I was going to call this blog “Don’t be afraid to go Solo” but when thinking through the story I wanted to tell, it became less about me and more about the people I met. As the snow is falling again and the ski season opening weekend is upon us I was thinking about my trip last year and how rewarding it turned out to be as a solo traveller.
You see I was desperate to go down …. The best snow dump of the season had just happened, it was mid week with no crowds and the weather forecast was perfect for the next four days…. Trouble was I had the time and the mountains were calling but no mates could join me, too busy, too much work on, not enough spare cash and I know what that’s like too…. But I really didn’t want to miss this.
So should I go it alone?
I debated it, my husband said just go, I had some friends to catch up with one night down there for dinner but would it be as much fun skiing and hanging out on the mountain alone?
Oh well, what the hell … I love a road trip regardless…. So I booked my tickets and accommodation and off I went…. And I’m so glad I did….
Being on your own on the hill opens you up to so many chance conversations and wonderful stranger interactions…. I never expected to enjoy that as much as I did and it is amazing what people will tell you on a chair lift ride to the top! Relationship breakups, future career plans, personal aspirations and struggles, travel stories and strangely people and places in common. On one T-Bar ride I chatted to a women who, like me was starting to build a new home and we exchanged wonderful design ideas. Another fellow I shared a double chair with was just going through a messy divorce after an affair and we chatted about love lost and life perspectives when dealing with major change.
In between lifts I had the chance to ski to the outer reaches of the resort and just sit in the quiet crisp stillness of the white landscape and take it all in, appreciating with every breath how lucky I was to be there, how magnificent our planet really is and how important it is to have these mini adventures.
Back to the lifts I rode the T-Bars with kids in ski school and had funny conversations about what they wanted to be when they grow up and exchanged silly jokes. With the wonders of modern technology I even had the chance to facetime my parents who have never seen snow let alone skied and I gave them a 360 degree view from the top of Mount Perisher. On one quad chair I shared in the stories of three long time friends whose connection made me contemplate the value of my own and how lucky I was to have the people I have in my inner circle. I kept skiing the same runs and riding the same chairs with this group over and over again around the mountain and I was invited to have a drink that afternoon at sundown.
I had the best four days, going back to my accommodation exhausted and exhilarated every night. The fact that I was travelling solo I think actually allowed me to be more open to these chance experiences with strangers that resulted in making me feel more connected to something bigger than me.
As I begin to write this Blog about our Sea Kayaking Trip to Southwest Greenland, already I am struggling to find the words to properly describe what we saw and the sense of peace you get from being totally immersed in that powerful, raw and beautiful landscape without seeing another person outside our small team for weeks.
Tracy, John and Frank … The Three Amigo’s ready for a few weeks “out”
Flying across the Greenland Icecap and seeing the Fjords and Glaciers from the air it was a quick transition from the airport by Zodiac to our remote town start point of Narsaq. This small and friendly community of approx. 1500 people was a wonderful change of pace and we spent the first evening excitedly getting gear packed into dry bags. We were also excited to find out that a new Pub had opened in town called Inuuksuuk. Run by brothers from Iceland and their talented Colorado barman Jerome, they brew their own beer with the label Qajaq, so we looked forward to returning to celebrate there.
Narsaq – Southwest Greenland
We were fortunate to have fantastic weather for most of the trip, only getting tent bound for one day as heavy rain and fog would have made paddling cold and uncomfortable. As we really only had our own schedule and paddling distances to make up as we went we just worked with the elements to give us the best chance to really make the most of enjoying the area.
Unbelievable waterline perspective.
So many shapes and colours – The ice was mesmerising
Frank enjoying photographic paradise
The head of the Gletcher Glacier in Qalerallit Imaa Fjord
The rain in fact was a gift as once the sun returned so many new icebergs had fallen from the Glacier heads and filled the Fjords with waterfalls. In fact it was one of my favourite days paddling seeing all the changes in the landscape and we relished many big days on the water when the sun was shining and the light on the ice was perfect.
John dwarfed by fresh waterfalls
Intense colour returns after the rain
The wildlife was incredible also as we were followed by a pair of Humpbacks for several days, even sharing one of our campsites with these wonderful creatures. As they swam around all night in our bay we could hear their comforting blows as they breathed on the surface. Seals were common company and every day presented some great hiking opportunities to climb the surrounding mountains providing us with amazing views especially at sunrise and sunset. Quite a few times we even stumbled upon groups of Caribou as we quietly explored around our campsites.
Always a sucker for a sunset tent shot
Graceful Humpbacks make great paddling companions
Two red tents and the kayaks on the waters edge – what a view from the top – we are headed for the glacier in the distance
The Caribou were a wonderful surprise on our Hikes
The thing I find with all these extended trips for me is that the longer I am “out” the longer I want to stay “out” and just keep paddling. The simplicity of waking to check the weather and the map and choose your next campsite, the fun conversation whilst paddling, cooking and eating are all things that I will cherish forever from this adventure just as much as the stunning beauty and sense of freedom that the paddling itself allowed us to experience.
Sneaking through the ice flow was challenging at times as the ice moves in quickly and big cracks and explosions can be heard as the big ones break up.
John holding “ancient water” in his hands
Soup breaks were always a welcome treat and this one at the bottom of the Glacier was particular nice to warm up with on a very chilly day
Amazing contrasts as the Kilometres flew by
Another gorgeous camping spot and of course accompanying sunset
One word ….. Solitude
John passing quickly and quietly past one of the “big” ones … shhh don’t wake it up
Frank and myself cruising across the Fjord solving the worlds problems 😉
Frank in front of a “new” ice … freshly fallen off the glacier these bergs have the brightest and clearest blues
Heading home through an ocean slushy
The promised reward …. A “Kayak” Beer to Celebrate
A special thanks to local Guides Cesar and Daniella for looking after us with logistics, for being such great fun people and sharing their wonderful knowledge of this unforgettable area and of course a massive “you’re awesome” to my paddling amigos John and Frank for making this trip something so special … memories to cherish forever ….. I have been truly touched by this landscape and there are so many options here for kayaking that I have a feeling this won’t be my last trip to the North 😉
My trip to Sardinia was everything I had imagined and so much more. The variety in the landscape and coastline, the warm and friendly people and the amazing produce of the island (if you are a meat and cheese fan you are in heaven) were such a treat for the senses, not to mention coming from an Aussie winter, the temperature and climate was fantastic!!
The Team (Tracy, Frank, Anette, John) ready to launch near Arbatax
While we made time to venture inland to the enormous grottos and historical ruins in the mountains as well, we mostly escaped the crowds by staying off the beaten path and out of major city areas as much as possible and we focussed on exploring some of the east coasts most stunning cliff lined areas.
There are so many small beaches, rock gardens and caves to explore we generally only planned shorter distances each day to paddle as there was so much scenery to enjoy and play around.
The amazing Sardinian cliff line surrounded by national park (Pedra Longa a prominent feature in the background)
The extent of the cave systems along this coast was incredible. So big and deep and the water colour and clarity was just unreal. This blog could be filled with just cave photos!
Our campsites were low key and we even had the chance for a fire one evening to eat dinner by. The sunrises were pretty spectacular too.
So many contrasting colours and the ocean was like glass
Views, views and more views
Tracy doing a little Cliff / Kayak Camouflage
A passing boat supplying ice creams to hot paddlers
We had organised a one way trip for ourselves with local sea kayaker Francesco offering a shuttle service and showing us his favourite little “locals” bar for some awesome antipasti on the drive back down the coast to our car. A truly amazing journey, great company and what better way to finish it off than with a celebratory Sardinian wine… Salute!
I turned a passion into a profession over 12 years ago becoming a full time Sea Kayak Instructor and now it is time to turn that profession back into a passion just for the love of the sport and the natural environment. Please share in my stories and adventures through my Blog “Trace my Steps”. It will be about Paddling, Surfing, Hiking, Mountain Bike Riding and all things I am passionate about …. Including building my house! …….. I hope to inspire you to get outdoors, enjoy the simple things in life and create your own adventures plus share my experiences along the way.