Advanced Mosquito Protection in the Arctic Circle
Mosquitoes aren't the first things that come to mind when you hear the word Greenland. But the summer's 24-hour sunlight and pools of glacial meltwater bring mozzies by the million.
No one could claim to be indifferent to buzzing biting things but my loathing for these tiny bugs is intense. So what happens when a mozzie-hating traveller with OCD tendencies hits the outdoors in Greenland? Why, extreme mosquito measures of course! Here's how I'm winning against insects right now in Western Greenland.
1. Apply DEET liberally. Again. And again.
Think of your DEET tropical mosquito repellent as a bottle of exquisite Chanel No. 5. Only instead of dabbing it everywhere you want to be kissed (as the wisdom goes), slosh it on every part of your body you don't want to see blow up Elephant Man style with bulging red mosquito welts. Feeling itchy and paranoid at the very thought? Exactly the right mindset.
2. Prepare to look seriously stylish
You don't need me to advise you to cover up in the land of mosquitoes. Burkini-level coverage is the absolute minimum. Long sleeves, long trousers, high neckline. You will need every scrap of fabric (bonus points if it's mosquito-repellent fabric) and you will rock that look.
Greenland's mosquitoes are persistent. These tiny winged demons will zoom into any chink in your armour. Tucking trousers into socks or hiking boots is the equivalent of boarding up your windows ahead of a zombie attack - people might look at you as though you're crazy, but who cares? You, for all your uncool appearance, can soon kick back and congratulate yourself on your forward thinking (while everyone else gets chewed to pieces).
3. Time to accessorise
So you didn't think you could look any more awesome? Meet the head-net, the bastard child of a dinner lady's hairnet and an executioner's hood. I bought my fine-mesh head gear last summer in Iceland, near the famously bug-ridden Lake Myvatn, so it felt like good value to whip it out for this trip too. Tighten the toggle at your neckline enough to close the gap, allowing the net to sit baggily around your face. Bugs will land on it, giving you a disconcerting close-up of their mouth jabbing angrily through the mesh (you'll get used to it, promise).
4. Every kill counts
You will see plenty of travellers too laidback to flinch at the mozzies helicoptering around their heads. Don't let their pretend cool put you off the serious business of splatting mosquitoes whenever they come near you. Get over your squeamishness now - every mozzie you squish between your hands is a victory. For each one dead, you have prevented itchy bites on yourself or some other hapless traveller. You're basically a hero. You will know you're a pro when you hit them with exactly enough speed and strength to have them fall dead to the ground without wings and bug innards being streaked across your hands. Yeuch.
5. Perfect your loo moves
We know mozzies are found by pools of stagnant water, and alas - that includes your camp toilet. Yep, you have to drop trousers in front of a humming audience of voracious insects and risk bites in places that Savlon should never have to go. Some travellers swear by "the windmill", an advanced anti-mozzie arm movement performed to baffle the blighters and give you enough time to pee and flee. Personally I'm a fan of bring DEET along with me and giving my legs a quick spray. Whatever you opt for, your toilet breaks are about to get very, very quick.
6. Net up
A mosquito net hung over your bed is essential if your accommodation opens directly into the outdoors, like my hut at Glacier Camp Eqi. Sleeping under a net means you can give your skin a break from malodorous mozzie repellent at night - but make sure you tuck the net in such a way it won't work loose in the night. Use ear plugs if their high-pitched battle cry is audible - you've earned this sleep, and the battle starts anew in the morning. I did more than get bitten on my research trip to Greenland, honest.
Read my Lonely Planet feature on the 10 most otherworldly experiences in western Greenland.
And take a look at my musings at travelling off the grid, over on Lonely Planet's blog.