Tuesday, 27 June 2017

We made it across the Atlantic Ocean and across to northern arctic Canada!!

morning walk in Nuuk
After a slight disrupted night due to the sawing noises of several cottage neighbours we all enjoyed a lovely breakfast and a local history talk by hostel owner Liessi.

Pirates of the Caribbean? 
Then the Met briefing: not looking good at all for Sisimiut and marginal for the Atlantic crossing.

After a prolonged discussion amongst the pilots the group came to the joint conclusion to give Sisimiut
(which would have only been a refuelling stop not an overnight) a miss and head straight across the sea to - to - Qikiqtarjuaq!

What a name! In short let's just call it Qik!

Luckily we all didn't mind the delayed departure as internet at this hostel was the best we enjoyed for a long time but by 10 we finally headed out to the airport and got the planes ready for the Trans-Atlantic crossing.

The flight across the sea was quite calm but cold and we cruised at ca 6500ft between different layers of stratus cloud.
leaving Greenland for our  Atlantic crossing
Then after ca 1.30 hrs we could see what first looked like land mass, but it was broken ice! thousands of mini drifting ice packs floated around the sea and created wonderful bizarre patterns. sadly I still didn't spot my polar bear.

And then finally: Land in sight!! the rugged mostly uninhibited vast coastline of Northern Canada!!
The weather inland over those massive snow covered mountain ranges looked fantastic, but not so the thick cloud that was in our approach path to land at Qik!
we are in the upper north-eastern sector!

After a descent over the sea through the thick cloud we did our approach just barely over the sea and underneath the cloud at 800-1000ft and finally touched down after 2.30 hrs.

Betty made it back to Canada after nearly four decades 
view to the aeroplanes from the arrival hall
curious and friendly kids at the airport
A friendly Canadian police lady asked us politely to clear immigration before we drove 'down-town' Qitiqtarjuaq to our Hotel, which - compared to what we saw from the rest of the village - was inside quite luxurious and even offered a hot bath and free coffee and tea and wifi!!
a view to the town with our hotel on the right far end side
A recce through this remote tiny settlement revealed a supermarket selling ski-doos, warm jackets (it's 4 degrees here in the height of summer!), a municipality hall which offered free seal meat to the local residents offloaded by a container and a closed park ranger office - oh and many curious little Inuit kids.
seals and bikes

Dinner was a feast in the hostel cafeteria with pork ribs, chicken breast, delicious fresh salads and tons of sweet brownies!
trip to the hotel
Talking to some local chopper pilots we realized how lucky we had been so far with the weather: those boys sometimes get stuck for 2 weeks in a place like this and they had tried already for a week now to get here... pew. Let's just hope we don't get fogged in tomorrow.

The only other sad revelation for me is, that this place is not really ballooning countryside. The ice is already cracking and melting, the ground full of stones, the village dotted with power lines and the rest is steep mountains or the sea.
The local Anglican church
on top of a cairn

So I might have to give my intended flight over snow and ice in the Arctic circle a miss. It's 9pm local time now, but already 11 'our' Greenlandic time, so bed is calling. night night.

abandoned ski doo

Windy flight to Nuuk and a reindeer BBQ at a friend's house

sunset over the Nuuk Bay at midnight
You wouldn't have flown a balloon this morning down the runway at Narsarsuaq! It was 25kt gusting 36kt and even the local ATC man Peter warned our pilots against taking off in this wind.
flight planning at Narsarsuaq
But after a long discussion and taking into account other weather factors such as cloud base, the weather in Nuuk, freezing levels and so on, the group was happy to give it a will.
Sam took off first leading the RV with Mark and Rocky followed by us in the Beech.
sandy beaches along the flight
The first 30mins coming over the Fjord, high mountain terrain and some extensive ice was a little bit worrying (at least from my window seat) and it was a bit bumpy, but nothing serious and so we carried on heading up the Southern/ western shoreline of Greenland.

Highlights on this flight despite the cloudy weather was a beautiful beach with wonderful white sand. Sadly my bikini was stuck in my bag in the front nose of the aeroplane!

I have also never seen a beach where a Glacier runs down into it.
Bluei East 4
Followed by this low fly past came Bluei East 4: another abandoned airstrip from World War II. John did a low level circuit and we could also see many oil barrels scattered around the strip. This time we certainly didn't want to attempt another landing. One scare was enough!
approach to Nuuk International airport
Finally after 2.11 hrs a good touch down at Nuuk International airport which seemed really busy with scheduled Air Greenland flights and other movements.
departed soul?
After a short taxi ride we arrived at our 'hostel' for the night. Some nicely wooden cottages dotted along an isolated shoreline. Lizzy the owner welcomed us with free tea and coffee - but even better: with free (and working!) wifi!!! the afternoon was made!

Hammering and computering away I finally left the tech center to explore town.
Betty parked up and refuelled at Nuuk
Paula waiting patiently for pick up
The evening then was spent at the local air freight manager's house Thomas, who kindly invited us to join him for his hand-shot reindeer feast! We enjoyed a most delicious BBQ with raindeer burgers, sauce bearnaise, beans and french fries - and great beer and wine!
most people park their boats infront of their houses on the hills of Nuuk
The evening flew past with lots of aviation stories and plenty of good jokes.
delicious freshly cooked reindeer Burgers self-hunted by Thomas
The pillow saw my head at midnight with a view to the setting sun outside. Another great day! 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Fabulous photos by Jeremy Martin of Prepare2go of our Beech 18 in formation flight across Iceland!

The Beech crossing northern Iceland/photo by Jeremy Martin
Just enjoy those amazing photos by Jeremy of our formation flight across Iceland en route from Egilstadir to Isafjador.

Betty the Beech with a hot air balloon inside crossing the ice cap
And check out Prepare2go's facebook page where you shortly will find even more spectacular photos by him from yet another incredible formation flight across the Ice cap of Greenland! 

All photos here by Jeremy Martin - thank you Jeremy and I can't wait to see the rest! 

Beech 18 G-BKGM and the RV G-RRVV

Flight to Kulusuk and nearly getting stuck in Bluei East Two!

Betty stranded at Bluei East 2
The next day (Friday) we had to face a very challenging and slightly frightening crossing to Greenland as the weather was bad and we were stuck in low cloud, tried to climb to get out of the cloud but then the aeroplane started to freeze and the front windscreen was totally iced up!! 

After 2 hours though finally land in sight and we had a great landing in Kulusuk.

Betty deep stuck in the sandy runway
And then came the most amazing story of our lives and this trip and world's history so far: We dared to fly into Bluei east 2! - which is an abandoned American airbase from Second World War!! 
derelict American army trucks and the Beech in the background
No civil aircraft has landed there since 1947 when the Americans suddenly stopped using this base on  this remote island/fjord and left everything including trucks and thousands of oil barrels behind (creating an environmental disaster that is just being discussed between the Danish and the Greenlandic government).

spooky atmosphere! Quite like 'Fitzcaraldo' by Werner Herzog!

As Betty touched down on the soft ground, John made a solemn face: Betty looked quite stuck!! Her tyres deeply in that soft ground!! If we couldn't get her out of here, then that would have been her final resting place forever probably!!
Betty and us praying to get out of here!

It was an hour of huge worries for us... but John, the bush pilot from South Africa managed with a special technique to lift her off the runway and we rose like in the film the 'flight of the Phoenix!' What a relief!!!

Catching up finally with internet - find links to other pages here!

route from the UK via Iceland to Greenland
Hi dear followers,

I am sorry for the long silence but modern high speed internet hasn’t (gladly in a way!!) not yet arrived in north-eastern Greenland! So since we got here to this massive piece of land near the Arctic Circle internet has been extremely expensive and not strong enough to upload photos or send Whatsapp messages.
from left to right: John Herbet our pilot, Tim, Paula Phil
Luckily today is Sunday here in Greenland and all is shut, including the airport at Narsarsuaq where we are for the first time on this trip staying for two nights. Time to finally catch up with writing, sorting hundreds of spectacular photos, tons of gopro and video clips and catching up with a bit of desperately needed sleep.

Added to that, the internet here in Greenland is quite poor and extremely expensive.
A lovely local girl at Kulusuk airport
Before I forget it, I wanted to let you know that you can see some superb photos and youtube films of our adventures by following the ‘Vintage Air Rally’ facebook page of Prepare2go.:

A few photos (see captions ) that I am posting on this blog were shot and edited by Jeremy Martin, team member and photographer of Prepare2go. We also have another professional photographer and film maker on this trip: Timothy Allen whose footage you also can track by clicking at the following links:

(sorry don't have the time to create proper links, please just find yourselves!).

And if that wasn’t enough, there is one more wonderful character on board of our trip: Paula Froehlich from the New York, USA, a journalist and writer whose profile you can also try and find somewhere in the wide world of facebooks and instagrams.
Paula in love with a polar bear

So let me know try and catch up where I have left you last by recollecting all the stories and adventures since we left Isafjador on that grey, windy and cold Friday morning… it feels like a century ago and it’s actually only 2 days!

view from our hotel in Kulusuk, Greenland

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The most incredible flight in a Beech 18 across Iceland flying in formation

WOW!!! This was to all of us - except maybe Sam our expedition leader who has done this already several time - the most incredible flight of our lives!

We had set off from Egilstadir with a four hour delay to due the fire on the RV which meant missing getting to Greenland on the same day, but the take off was uneventful luckily this time and soon we were all cruising fairly close to each other at 5,500 feet.
The RV without its spats/pants

And the scenery got stunning, and more stunning and more stunning!

It was just incredible as we past endless uninhibited vast plains with ice, rocks and tarns. Then there was suddenly a vulcano sticking out of this moon landscape with its snow-capped top spitting steam and attracting cloud.
watch this video from my inflight commentary: (took hundreds of film clips but sadly no time to edit)

for several long minutes we flew a very close formation with the Saratoga which Sam was flying and had the photographers Tim and Jeremy and journalist Paula on board..

We then hit a bit of weather and the RV decided to do a left turn to avoid this big storm cloud whilst we and the Saratoga went right hand side past it. we couldn't go much higher as it would have meant a risk of freezing the aeroplane (and us!) but luckily we entered another good patch of lovely clear weather that ;lasted pretty much till our final destination - the small town of Isafjador.

Sam refuelling his aeroplane

As we flew into the valley of the airstrip my eyes kept searching for it. But I could see nothing that looked remotely like anywhere to land. Then John headed the aeroplane straight for a massive mountain and I nearly thought 'that's it'! we are going to crash. But I knew that I was in safe hands with John and indeed we suddenly did a very steep bank to the left and there it was: the tiny airstrip of Isafjador! Pew!! That was tight!
the runway on the left

so happy!!!

Later on we were taken by bus to our little hotel in town and enjoyed the most delicious rustic seafood dinner in an old traditional icelandic hut. the food was soooo good! So in retrospective we were all glad to have stopped here and not rushed onto Greenland. that's something for today !

the most delicious seafood