After spending two days on complete bedrest following a rather nasty accident, I was not exactly a happy chicken. I was in my favourite place in the world, but instead of exploring and enjoying it, I was stuck in a bed, eating junk food and watching old episodes of television shows that I had already seen before. By the time day three rolled around, I was well and truly over it. I wanted up, I wanted out and more than anything, I wanted to experience something wonderful on my last day in Ilulissat.
I got back in contact with Jannik – the owner of the apartment in which I had been staying – and asked him if he knew of any local boats that were headed out to sail around the icebergs, and furthermore, I asked him if I would be okay to get in and out of the boat on my unbelievably dodgy knee.
I may have been asking a lot, but my word, Jannik bloody well came through for me.
A few phone calls and a few minutes were all he needed to organise for me to get on a boat and spend the daylight hours with a local Greenlandic sailor.
I chewed down a few more pain meds than I probably should have, bandaged up my knee to within an inch of its life and hobbled my way to Janniks car. My veritable knight in shining armour drove me into the harbour, right up to the boat and then him and our Greenlandic sailor practically carried my useless self onto the boat.
I was uncomfortable, my pride was a little bruised (nobody wants to have to be carried like a child) and I had definitely made a spectacle of myself, but I could see the icebergs off in the distance, seeming to call out to me, so all of the pain and discomfort got pushed to the wayside.
As it turned out, I had managed to get some luck, and the weather turned out to be pretty much perfect for sailing. There was barely any wind, the skies were clear and the icebergs were abundant – what more could I have asked for?
Within only around 20 minutes of travelling, we had already begun approaching some seriously huge icebergs; and to make things even better, the skies decided to be bright and colourful instead of the standard blue – which really brought the landscape to life.
There were a couple of times when we found ourselves approaching some serious surface ice. The first time we were able to glide through it pretty easily as it was mostly just smaller pieces; but the second time the boat had to work seriously bloody hard to break up the ice and allow us to pass. This may sound like a scary experience, but it wasn’t in the slightest.
The Greenlandic men and women who sail through these waters have been doing it for their entire lives. They know what to look for, they know what their boats are capable of, and they have that air of complete assurance that one can only give off when they really know their shit. So when icebergs were hitting the hull of the boat, maybe it would have been normal to worry, but I had absolutely zero concerns about the situation.
There is a lot I love about icebergs. I love the majesty, the colours, the unfathomable size, but I think more than anything – I love how they are like pieces of artwork, handcrafted by mother nature. No two are alike, and no iceberg will stay the same forever. The landscape is ever-changing, ever-evolving and ever-enchanting.
The only other thing I really could have wished for on this perfect day (other than a fixed knee and a non-smashed camera lens of course) was for another boat to chug along into the mix, and allow me to capture some photographs that gave a better perspective on the sheer size of these ‘bergs.
Well, my knee didn’t miraculously heal and my camera lens is still upsettingly smashed, but I did get my other boat – and boy did it make for some absolutely stunning shots.
As much as I love Ilulissat, banging up my knee and ruining a beautiful piece of photography equipment definitely put a dampener on my time there. However, my last day of the city was a pretty spectacular one, and after the boat trip, I really didn’t think it could get much better.
Until the night rolled round of course…
Getting to Ilulissat: Air Iceland do run direct flights between Ilulissat and Reykjavik, but these flights are suspended in the winter months. If travelling to Ilulissat in the winter, you will need to fly with Air Greenland from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq and catch a connecting flight from Kangerlussuaq to Ilulissat
Getting out of the Airport: Most hotels can arrange airport pick ups, if yours doesn’t then taxis are your best bet
Paa & Jannik Bed and Breakfast: Jannik is one of the loveliest and most helpful guys I have ever met, and staying with him and his wife Paa at their home or in one of their well-located apartments is a lovely and affordable way of lodging in Ilulissat, click here for more info
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens and M.Zuiko 7-14mm f2/8 lens
Boat Trips: Trips on tourist boats can be booked through World of Greenland, but if you want to save some money and have a more authentic experience, get in touch with a local sailor instead
Remember: Ilulissat isn’t known as the ‘City of Icebergs’ for nothing! So make sure you get on a boat and explore them as much as you possibly can