Monday, 22 December 2008

On the Up: Helicopters

Nanortalik airport

OK, this is one of those dumb journalistic catchy titles. But it got you reading, didn't it?

It would be a lie to say that Greenland was my first experience riding in a helicopter. In fact, I once rode in a charity helicopter ride over the small Welsh town where I live, accompanied by one of the local entrepreneurs and the Cambrian News photographer.

It was all very exciting boarding the helicopter - I felt like a shuttle diplomat, ducking my head under the whirling blades, seeing the grass blow down and feeling the wind as the machine idled. Once on board the four seater, we were strapped into black leather seats, and the roar increased as we prepared to take off.

What happened next I was totally unprepared for.

As we rose, my familiar world of buildings and trees, playing fields and river turned inside out as they changed from normal ground level perspective to the aerial view. There is no other way I can describe that sensation. It was as if I had been worming along, only seeing the sides of things, when here all along was this other view of the familiar, from above, of which I was intellectually aware, of course, but of which I had no true understanding until that moment.

It was as if I had suddenly switched from being myself, to being my higher self.

I emerged from that quick tour of the familiar hills and valley, roads and farms, feeling as if a profound transformation had occurred. Quick eye contact with Entrepreneur, as we again played diplomats, assured me that he had felt the change as well.

That experience, so apparently removed from Greenland, surfaced in my mind again as soon as I realised that it was no longer possible to reach Nanortalik by scheduled coastal ferry, and that I would have to book a helicopter flight. What a hardship! Actually the flights are quite reasonably priced. However, if you live there it seems hard that flying, so susceptible to the vagaries of the weather, is the only way to get around. And suppose you are carrying something substantial, say, sculpture... In fact, on my first Greenlandic helicopter flight, part of the cargo was a massive Greenlandic husky, who had been patiently stowed in the front with my large wheelie luggage. (Fortunately the only food in that bag was firmly sealed in tins.)

Once in Qaqortoq, it became imperative to find the airport to reconfirm my flight. This, in true time-honoured fashion, I did entirely by accident. I was out exploring, found a run-down children's playground area (bouncy animals on springs with the handles ripped off, a graffittied wendy house, lots of litter) on a small rise. And from my vantage point: behold! The airport! Actually it was just across the road, but the rise made it easier not to mistake it for some offices. In I went, and confirmed my flight, face to face, in English, in ten seconds, with a rather surprised looking Air Greenland employee. Obviously most people don't bother to confirm these chopper flights - in a way, they are the bus service of the far south. If the chopper is delayed (and there is just one for Air Greenland, any other chopper is a charter flight), it will come along, when it comes, after it has shuttled from Narsarssuaq and Narsaq, or possibly Aliutsup Paa.

Finally I was ready to leave Qaqortoq (that makes it sound as if I couldn't wait to leave, which was anything but the truth). My new friend from the hostel and I had agreed to share a taxi, which was good, because otherwise I would have attempted to walk down and uphill dragging my wheelie luggage and carrying an unfeasible number of cameras in my rucksack.

Off we went, in a bit of a flurry. She was worried that we would be too late to check in. On arrival we found that we were... having to wait four hours, as the weather at Narsarssuaq was bad, and things were delayed.

to be continued...

1 comment:

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