suit and the travel spice rack.

There was a definitive shift in group dynamics from that morning on. Everyone was ready on time. There was no complaining, just working together as a team, but at the same time enjoying our own pace, tranquility and Zen.

By late afternoon the sleet and fog have vanished and we sailed south by the feet of sparkling icebergs under a golden arctic sun.

The fog has disappeared by late afternoon and conditions were  perfect.

A young humpback whale outside of our camp.

Camping some 25 kilometers south of Qaqortoq.