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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
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
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
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!