I’m sitting in the middle of Mendoza with a short black coffee and a glass of water on my table. The café sits on a busy cross-road so thousands of vehicles cruise by along with the odd protest march, business suits and one crazy person talking to someone that is not there. On my table is a book – ‘The cloudspotters guide’ by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, above me there are no clouds at all but smog and thick dust swirl around making my eyes water. These ‘clouds’ are not in the book and I certainly wish that they did not exist at all but they do. Far too many of these clouds which I will name – ‘Stratus nubulosus translucidus venenum’ or the more filthy ‘Stratus opacus toxicus’ varieties cover our planet. Here I sit waiting to board another jet aircraft hypocritically smoking a cigarette, adding considerably to this sad brown cloud surrounding me. We humans make such a great mess.
To get from La Consulta in Argentina to Upernavik in Greenland took some time. First there were friends to see in Buenos Aires, a pit stop in Sao Paulo, across the Atlantic to London Heathrow airport and then a night in Copenhagen. Luckily the Icelandic volcanic activity at Eyjafjallajokull had ceased enabling flights to resume in northern European airspace. Many years ago I walked over that very same volcano that lay hidden under a glacier. Besides spitting out massive plumes of ash and smoke it has also instigated a bit of ‘jokulhluap’ an Icelandic word referring to the rapid melting of ice due to geothermal activity. A situation where a glacier rapidly turns into a river then the river turns to lava. Nature can also be messy.
We flew over Iceland but no grey smoke was seen then suddenly Carolina and I found ourselves in the Arctic. Below the Arctic circle as we crossed borders customs-security people felt the urge to weigh and search though our bags then internal flights in Greenland or Kalaallit Nunaat required both the weighing of our bags as well as our bodies before we could board the DASH 7 shuttle planes. Light aircraft and heavy cargo don’t mix I believe. The flights between Kangerlusssuaq, Ilulissat and Upernavik were all smooth and seriously scenic, extremely grand but far from green.
The population of Greenland is only 56,000 but the area of land (80 % which is ice covered) is a massive 2,166,086 sq. kms. The last time I was here was in 1993 and since then the climate has indeed changed as according to local Greenlanders last winter the sea ice around Upernavik failed to freeze over to a suitable depth which ruined the hunting season and limited winter travels. More human mess I am afraid!
I bought a bottle of Linie Aquavit as it’s a favorite and is flavored by travel so I have a connection with this particular spirit. Marketed as “taste that really travels” it is a very good Norwegian brand that sails from Oslo to Australia and back again in oak sherry casks. The changes in temperature, humidity and the roll of the ship all play a part in the maturation as the booze twice crosses the equator during its production. For a travel addict like myself this seems logical, is fitting to my taste and as a popular bald cartoon character once said - “Alcohol, the cause of … and the solution to all life’s problems”. Carolinas selection at duty free heaven was the marvelous Bison grass flavored Polish vodka with a delicate green coloring and a not so delicate 40% alcohol content.
The little “retreat” we stay in sits on the outskirts of the village. Connected to the small museum here that houses historic local relics, artwork and a shop. For further information about this residency visit <www.upernivik.gl>. Upernavik has a population of 1200 people and many yelping husky dogs. It is expensive to get here, live here and to move around but well worth it if you have the desire to spend time in the high arctic. To some degree hunting and fishing still play a role in most of the inhabitant’s lives but things change fast as they do everywhere. Hunting is the act of searching for something specifically pursuing game. I am here hunting views and translating these into small Travailogue paintings. That is my game. A small exhibition titled Isikkivimmik ujaasineq (searching for views) is to be held at the Museum to display my new works along with Carolina’s photographs.
Denmark laid the foundations for this now self -governed nation, which is the largest island in the world and possibly the most beautiful as long as you don’t equate beauty with fresh coconuts, heat and lots of verdant vegetation.
There will be no reindeer, narwhal skin or seal soup to be found at our next port of call but plenty of other exotic dishes to be found under hazy hot neon Hong Kong smog.