Therefore, at the appropriate time, I hiked out to Kulusuk international airport and met Andrea (our guide, originally from Switzerland but living in Iceland for many, many years) and my fellow travelers for the next 10 days: Eric and Alan (Nova Scotia, Canada), Fiona (Australia), Rhonda (USA), Jorge and Martine (Switzerland), and Linda (UK).
Given the logistics of our arrival, Swiss Andrea (female) handed us over to Italian Andrea (male) who also works for Greenland Adventures to join the Kulusuk Classic Day Tour (the best way to learn about Kulusuk), while she transferred all our luggage to the Kulusuk Hostel in a trailer attached to a quad-bike.
Given the lack of cars in Kulusuk, this tour involves hiking the ~3km road from the airport into town. As Italian Andrea led us on this journey, he explained a little about Kulusuk, Kulusuk Island and the Ammassalik area of East Greenland – which is very different to the South and the West of Greenland.
Kulusuk’s New Cemetery
On the way into town, we stopped by Kulusuk’s “new cemetery” that was full of colourful but faded plastic flowers adorning semi-raised graves that were typically identified by unmarked white crosses. This is an interesting juxtaposition of Christian and Inuit practices – the ideas of the cross and flowers are Christian in origin, whereas the absence of names and dates reflects the Inuit belief that names should be passed on in death to live within the next generation.
Walking up through the cemetery we reached a lookout point with an amazing view down over Kulusuk, its harbour and the mountains beyond.
From this vantage point, Andrea explained that Greenlandic houses are essentially Danish “IKEA” houses that come in 3 different styles. He also told us a little about the historical context of the colours of the buildings. Traditionally, red indicated a government or commercial building (e.g. a school, supermarket, church), yellow indicated a building related to health/medicine (e.g. a hospital or nurses clinic), blue indicated a fish processing plant, etc. However, these days anybody can paint their building whatever colour they wish, so this colour-coding doesn’t necessarily hold true 100% of the time.
Our next stop was the amazing Kulusuk Museum, which I had also visited last year on the last day of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek. Unfortunately Frederik (the owner and main guide for the museum) was on holidays, but Andrea did an awesome job of explaining the exhibits in his absence. You can read more about this amazing family-run venture in my post from last year.
From there, we headed past the sled dogs and through the main part of town. We passed by the harbour (complete with a dead seal in the “Greenlandic refrigerator” – ie floating in the water, tied up to the dock), the Pilersuisoq (supermarket), the generator for the settlement, and the “service house”. This latter provides the community with hot showers and laundry facilities, as most houses in Kulusuk do not have running water.
At the far end of town, we arrived at the Kulusuk church. Built in 1925 from the remains of a Danish fishing boat that had become stranded in the area, this was the first institutional building in Kulusuk. There is even a model replica of the boat hanging from the ceiling at the front-left of the church.
It is lovely and simple inside, with seal skin and a square of a polar bear skin adorning the floor around the alter, geometric stained glass windows highlighting the colours of the houses, and bibles in the West Greenlandic language (East Greenlandic is actually a non-written dialect of this).
Greenlandic Drum Dancing
Our final stop on the tour of Kulusuk was a demonstration of Greenlandic Drum Dancing near the statue of one of its most famous practitioners – Milka Kuitse. Unfortunately this tradition is quickly disappearing, and the Kulusuk Classic Day Tour is one of very few ways visitors can now witness it!
Dressed in traditional Greenlandic clothing, Kristina Boassen – one of only two remaining Drum Dancers in the region – performed two dances for us. The first told the story about kids that play and fight, but in the end always find a way to get along.
To me, the sound is haunting. And the simple accompaniment of the drum makes it even more so. It is a beautiful experience in a remarkable location.
The second song has a twist to it, so I won’t spoil the surprise 😉
An afternoon stroll around Kulusuk
At this point, it was 1pm so we headed to the amazing Kulusuk Hostel for a light lunch of fresh bread, cheese (brie, blue, havarti), processed meats, cucumber and tomato.
Swiss Andrea outlined the plan for the rest of the afternoon and we each introduced ourselves in more detail. Then we headed out into the sunshine for a short hike to the old harbour of Kulusuk.
It has been a long, cold winter in Greenland this year and so we got our first taste of hiking through snow drifts – yes even in the middle of town! The views from the abandoned fish processing plant at the old harbour, and the rocky ridge we took to get back to town were incredible as always – and it was glorious to be out and about hiking under bright blue skies.
Back at the hostel, the group unpacked their bags in the dorm room upstairs and hung out on the deck, before being called in for a dinner of salad, fish, rice and chocolate cake. Seriously delicious!
Andrea then pulled out the maps to explain the plan for tomorrow and the next several days before everyone headed off for a relatively early night.
Looking forward to hopefully getting all the way to DYE-4 tomorrow (unlike last year)!
Read more about the Icefjords and Remote Villages Tour
- Day 1 – Kulusuk
- Day 2 – Hike to DYE-4 radar station
- Day 3 – Kulusuk to Kuummiut
- Day 4 – Hike to Illitsiartik in the Tunu fjord
- Day 5 – Hike up Mt Kuummiut
- Day 6 – Kuummiut to Tiniteqilaaq
- Day 7 – Hike near Tiniteqilaaq
- Day 8 – Tiniteqilaaq to Tasiilaq, hiking the “Sermilik Way”
- Day 9 – Tasiilaq
- Day 10 – Tasiilaq to Reykjavik
If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.