Greenland, Westbound.

Cruising Prince Christian Sound Again.

Cruising in this sound at the southern tip of Greenland is one of the world’s best experiences possible on a cruise ship. And this is the second time we’re doing it in the past couple of weeks. The mountains rising directly out of the azure water were the focus of our attention all morning and until mid-afternoon, when we returned to the open ocean. Glaciers, snow fields, rushing waterfalls, green plants visible on every non-vertical surface, massive rounded-over rock faces, seams in the rocks at all different angles, the occasional iceberg, and one spouting whale kept us enthralled. We passed a weather station and one small community (130 inhabitants) nestled among the boulders at water’s edge and those are the only humans who live here. Today was a beautiful, cold, but mostly sunny day, but the winters here are brutal. We don’t get why anyone would willingly live here, but I suppose they have their reasons. Denise spent most of the day outside on the deck in the cold, taking pictures for us.

Nanortalik.

We anchored in Nanortalik’s harbor this morning, and our position gave us a panoramic view of this town and its surrounding islands. Similar to our passage yesterday, we were looking at mountains rising directly out of the water and lots and lots of rocks. Nanortalik is another small town with colorful, mostly wooden houses, a few warehouse-type buildings (community center, 2 grocery stores, tourist information center), a few containers stacked at the harbor, and some fishing boats at the dock. After leaving the tender, we chose to walk to the right, following the road around almost to the helipad and then turning left up the hill, where we found a nice-looking “Hotel,” what seemed to be a school and playing field, and the police station (Politi). It was a bracing walk because the weather was cold and not sunny, but we got to see a residential neighborhood – houses are jumbled together, seemingly placed at random with respect to each other and to the street. The unique feature of their landscaping was the multitude of boulders which surrounded the houses. Some were almost as big as the dwellings, and their presence must have actually defined where the houses could be built. The streets are paved and in good enough repair. Sidewalks are an afterthought. We saw many people out and about; many were children of all ages. The older people whom we encountered seemed very friendly: they always returned a “hello” with a word and a smile.

We had been told that a community organization was giving a concert for the tourists, but we were too late to hear it, so we stopped in at the community center and ended up giving the ladies present a $20 bill as a donation. While there, we talked a few minutes to a youngish couple who were sitting by the door. Turns out, she was born in Greenland, he’s a Dane, they’re married, and they’re taking this trip to Greenland together so she can see her roots. Talking to them was the highlight of the day. Our last stop was at one of the two grocery stores in town. We looked around a while (like Walmart, it has something for everyone), bought a case of water, and walked back to wait in the tender line.

Glacier in Prince Christian Sound

Glacier in Prince Christian Sound

Passengers Taking Pictures from the Bow of the Ship

Passengers Taking Pictures from the Bow of the Ship

Rounded-Over Mountains with Snow and Blue Water

Rounded-Over Mountains with Snow and Blue Water

Another Glacier with a Few Small Icebergs

Another Glacier with a Few Small Icebergs

Denise Out in the Cold Taking Pictures

Denise Out in the Cold Taking Pictures

Fog Trails in Front of the Ship

Fog Trails in Front of the Ship

Prince Christian Sound

Prince Christian Sound

Small Community on the Shore of Prince Christian Sound

Small Community on the Shore of Prince Christian Sound

Tourist Information Center in Nanortalik, Greenland

Tourist Information Center in Nanortalik, Greenland

Colorful Houses in Nanortalik

Colorful Houses in Nanortalik

View of Nanortalik, Greenland

View of Nanortalik, Greenland

House and Its Boulders in Nanortalik

House and Its Boulders in Nanortalik

Street Scene in Nanortalik

Street Scene in Nanortalik

View of Nanortalik from the Ship

View of Nanortalik from the Ship

 

 

 

Greenland, Eastbound.

Qaqortoq (pronounced kwa-kor-tuk).

The morning was a little cloudy and overcast, but that went away pretty early, and we ended up with a beautiful and sunny day – cool enough for jackets, but very comfortable. From the ship, we could see that Qaqortoq is a charming port. The seawater is a deep aqua blue and very calm. There was one iceberg visible from the ship, but we were never close enough to it to experience it. The blue, red, green, purple, pink, and yellow houses and buildings of the town are arranged at every angle and every place where a flat enough space can be found to build them. They go from the shore up the sides of the mountains almost to the top. On such a beautiful day, the town makes an attractive scene. Given the variety of colors, I suspect that it would be striking on a snowy day as well. The parts of the mountains that we can see from the ship are just big brown rocks with greenery filling the cracks and fissures. This is a tender port, so we anchored out in the bay and had a 10-minute ride into the small, but cute harbor, which had several fishing boats and a crane busily moving shipping containers from one place to another.

We left the tender in what seemed to be the middle of town and started walking along the main road. Cars kept whizzing by, but I wouldn’t say it was anything like “traffic.” We found the town fountain, which was situated in the middle of a paved area, although we couldn’t call it a plaza really because there weren’t any buildings to frame it. Actually, all of the buildings just seemed to be randomly placed in relation to each other, some fronting on a street, but many not. There seemed to be no attempt at landscaping anywhere, either around the homes or around the public buildings. However, everywhere we walked, we couldn’t get over the abundance of wildflowers. We found a grocery store and went inside to see what Greenlanders eat. It was just like every other grocery store, except that they offered whale in the meat department. We didn’t look at prices but understand that everything here is very expensive.

We returned to the tender dock and kept walking towards the other end of town. We passed another grocery store and an old folks’ home and found a helipad at the end of the street. The helicopter is what connects Qaqortoq with the rest of the world. On our return to the town center, we stopped at a roadside bench and ate our lunch (cheese sandwiches from the ship) and sat for a while trying to realize that we were in Greenland. At one point, an old, toothless, indigenous man joined us on the bench, and we exchanged comments about how nice the day was. That was a challenge since we didn’t speak each other’s language. After he left, we returned to the ship. We really didn’t know what to expect of Greenland, but we have been impressed. The cars are mostly old and battered (mostly Toyotas, some Suzukis), but the native people we saw seemed to be friendly and not poor. Buildings and homes seem to be well maintained. I thought it was interesting that the local artisans were offering souvenirs made mostly of rock (jewelry, carved figures). They’re making good use of their most abundant resource.

Cruising Prince Christian Sound.

The next day started sunny and bright; cold enough for jackets but not windy or unpleasant. It was to be a day of cruising Prince Christian Sound, which is the waterway between mainland Greenland and its southern islands. From the forward decks we watched as the ship proceeded between islands and the mainland, through a maze of channels and fjords and an azure sea. The mountains here are sharply pointed and very tall – I think about 4,000 feet or so above the level of the sea. They are mostly grey and brown, with greenery attached to everything that’s not bare rock. We saw ice fields and glaciers frequently, usually with waterfalls cascading from them down to the sea. We passed a number of icebergs, some close enough so that we could see the submerged parts, which had bubbles rising from them to the surface. We saw seals lounging on the icebergs, and later in the morning we watched as a couple of whales surfaced, spouted, swam along for a while, then dove again, leaving us with the familiar image of their tails as the last visible token of their presence.

As the unusually beautiful day progressed, we were told by several people in the know that our weather was most unusual. Normally, there is fog, rain, and cold, so we were really lucky. In the crystal air, we could appreciate the different kinds of mountains; not all were pointy; some were rounded over and looked like huge bumpy pillows. We continued to see icebergs all day, but most of them were small. In a couple of spots, the glaciers came right down to the water’s edge and looked like they were going to start calving at any moment. Today’s sights are some of the most beautiful we have ever seen. As soon as we left the sound and moved into the open ocean, the sky became overcast and we entered fog again, in stark contrast to the rest of the day.

 

View of Qaqortoq from the Ship

View of Qaqortoq from the Ship

Qaqortoq Visitors Center

Qaqortoq Visitors Center

Qaqortoq Town Fountain

Qaqortoq Town Fountain

Stream in Downtown Qaqortoq

Stream in Downtown Qaqortoq

Wildflowers by the Stream

Wildflowers by the Stream

Lupine, House, and Rocks in Qaqortoq

Lupine, House, and Rocks in Qaqortoq

Blue Grocery Store in Downtown Qaqortoq

Blue Grocery Store in Downtown Qaqortoq

Main Street

Main Street

Friendly Passerby in Qaqortoq

Friendly Passerby in Qaqortoq

Icebergs in Prince Christian Sound

Icebergs in Prince Christian Sound

Iceberg, Reflection, and Mountains

Iceberg, Reflection, and Mountains

Calm Water, Mountains with Snow Patches

Calm Water, Mountains with Snow Patches

One of the Glaciers in Prince Christian Sound

One of the Glaciers in Prince Christian Sound

Perfect Reflection-Note the Weather

Perfect Reflection-Note the Weather

Prince Christian Sound

Prince Christian Sound

Fascinated by the Glacier

Fascinated by the Glacier