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About Me

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  1. When we got back from the Eqi Glacier trip last night we went for a final evening walk around Ilulissat. Then we went up to the rooftop bar of our hotel and had a rather expensive drink. But it was a drink with a great view We had a fairly early start to our travels on Tuesday morning, with just enough time for breakfast at the hotel and a final look at the icebergs before we had to set off towards Ilulissat airport. Our first flight was to a place called Kangerlussuaq and it was due to depart from Ilulissat at 09.45. We'd been promised a shuttle bus would pick us up from outside the hotel at 08.15 and take us to the airport, which was only a couple of miles away. The bus ended up being at least 10 minutes late and very chaotic, because all the other tourists in the hotel seemed to have packed significantly bigger suitcases than us, but we got there in the end. When we arrived, Ilulissat airport turned out to be tiny. We've been to some fairly small airports in places like Lapland, but I think this is the smallest one we've ever seen. The runway barely looked long enough for a plane to take off and there wasn't any security to go through at all. There also weren't really any announcements or information boards - or at least not any which we could understand. But around 09.30 we saw an Air Greenland plane on the tarmac and people started heading outside to it, so we followed the crowd. Luckily it was the right plane It took off very sharply on the short runway and we flew up over the icefjord. We were sitting on the wrong side of the plane to have a view of Ilulissat and the big icebergs, but we got to see lots of little ones at least They were quite surreal to fly over. The plane had only been in the air for about 20 minutes when it started descending again. We were making a short stop in the town of Aasiaat (which you may remember we sailed past on Sunday morning). The plane was essentially acting as a bus service and touching down here to let some of the passengers off, then pick up even more. If we thought the runway in Ilulissat was small, the one in Aasiaat seemed even smaller It was only a short stop and we were soon up in the air again. On the way to Kangerlussuaq we flew over plenty of ice. Kangerlussuaq is situated at the end of a fjord, which soon became visible out of the window. It's only a small settlement (population of about 500) but it's home to Greenland's largest international airport. Along with Narsarsuaq, this is one of only two airports in Greenland which has a runway big enough to handle large international planes. Unlike Narsarsuaq, Kangerlussuaq is situated in a place with comparatively good weather (not a lot of fog etc) which means that planes seem to have a better chance of not being cancelled After what was a very scenic flight, our little plane came in to land. We then had about an hour to wait in Kangerlussuaq before our connecting flight to Copenhagen. It was quite a small airport and quite busy. We did have to pass through security here, although still no passport checks. We had our passports stamped when we entered Iceland last Tuesday and no one has shown any desire to see them since! The plane to Copenhagen was significantly bigger than the plane from Ilulissat. It didn't take long after taking off for us to get a view of the edge of the ice sheet. Soon all we could see beneath us was ice. It was only once we'd flown most of the way across Greenland and were approaching the island's eastern coast that we began to see mountains starting to poke up out of the ice. Before too long we reached the coast itself. There was so much ice in the sea here! It was wonderful to get this one final view of Greenland to end the holiday
  2. Today is our final day in Greenland before starting the long journey home, via Copenhagen, tomorrow morning. We wanted to make the most of it, so we had a big excursion planned for today: a boat trip to the Eqi Glacier. The trip was booked with the same company we did the icefjord cruise with last night, so just before 9am this morning we made our way down to their offices again and were transported back to the harbour. The boat we travelled in was a bit bigger than the one we went on yesterday and it was very full. The layout wasn't ideal as the seats were five across each side of an aisle. The only seats we could find were in the middle of a row, so there was lots of waiting for people to stand up and/or being asked to stand up ourselves as the day went on. Never mind, we were soon pulling out of Ilulissat's harbour on another adventure This time we were travelling north. The Eqi Glacier, or Eqip Sermia as it is called in Greenlandic, is situated about 80 km to the north of Ilulissat. As with almost everywhere in Greenland, the only way to get there is by sea. It soon became clear as we sailed north that the icebergs in the sea around here are much smaller than the big ones that get stuck in the icefjord around Ilulissat. They were still very pretty though. And we had some lovely views of the mountainous coast too. The icebergs weren't the most exciting thing we saw today though! This was An hour or so into the journey the boat came to a stop so that we could try to catch a glimpse of this humpback whale. It was really hard to spot the whale coming up on time to get a photo, but I managed to get a few tail shots Once the whale had moved on, we were back on our way. We passed a few icebergs where we could clearly see how much bigger the bit under the water was compared to the bit on top. I also learned that the reason some of the icebergs sometimes look a bit dirty is because the glacier contained volcanic ash, potentially from thousands of years ago. Lots of the mountains we sailed past were still covered in snow. Apparently that's unusual for this time of year and it's been a cold spring. I suspect the cold spring is the reason we've been really lucky and not encountered any mosquitos so far on this trip After a couple of hours the boat began to turn a corner and we knew we were starting to get closer to the glacier. We passed a big waterfall coming down the side of the mountains and into the sea. A little further on we also passed a smaller waterfall, which was still partially frozen. And then the glacier appeared on the horizon Seeing it in the distance was tantalising but it still took the boat a lot time to reach it. The closer we got, the slower the boat had to go because the sea was full of tiny bits of ice. It was a really incredible experience to sail through it. Just look at it! It felt like we were sailing through a glacier soup Everyone was up on deck, excited to get the best shots of the glacier. And before long, we had them The boat pulled up alongside the glacier and paused for an hour or so. That gave us plenty of time to admire the views... ...take some photos... ...and investigate the lunch provided (which turned out not to be great, but we'd brought some provisions of our own so it didn't matter!) It was so exciting to see such a big glacier and definitely worth the trip, even though it was a long one. After lunch the boat departed and made the long journey back to Ilulissat. It had been a day that involved a lot of sitting down, so we walked back up from the harbour to our hotel rather than waiting for a minibus transfer. Today has been yet another exciting day in Greenland and I'm so glad we (eventually!!!) made it here. There's no experience that quite compares to this
  3. We had a couple of hours to relax in our hotel room yesterday evening after our hike and then it was time to set out again. By 20.30 we had to be outside the offices of a boat company, in order to be picked up and taken to the harbour for an evening ice fjord cruise. The sun doesn't set in Ilulissat at this time of the year and we were planning to take advantage of that to cram some more iceberg-viewing into a day that had already involved a lot of icebergs Happily we made it to the correct place at the correct time and were soon on our way to the boat. We had to stay inside for the first part of the trip as the boat pulled out of the harbour in Ilulissat, but once that was done we were able to go out on deck to enjoy the views. And what views they were! This is what it looked like as we pulled away: There were icebergs all around us so it really didn't matter where on the boat you stood. The big icebergs were obviously the most impressive... ...but we really enjoyed watching the boat go past some of the tiny ones too. It was amazing seeing the reflections of the icebergs in the water... ...seeing how the tiny ones were moved aside by our boat... ...and getting glimpses of the bigger underside of some of the icebergs which looked quite small from the top. The fact that the sun was still up after 9pm at night also made it a really special experience. It was actually so bright that we had to wear sunglasses! We don't normally like organised tours, but this one was quite cool because the guide gave us information about the area. We learned that the name Ilulissat means "icebergs" in Greenlandic, which seems like a very fitting name for this place We also learned that the icebergs floating in the bay outside Ilulissat come from a glacier at the top of the icefjord. The top of the icefjord is much deeper than the bay area here. That means that when the largest icebergs break off the glacier and travel down the fjord, they end up getting stuck on the bottom of the seabed here. The glacier in question only calves icebergs two or three times a year. But when it does, it calves really large icebergs. Icebergs like this one have been stuck in the bay for about 15 months so far. The guide told us that some of them contain enough water to supply the entire USA for a year! Looking at them, it's not hard to believe. What is hard to believe is that 10 years ago, apparently the icebergs here were twice the size Global warming means they're getting smaller and smaller. The locals are worried that if the icebergs get too small, they won't get stuck in the bay any more and will float straight out to sea. That would have a negative impact on tourism in Ilulissat, because the icebergs are what people come here to see. It would also cause problems for fishing, which is the biggest industry here. I didn't fully understand the explanation but it was something about how the freshwater which the icebergs bring is good for plankton, which means there are more fish. Because there are lots of fish here there are also more whales and seals, though we didn't see any on this trip. We can't complain when we saw so many incredible icebergs though We didn't get a picture of it, but at some point the guide fished some ice out of the sea and made us all a drink. This time it wasn't whisky but gin, served with some type of local sirop which made it taste a bit like apple juice Being inside the icefjord was absolutely stunning. Once we had the drink, the boat turned around and began to take us back towards Ilulissat. Although it definitely wasn't what you could describe as a proper sunset, the sun did give us some beautiful light over the icebergs. In total the cruise was 2.5 hours, so it was after 11pm at night when some of these photos were taken. It's so strange for it to be so bright at that time! Definitely a unique experience we'll always remember I think we were so lucky with the weather today as well! The sky was so blue and the sea was so calm that we were really able to get some great shots. And we didn't even need all the seasickness pills I'd packed for this trip as a precaution At the end of the trip we were dropped back outside the offices of the boat company, from where it was only a short 5-minute walk up to our hotel. We took this shot from the hotel room window before going to bed, close to midnight, and it was still so bright. What an amazing place
  4. The ferry left Sisimiut at 21.00 last night and we had another night of sleeping in our cabin. The sea continued to be much calmer than I'd expected, with the result that I didn't get woken up by any big waves during the night. The first thing I knew was when my alarm went off at 07.00, I looked out of the window and I saw.... an iceberg! This was quickly followed by another iceberg which was absolutely enormous - probably bigger than the ferry! Wow, that was quite a start to the morning! The ferry was just about to pull in to the town of Aasiaat. The town itself didn't look anything special but there were some amazing icebergs in the sea around it. We were able to spend the morning in our cabin, watching them from our window. There were some small icebergs... ...and some really, really big ones. We were supposed to check out of our cabin at 12, so we packed up our things and went out on deck to look at the views there as the ferry got closer to Ilulissat. We realised other people had spotted a huge iceberg on the opposite side of the boat. Wow! This one was pretty impressive too There were so many different shapes and sizes. We went back inside to find out what was being served for lunch in the cafe. It turned out to be a choice of meat dishes with rice. Tim had pork in a paprika sauce and I had what seemed to be chunks of beef in gravy. We've been really lucky not to be served fish on this trip! We could still watch the ice through the cafe window as we ate. The closer we got to Ilulissat, the more and more icebergs we saw. Tim went out on deck again to get some photos of them. It was quite surreal to see so much ice floating in the sea, but really beautiful. The ferry arrived punctually in Ilulissat at 13.00 and we joined the queue to disembark. There was a shuttle bus waiting which drove us from the port to the hotel where we're staying. It wasn't very far so we could have walked it if we needed to, but there would have been a fair amount of uphill so the shuttle was nice We checked into our room, which at first looked pretty average. Then we realised we had a view. A view of the icebergs We settled in to the room for a while before going out for a walk. The town of Ilulissat has a population of less than 5 000 people and almost as many sled dogs. We passed a few of them as we walked up towards some nature trails on the edge of town. There were even some little puppies. After about a kilometre of walking, we made it to the Ilulissat Icefjord area, which is a World Heritage Site. There's a visitor centre here, as well as a handful of marked trails. We started following what I thought was going to be an easy one; the "Yellow Trail", which was marked with splodges of yellow paint on rocks and advertised as being 2.7km. We started off and I was amazed to find that there was still snow on the ground in places. The whole area was beautiful but the trail soon degenerated into an exercise in clambering over rocks and/or trying not to slip on mud and slushy snow. At one point I was considering giving up and turning back. Tim went ahead a bit to check whether the path got any easier, before coming back to say that it was definitely worth continuing. I made it over the rocks and wow, look at that view! And look at that view The ice was absolutely stunning. And there was so much of it! It had definitely been worth continuing for this While we were admiring the view we noticed that while we'd been climbing up on this difficult path, other people seemed to be walking on a much easier path lower down. We decided to go down and investigate that instead. We made our way back to the visitor centre, a rather odd construction whose roof you can walk on. From there we started following the trail. It was mostly much easier than the one we'd been on, although there was a bit of snow to negotiate in places. We were walking towards the most incredible views. And we were really lucky that it still seemed to be cold enough for the area not to be swarming with mosquitos. I'd seen reviews online from people who had had real problems with them later in the summer. The further we walked, the better the views of the ice. After half an hour or so we'd nearly got to the point at which the marked trail ran out. Before we did we turned one last corner... Wow. The views were even better from here, including of this iceberg so big it looks like it's an actual island. I didn't fancy climbing over all the rocks to get right to the edge But luckily Tim did and he took a video It was a really magical place and it was hard to turn our backs on it and start walking back up to the hotel. Eventually we did though, climbing back up past the visitor centre and down past the sled dogs again. Today has been such an exciting day And it's not over yet, because we're going on another boat trip this evening. But that may have to wait until tomorrow's blog!
  5. We were woken up this morning at 06.30 by a very loud ferry announcement, informing us that in half an hour's time the ferry would be arriving in Maniitsoq. Sure enough, when we looked out the window we found that there was some land just coming into view. The picture is blurry because I took it through our cabin window! Breakfast on the ferry is served at 07.00, so we got dressed and went to investigate it. It turned out to be rather chaotic, with half the boat having turned up at the same time and pushing and shoving to get into the queue. But the food itself was fine; for the breakfast included in our ticket, we were allowed to take one roll, one slice of normal bread, one slice of rye bread (which we both passed on!) as well as help ourselves to some cheese and various cold meats (which we also passed on - they didn't look very appetising). Most importantly, there was also coffee! The sea around Maniitsoq seemed really calm and so walking around with trays of food wasn't a problem. It stayed calm as we left Maniitsoq behind and began to sail towards the ferry's next destination of Kangaamiut, which was good because it gave us an opportunity to try out the shower in our cabin in fairly stable conditions We also went up onto the outside deck for a while to admire the views. We sailed past some very impressive mountains. Look at all the snow on them! At times it felt a bit like we were somehow sailing past the Alps Around 11am we noticed that we could see some rocks outside our cabin window. We realised the ferry had reached its next destination, Kangaamiut. Kangaamiut is only a small place; Wikipedia reckons it has a population of just 293 people! The harbour isn't big enough for the ferry to get right up to the town, so anyone wanting to join or leave the boat here has to be transferred in a smaller boat. After Kangaamiut the ferry didn't have any stops for several hours. We went to the onboard cafe at midday to investigate lunch and were pleasantly surprised to find that we were able to eat some of it. I was worried that everything was going to involve fish, but today's lunch was rice with some sort of meatballs in what tasted like a chicken korma sauce. The overall effect was distinctly odd, but at least it wasn't fishy. At some point in the mid-afternoon, the captain made an announcement over the tannoy to say that we were about to cross the Arctic Circle. How exciting! I went up on deck again to see whether there was anything to see but we were quite far out to sea at this point and I could only just make out the coast of Greenland in the distance. Dinner on the ferry was surprisingly edible too; I ended up with beef as a main course and lemon mousse as a pudding. We ate it swiftly because we knew the ferry was going to arrive in Sisimiut at 19.00 and this was due to be a two-hour stop, so long enough for us to get off the boat and do some exploring. Sure enough, by around 18.30 Sisimiut came into view on the horizon. Sisimiut is the second largest city in Greenland, despite the fact that it has a population of less than 6 000 people There were tonnes of people getting off the boat here, so we had to queue up and wait our turn as the locals unloaded vast quantities of luggage. Like Nuuk, Sisimiut seemed quite hilly and so once we did get off the boat we had to start walking uphill almost immediately. As we walked we got some good views of Sisimiut's church. The church itself was perched on top of a hill, then there were rows of houses perched on rocky outcrops above that. You wouldn't want to have vertigo if you lived up there!! We walked a bit further through the town and found the local football pitch, complete with artificial grass and snowy mountains behind. There were loads more mountains further into the distance, as we found when we walked to a coastal viewpoint. We also caught sight of a small lake on the edge of town. As we walked towards it, I was surprised(/concerned!) to see a group of huskies sitting on the grass. It turned out they were chained up, so nothing to worry about. The lake was really stunning. We realised there was still ice at the far end of it. That was really surprising as while it didn't exactly feel warm, it definitely felt above freezing. Once we'd finished admiring the view we had to turn around and retrace our steps past the huskies... ...and past the church, back to the ferry. We made it back with plenty of time to spare, before the ferry pulled out of Sisimiut at 21.00. We now have another night on the ferry, before arriving in our final destination of Ilulissat tomorrow afternoon.
  6. We had to check out of our hotel by 10.00 on Friday morning and we weren't supposed to board the ferry until around 20.30, so we had quite a lot of time to spend in Nuuk today. Fortunately it was a lovely sunny day, if a bit chilly at times, and the hotel reception were nice enough to allow us to leave our suitcases in the hotel for the duration of the day, which made life a lot easier. After checking out, we made our way down to the main harbour area, to find where the ferry would be leaving from. The ferry had in fact already arrived earlier in the morning and was spending the day in Nuuk. The Sarfaq Ittuk ferry is essentially what passes for public transport in Greenland. Because there are no roads between different settlements - and certainly no railways - the only way to get from town to town is to fly or take a boat. The Sarfaq Ittuk spends half the week travelling north, stopping at various settlements on Greenland's western coast, before turning around and spending the second half of the week travelling south again. So it's a bit like a long-distance coach service for the towns it serves. We'd now confirmed where we needed to be so there was no chance of us missing the ferry this evening We enjoyed the views in the harbour for a while, noticing that there was what seemed to be a large Danish military ship nearby. From the harbour we then walked into the centre of town, passing a large church on a rock. We found what seemed to be the main square, complete with Greenlandic flags flying in the wind. There was also a rather bizarre statue; not sure what it was supposed to be! We did know what the statue on the top of the hill in the background was supposed to be, though; Hans Egede, the Danish missionary who founded Nuuk in 1728. The red church is Nuuk's cathedral, the Church of Our Saviour, which was built in 1848. We decided to see if we could climb up to the statue of Hans Egede to have a closer look. It was a bit steep, but we made it! From here there was a good view across Nuuk... ...including the not very scenic tower blocks! But considering it's a capital city, Nuuk isn't really that built up. Just under 20 000 people live here in total. We walked up to a viewpoint which was looking out in the opposite direction, towards the fjord we'd sailed in yesterday. From here we could see the beautiful colourful houses which we'd noticed from the boat yesterday. On the way back down we passed what I think is Nuuk's most famous statue, the Mother of the Sea. It feels a bit like Nuuk's version of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid. We were starting to feel a bit chilly by this point so we decided to head back into the centre of town... ...and go and get a coffee to warm up Suitably restored, we then set out to explore the southern part of Nuuk. There's a rather unusual system of wooden walkways here, complete with plenty of steps, which take you around this part of the coast. There were some lovely views of the sea and it looked quite calm, which is always reassuring when you know you're going to be on a boat later in the day It felt like we'd walked for a long way and climbed up a lot of staircases... ...but eventually we emerged at a little beach area on the south side of town. The views here were superb with the bright blue sea and the snowy mountains behind. We were feeling cold again by this point so we headed back to our hotel and sat in their cafe for a while with coffee and cake. The cake actually wasn't that great; it was oddly chewy! When we headed outside again, we decided to go back towards the Mother of the Sea statue to get a closer photo of it. Unlike with the Little Mermaid, Tim didn't have to fight through hordes of other tourists to get a good shot We felt like we were close to exhausting the sights of Nuuk by this point, so we walked back to the viewpoint we'd visited earlier for another look at the multi-coloured houses. Then we found an American restaurant in Nuuk's one and only shopping mall, where we ate the biggest possible meal in preparation for spending the next day and a half at the mercy of the menu on the ferry. I had a steak and Tim had an enormous set of ribs. There was just time for a final walk down to the beach, before we headed back to the hotel to pick up our suitcases. We managed to board the ferry a bit before 20.30. There are different categories of accommodation on the ferry and we are staying in one of a handful of suites, which means we get a double bed, an armchair and some limited WiFi access It's quite a small room but the bed is surprisingly comfy and we have our own bathroom too, complete with shower and toilet. Having a shower on a boat is going to be a first! It was still bright daylight at 11pm when we decided to go to sleep, so I was definitely glad to have brought eye masks! Saturday will be a full day on the boat, hopefully with some good views out of our window
  7. The boat trip I'd booked yesterday was due to depart at 9am this morning, from a place in Nuuk called the old colonial harbour. This was right on the opposite side of town to our hotel, so I set my alarm for 06.30 this morning so we had plenty of time to get up, investigate breakfast in the hotel and walk from one side of Greenland's capital to the other. The hotel breakfast wasn't quite as good as the one in Iceland yesterday, but there were bread rolls, cheese and coffee at least We finished it pretty quickly and were leaving the hotel by 07.45, climbing the hill from our hotel to the centre of town. The boat trip was supposed to be 09.00 to 15.00, so we stopped at a small Spar supermarket to pick up some snacks, then continued on our way to what we hoped was the correct location. When I'd purchased the tickets yesterday, they'd come with instructions to be at the old colonial harbour 15 minutes before the boat departed. The slight catch was none of the maps we'd seen explicitly referred to any place as being the old colonial harbour. But we'd worked out which side of town the old colonial part was and could see there was a harbour there, so we were hoping for the best. Here's a photo of me looking tired after two days of failing to get to Narsarsuaq This old part of Nuuk looks really pretty, with brightly coloured wooden houses. We climbed down to the harbour and found there was an office for the company we'd booked the tour with. Great, we must be in the right place, then! There was no one else around and the office was all shut up, but we were at least 30 minutes early. We sat down at some picnic benches to wait. After a while two ladies arrived, opened up the office and began loading kayaking equipment into their car. But there was still no sign of any other passengers for the fjord tour and - more crucially - there was no sign of any boat. I was worried that we'd ended up in the wrong place, despite our best efforts, so Tim went over to speak to the ladies. They explained that we were indeed in completely the wrong place and that the boat was departing from a place called "the tide steps" instead. Apparently they'd sent an email and an SMS about the change in location, but as we'd only booked at the last minute yesterday evening, we obviously hadn't received it. We had no idea where the tide steps were so we were lucky that the ladies were extremely kind and said they'd drive us there. We just about managed to cram into the back of the car - Tim with his head ducked down under two paddles for the kayaks - and we got driven across Nuuk at speed. It turns out that the tide stairs are less than five minutes from our hotel, so we needn't have trekked from one side of town to the other! Never mind, we made it to the right place and the boat still hadn't departed. In fact, there seemed to be some confusion about the boat. A small group of people departing on the kayaking tour first of all, leaving a larger group of people for the fjord. We started piling onto the boat, but it quickly became clear that there were more passengers than there were seats in the cabin. Oh dear! We stood around for a bit while various staff members attempted to call a register. Both our names were on the list at least so that was reassuring, even if we didn't have a seat. I'm not quite sure what was happening because all the conversation was in Danish, but eventually a handful of us got moved to a much smaller boat where there was only room for five passengers and the captain. Our little boat then proceeded to follow the larger boat out of Nuuk harbour. Phew! Before too long we had left the town of Nuuk behind and were travelling up through the fjord. Nuuk fjord is the second-largest fjord system in the world. Our captain told us that the fjord is so large, the entire Faroe Islands could fit in here Regardless of size, it's a really beautiful place. There were so many mountains - and so much snow on them. There was space to sit inside the boat - which is where we spent a lot of the journey to keep warm - but we were able to go outside whenever we wanted to take photos. And before too long I caught sight of something... ...Our first floating icebergs were just visible on the horizon. Shortly afterwards the captain spotted something too and we all went outside to take a look. It's tiny and in the distance, but you may just be able to spot a whale's tail in this photo The captain stopped the boat and we hung around for a while, trying to get more sightings of the whale. There was a lot of pointing the camera at the sea and getting photos with no whale in them Can't really complain with photos like these, though! Every so often we'd see a sudden spurt of water and the whale would make a brief appearance! Then we'd be desperately trying to snap a photo... ...before the tail disappeared under the water once again. I don't know much about whales, but the captain told Tim it was a humpback. It was really cool to see anyway Once we'd finished whale-watching, the boat began to progress closer to the ice. As you can tell from the photos, the chunks of ice we passed began to get bigger. They also began to get closer together. The captain explained that it's hard to know how far down the fjord they can get on any given day, because the quantity and position of the ice is constantly changing. He also tried to explain why sometimes the ice looks white, sometimes blue and sometimes completely transparent. I didn't quite follow, but I think it was something to do with the amount of oxygen in it. As we followed the other boat, we began to get glimpses of the enormous glacier on the horizon. The glacier spills down towards the sea and the chunks of ice break off to float through the fjord. The views here were incredible. The two boats weaved in and out of the ice... ...trying to see how far they could take us down the fjord. Some of the icebergs were enormous now! We've seen a glacier lagoon once before when we were in Iceland, but sailing through one is a completely different experience. We were able to get so close to the ice. It was also nice that we'd ended up on the smaller boat so didn't have to compete with lots of other people for the view. I think the blue icebergs are my favourite By this point the boat had got as far as it could, so we stopped for a break for lunch. Well, we'd almost got as far as we could. The captain drove the boat up alongside an iceberg so we could touch it The most amazing thing once we were close to it was that we could get some idea of how far it extended under the water. Wow Once lunch was over it was time to leave the ice behind. But not before the captain had offered everyone a small shot of whisky, with ice from the glacier That certainly warmed me up for the journey back! We went back along the other side of the fjord, which is home to lots of nesting seabirds. It hasn't come out very well in photos, but all the white dots on the undergrowth in the picture below were nesting seagulls. We also passed some waterfalls coming down the rocks and into the sea. Then we had a lovely sunny journey... ...sailing all the way back to the colourful houses of Nuuk again. It was an absolutely fantastic day trip and I'm so glad we didn't end up missing the boat!
  8. We slept well in the Keflavík hotel, although only because I'd bought us some posh eye masks in preparation for this holiday. It was still bright daylight around 11pm when I gave up searching Greenland transport options on the internet and went to bed. It was still too early to have got any response from the boat transfer companies when we got up, so we went downstairs to make the most of the breakfast buffet. With walking boots and waterproof trousers, I felt like I hadn't really packed the right wardrobe for this hotel! The breakfast buffet was quite extensive, with some nice bacon and scrambled eggs in addition to the usual bread and pastries. We ate as much as we could, then checked with the hotel receptionist what the plan for the rest of the day was. She confirmed that we needed to check out at 11.00, we would be served lunch at 11.30 and the airline would send a bus to take us back to the airport at 13.45. That meant we had plenty of time to kill before we departed for the airport, so we decided to go outside for a stroll around Keflavík. It wasn't quite as sunny in Iceland as it had been yesterday, but we found a coastal path and had a nice walk by the sea. We didn't get far before Tim found a friend She was sitting on the rocks, perhaps lying in wait for seagulls. As we walked we had views of mountains in the distance. It was nowhere near as warm in Iceland as it had been back in the UK, but it wasn't terribly cold either. Although it was quite a dull day the temperature must have been around 15 degrees; certainly not cold enough to need a coat. We walked back to the hotel where I checked my email and found I had a message from the boat company who had been due to transfer us from Narsarsuaq to Qaqortoq last night. They said they couldn't promise anything at the moment but that there was a possibility that they'd be able to put on an extra boat from Narsarsuaq this evening if our flight arrived. That sounded promising! We made our way to the hotel restaurant for our 11.30 lunch. After the enormous breakfast we'd had it was a bit hard to work up an appetite, but I'm guessing the hotel wanted to get our meal out of the way before their normal paying guests wanted lunch. We were told we were having pork schnitzel and fries, which sounded good. The schnitzel came with mushroom sauce, but we managed to scrape most of that off After lunch we retired to a quiet hotel lounge where I got to work with more emails. During lunch the boat company had been in touch to say there was going to be a transfer from Narsarsuaq this evening and had sent me a new ticket. This was fantastic news, except that this revised transfer was going to get us to Qaqortoq at 20.40, with our ferry departing Qaqortoq at 19.00. I emailed back and asked whether we could be put on a boat to Narsaq instead, which they very helpfully agreed to and issued me with yet another new ticket. If all went to plan, we could get to Narsaq for 20.00 and catch the ferry there at 21.00. I just needed to email the ferry company to tell them that this was what we were doing and make sure they didn't think we were a no-show at Qaqortoq and give our cabin away. By 13.45 the bus to the airport arrived. We loaded our luggage and got onboard. The bus had free WiFi so I was able to keep checking my emails as we drove towards the airport. Still no confirmation from the ferry company that we were okay to board at Narsaq, but assuming they didn't object to that it felt like we now had a plan coming together and we'd actually only lose the 2 hours of the ferry trip between Qaqortoq and Narsaq, which definitely wasn't the end of the world. The rescheduled flight to Narsarsuaq was due to depart at 16.45. We arrived at the airport, made a beeline for an information board to see which desk we needed to find to check our luggage back in... and found that the flight was cancelled In between the Icelandair sending a bus to pick us up from the hotel and us actually arriving at the airport, they'd decided to cancel the flight. Unbelievable! We went to the Icelandair service desk, where we learned that the weather was still too bad for the plane to land in Narsarsuaq. Icelandair's plan was to transport everyone back to the same hotel and attempt the flight for a third time tomorrow. For a lot of the people on the flight - many of whom seemed to be scientists coming to work in Greenland for the summer - that probably wasn't the end of the world. But this second cancellation meant that we'd definitely missed our ferry and there was no point us flying to Narsarsuaq on Thursday. Our best hope now was to get on the flight to Nuuk, which was taking off in a couple of hours. Tim explained our situation to a lovely lady at the service desk. She was keen to help, but it turned out not to be straightforward. It seems like it's no problem to switch passengers between different flights to the same destination. But she didn't have the ability to switch us onto a flight to a different destination, so she had to call another department who were in charge of bookings. This department didn't seem keen to switch us to the Nuuk flight, instead suggesting that it would be better for us to wait and fly to Narsarsuaq tomorrow. At one point they also seemed to be suggesting that we'd have to book the flight ourself, which would not have been a good outcome because I'd looked at the tickets last night and they were £660 each (which was more than we'd paid for our original itinerary from Heathrow to Narsarsuaq!). But Tim stood firm that we needed to go to Nuuk, the lady persevered, and about 15 minutes later the other department called her back to say it was sorted. Phew She was able to print us new boarding passes and luggage tags for Nuuk and off we went to check in! After that, things went smoothly for a while. We had a minor blip at the self-service baggage drop when an official refused to let us use it on the grounds that our cases were soft rather than hard. He made us go to a desk called "Odd sized baggage" instead, which made me slightly concerned we were never going to see our cases again. In the queue for odd-sized baggage we met another couple from our original flight who had just made the same decision as us and booked on the flight to Nuuk. They actually did need to be in Narsarsuaq, so were planning to then fly from Nuuk to Narsarsuaq the next day. Having spent four hours in the airport the day before we now had an in-depth knowledge of its layout, so we made our way to a quiet cafe where I could get online and start sorting out our travel arrangements again. First I emailed the boat transfer company, to say we wouldn't need a transfer to Narsaq after all. They confirmed I couldn't have a refund, which I knew already but it was useful to get that in writing for what I feel is going to be fun insurance claim further down the line! Then I had to email the ferry company, who had just confirmed that it was fine for us to board the boat in Narsaq at 21.00. I explained we'd had another change of plan and now wanted to board the ferry in Nuuk on Friday evening instead. They were absolutely wonderful, reissuing my ticket straightaway and promising that they'd refund my credit card for the unused portion of my ticket. Most importantly, we also needed to find somewhere to stay in Nuuk for the next two nights! Once we inputted the key requirements of private bathroom and WiFi into booking.com, there were only really two hotels to choose from. We opted for the one that looked slightly nicer, even though it was a bit more expensive. Then there was a the question of what we were actually going to do in Nuuk for two days. We'd always been going to spend Friday in Nuuk, because the ferry arrives there on a Friday morning and doesn't depart until Friday evening. Because of that I'd been doing extensive Nuuk research which had enabled me to establish that there isn't actually very much to do in Nuuk at all We might just about find enough sights to fill Friday, but there definitely weren't going to be enough to fill Thursday as well. But Nuuk is situated at the end of a fjord which looks absolutely amazing - and I'd seen boat trips in the fjord advertised somewhere previously - so I decided to book us onto one of those. I found the website, established there were spaces on the trip tomorrow, put in my card details, authorised the transaction in the Halifax app, got a message from the app saying the transaction was approved... and then a message on my screen saying the transaction had failed. Halifax had blocked my transaction as fraud. Again! This has happened to me enough times now that I know there's no point trying again (it just makes it worse and they add a higher level of blockage!) and there's no point waiting for them to send the text they're supposed to send saying they've blocked the transaction for your safety (because it never comes). I needed to get on the phone and speak to them now while I was still in Iceland (and could call for free) rather than wait until Greenland (where EE charge £2.34/minute to make a call!). The only problem was that there were just 5 minutes remaining until we were expecting to be called to our gate. What a nightmare! I made the call and luckily got through fairly swiftly. The first person I spoke to confirmed that yes, they had blocked my transaction, because making a transaction in Danish Krone is apparently suspicious behaviour. That person transferred me to a second person in the fraud department, who to be fair was very helpful; she unblocked my card, then stayed on the phone while I attempted to buy the boat tickets again to make sure the transaction actually went through this time. It did With all that resolved, we made a dash to the gate and got in the queue to board. We had our boarding passes scanned and queued up to board the bus, which was a tiny step further than we'd managed to get yesterday... and then the Icelandair employee announced that the flight was delayed by 30 minutes because of a shortage of crew! He "unboarded" us from the flight so that we could leave the tiny holding area and come back later. Tim and I went and had a glass of wine to steady our nerves... or my nerves at least... because I had a sinking feeling that this flight was about to get cancelled as well Back at the gate 30 minutes later there still seemed to be a lot of commotion about the missing crew member. I was starting to get quite annoyed by this point; I appreciate it's outside the airline's control if the weather makes it impossible to land a plane at Narsarsuaq, but having enough crew members definitely feels like a variable that they should be in control of.... The suspense was terrible but eventually we were allowed on the bus and the bus started driving us towards a plane. Maybe we were going to get to Nuuk after all! The plane was a little on the small size, similar to the one I'd flown back from the Isle of Man on earlier this month. Our tickets said we were supposed to be sitting in 3F and 3D. We'd just about sat down when the air hostess approached Tim and asked him if he'd like to sit in an emergency exit seat, moving him to the front row of the plane. She then moved down the plane looking for more English speakers and eventually moved me to 4F, next to another emergency exit. You have to be able to understand instructions in English to sit next to the emergency exits and of the maybe 10 other people on the plane, over half appeared to be natively Greenlandic and were shaking their heads when she asked them. The emergency exit rows had a ridiculous amount of legroom, which was nice as a it was 3-hour flight. But I must admit I was really hoping there wasn't going to be an emergency because the instructions for opening the emergency door looked quite complex! The first 2.5 hours of the flight were quite unremarkable. We had a brief view as we took off in Iceland... ...but then we spent the rest of the journey surrounded by clouds. Partway through we got served free coffee with a couple of chocolates, but that was the extent of the excitement. In the final half hour of the flight, however, I looked out the window and thought: "Hang on a minute, that's not cloud..." Sure enough, we were actually just flying over Greenland's ice sheet! As we flew a bit further, the views became clearer. We flew over what looked like an enormous glacier The views then became more mountainous. We flew over some incredible fjords with bright blue water. I hadn't realised that Greenland was so mountainous. We flew surprisingly close to the mountains at times too! The pilot announced that we were nearly at Nuuk, but we couldn't see it yet. Aha, there it was! If you zoom in on the picture below you may be able to make out the runway; it's a strip of grey ground partway up the mountain. We'd finally made it to Greenland! Happily, our bags had made it too We collected them, established there was no passport control (as far as our passports are concerned, we're still in Iceland!) and emerged from the airport. Let's just say there's not a lot there. No airport bus, not really a taxi rank either, and seemingly also no airport staff. For a couple of minutes, Tim and I contemplated carrying our suitcases down the hill to Nuuk. But then we met the couple from our original Narsarsuaq flight, who were in the same situation as us having unexpectedly arrived in Nuuk. They were trying to get a taxi and it turned out we'd all booked the same hotel, so we decided to share. Getting a taxi was a bit of a challenge because we didn't have a number to call one, but eventually a car turned up. He asked us if we'd called to book, we said no and he let us in anyway It was definitely a good decision. The airport is right on the outskirts of Nuuk and it would have been a long and difficult walk. Plus the taxi wasn't actually too expensive; it turned out to be something like €24, split between us. We checked into our hotel room and found it was absolutely fine, which was a relief given how little time I'd had to book it. Fingers crossed our bad travel luck is now over and the rest of the trip is going to go to plan
  9. Tuesday was the start of what was due to be a big adventure for us: our first ever trip to Greenland! I can't pretend Greenland is a place I've always wanted to go to - in fact, it's a place I've never really thought about going to - but earlier this year I was reading an Icelandic crime novel where the plot involved the murder suspects leaving Iceland on a flight to Greenland, hotly pursued by the Icelandic detective. Before I knew what was happening I started googling Greenland and ended up disappearing down a rabbit hole which ultimately resulted in me booking this holiday. The plan was to fly to a place called Narsarsuaq in southern Greenland, from where we'd transfer by boat to the small village of Qaqortoq. We were booked on a ferry called Sarfaq Ittuk which would be leaving Qaqortoq on Wednesday evening at 7pm and spending the next four days sailing up the western coast of Greenland. The pictures I'd seen online looked amazing! There are only two ways to fly to Greenland: via Reykjavik with Icelandair or via Copenhagen with Air Greenland. I had chosen the former option, which worked out as cheapest on the way out. Our first flight to Reykjavik was at 13.05 from Heathrow, so it wasn't a particularly early start by the standards of our holidays. We left home shortly after 07.30 anyway, slightly nervous about whether we might get stuck in rush hour traffic somewhere between home and Heathrow. We made good time initially and even had a quick stop for breakfast at a McDonalds on the M1, but partway to London we got caught in an unexplained traffic jam on the motorway and it was almost 11am by the time we made it to the airport parking. We were in luck and managed to jump on a bus to the terminal straightaway. That was probably the last lucky thing to happen on this journey I'd been worried about our boarding passes because when I'd checked in via the Icelandair website the day before, I'd only been given a boarding pass for our first flight to Reykjavik. We went to a desk to sort that out and were issued with a new combined boarding pass for both flights, plus assured that our luggage would go all the way through to the final destination. That was good news! We got through security with no problems, participating in another one of those trials where you don't have to take anything out of your bag, and then had time for a drink and a snack before it was time to board our first flight. The first flight was remarkably smooth and took off almost exactly on time, which is rare for a flight these days. There wasn't much of a view as we were mainly flying over the ocean, but we did have a useful screen to show us where we were. As we came in to land we got a tiny glimpse of Iceland, where it seemed to be quite a sunny day. The flight to Iceland had been three hours but we'd gone back in time one hour, so it was now around 15.15. Our connecting flight to Narsarsuaq was due to depart at 17.30, so we followed signs for transfers across the terminal and ultimately through passport control. The border guard asked Tim how long he was spending in Iceland and he said "two hours". Little did we know We were feeling hungry by this point so we explored the airport until we found a fast food restaurant where the prices didn't look too expensive. I had a pepperoni pizza while Tim had fish and chips. At some point around this time I got a notification from the Icelandair app on my phone saying that our flight had been delayed by two hours. Oh dear! Ordinarily a delay of two hours wouldn't be the end of the world. In this circumstance it was slightly stressful because, on the basis that our flight was due to arrive at 18.25, we had a boat transfer to Qaqortoq booked for 19.15. This was the final boat of the day and if we missed it, we'd be completely stranded in Narsarsuaq with no options for going anywhere else. Travelling in Greenland is somewhat complicated by the fact that there are no roads between individual settlements. So if you are in Place A, you have at most two options of getting to any given Place B: boat or helicopter. We found a quiet bar to have a glass of wine in the airport while I attempted not to panic. The airport and harbour in Narsarsuaq aren't right next to each other and the boat company have a shuttle bus which was supposed to meet the flight and transfer us to the harbour. Narsarsuaq isn't exactly a place which is overwhelmed with incoming flights so I figured they would know the plane was delayed and - hopefully - wait for it to arrive. When it got to the appointed time for our delayed flight we made our way to the gate, together with a small group of other people. We sat down and waited for a while until we saw that boarding had commenced and the first people in the queue had made their way onto the bus which would take us to the plane. Then we joined the queue and began to move slowly forward. We progressed - but hadn't quite made it to the front of the queue - when a staff member began to shout out an announcement. Our flight had been cancelled and we were all to go to the service desk to get help. There was mass confusion in the queue as everyone struggled to hear and process what had been said. We were some of the first to react and extricate ourselves from the line, heading back up the stairs from the gate towards the main terminal where we quickly located the service desk and got in line. The only problem was that there were no staff there to give any service. We stood there for 10 minutes or so while a large queue of people built behind us. Then eventually a staff member arrived and made an announcement to the effect that we all needed to go to the baggage hall to reclaim our bags, then make our way to the "meeting point" from where a bus would take us to a hotel overnight. It seemed that the flight cancellation was due to bad weather in Narsarsuaq. We set off towards baggage reclaim, where we stood around in confusion for a bit because our flight wasn't listed on any of the information screens so it was impossible to know which carousel we were supposed to wait by. After a while - more by luck than anything else - I saw one of our suitcases go past on a random carousel. We grabbed it and fortunately the other one wasn't far behind. Now all we had to do was find the mysterious "meeting point". There wasn't any obvious meeting point when we emerged into the arrivals hall, so Tim went to an information desk to ask. The guy on the desk was quite confused and said there were different meeting points for different things so he couldn't really help. Eventually, by wandering about a bit, we saw some signs saying "Meeting point" and followed those to the opposite end of the airport where we found... a man in a bow tie! "Greenland?" he said. We nodded and he explained that he was sent from the hotel to organise our transportation. As more passengers arrived, he began dividing us into different groups depending on who was going to go to which hotel. We'd been the first passengers to make it to the meeting point, so there was a lot of waiting around. I went outside to get a bit of fresh air. When I returned there was an airline employee walking around giving information. It seemed that Icelandair were arranging for the flight to try again tomorrow, but not until 16.45. That was late and didn't give us much opportunity to get to Qaqortoq for a 19.00 ferry departure. Oh dear Before we had time to ask any questions we were advised that our bus had arrived, so we headed outside and got onboard. When I say that we had flown to Reykjavik today, we'd actually flown to a town called Keflavík, which is where Iceland's main international airport is located. It's a 45-minute drive into Reykjavik so the bus wasn't taking us there, but rather into the centre of Keflavík, which itself is one of the biggest towns in Iceland with a population of around 15 000 people. Icelandair had booked us into what looked like a rather expensive hotel, certainly outside our price range for Iceland. We queued up to be allocated a room and a voucher for dinner in the hotel restaurant. The latter turned out to be rather disappointing (chicken salad!) but the room was rather nice. Most importantly, it had free WiFi. I spent some time online, trying to work out what on earth our options were for the next day. I quickly established that if our flight arrived in Narsarsuaq at the time for which it was now scheduled, there was no way we could get to Qaqortoq on time to catch the ferry at 19.00. But, there was a chance that we could make it to a place called Narsaq where the ferry was due to call at 21.00 as its first stop after Qaqortoq. I fired off emails to a couple of boat transfer companies to see whether they had a sailing to Narsaq at the time we needed, then emailed the hotel we had booked in Qaqortoq to cancel our stay for tonight. Luckily they were very nice about it and didn't charge me If it turned out that we couldn't get a boat transfer to Narsaq, we were definitely going to miss the ferry (which only runs once a week). In that case, there would be no point us flying to Narsarsuaq; instead, we'd be better off trying to get to Nuuk, from where we should be able to intercept the ferry on Friday evening for the final part of its journey. Icelandair had a flight to Nuuk tomorrow evening, as did Air Greenland, so that gave us options at least. There was nothing more we could do until we heard back from the boat companies, so we decided to call it a day and go to bed. Hopefully tomorrow would go more smoothly!
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