Saturday, 22 January 2011

Greenland blog 15: Dawn on deck

Arctic Umiaq Line ferry heading north, Greenland. Image copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008.

After four days in Nuuk I bid my landlady a fond farewell and bundled into a taxi to catch the night ferry north. Actually it was the only ferry going north that week, so if you’re planning to get round Greenland’s west coast by sea, careful planning is in order. 

I had amassed a pretty hefty amount of luggage by this time. Sizing up the angle of the gangplank, I began to regret that in addition to my seriously unoutdoorsy large wheelie luggage and daypack (holding seven cameras, fifty rolls of film, battery charger, useless Danish primer, and all the extra thermal clothes I hadn’t needed) I was now cutting my wrist (enough to draw blood, as I discovered later) with several bags of shopping. I had spent the previous evening cruising one of Nuuk’s two large supermarkets, stocking up on food that required no cooking and didn’t necessitate taking out a bank loan. I was now toting tinned fish, heavy thin sliced rye bread, a little pricey fruit, two one-litre cartons of yogurt, a packet of the yummy mushroom spread I’d developed a taste for at my landlady’s, salami, and boxes of vacuum packed chocolate milk and orange juice. Oh, and the bottle of duty free white wine, and some caribou lasagne I’d gotten from the deli. No point in missing the local delicacies. 

Some kind soul from the ship’s crew negotiated my wheelie luggage down a flight of stairs to the couchettes. At last, I was settled, with another four days of not needing to move my luggage, and not needing to spend precious docking time shopping. Yes, I was planning on staying on board for the journey to the furthest northern point of the route, and after a four hour stop, returning to the ship as it steamed (or rather dieseled) to its furthest point south. And why the food? I was determined to save my kroner, and not knowing how exorbitant the prices might be at the on-board cafeteria (quite reasonable by Greenlandic standards, as it turns out), I was taking no chances. 

And so to couchette. The cheapest option with AUL (Arctic Umiaq Line, the ferry company) is an eight-berth single sex room, though a curtain separates the space into two sections with two sets of bunks each. I was grateful to be very close to the centre of the ship, to minimise movement, and not to be assigned a bed to the extreme fore, which was right by a fruit machine. I spread my sleeping bag, and in the womblike warmth and darkness was soon asleep.

And so it was that I awoke at 5 am, way too hot. Quite frankly this was not what I had been prepared for in Greenland. I pulled on a fleece over t-shrt and quick dry trousers, and went exploring on deck. After a couple of minutes this outift was not really sufficient to keep out the stiff breeze generated by our steady progress. 

By then, I had made a discovery that made me wonder if I was still dreaming. In the surreal light of dawn, earlier than ever as we headed towards the Arctic circle, the bright orange deck sported a series of navy blue sun loungers. 

30 August 2008 05:31 recalled 19 January 2011



and stay tuned for another episode tomorrow!

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