Tasiilaq, Greenland

It was with excitement that we woke up this morning and eagerly looked out of our portholes for our first glimpse of Greenland.  We had tried to go to Greenland on a cruise 10 years ago (June 2006) but there was too much sea ice so the ship, the Funchal, couldn’t risk trying to land.  So instead they diverted and went to a couple of extra ports in Iceland, but it really wasn’t the same thing.  So now we were finally here!  🙂

The Boudicca was at anchor off a tiny ‘town’ called Tasiilaq (say Tass-ee-lack).  We could see a small landing stage opposite us, a few fishing boats moored up, and colourful wooden houses perched on the hillside and along the water’s edge.  The mountains still had snow at the top and there were a number of blinding-white icebergs floating past us, some of the larger ones tinged with that gorgeous turquoise-blue hue.

We weren’t booked on a tour today as everything we needed to see was within walking distance.  We went and had our breakfast and, as it was formal night tonight once again, we each enjoyed a gratis glass of chilled bubbly with our bacon and eggs, to set us up for the day.  🙂

Around 9.00am we got ourselves ready and went to join the queue for the liberty boat across to the town.  The queue moved quickly and we were on board in no time, and it only took about 10 minutes to get across.  The weather was already bright and sunny but with a distinct nip in the air, only to be expected in northern climes.  I had on a long-sleeved top with my denim jacket over the top, a pair of jeans, and trainers, and to be honest that was perfectly sufficient.  Some people, however, had dressed as if they were going to the North Pole, and there were many thick quilted coats, hats, scarves and gloves in evidence; I though their wearers would soon regret it, particularly as the terrain was quite steep and it would be hot work walking.

We looked at the tiny wooden dwellings, some of them with fish hanging up to dry, and washing strung outside in the front or back porches – no ‘gardens’ at these latitudes and certainly no trees, although there were some scrubby looking bushes.  Hardly any houses had cars outside them, although quite a few had snowmobiles and several had their own boats.  The people who were sitting on their porches or balconies seemed very friendly, and waved as we walked past.

Tasiilaq is the main town in East Greenland and has a population of 2,100 which is slowly growing.  Tasiilaq was discovered in 1884 by Naval Officer Gustav Holm who came from the south-west coast of Greenland.

During the early summer months this part of Greenland is isolated by the great ice coming down from the Polar Sea, and in the winter the fjord freezes over completely.  Supplies are therefore stored from November to June or are brought in from aircraft and helicopter.

Traditionally the people made a living from hunting and fishing until recently, when the population growth made it too big to be sustainable.  Now there is a shift towards tourism, although fishing remains the main money-maker.  Some parts of the old Inuit culture still remain, although the people are slowly embracing the western lifestyle.

We walked up the hill to see if we could find any shops, and we came across a tiny general store that sold a few provisions, household items, postcards etc. and was doing a good trade from the Boudicca’s passengers in strong hot coffee.  We went in and bought four postcards and stamps; the postcards were home-made, that is, they were photos of Tasiilaq printed onto computer photo paper, and cut into postcard size.

We sat outside at some wooden tables and wrote the postcards out, and the lady in the shop kindly said she would post them for us.  We then wandered a bit further on and found another shop, crammed with customers from our ship and selling all sorts of stuff, from traditional knitwear to items made from sealskin, as well as smaller items like fridge magnets, keyrings and pens.

Afterwards we made our way back down the hill to where some indigenous Inuit people treated us to an a capella rendition of singing and some gentle percussion.  We then wandered around a bit, looking with fascination and the landscape, the buildings, the blue sea with the Boudicca in relief against the snow-capped mountains and, of course, the blue-white icebergs floating serenely past, in strange shapes sculpted by Mother Nature.  Simply breathtaking.

What an absolutely lovely little place Tasiilaq is!  🙂

Around 12.00 noon we decided to return to the Boudicca and have some lunch, as we all had to be back on board by 1.00pm and we didn’t want to queue for ages to make the last liberty boat.  We boarded the boat more or less straight away, and when it pulled away from the tiny jetty we looked back to see a massive queue that had formed, so well-timed on our part.

Back on board I enjoyed some salad and cold meats for lunch, washed down with a chilled glass of rosé wine.  We then went out on deck as the weather was simply perfect – not too hot and not too cold.  I can’t imagine how those in their huge winter overcoats were coping.

Just after one o’clock the Boudicca weighed anchor and glided slowly out of the harbour and into the fjord.  We were standing at the starboard side of the ship, at the railings, and Trevor excitedly pointed at the sea and said “Whale!”  Indeed we saw the tell-tale water spout that indicates a whale is not far below the surface.  We looked on with baited breath as a few more spouts appeared, followed by a black dorsal fin.  A humpback whale!  The whale surfaced briefly, did a few more spouts to get its breath, then went into a graceful dive, treating us to the sight of its fluke (whale-tail) before disappearing into the deep. We have seen whales on our travels lots of times, including in the Arctic, Antarctic, Caribbean, Alaska and even in the Mediterranean, but it’s a sight you could never tire of.

We then walked to the stern of the ship into the sunshine, and ordered a drink each before sitting outside in the sunshine, watching the wake of the ship as she glided through the blue water.  A few minutes later we saw another tell-tale spout, followed by another – two whales; either of them surfacing enough for us to see their fins, but not diving deeply enough for their tails to show.

What with icebergs and whales and the glorious weather, what a superb day this was turning out to be.

Around 3.00pm I left Trevor on deck before returning to our cabin to shower and change.  While I was getting ready, an announcement came over the tannoy to say the Boudicca was heading directly for an enormous iceberg.  But it wasn’t a case of the Titanic; we were assured we would go around the ‘berg, not into it.  🙂

I took my camera and went up on the deck and rejoined Trevor.  The iceberg certainly was huge; it towered way above the height of the ship and had seabirds resting on it.  It had been sculpted by the wind and the sea and was amazing; and what we had to remember was that we could only see 20% of it – the rest was hidden below the surface of the sea.  A marvel of nature.

Back in our cabin we got ready and went along for the quiz, with our newly-formed team consisting of us two, plus Steve, Marilyn, Michael and his wife Julia who joined us.  Once again we had the highest score, but so did another couple of teams, so it went to the tie-breaker.  We didn’t win.  😦

Then it was time to get ready in our glad-rags for the second formal evening on board.  I wore a floor-length black dress with a plunging neckline, teamed with a floaty green wrap decorated in embroidery, sequins and beads.  It perfectly matched the green hand-made necklace I was wearing.

Then it was off to table #21 in the Tintagel Restaurant where we enjoyed lobster, washed down with  chilled wine and finished off with the cheeseboard and a glass of port.  A delicious meal once again; I simply adore lobster.  🙂

Afterwards it was the usual; along to the Neptune Lounge for this evening’s show, which featured the soprano, Helen Wilding, once again.  There was no quiz tonight, so we just went up to the Lido Lounge and listened to the pianist, followed by one of the Boudicca Show Company’s female lead singers, Alana Asher.  She was very good as we have come to expect on FO cruises; usually the entertainment is superb and Alana was no exception.

Once again it was well after midnight when we went to bed.  What a terrific day we’d had today. 🙂

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