Iceland and Greenland 2005: Day 2


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Iceland and Greenland 2005: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4]

Monday, June 13, 2005: After a good night's rest, we were ready to visit Greenland! We booked an escorted 8 hour tour for about $600 USD each. We took off from Reykjavik Airport, which is a small airport in the heart of Reykjavik. The international airport is 40 km south of Reykjavik in Keflavik.

After a two hour flight, we looked down to find a sea filled with icebergs.
Some of the icebergs were so large they had their own ponds. This iceberg was probably larger than our house.
The wheels dropped down as we reached the shore and prepared to land on the gravel runway at Kulusuk, Greenland.
The scenery was so breathtaking and the destination so remote, that all of the passengers milled about on the tarmac for a while taking photos of the plane and the airport. We did, too.
The Kulusuk Airport has two different entrances: one for domestic arrivals and one for international arrivals, as if it really matters.
We entered the international arrivals door, of course. Once inside, our tour guide stamped all of our passports with a not-so-official passport stamp, and every one of us was delighted.
We set out for the one hour walk to the village, passing beautiful sights with each step.
Just down the hill from the airport is the Kulusuk Hotel, which features all three meals in the price of their rooms, since there are no other restaurants around.
This is the bay that we would pass through by boat on our return trip.
We passed a cemetery on a hill, placed there because it is one of the only locations in the area with enough soil to bury bodies. Plastic flowers cover the graves, and the white crosses at each grave bear no names or dates.
There was very little vegetation, but these tiny pink flowers were a welcome sight.
We walked to the top of the hill past the cemetery and were greeted with this astonishing sight. With the exception of the Grand Canyon and Antarctica, this has to be the most beautiful scenery we've ever enjoyed. The brightly painted houses of the village dotted the peninsula in the foreground, and the mountains in the background went on for miles and miles.
Sorry to block the view, but we had to prove that we were actually there. Thanks, 4D, for the awesome windbreaker -- it really came in handy!
We descended the hill by way of an ice field. Tom took the lead ...
... while Debbie followed along in her not-made-for-snow shoes. It was such a blast sliding down the snowfield that a little snow in her shoes was worth it.
We got to the little town of Cap Dan (population 360) and had some free time to look around. We bought freshly baked rolls, soda, and Tic Tacs at the local store in the middle of the village. Greenland is a territory of Denmark, so the store accepted Danish currency. Fortunately, we had exchanged some money just for this purpose.
Next, we crossed to the other side of the village square to visit the souvenir shop which was opened just for our visit. It featured postcards, sweatshirts, clothing made from leather and fur, and figures carved from antlers and whale teeth.
Then we continued walking through the village to the edge of the peninsula where we saw a canoe demonstration. This was our first encounter with Camera Guy (in the blue coat), who seemed to be in the middle of every photo. We spotted him again the next day on our whale-watching tour in Reykjavik.
The canoe demonstration continued into the bay, where we were shown how to use a harpoon.
Next, we were treated to several drum dances.
We visited the local church, which was Lutheran like the churches found in much of Scandinavia.
The windows of the church were quite striking. The story is that a German artist visited Cap Dan many years earlier, and was so touched by the community that he started to make decorative windows for the church. He has been sending them one at a time, and now seven out of the eight windows are complete. Care to see them up close?
We thought you would. Here is the red one ...
... and the yellow one ...
... and the green one ...
... and the blue one. Aren't they beautiful? What we weren't able to capture in the photos is the difference in textures. Some of the materials used are smooth colored glass, while some are thickly textured pyramid-shaped glass blocks
After touring the village, we had the option of walking back or paying the locals for a boat ride back through the bay. Naturally, we all opted for an up-close look at icebergs.
Tom and I were the only passengers of the front boat.
The other boats followed closely behind in the trail carved by our boat.
Being in front meant that there were no boat wakes to ruin our photos.
We took dozens of photos, but we'll only subject you to a few of the best ones.
The water was clear enough to see the underwater portions of the icebergs.
It's hard to give a sense of scale, but this iceberg was probably 30 feet long.
Our boat could have easily fit under the overhang of this iceberg.
Back on shore, we passed a group of dogs similar to the many dozens of dogs we had seen in the village.
At the airport, there was no formal announcement of our flight's departure at 2:00. We just kind of wandered toward the plane whenever we felt like it. There were maybe two airport employees, if that.
Our tour guide handed out personalized certificates for each of us when we got on the plane.
Once in the air, our tour guide announced that since the weather was so nice, our pilots would take us on an aerial tour of the region. We could hardly believe our good fortune. First, we flew over the town of Tasiilaq (population 2000), which is the largest town in the Ammassalik district.
We flew close to mountain peaks ...
... and massive snow fields ...
... and fjords filled with icebergs.
We passed the village of Kuummiut (population 400) ...
... and the tongue of a large glacier ...
... and more gorgeous mountain peaks covered with ice fields.
As we passed one particularly large glacier, the tour guide announced that we would be dropping in altitude as we flew over the tongue of the glacier so that we can see the crevasses up close.
We dropped lower ...
... and lower ...
... and lower ...
... and lower ...
... and finally, when we seemed to be right on top of the glacier, it dropped into the sea and we regained our altitude.
We flew over the village of Sermiliqaak (population 200), one of seven villages in the Ammassalik district.
Finally, our magical tour came to an end as we reached the coast and made our way back to Iceland. It was one of the most amazing experiences of our life.
As we returned to Iceland, we were treated to a sunny view of Mt. Snæfell.
Back on the ground, we went into Reykjavik for a little sightseeing. This huge sculpture, Sun-Craft, is at the water's edge near the harbor.
Here's our adorable replacement rental car. In the background to the left is Aktu Taktu, the fast food restaurant with a drive-through where we had our dinner. With high Iceland prices and a weak American dollar, a fast food meal for two of burgers, fries, and sodas cost $20, both at Aktu Taktu and at McDonald's two days later.
Here's a random photo of Reykjavik.
After three days of traveling, Tom was the first to win at Maersk with this sighting next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Back in our room at Hotel Keflavik, we happened to catch the verdict in the Michael Jackson case on television. It's amazing that this was worldwide news.
Keflavik is a small charming town with a beautiful bay area. They light up the cliffs along the bay at night when it is dark, which we only saw once.
We enjoyed some ice cream on a bench in front of the sculpture shown above.
Debbie needed to get some more photos of the lupines we saw everywhere, so she got a little fancy and tried a flash shot facing into the sun. She is an artiste.
All of our tulips were long gone in our garden, so it was a treat to see tulips and daffodils blooming in June.

Back at the hotel, "Lost" was showing on the television. Here, Jack talks to Charlie with Icelandic subtitles.

Day 3 >


Iceland and Greenland 2005: [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4]

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