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.
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.
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.”
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.
And finally my famous wishkey on the rocks recipe.