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Vala was born on prime time of the salmon season in Iceland in 1988, at the same time as her parents leased their first ever salmon river. The season of 1988 turned out to be a bonansa year for fishing! Since then you could say she has been hooked on fishing and not been able to stop.
She has worked in the fly fishing industry for a long time at her family company Lax-a. She is a judge in Iceland on a new BBC show, Earth Wildest Waters: The Big Fish (The Big Catch). Vala graduated as a lawyer in the spring 2016 from University of Iceland and now she writes articles for various fishing magazines around the world, sharing her experience on fly fishing and photos on social media as well. Vala was just in Greenland and here she tells us about the trip.
Photographs by Elli Thor.
“When you have seen the world, there´s always Greenland” as the old travellers´saying goes. Even for us Icelanders, where Greenland seems to be just beyond the horizon, we more often than not travel to many other places before we ever see Greenland. This old traveller’s saying however might be just that; old. In 2016, Greenland was voted “best in travel” by Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book publisher in the world.
In today´s world where everything seems to travel at the speed of a lightning; cars drive fast, everywhere seems crowded and you barely remember seeing a poorer internet connection on your phone than 3G, Greenland can be a refreshing reminder of what real life is all about and what is important. The world’s largest island, with the lowest population density, where the people do not care about a mobile internet signal and only have satellite phones that they use for emergencies. The same population that invented words like kayak and anorak in Greenlandic that were later adopted directly by many other languages.
We landed in Greenland and were greeted by friendly locals and taken to our boat. As Greenland has virtually no roads to get between places, you rely on boats to get from one place to the other. A boat ride later, after passing these magnificent icebergs and going through the planet's most spectacular fjords, we were at the camp and ready to set up our gear.
We were on the lookout for big Arctic char and travelled by boat for an hour from camp. Even though Greenland's weather in mid July is near perfect temperature, the weather during the boat ride is anything but. You feel the freezing cold from the glacier and surrounding icebergs make the hairs on your skin rise. It was time to zip up our jackets and continue. We arrived in a fjord called the Bay of Sands, and hiked from where we left the boat and our captain continued on his way leaving us behind.
Hiking up to a remote river in Greenland´s raw and untouched nature is somewhat spectacular. You somehow feel the impact of the strength and power of this old island and instantly respect its nature and animals you see along your way. Finally, our eyes met this crystal clear river located in a breathtaking setting with little waterfalls where the fish were hiding down under. We spent the day fishing, photographing and mainly just enjoying being in the middle of nowhere, not a person nor phone signal in sight. We tiptoed on these huge rocks by the river side, wondering with each step if the ground we were treading on had ever been touched or moved by another person before us.
One afternoon we spent walking up and down the hills and mountains close to camp. The camp being located at least a good 40-minute boat ride from the nearest small town meant we were completely undisturbed and on our own, or so we thought. As we picked mushrooms for dinner and took photographs, we noticed a reindeer standing about 15 metres away. It had not noticed us yet giving us time to closely observe it. Shortly after a tremendous white tailed eagle spread its wings above us, blocking the sun for a while. He was hunting for food just like us.
The weather continued to be pleasant throughout the trip, but one afternoon we were told a storm was on its way. “Fyn” the Greenlanders called it. As you rely on boats as transportation in Greenland, this meant we needed to start heading back towards Narsarsuaq airport earlier than expected and spend the night in a town called Narsaq. The way to Narsaq was quiet and no storm seemed to be in sight yet.
We arrived in the town of Narsaq, where the houses were each painted in a different lively colour, such as red, green and yellow that probably helped light up their cold and dark winter months. We met the first local there and the first thing I asked him was, how many people lived in that town. With a surprised look on his face, he told me that he did not know. I asked him if he was new in town, but to my surprise he told me he was born and raised there. Later we learned that there are no numbers in the Greenlandic language, so they use the Danish language for normal numbers. In general, most of the locals do not worry or wonder about things like this. They do not seem as obsessed or disturbed with facts like these. Another fact we learned about the locals on our trip is that their timing is not as accurate as we are used to and uncertain answers such as “maybe” are completely legitimate to all sorts of questions we are used to a “no” or “yes” answer to.
The day of our journey home we got to know exactly what the Greenlanders call “Fyn”. We took a boat ride from Narsaq to Narsarsuaq where the airport is located. The ride usually takes an hour, but this time it took over 2 hours. We saw the sea playing with the icebergs and moving them around. The icebergs were effected by the storm so they had moved around tremendously in the sea. These huge icebergs had gathered together in the middle of the sea and we sailed through what seemed to be a town of icebergs in the middle of nowhere. Slowly we passed these huge icebergs feeling the small plastic boat hit them gently. While you could hear the passangers swallowing their breaths one after another, the Greenlandic captain simply smiled and did not seem to be worried in the slightest. “I’ve seen it worse” he said with a smerk.
Greenland is one of those places that has a great impact on you and grabs your heart. It is impossible not to be curious and fascinated by this place. This unfenced wilderness, where it is you with or against nature. You return home thinking you might have gotten your dose of Greenland but then realise it is the world’s biggest island and there is so much left to explore.
To read more about Vala visit her blog at valaarna.com