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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GREENLAND - THE BIRTHPLACE OF ICEBERGS


We are finally here in Greenland, the home of the iceberg.  The weather is perfect as we exit the airport and get a taxi to Pia’s place. Pia is the lovely lady who owns the Airbnb that we have booked. And boy have we lucked out. Her apartment is lovely and has magic views over the port & city. After settling us in Pia heads back to work. We unpack & head out to explore, and take Pia out for dinner at a lovely restaurant. John has to try the musk ox but I stay safe with lamb.  The next day we catch the local bus to explore further afield, returning in time to pack and walk down to our boat – the Saraq Ittuk. It is a working vessel that is the main link between little towns up and down the west coast of Greenland. We have booked to head south as far as we can, then return to Nuuk, before heading north as far as we can go, finally returning to Nuuk.

We hit our first glitch straight away when we go to see the Purser to make sure we can have the same cabin for the entire trip. We think we are booked all the way, but we are not. Somehow, we are only booked part way. A lot more Danish Kroner later we are booked the entire way, & can keep the same cabin the whole trip. Fingers crossed for no more glitches.

Our magic weather holds as we head south. We spend a lot of time on the top deck fully rugged up so that we look like roly poly balls (well I do anyway!). Our first stop is the tiny, crazily named village of Qeqertarsuatsiaat. It is 9.45pm, but still light, so we head off to explore. We have only 30 minutes, & have been told/threatened not to be late or we will be left behind.  We practically jog around town & end up back too early. No way do we want to be left here.

An early start as we arrive at Paamiut at 6am, and again we have 30 minutes. This is a much bigger town that actually has cars, & a truly gorgeous stave church.  Then lots more time on the top deck as we are continually hugging coastline & slipping in & out of islands. The next stop is again at a very tiny place called Arsuk. Here the jetty is not large enough for us, so a speed boat is lowered from the top deck to take passengers in to the port. Naturally we have to stay on board – here it is a mere 15 min stop. Times are kept with precision. Finally, we are in iceberg territory – and boy they are my new favourite thing to photograph. They are massive! & incredibly gorgeous. Despite the chilly wind, we stay upstairs watching. Then we turn & head through the narrows – we are watching for reindeer, & amazingly John spies 4.

Later in the evening (9.30) we arrive in the large town of Narsaq. The port is a bit out of town, so we can only walk to the lookouts, as again we have 30 minutes. Finally, at midnight we arrive in our southernmost destination – Qaqortoq. We will be there until 8am, so we have chosen to go to bed as it is finally dark. Tomorrow we will explore. We get up early to head in to town at 6am. It is drizzling, but hey that is not going to stop us exploring. This place has a really cute central plaza, a really lovely old church set beside a river and way over the back a frozen lake. We even have enough time to head to the grocery store to get some freshly baked Danish bread & pastries.

The rain continues all day, so we tend to spend more time inside. Even watch a few terrible inhouse movies. Finally, we are back at Arsuk – another excuse to head to the top deck to watch the motor boat take people in to port. We even stay up to walk in to Paaiimut again at 10.45pm & find more to explore. And it isn’t even dark yet.

Tonight, was a bit rock & rolly here on board. I kept sliding up & down the bed, & anything loose had to be secured. Fortunately, we had been on board long enough for it not to upset me. In the morning, another quick visit to the snowy town of Qeqertarsuatsiaat, despite the drizzle that still keeps coming. Finally, we are back in Nuuk & it really is miserable (the weather I mean). Thank goodness for Pia who has told us to use her place. We enjoy her view & use her Wifi before heading down town in to the now blistering wind to have some dinner, before heading back on board for the next sector of our trip. Fingers crossed for sunny weather!

In the morning, we wake to discover it is snowing. The decks are covered & fat flakes are still coming.  Maniitsoq looks like a winter wonderland as we steam in. We have an hour to explore…… again our mantra “Don’t be late”. We hurry out & in to town. John keeps urging me on. A bit harder to race in the snow. This town is dubbed the Venice of the North because of the islands connected by bridges. There is a whale lookout that we give a miss as the walk is thick with snow, but we do find a suitable hill for a view of town. Then it is back to the boat – this time I think we are the last on.

Later in the morning we again head up on deck, despite the snow, to experience the narrows. Here the peaks on each side nearly meet. It is pretty spectacular. Once through it is a relief to head back to our room to thaw out. Before we know it we are stopping at the tiny town of Kangaamuit – too tiny for us to dock, so the boat is used again. Here the houses are perched on the rocky cliffs & boats wiz in & out of the narrow harbour. There is another stop today at 7pm at the bigger town of Sisimiut. Here there is a craft shop (open) where local artisans carve items out of reindeer & musk ox horns Then up the main road to explore yet another old church & square before meandering the streets. The fish & chip shop near the wharf has been recommended to us - & it is good, even though they don’t have any fish.

Wake in the night to noises & thumping, & on opening the blind see we are ploughing through 500mm thick of pack ice. I really can’t be bothered hauling on all my clothes to look, so go back to sleep. Later wake again, & this time do haul on our clothes – but it is too late, we are through. Our early morning stop is the town of Aasiat. Only 30 mins here so another sprint around town. The weather has magically turned blue & sparkling, so we head upstairs to watch the countless icebergs float by, as we head in to Disko Bay. Nothing has prepared us for the sheer number of them – they go on for miles, and keep getting bigger. Finally, they are massive and we realise that we have reached their birthplace – where the twin glaciers at Isulissat exit in to Disko Bay. We are so busy gaping at the view we hardly notice that we have arrived at Ilulissat. It is 1pm, and we have 4 hours to explore. Following instructions, we head off the wharf & get a taxi out to Sermeriut/Icefiord so that we can take the boardwalk to see the Icefiord for ourselves. There is a great wooden walkway in through the marshes – lots of places covered with snow – but the views are stupendous. We are staggered & awed by the sight of this magnificent glacier mouth.  Amazingly we practically have this glorious place to ourselves. Our second walk takes us to a more elevated lookout – again magnificent. But we have a schedule to keep to….so we walk back to town, passing lots of husky’s. Anyone for a sledge ride? Maybe a month or so ago. Still enough time to explore town before we have to get back on board. The evening is spent watching icebergs as we head back south. We have the top deck to ourselves as most of the other tourists left at Ilulissat and will fly home from there.

Now we will be retracing our steps back to Nuuk. But before we head to bed we hear more ice sheets cracking & hurry out to watch. The next morning the rock & roll starts again, only stopping as we go in to the port of Sisimiut. This time we catch the local bus for a great tour of town. Then more cabin time as the day has turned grey & rough. But we still have 2 more stops today. At 5.30 we squeeze through the rocky entrance to reach the tiny Kangaamiut & watch the boat being launched and then on to Maniitsoq via the magnificent fjord like area with snowy mountains on either side.  This time the weather is gorgeous, blue & sparkling. Awesome!

Finally Maniitsoq again at 9.30pm. The fresh snow has melted, so we head out to the whale lookout – not a ripple on the surface of the water. Then time for a stroll back through the suburbs to our boat.  At 7am we are woken by the intercom announcing our arrival in Nuuk 30 mins later. Another misty day, so we are glad to be able to walk straight up the hill to Pia’s place. We have one more day here. Tomorrow we fly back to Iceland. GR2 has just landed! So, all is looking good.

We have loved our time in Greenland & highly recommend the Saraf Ittuk as a great way to see the local towns - come & visit. And if you are very lucky you may get the chance to stay with Pia in Nuuk.






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