Greenland is the world’s largest island and the most sparsely populated place on Earth, almost entirely covered in ice and with virtually no roads, it’s the definition of isolated.
00:35 A word of warning
01:57 The world’s first mountain bike trip to Greenland
04:15 Traveling light
10:52 Cassandra's expedition to Greenland
18:52 Uplifting the voices of Inuit people
27:16 The travel term that's been trademarked
28:59 The Google doodle
31:34 Kayaking the fjords
39:00 Next week
"I find when you go to places like Greenland that haven't seen a lot of tourism, you gain this kind of really deeper appreciation for nature because it seems like the planet is becoming more traveled and places are more busier than they've ever been" - Chris Winter
"There's a whole lot of ice. There's a lot of glaciers" - Cassandra Brooklyn
"...whenever we're in a Northern region or we're on a tour throughout Inuit Nunangat, which is the term we use for sort of an Inuit homeland...we always try to hire as many local people as we possibly can" - Cedar Swan
"What I found very unique was that the water was almost jet black" - Clay Abney
Chris Winter is the owner of Big Mountain Bike Adventures based in Whistler-Canada. Chris has just launched the world’s first mountain bike trip to Greenland, where you can ride along the UNESCO listed Illulisat Icefjord.
Watch this awesome video captured by Chris Captured by Ben Haggar & Chris, for some inspiration.
Cassandra Brooklyn runs the site EscapingNY, offering custom travel planning and group tours for people who don’t do group tours. Cassandra is also a travel writer and guidebook author who experienced a life changing moment when traveling in Greenland.
Cedar Swan is the CEO of Adventure Canada, offering small-ship expeditions to the world’s most unique destinations.
“We believe that getting people close to nature and immersed in culture can actually transform the way we see the world.”
The company is also committed to uplifting the voices of Inuit people and setting the industry standard in reducing their carbon footprint.
Clay Abney is an outdoor & adventure travel writer who kayaked the fjords in Greenland.
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Next Episode: The Broke Backpacker
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Kim: Hi, it's Kim and Phil with you about to explore the world's largest island. Impossible to get around by road and almost entirely covered in ice.
Announcer: Welcome to the World Nomads podcast, delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.
Kim: Phil, where are we off to?
Phil: Greenland, the most sparsely populated place on earth, would you believe? Very difficult to get to, and as you said, difficult to get around with virtually no roads. It's the definition of isolated. Now, a word of warning before we start. In this episode, we're going off the beaten path, it's obvious, so far off the beaten path that we end up discussing some aspects of travel that may not be covered by World Nomads insurance policies. Discussing those activities here is not an endorsement, nor are we recommending that they are right for everybody.
Phil: You should know that some World Nomads plans cannot cover activities in Greenland or generally above the Arctic Circle wherever. Restrictions or exclusions may apply to cover, meaning it's not covered. For example, cover for mountain biking is only available when adventure sport or a plan covering mountain biking is selected. So check that. As I said, trips above the Arctic Circle may be excluded or restricted from coverage. And mountain biking by the way, is excluded from coverage for all of our Brazilian residents. That's it. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
Kim: Exactly. Now, in this episode we will explore Inuit culture, find out about a travel blogger's life-changing experience, and what it's like to kayak among giant sheets of ice. But our first guest is Chris Winter. He's the owner of Big Mountain Bike Adventures based in Whistler, Canada, and he's just launched a mountain biking trip in Greenland inspired by his photographer friend Ben Hagar. What are you laughing at me for?
Phil: My insurance coverage alarms are going off right now.
Kim: Who solo traversed the [inaudible 00:01:57].
Chris Winter: It's approximately a 125-mi (200-km) trail and it's all self-supported, very remote, and he did this on his own, and then we spoke about it, and I'm a tour operator, a mountain bike tour operator and have been for almost 20 years. And I thought that it was an interesting idea to go there with a small group of people and consider launching a guided trip. The first-ever actually in Greenland. Yeah, so it was Ben's initial reconnaissance trip and he was the very first person to have ever mountain biked in Greenland. There have been people going there in the winter time and snow biking. But in terms of traditional mountain biking, he was the first, and then we went over this past September, a few months ago with a group of five and checked it out.
Phil: I can imagine that there's a fair bit of logistics involved in making sure this is a safe journey as well.
Chris Winter: Yeah, it's truly ... I've been in this business for almost 20 years. I've never been to such a remote destination as Greenland. And it's one of those trips that it's an adventure, it's a trip, but it's really, truly an expedition where you need to plan for possibilities where things could go from comfortable and fairly exposed to very exposed quickly. If the weather turned or an injury or even a simple mechanical problem with your bike, and getting somebody evacuated in that part of the world is quite an ordeal. So yeah, it definitely required some very careful planning and the right group of people that needed to come together to do this trip.
Kim: It looks amazing. I like the downhill bit the most.
Chris Winter: Yes, yes, no doubt.
Kim: 250 K. It's not easy. There are some challenging aspects to it.
Chris Winter: Yeah, yeah. No, it's true. And it's a bike-packing trip also, which is kind of an emerging style of mountain biking that's become quite popular in recent years. And basically it's like going on a hiking trip, but with your mountain bike where you've got a very, very lightweight set up that's fixed on your bike. So they've developed really cool bags that fit onto your bike in such a way that doesn't inhibit the rider from peddling and maneuvering the bike. So it's not like traditional panniers, but these are small bags that kind of fit in various places on your bike. And as I said, it has to be very, very lightweight, light, light, lightweight. They've developed 10 specifically for bike packing. And so you're riding, you're pushing your bike from point to point, and camping during the night. So, it's definitely an acquired kind of experience. Not for everyone.
Phil: Yeah, hang on. Lightweight and cold. They don't seem to [crosstalk 00:05:13].
Chris Winter: Oh, yeah. You're a hundred percent correct. I consider myself to be someone that's experienced quite a few difficult situations and hardships and I love being out in the elements, but on this trip, you're exactly correct where you need to pack as lightly as possible in almost that kind of scenario where you cut your toothbrush to shave a few grams type of thing and your food, everything has to be really calculated, every calorie. But when we derived camp, so you'd been riding approximately eight to 10 hours a day and you pull into the place where you're going to camp for the night and then all of a sudden your body is cooling down and the temperature is cooling down considerably. And the nights that we were there, I was basically in every single layer of clothing that I had in my sleeping bag while sleeping.
Chris Winter: So, yeah, it was a little bit ... It was on the verge of being like, okay, this is a little bit almost very exposed where you know that if you've got every single layer on of clothing in your sleeping bag through the night, that there's no margin, there's very little margin for comfort, let's say.
Phil: You say you're riding eight to 10 hours a day, but that must be because you have to keep stopping and looking at the amazing views.
Chris Winter: Yeah. It's an amazing place really. I mean, the Arctic is unique and I just appreciated just the vast remote nature of Greenland and just there wasn't ... You'd stop riding and look around and it was completely dead silent. We saw reindeer, a couple of Eagles. These Greenlandic Eagles would come and check us out. And then that was pretty much it in terms of wildlife and just a few other hikers here and there that we would encounter. I had that feeling, we all did, where you're just so remote and so exposed to the elements that it was a little unnerving at times where you felt like it was kind of another level of exposure being in Greenland, but very cool and memorable. That's for sure.
Chris Winter: We had a spot device that allowed us to send a text in an emergency. I find when you go to places like Greenland that haven't seen a lot of tourism, you gain this kind of really deeper appreciation for nature because it seems like the planet is becoming more traveled and places are busier than they've ever been. And so to go to a place that has few humans is quite special and you really feel like you want to do your best to protect Greenland, of course, and then everywhere else you go.
Phil: We are essentially a travel insurance company at the end.
Chris Winter: Yes.
Phil: And I want to ask you some questions about how you did some preparations because in providing travel insurance in such a remote location, we've got some problems. As you say, it's hard to get somebody evacuated. It's expensive. It's a problem for us because we can't provide the service that we like to promise that we can, because it's just impossible, because it just doesn't exist for that reason. We don't sell policies to North Korea because we can't do our job there. Did you have any special resources? Did you hook up with an evacuation company? How did you organize that?
Chris Winter: Yeah. Well, it's a very good question because we're of course boldly going to be selling packages to Greenland to those that have the experience and the ability, first and foremost. If we needed to be evacuated, we would have to be calling in a helicopter from Nuuk, which is the capital. It's a horribly expensive operation. We just are very transparent of course with participants in that if it's required, it's something that one is going to have to foot the bill for, obviously. We do have the contact in place if it was needed, but we do everything we possibly can to avoid having to get an evacuation.
Phil: So what was the arrangement you made with the people? It's like, sorry, you're going to have to pay for the chopper yourself?
Chris Winter: Correct. Yeah.
Phil: Wow. That would make you ride carefully.
Chris Winter: I agree. Oh, yeah. No, it's like no other trip that we've ever embarked on where the fine print, that's basically what it says. The participant is on the hook. Yeah. So, it's almost-
Kim: Well, that's the way around it, Phil.
Phil: Yeah, yeah. Totally. That's right. I think that's really sensible as well, rather than people just assuming that they're going to be covered for everything, not having a proper look at what it is. So, I applaud that. Well done.
Chris Winter: It really comes down to preparing participants as well as possible with every eventuality or possibility that could occur. It's definitely a difficult trip. Things can go from challenging to very challenging depending just on the weather.
Kim: Thank you, Chris, and we will be sure to share a link to the trip and a video that, as you said, Phil, shows off that show-stopping scenery.
Phil: I know. It's so colorful.
Kim: It's beautiful, isn't it?
Kim: Cassandra Brooklyn. She runs the site Escaping NY, Escaping New York, and she had a life-changing experience in Greenland.
Cassandra B.: So, I joined an expedition cruise. I went on the Adventure Canada expedition cruise from Greenland down the Eastern coast of Canada, Wild Labrador, and then ending in Newfoundland. So, I flew in and then took this big boat down the shore and that's what took me there.
Kim: So, was it something that was on your list of things to do because it's a fairly remote place?
Cassandra B.: Yes. Definitely.
Kim: Yeah. And why?
Cassandra B.: Yeah. I went to Iceland three years ago and then flying over Iceland, coming back to New York City, we flew over Greenland, and I just looked down. I was just so intrigued by it. I had heard the name before. I'd heard the country name. I'd never really heard about the country. I had never known anybody to visit there, and I'm always intrigued by a place where nobody I know has ever visited. It is intriguing when there's a place that you haven't really heard much about. And for me that was Greenland.
Kim: What's Greenland like? Is it green or is that the worst question anyone could ask?
Cassandra B.: No, it's not as green as I thought it would be, especially the time year I was going. So, I've heard different stories about where the name Greenland comes from, but one of the stories is that the folks that first arrived and "discovered it", even though there were already people there, it was green. It must've been summertime, and so they called it Greenland. I'm not sure if that's actually the case. I've heard different stories, but I was visiting in the fall, which it's not green at that point. Everything was white. It was also kind of gray. I happened to be there during several days of blustery days. The first day we arrived, it was bright blue skies, and we were kayaking around some glaciers. And then when we got to Nuuk, it was very cloudy out and it wasn't particularly green, but I'm sure it would be in the summertime.
Kim: So, what's it like? What's there? What is there? Tell us.
Cassandra B.: There's a whole lot of ice. There's a lot of glaciers. Greenland has the largest national park in the world, and I didn't visit this, but if you look at the map of Greenland, the whole world usually, things that are green if it represents a country, whether the country is green or not, it typically represents on the map. And Greenland has this massive section of white in the middle of it representing this glacier and this ice, and this national park falls in that area. And so, much of the country is completely inaccessible. So, people who live there, who want to visit other villages, they can't drive there. There are no roads that go there. So, they have to fly or catch a ride on a boat. And so honestly, I was kind of surprised. I'm like, people are moving to Greenland, mostly Europeans, but some people are moving to Greenland for job opportunities.
Kim: So, apart from the fact that if you wanted to go to visit other villages, you would have to do it by plane or by boat. Obviously, if it's attracting expats, there must be some sort of social life that happens.
Cassandra B.: Yeah, there's definitely social life. They have a really wonderful museum and cultural center there that puts on a lot of events and in Nuuk, in the capitol, the cultural center is also the movie theater. And when I was visiting, it was hosting an international film festival and they show modern films, mainstream films as well, but they were hosting an international film festival that was focusing on indigenous people and culture and rights and awareness with films around the world. And so, a lot of people were coming there to go to these films. There were also live music performances and theatrical performances at this cultural center that seemed to draw in almost everybody from the town, and there's also some restaurants and some bars in the evening, but I wouldn't call it a hotspot, a nightlife Mecca by any means.
Kim: You had a particularly great experience in Greenland. In fact, I think you told me it was life-changing.
Cassandra B.: It really was. I mean, you know me a bit. I've been on this podcast before. I'm a fairly talkative person. I'm not a quiet person. I'm fairly type-A personality and silence has never been my thing. I really like to talk, probably more than I like to listen. I don't always necessarily admit that. And when I was in Greenland and I was learning about Inuit culture and meeting Inuit people, silence was a big part of that.
Cassandra B.: Adventure Canada, who organized the expedition cruise that I was on, Adventure Canada had over a dozen Inuit staff as their team members and leading the trip, and several of them gave presentations, and I kept hearing how Inuit people are shy, how they're quiet, how they enjoy silence. And it was more than just being shy. It was that they actually enjoy being silent. And I was meeting people who were telling me, even if there are a dozen people in the room, even if I have 15 family members with me in the house, sometimes we just sit there, we have dinner, and we just sit there in silence, and we enjoy each other's company. We enjoy having them around us, but we don't feel the need to speak.
Cassandra B.: But it's not this awkward silence that is usually the case for many Westerners. A lot of people in my social circles, it's kind of awkward if nobody's saying anything, but I was finding that that silence was preferred and it was too taxing to have all that commentary and banter during meals or in any setting. So, I just stopped talking. Obviously that didn't last forever, but I stopped talking so much and listening more, and truly listening, and not just pausing to think about what I want to say next.
Kim: Have you taken that back to New York?
Cassandra B.: Absolutely. Absolutely. Obviously you've heard me talking in this conversation. It's not that I've stopped speaking altogether, but I've become more thoughtful and I catch myself. I catch myself many times still talking too much, interrupting too much, thinking about myself too much. Absolutely. But I'm so much more aware of it.
Kim: Would you recommend Greenland as a destination now that you've experienced it?
Cassandra B.: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to go back and it's ... So, I was in the South West, which is where the capital is, but if you go in the South, I've also heard there's some really nice hiking and you can hike in between these cities and it's unguided, but they're like, yeah, you just kind of hike and you show up at somebody's house, you'll find it. Usually, you're not lost more than a day and then you'll find someone, which I just really love this relaxed approach and like, yeah, people will help you.
Cassandra B.: And then in the East there's also really nice hiking. And I've heard there's a lot of day trips to Greenland, which I find really interesting to go to a country for a day trip. But I've heard there's a lot of Americans doing day trips to Greenland from Iceland to do hiking. So, I'd like to go back, and I'd like to explore different parts of it. I'd like to go in the summer hoping to find more greenery.
Kim: I love her laugh, Phil.
Kim: Anyone with a good laugh has got me.
Kim: Cedar Swan runs that Adventure Canada and the trip that Cassandra was talking about, but Phil, why is the word, cruise, almost a dirty word?
Phil: Why am I getting all the bad use tonight? All right. Look, because it conjures up those images of those ever bigger cruise ships, which contribute to over-tourism in many places. And there are obviously questions about the environmental impact of what powers those ships and what waste they create. And it's contrary to our belief at World Nomads that small travel is a great benefit to the world. As we like to say, leave only footprints and not a massive ship's wake behind you.
Kim: Yep. Well, Cedar absolutely gets that.
Cedar Swan: Yeah, we're really trying. I mean, we're undergoing ... I mean, we always try and use the term expedition cruise because I do think, especially now that this type of travel has become a little bit more well known to the general public, we find if we say an expedition, people get a different impression in their mind that they might be going out traveling by dog sled and hiking for days on end and sleeping in a tent, which is not what we're doing when we're up in the Arctic. But it's also not cruising. I mean, I find cruising is often interpreted like it's all about the ship, and it's all about the amenities and the entertainment. So, we like to use expedition cruising because we hope that that conveys the opportunity for adventure. The idea you're getting off the beaten path, but we're doing it by small ships. So, really what we're offering is soft adventure.
Phil: And what are the challenges with reducing your carbon footprint and things and how are you managing that?
Cedar Swan: Yeah. Well, right now, we're actually undergoing a carbon audit. So from here, I mean, that's our first step in the process. And we've always been very socially minded and have really tried to do our best to make meaningful, impactful contributions and decisions. Sort of with regards to the people in the places that we're visiting and the societies that we're visiting, but it was actually just in August that we undertook the start of our carbon audit. So, we'll have that complete by the end of January. And then from that point, we'll develop a three-year carbon reduction strategy. Pardon me. And so, really it'll be difficult for me to comment on exactly what we're doing until we get that audit and work through that plan.
Cedar Swan: But I mean, we're doing basic types of things, really trying to reduce our garbage when we're on board. We offer carbon offsets for our guests, and we cover it for our own expedition staff. Yeah, so a lot of it is around the waste reduction, trying to invest in regenerative agricultural practices. Sort of when we're giving back to communities and to organizations, ones that are really looking to have long-term impact and rehabilitation of sort of the land, and we really see that as the way that we'd like to go forward with looking at the offsets from our business.
Phil: Way back in episode two of this podcast, when we spoke about Canada, we spoke to a British journalist, a fellow called Mike Carter, who wrote an article about Inuit-led adventure in Canada, and his argument was that Canada tourism has kind of got it wrong because they're going, we've got these fabulous cities and they're a lot like Europe, and if people want a European city, they're going to go to Europe. And what he said where the future of tourism in Canada was, was in Inuit-led tourism and going into those communities, and that whole sort of, as you talked about there, about the whole giving back thing and sort of helping bolster these communities as well. You agree with him there? It's the way of the future?
Cedar Swan: Well, I mean Canada is such a huge place that I would say that, that would be one way forward. I certainly wouldn't say that it's the way forward for Canada in terms of as a soul path, and it's a very sensitive area. So, I don't actually believe that Canada and many of the communities in the North would want to see the types of numbers that we might see. I live just outside of Toronto in a city called Mississauga, which has got just around a million people, I don't believe that the communities that are in the North are targeting to start to see ... They don't necessarily want to see those types of numbers and they want to see the types of tourists and visitors coming as ones that are really looking to experience and looking to understand and coming with an open heart and open mind.
Cedar Swan: I would suggest that in Canada, the opportunity for indigenous tourism in general is probably one of the best ways forward in terms of that it's very underdeveloped. It's an underdeveloped product, not very many people are doing it. And there's a lot of interest and the Canadian government is investing a lot of money, as are the indigenous communities all across Canada, are really seeing this as an opportunity, which is incredibly exciting. And so, not only is it underdeveloped, so there's a lot of opportunity from that perspective, but it also has the potential to have a lot of really positive and meaningful impact, which I think is what so many tourists and visitors today really want to know and to reaffirm their own value system that my visit here actually has had a positive effect on this place that I'm going to. They very much want it to be a win-win for both sides. And so I really feel strongly in Canada that there's so many opportunities and it's excellent because many of the indigenous communities have incredible potential for product and limited economic opportunity right now. So, it can be a win in so many ways.
Kim: Well, that's what Mike was talking about as well. Now, you as a company are committed to uplifting the voices of Inuit people. How are you doing that?
Cedar Swan: Well, I mean, first and foremost, we hire Inuit. That's really what we aim to do. So, whenever we're in a Northern region or we're on a tour throughout Inuit Nunangat, which is the term we use for sort of an Inuit homeland, we have four different Inuit regions in Canada, we always try to hire as many local people as we possibly can. So on average, if we're in the Arctic and our team might be numbering somewhere in the range of 28 to let's say 32 or 33, we'd be looking at having about a third of that staff as Inuit that are onboard and in a number of different capacities.
Cedar Swan: So, everything from cultural interpreters, but also people that might not have a background in tourism necessarily. So, your hunters that can actually just talk about their direct experiences on the land, the changes that they're seeing happening on the tundras and out on the ice. And we try and really balance that and uplift that perspective to complement the academic and the scientific perspective that we're getting perhaps from the other disciplines that are traveling with us. So, in addition to, as I mentioned, sort of cultural interpreters, hunters, elders within communities, opportunities for youth to be able to sort of get some career development training. And then also just the people that really help make the trips run. Our Zodiac drivers, our bear monitors that keep everybody safe. So, number one in that strategy is direct employment.
Cedar Swan: And then also just as a company, we make it a point to not speak on behalf of Inuit. Nobody knows their culture and their land better than them, and I think it's sometimes a very common trait or a learned behavior that a more dominant culture tends to speak on behalf, even with the best of intentions, over or on top of another, and we're really making a very conscious effort to provide that space for their voice to be heard in whatever way it needs to come out. Because every trip is different, too. The dynamics of the different staff that are on board and the different guests that are on board. And every guest comes with a different background. And sometimes there's a real interest in hunting and in sealing and the sealskin bands and how that's affecting. And other times, it's all around climate. So, the conversations are really very organic and driven by how all of the different parties are relating to each other.
Kim: Thank you, Cedar. Just some fun fact. Did you know that over-tourism has been trademarked?
Phil: No, really?
Kim: In 2016.
Phil: So, do we need to pay somebody now because we've said it about five times.
Kim: It would be a full-time job, wouldn't it? It's mentioned all the time. This was in 2016. It was trademarked.
Phil: Here's a way, see if we can find out who it is. Over-tourism, over-tourism, over-tourism. Google will pick that up.
Kim: Well, yeah, that's true. That is true. Now, where were we at? I'll give a link to Adventure Canada in show notes. But Phil, over to you because you've got travel news.
Phil: Okay. Look, as you're probably aware, World Nomads, we believe as travelers, we've got a responsibility to give back, which is why we founded the Footprints Program, which is when you buy travel insurance with us, you can choose at a small micro-donation to your policy price to help fund specific community development projects and you sort of get a bit of a choice with that as well. Now, the Footprints Network has just completed its 200th project. Yay.
Phil: It was the Sea Turtle Conservancy to ensure the survival of sea turtles within the Caribbean. One of the project activities was the promotion of sea turtle ecotourism as an alternative to the harvesting of sea turtles as a way to build sustainable programs that provide revenue for local communities. And if you want to see that in action, you should watch the video we made at the project. We'll put a link to that in show notes so you can see it. And humble brag, by the way, the video was recently named as a finalist in the Shorty Social Good Awards.
Kim: Oh, awesome. And next year, we've got an episode on the Caribbean coming up. We're speaking to the guy that heads up the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Kim: We're all over it. How good have we been-
Phil: We're all over it.
Kim: We have been so over it.
Phil: As I opened up Google to search for a bit of travel news today, it had one of those funny sort of graphics at the top, the sort of tribute.
Kim: The Google doogle. Hang on, the Google doodle, I think [crosstalk 00:29:08].
Phil: Google doodle. There you go. It was a woman wearing an old-style leather flying helmet. So, I'm going okay, here's this, and I've checked her out and she was an aviation pioneer I'd never heard of before, which women doing anything, it takes a long time to get recognition. But her name is Maude and she called herself Lores. So, Maude Lores Bonney, and she was the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England. She did that in 1933, and other feats that she did as well. She was the first person of any gender to fly from Australia to South Africa. She went from Brisbane to Cape Town. That's a lot of water.
Kim: It is.
Phil: All right, so 1933 and 1937. She did the 33 trips to England in a Gipsy Moth, which is a tiny biplane, tiny, and then the trip that she did from Brisbane to Cape Town was in another aircraft, which is not a lot bigger either. It's just unbelievable how brave she must've been to do that and how competent.
Kim: Oh, incredible.
Phil: That's all I got.
Kim: And do you want me to tell you who has trademarked over-tourism?
Phil: Oh, go on.
Kim: It's a news outlet called Skift.
Phil: Oh, okay. Skift. Well, I know Skift.
Kim: Yeah, this was-
Phil: Did they come up with it then, did they?
Kim: I don't know.
Phil: Great travel news website.
Kim: Better zip it, Phil. Don't use the term over-tourism.
Phil: Okay. I think it's a very smart idea of them to trademark that word. Well done, Skift.
Kim: It is. Now, a reminder to join our Facebook group too. Just search for the World Nomads podcast. We share some behind the scenes stuff, including what World Nomad's staff have been up to. Recently, global programs marketing manager Perry climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and there's a great photo on it sparks some conversation. It's certainly inspired one of our group members, Ian, to rethink climbing it because his dad did it when he was young, many, many years ago. Where there to inspire, Phil.
Phil: Yes, absolutely.
Kim: That wasn't convincing.
Phil: No, I'm just wondering. What do you mean? Rethinking as in he should do it because Dad did it?
Phil: Oh, right. I thought he was-
Kim: He was always going to do it because his dad did it, but then there's a picture of Perry who's just done it.
Kim: Suddenly, it's achievable.
Phil: You know she got altitude sickness while she was doing it?
Kim: Yeah. And fun fact, the toilets are pretty gross on the way up, too. Clay Abney's an outdoor and adventure travel writer. He's kayaked the fjords in Greenland.
Clay Abney: Yeah, absolutely. And actually, it took us a couple of days to even actually get to see the actual ice sheet because as we got into the fjords, we were paddling and we saw all of these chunks of ice and icebergs ranging from, ones the size of buildings and houses, down to the size of cars and even basics like the ice cubes in your glass. And then we got to a section of the fjord and we took a hike and then we actually got to see the large glacier that kind of became part of a series of glaciers that formed a large ice sheet that ran I think 1500 miles North of there.
Phil: So, it's a big joint really, isn't it? It's quite a large place.
Clay Abney: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it is. It's I guess the world's largest island and I had to fly all the way to Europe to get back to Greenland, which is actually on the North American continent. So, that was the beauty of it is, it's kind of remote. It's kind of a ... I've been to Antarctica as well, and I almost think that it was actually harder to get to Greenland than it was to get to Antarctica.
Kim: Which is most spectacular?
Clay Abney: I was actually on an expedition cruise ship to Antarctica, so I saw many more people on that trip, even though it was only maybe 300 people on the ship. But when I was in Greenland, it was me, a couple of other guys, and then our guide, so I saw four people for the bulk of our kayaking portion. So, I saw less people in Greenland then I saw in Antarctica. It was actually a very unique experience to be there and it's just, once again, you understand how you have to have a real sense of survival and kind of just a knack for wanting to live and thrive in a very almost inhospitable environment.
Phil: I've got this image inside my head about what paddling up a fjorn looks like, steep-sided and-
Kim: That's the image I've got.
Phil: That's the image I've got. Is it like that or are they a bit more open as you're paddling up?
Clay Abney: Yeah, they're actually pretty ... These were pretty open to some degree. Then you got into ... It wasn't like the fjords of Norway, where it's almost like high mountain peaks that come straight down into the water. It was a little bit more open than that, but yet it was still pretty much ... The sides of the fjord kind of went up a little bit abruptly. They just weren't as high, the peaks weren't as high on the sides. So, I guess it didn't seem kind of as tall and kind of rugged, but yet there are no trees in Greenland. Most of it's all shrubbery that grows really low to the ground due to the environment. So yeah, it was more of a, almost like a taiga, almost like a Tundra-type experience.
Phil: Pretty, obviously, and wildlife?
Clay Abney: Yep. Seals, caribou. Most of it's a lot of birds. We saw some Eagles. And what I found very unique was that the water was almost jet black. I guess maybe because of how deep it was or whatever. Then you've got this ice and then there's different colored ice. The bluish and then the white and so, it's a very dramatic landscape. It almost was kind of eerie as you're paddling along in this black water, and then you can hear the ice cracking. You don't have any other sounds coming in from other communities or any other outside noise. So, whatever you're hearing is the ice cracking or melting or the ice turning in the water as it's changing its form.
Phil: Were you afraid of ice carving, because that can be really dangerous when a big chunk goes in the water?
Clay Abney: Well, we actually could not even get into the opening to that particular fjord where the glacier that was producing all the ice because it was so congested, but we did take a hike to the top of the ... We kind of came ashore and then hiked up to the top of this bluff and were able to see the actual, the end of the glacier where it's actually calving off. You could hear it, you could see it, and it was pretty dramatic. But then you could see how congested, it was all trying to go out this little bottleneck. And so, I guess as it melted or as the tide changed, it would kind of allow some of them to kind of get pushed out and as more ice was being pushed off of the glacier, it would kind of then push more of it out of that small opening. It was almost a unique experience, and I've seen the calving in Antarctica, and it was much more wide open as opposed to these narrow channels.
Phil: We know it's pretty remote and there's not many towns or villages along there, so how do you prepare for an expedition like that?
Clay Abney: Well, I come from a kayaking background, and I was a sea kayaking instructor, so I had a little bit of a head start ahead of the two guys that were with us and they were kind of newbies to that. So, of course, the guide service we went with had everything we needed, paddling jackets. They even had the little paddling hoagies, the little mitts that you put over your paddle, just because of the water temp. We had the spray skirts to keep any water out of the cockpit because the water itself is, I mean you could easily get hypothermia really quickly and he obviously went over instruction over, hey, if somebody does go in the water, we all go ashore to the quickest point that we can get to immediately after we get the person out of the water because then we obviously got to build a fire, get them heated up, warmed up, get them out of their wet clothes, get them onto some dry clothes. Obviously, none of that happened. It was an injury-free, risk-free trip.
Phil: I've just jumped on to YouTube and found the sound of ice cracking. So, let's have a quick listen to this and see what we can hear. It's not in Greenland, it's in Canada, in BC.
Clay Abney: Yep. It really is, it's almost like you can almost hear a pin drop and then you can hear the ice as it rolls underneath, the smaller pieces as they roll underneath the whole of the kayak. You don't want to paddle too close to the large ones because at any point they could flip and rotate and then if you're too close to them you either get caught in the wake or you could actually get crushed if you're getting too close to them as they rollover.
Kim: I've owned kayaks, I think I'll stick to lakes.
Phil: I think you'll stick to Manly Cove in summer.
Kim: Yeah, Manly Cover in summer. Exactly. Clay, can I just say that I love your accent? Of all the American accents, I love that one, and I think because I'm pretty hopeless at accents, I think I can nail it.
Phil: Oh God.
Kim: Clay Abney, outdoor and adventure travel writer. Am I onto it?
Phil: That's horrible.
Kim: I thought I did that accent really well.
Clay Abney: You've been influenced by Nicholas Cage or Jodie Foster or somebody that tries to over accentuate the ... Or maybe Matthew McConaughey.
Kim: Clay, can you do an Australian accent?
Clay Abney: No, but the funny thing is, I lived in Pittsburgh. I don't think I have an Australian accent, but I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for my wife's job, and about a third of the people there thought I was Australian.
Kim: No, not even close.
Clay Abney: I know. Apparently they don't get out a lot, but [crosstalk 00:38:59].
Kim: Very, very funny, Clay. Great guy. I linked to his work in the show notes, and that wraps up Greenland. Any questions, email [email protected] Phil, how much do you think you could make from being a travel blogger?
Phil: How much could I make? Not a lot.
Kim: No. Okay.
Phil: Well, no. I know there are eye-watering amounts, and we're going to share some tips on how to make money from your travels when we speak with Will Hatton, otherwise known as the broke backpacker, in our next episode.
Phil: See you then.