Camino del Ártico

11th day: Flying for approximately four hours, from Iceland to Kulusuk, in Greenland

On Saturday 30th we took off from Reykjavik under maximum weight. It was a sunny morning and the weather forecast along the route and at destination was good.

We had planned to fly at 5,000 feet to stay below ice level.

It was a smooth flight, in a laminar atmosphere with a mild tail wind which let us see the coast of Greenland on 28 West, and a sea of ice and icebergs.

At 40 NM from Kulusuk‘s airport we contacted the tower, which informed us that there was no traffic in the area.

We started a soft descent down to 800 feet so the engine back cylinders didn’t cool down, and to enjoy the majestic frozen nature during the last miles of an approach not to forget, amid a diaphanous air and bright sunshine intensified by the snow and turquoise blue colors.

We reached runway 29 with a soft west wind. The runway is of grayish gravel; it blends into the rugged landscape and is only identifiable by the simple demarcation lights that are on 24 hours a day, since it is the only operative landing field within a radius of 500 km (if we hadn’t managed to land we had enough fuel to return to Reykjavik).

It was built by the Americans during the Cold War as part of the “Dew line” network, aimed at preventing a hypothetical Russian invasion. It is now run by the government of Greenland.

We are in Greenland, one degree from the Arctic Circle. We feel that the real journey has just started.

We have stayed at the Hilton 5-star Hotel, ironically called so because of its spartan facilities which are part of the airport and are meant to accommodate seasonal staff. We share the big hut with two employees from the tourist information service at the airport. We are happy here, and Jacob, the tower manager, has invited us to watch the Spain-Italy match tomorrow (at the time of writing this post we have already seen the awesome match). Bradt, the airport’s German electrical maintenance technician, has invited us to visit the place where the Americans had their aerials. From up there, you can see some spectacular views of the ice ocean and the rugged mountains.

There, we have toasted with Qubél to the beauty of these landscapes.

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Seventh day: Flying over Iceland, glaciers, volcanoes and lakes all the way to Reykjavik

…on Wednesday we flew over Iceland and passed over the biggest glacier in Europe. We intended to approach the volcano that was active in 2010 in the southern part of the island, but the forecast failed and when we reached the area we were met with development clouds that generated some ice, so we couldn’t see it.

However, we enjoyed good visibility at certain points that let us admire the power of these magically multicolored harsh volcanic landscapes where the water thawed from the glacier runs happily in countless waterfalls, lakes, brooks and creeks.

We plan to stay in Reykjavik until Saturday to do the first interviews on climate change.

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More on the sixth day: Compulsory recovery after the great crossing

Monday 25th crossing lasted a bit more than 6 hours, but it began at 6 p.m. after spending the day at Wick airport, Scotland, keeping an eye on the weather conditions.

We located two American pilots who were just back from Keflavik and shared with us all kinds of detailed information on their crossing, with the proviso that they were using a 6-cylinder engine, big turbocharged cylinders which enabled them to fly above the clouds, and we weren’t.

All this to say that when we got up on Tuesday to go to Egilsstadir airport the three of us (we two and Harro) showed clear signs of tiredness. We had slept well but it seems the fact that it doesn’t get dark at night shortened our sleep time. We left Heidi‘s little motel (in the middle of green field) and went to the airport in search of good weather conditions that enabled us to go to Reykjavik.

The island’s weather usually follows an alternate pattern, i.e. when it is fine West, it’s bad East, and vice versa, so you need to look for the transition moment to operate on both sides.

In Reykjavik the Spanish Consulate (Pablo‘s contacts from when he came a few weeks ago for his piano concert) will arrange for us a visit to a magnificent research center on the effects of climate change and its origins. It’s a visit we hope to carry out for the longest possible time we are allowed.

We spent the day at the airport, fiddling with the trunk and the pile of bags, labeled according to their use, packing the emergency equipment we had used for the crossing, making small repairs to the plane, and finally refilling the oil and about 200 liters of fuel, which is what we used up during the crossing – slightly more than 30 liters per hour.

People in these surroundings are extremely nice and willing to help in everything; they smile readily even if they can’t say a word in a foreign language.

Late the evening, Benini, the owner of the motel, who works as a controller at the tower, came to pick us up so we could call it off for the day and buy something to have for dinner outside our rooms in the field.

Today, Wednesday, more rested, we will give it another try.

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Sixth day: In eastern Iceland, where shadows are long at midnight

Today, Tuesday, we have woken up in Iceland. We have slept in a three-room hotel, in the middle of the valley formed by the estuary. There’s hardly any traffic here.

It’s a beautiful day, the Sun shines between the clouds and we are wearing the quality wool undershirts we rightly put in our baggage.

Crossing the ocean has been incredible. The only problem is we can never be certain of the weather conditions. These are unknown and changeable places. Serious trouble can happen here at low altitudes.

We did the crossing at 3,000 feet and Harro a bit higher. We have flown along the coast of the Faroe Islands.

The airport where we landed is near the east coast. It’s called Egilsstaðir, surrounded by snowy mountains and half way into the estuary. The local newspaper took a picture of us when we arrived.

We arrived past midnight and the Sun was shining bright creating a very long shadow. Only, our bodies were longing for the horizontal position.

The place we are at is pure green landscape, snowy mountains and nice people. If the weather is ok, we will leave for Reykjavik today.

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Fifth day: Waiting for the right weather for the 6.5-hour crossing to Iceland

Today, Sunday, has been a quiet day; the weather conditions in this north end of Scotland are really tough. Wick, where we still are, is very lowly populated and has an airport of a more than considerable size.

It so happens that around 1940 this place had an intense bomber activity. The planes went on missions in northern Europe and now the traces from the past remain in huge hangars and facilities with the right maintenance, giving you the feeling that the ghost of their presence has not disappeared completely.

Amid this atmosphere more that manifest, there appears the person who is going to provide us with everything we need to cross the Atlantic Ocean. His name is Andrew, everyone calls him Andy, and he is very well-known in the world of aviation for his great ability to solve the problems of all these small and medium-sized planes that occasionally cross the ocean.

Andy is a legend. For 30 years he has been providing others and now us with everything aviation authorities require and one does not usually have at home. Things such as survival dry suits, covered rafts in case you fall into the water, oxygen so you can go up as high as needed and breathe additional fuel tanks that go behind the seats… You name your need, he supplies it.

He works 7 days a week and loves his job. I believe all the facilities are under his jurisdiction, he is like a general without soldiers, but he manages to cover all fronts, his vast experience makes him speak with authority, no discussion.

We have spent the day inspecting the plane; we have removed the top and checked the engine connections, and have replaced the oil with a different type of a better performance for the very low temperatures we will be facing. We can rest assured that everything is in place before we set out for our 6.5-hour first jump over the water to the east coast of Iceland.

The weather forecast predicts favorable conditions for Tuesday. There’s now a terrible strong wind here and the clouds are extremely low. Let’s hope meteorologists are right.

Another plane will come with us during the crossing, flown by Harro Lorenz a enthusiastic German who has been waiting 4 days already for the weather to improve. Maybe we brought for him the hope of a soon-to-be departure. We have celebrated Harro’s 50th birthday at a delicious restaurant run by a Frenchman. Good cuisine but, in general, these Scots drink good beer but an awful wine. With all the good wines we have in our country at fantastic prices…

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