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About Me

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  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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!
  4. 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
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