Last night I boarded the Arctic Umiaq Line ferry, which will take me all the way up the West Coast to Ilulissat, arriving there Sunday lunch time (journey time forty hours). There are no roads between towns in Greenland, the huge distances, mountainous terrain and climate make it economically infeasible, so historically boats have been the main way to get around, and the AUL ferry is a bit of a lifeline for the smaller towns on the West coast. So much so that despite running at a loss, the Danish government subsidise the service by 8 million krone a year to ensure its continued operation.
We left Nuuk at 9pm, given the gale force winds I’m surprised we even set sail but I guess they’re used to it here. The ferry is nice, there’s a canteen selling meals, snacks and drinks, and a TV lounge at the back of the ship. You can also go out on deck but I think I’ll wait for the weather to improve before checking this out.
I had a couple of beers in the canteen then took a travel sick pill, the combination of the two sent me straight to sleep and I managed to pretty much sleep through the night. I’ve got basic “couchette” accomodation for the two nights I’m on board, you could pay more for a cabin but it’s comfortable enough.
Couchette on the AUL ferry
In the morning our first stop was Maniitsoq, the sixth largest town in Greenland with a population of 2784. The wind had finally died down a bit by this point, and I was starting to look forward to the journey ahead. We only stopped at Maniitsoq for about twenty minutes, not long enough to get out and have a look around but it was nice to see the town from our approach into the harbour.
Some four hours later we arrive in Kangaamiut (population 357), it’s such a small place the harbour can’t accommodate our ferry so a small boat comes up to the ferry to collect the three passengers who are getting off.
Ferry at Kangaamiut
We’ve then got six or seven hours on the ferry until we arrive in Sisimiut. The sun finally comes out and it’s a very relaxing afternoon alternating between going out on deck, and sitting in the canteen or lounge. In the TV lounge they show the Shining, which I’m sure is an 18 certificate in the UK, but things seem very relaxed in Greenland and there are a few Greenlandic children glued to the violent images on the screen the whole way through.
There are a mixture of tourists and locals on the boat. I’m sharing a couchette with a student from Australia currently studying in Iceland, (not putting real names on here but I’ll call him M), then there are an Austrian couple, a British couple (who kept themselves to themselves and I didn’t manage to speak to) and a group of four Australians on the first leg of what sounds like an epic trip around Europe.
Just after 6pm we arrive in Sisimiut, the one stop on the journey where we’ve got long enough to get out and see the town. I head into town with M and we have just long enough to be denied the sale of alcohol in the supermarket (it’s a Saturday night, and a time when you might want to buy beer so the law says you can’t 😐 ), then find the town’s pub, Cafe Kukkukooq. It’s a marked contrast to Nuuk, the locals are all keen to chat to us, and were a friendly bunch. I love pubs in small communities like this, they’re real community type affairs where everyone young and old gathers and chats. It’s all things to all people in a way that pubs in big city centres aren’t.
We have to leave the pub just as the party is getting into full swing, as the ferry leaves at 9pm.
AUL ferry docked in Sisimiut