Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Unartoq Island, Greenland

By daylight, I follow the now obvious trail out to a small changing hut and a small circle of rocks marking the hot springs. Yellow wildflowers glow in the morning sun, and I strip off my layers and gingerly step into the pool. The temperature is somewhere in the mid 90's. Warm certainly, but about five degrees cooler than a good hot bath. I was left with a lingering feeling of disappointment, like I wanted to give the hot water one more little turn of the knob.

Still, I imagine the Vikings finding this place a thousand years ago, and falling to their knees to thank their pagan gods. Did they even bother to dig out a pool, or did they just luxuriate in the warm mud and shallow stream. After months at sea and the backbreaking work of carving farms and homes from this reluctant corner of the world, it must have been bliss.

It wasn't so bad for me, either. I washed off a day's worth of salt and grime from the boat, admired my teva-shod toes, and tried to keep my butt from touching the mud. Small waves of faintly sulpherous gas bubbles percolated up through the sandy bottom, tickling my legs on the way past. Well pruned, I emerge, towel off with a t-shirt and get dressed. There was another pool closer to the water's edge, and upon finding it i stripped off and tried it too. A little warmer anyway.

After another suitable soaking, I emerged and walked naked across the flowery tundra back to my t-shirt. It was as close to eden-like bliss as I'm likely to encounter in this place.

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