After a surprisingly good nights sleep I woke to a beautiful warm and sunny day – not what I was expecting from Greenland. I don’t think I’m going to need my thermals, scarf and bobble hat!
We spent the night anchored in the still waters of Itilleq Bay and this mornings itinerary included a short trip to the beach jetty at Itilleq followed by a 4km hike to the former Norse settlement of Gardar.
After a very hearty buffet breakfast we had a briefing about the Environmental Policies of travelling within the Arctic regions, the Code of Conduct when going ashore and most importantly how to get on and off the small Zodiac boats safely and without looking like a complete idiot.
After that it was life jackets on ready to board the boats and start the days activities. After a short boat ride over flat, calm waters we disembarked onto a small wooden jetty, where the dirt road to the small town of Igaliku starts. Once we were all ashore we started the hike passing through lush, green farmlands, a far cry from what I was expecting Greenland to be.
After just over an hour we reached the small settlement of Igaliku, which houses some impressive Norse ruins known as Gardar. In 985 AD Einar, a good friend of the founder of Greenland, Eric the Red, settled in Igaliku and named his farm Gardar. During the Norse period it became a very important area housing the Parliament where all laws were established. Following the introduction of Christianity to Greenland at around the turn of the millennium, the religion became so powerful that a bishop was appointed in 1124 and the impressive Episcopal residence of Gardar, was established shortly afterwards. Today the site is just ruins but our guide Isabeau gave a detailed explanation as to how the site would have looked in the 12th Century with a Cathedral, a Bishops residence, with several rooms, an Assembly Hall, Bell Tower, Tithe Barn, Smithy, Cowshed, barns and Well.
Nowadays Igaliku is a small settlement inhabited by 30 people who stay there the whole year round, but this number increases in the Summer due to an influx of Greenlandic visitors from other settlements coming to visit friends and family. There are also a huge number of tourists who come to visit during the Summer months to see the ruins at Gardar. Today the town was really busy as the previous night there had been the annual Igaliku Party and around 300 people from neighbouring settlements had come for the celebrations.
After a short wander around the settlement it was time to hike back to the jetty to take the Zodiacs back to the Rembrandt. Once everyone was back on board it was time for lunch and for the Rembrandt to set sail to Qalerallit Imaa Fjord where we were going to drop anchor for the night. We soon left Eriksfjord and slowly sailed into Ikersuaq Fjord where the scenery was very different. Here we encountered icebergs and sea ice, which made our progress slow but it was so exciting to see such spectacular scenery close up.
The afternoon was spent either on deck watching the magical scenery float by, chatting with the other guests in the bar and reading. By 8pm we had reached the head of Qalerallit Fjord and the anchor was dropped while we all enjoyed dinner onboard.