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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
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!