Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Monday, July 16, 2007 10:15:07|
Rolls Around the World 2007: 6 - Montreal, Quebec to Copenhagen, Denmark
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Marie very kindly ensured that we were well fed before driving us to the Dorval (now Trudeau) airport in Montreal for our flight to Baltimore via Detroit. Airport staff were cheerful and friendly, including the US customs and immigration people, who pre-clear everyone for the US. Even the security people had a sense of humour!
We had been told there was no business class on either of these DC-9 flights, so had coach tickets. We were delighted to find that not only did the class exist, but that we had been upgraded at no cost. Northwest Airlines is a partner of Continental, so the elite status came through for us. The flight to Detroit was delayed, but that didn't matter as the flight to Baltimore from Detroit was also delayed, getting us in about two hours behind schedule. It was interesting to note that announcements in all three airports are bilingual. Montreal has French & English, Detroit English and Japanese and Baltimore English and Spanish.
We walked out of the airport door and straight onto the hotel shuttle - a first ever - then were upgraded to a club level room. A good day for moving up! We used the club Internet facilities to catch up on mail, but still no reply from Air Greenland on my request to confirm our flights.
Monday, July 9, 2007
We expected an easy morning with our scheduled 2:30 PM departure time. We had breakfast in the club lounge and I checked email for anything from Air Greenland again. This is a new route for them, started at the end of May. The attendant in the lounge suggested I check a departures board in the hotel lobby. The board didn't show flights late enough in the day - it was now 9:25 AM, but the reception people called the airport, tracked down Air Greenland, and - surprise - the flight was leaving at 10 AM - in half an hour!
I charged back to the room, and we went into a frenzy of packing. The staff of the Sheraton Baltimore Washington were great - reception shouted that we were checked out, just keep going! They had the hotel shuttle at the door, engine running, so we were quickly on the move. I went to double-check the time on the ticket - and no ticket. Also no wallet or camera - they were all in the hotel safe.
The driver pulled a U turn and rushed back to the hotel. I leapt out, took the elevator to the fifth floor and forced my shaky knees to sprint the length of the hallway. Fortunately I still had the room key, so cleaned out the safe and sprinted back. The hotel driver was into the spirit of things and hit the gas the minute I was on board. At the airport I gave him the room key and a healthy tip.
The Air Greenland people were waiting for us, and luckily the airport was nearly deserted. Boarding passes were issued, security cleared and an Air Greenland employee escorted us by the shortest route to the plane, where we were soon seated with a drink in hand! The plane took off on schedule at 10 AM!
The flight was on an ATA Airlines aircraft contracted by Air Greenland to run the route. Other than free drinks and better food, there is no point in purchasing business class on this flight, as all seat configurations are identical - 3 across on each side of the aisle. I counted 19 people in the plane which seats around 200, so there was no problem for everyone to have their own set of 3 seats. The crew tell me that Air Greenland has contracted with ATA to provide the plane for the next season, but if a flight to Greenland from North America is in your future plans it would be an idea to book soon, as they are unlikely to continue to subsidize this flight in the long run.
The flight up the west coast of Greenland was interesting, with masses of floating ice dotting the sea on one side and the desolate coast with its many inlets on the other. The approach to Kangerlussuaq is up the almost 200 km (124 mi) long Sondre Stromfjord, a long streak of turquoise water at the bottom of high cliffs, periodically broken by ice-carved valleys with the tongues of glaciers crawling down them on the way to the sea.
Kangerlussuaq is said to be Greenland's largest airport, built in 1941 by the US as a refuelling stop to ferry aircraft to Europe. The current population is about 500, most of who are employed directly or indirectly by the airport. The base in its prime had about 1,400 military personnel, however the US sold it to Denmark in September 1992 for $1.00, and walked away leaving everything there. The base commander's appointment book is still sitting on his desk in his office, now part of the museum.
Customs and immigration were cursory. Our hotel is part of the airport - a two story building about a kilometre long! It certainly seemed at least that as we walked to our room dragging the bags! The dining room had an extensive menu posted outside, but in reality that is for show. A three course fixed menu is prepared each day, and the choice consist of take it or leave it. We took it, and the food was pretty good - although it took an hour to get it. There were small tour groups in the restaurant - one from Japan, and three from Denmark.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
We checked to see what there was to do in the area. No small planes or helicopters are available, and no rental car was available until the next week. We decided to make reservations at a good restaurant at the Rowing Club, near town, but it was closed this week. The choices were getting limited.
We signed on for the musk ox tour, which was more of a sightseeing tour to the top of the hill the radar is on and another hill looking down on the town and airport. We did see a lone musk ox on the other side of a river, but it took binoculars to make it out.
When we returned from this tour another tour was leaving for the Russell Glacier, so we hopped aboard. The vehicle was a Mercedes Unimog with a box attached to the back containing 8 benches with two seats each. A couple of kilometres from town we passed the most northerly internationally recognized 18-hole golf course in the world. There were no greens - actually there was no grass, it was all sand. The area around the holes with their gaily-coloured flags flying was smooth sand. No need for sand traps - the whole course is one. The area around Kangerlussuaq is arid, desert like with scrub brush and low plants the only vegetation. There are more than 300 cloudless days a year here, and they get sand storms.
We were lurching along the longest road out of Kangerlussuaq, 42 km (26 mi) long, ending at the ice cap. Mercedes built it - in winter they cold weather test vehicles on the ice cap. There is no way to drive in or out of Kangerlussuaq - in summer vehicles can be shipped in by sea, but in winter only by air.
When we came to a particularly steep sand dune the driver got stuck trying to climb it. After backing down and taking about nine runs at it, he had everyone get out. He then made it to the top with the empty vehicle. Back on board, we continued to crawl along the twisting, rough track until we came to a river loaded with chunks of ice. Here we clambered out of the vehicle to walk along the hill that dropped into the river. Around the first bend we could see the glacier, a spectacular 80-meter (263 ft) wall of ice ending abruptly at the river. Chunks of ice regularly calved off the glacier with an explosive sound, crashing into the running water below. This sheer wall is the start of thousands of square miles of ice that forms the interior of Greenland. We walked around until we were facing the centre of the glacier, then sat down for a long while to watch in awe.
Back at the hotel we headed for the dining room to have "the meal". It was delicious ox. Sustained, we took a taxi to what was the US base, about 2 km away. The taxi fare started at 25 krone (about $US 5.00) and rapidly accelerated to 55 krone ($US 11.00) during the 2 or 3-minute ride.
The Greenland style bar (no name or identification indicating what it was from outside) was still closed, so we walked to the bowling alley and had a beer while listening to stories of the area from the manager, who has worked there since 1974. We crossed the street to be the first customers in the bar, and later last out. A taxi driver seated at the bar proved to be a talented musician, who sang and played keyboards for us between taxi calls. After closing we exited to bright daylight at about 1 AM (it doesn't get dark here in the summer). On the street other patrons we had been drinking with offered us a ride back to the hotel. It was a good night!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Today we planned to go north to the town of Ilulissat on the coast, between the ice cap and the sea. Several people had said it was well worth the 45-minute flight to see the pretty village - however, there were no flights on Wednesdays. Instead we took the local bus that shuttles between the ex-base and the airport for 10 krone each ($US2.00) and visited the museum. They don't get many visitors, so the curator and founder gave us a personal tour spiced with a number of good local stories.
Back at the hotel we caught up on Internet, and got ready to move on tomorrow. When I tried my computer it would not boot - the system had crashed.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
We hung around the room until it was close to flight time, then walked to the airport end of the building to check in and eventually board the full Air Greenland A330 for Copenhagen. There are large first and business class sections, and a very large coach section. After takeoff we headed east, across the ice cap that covers all but a small portion of Greenland.
It was a beautiful, bright, clear day. The first part of the ice cap had numerous blue lakes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, often with blue rivers connecting them. The ice is high in the centre of Greenland, with the altitude decreasing toward the sides. As we travelled further inland ice was visible on the lakes, then they ended altogether, leaving a landscape of ice hills, cliffs and blowing snow. When we left the ice cap at the east coast there were vast numbers of fjords, almost all ice choked from glaciers snaking down carved valleys, starting pure white and turning darker and darker grey as they approached the coast. The densely packed floating ice flows thinned only a little as we flew away from shore, then ended abruptly, as if someone had drawn a line over which they were not allowed to cross.
The 4-hour flight was great, with good food, service and the best headsets I've ever seen on a plane - the big comfortably padded ones that block external sound out entirely. When we reached Copenhagen we had a four-hour time change. Customs were cursory, there was no immigration, and a delightful Danish couple we had met on a tour led us to the train station and saw us off at the proper stop in central Copenhagen, two blocks from the Palace Hotel where we were booked.
Friday, July 13, 2007
My first priority was to find a computer repair shop. One was recommended by the hotel, and I arrived by taxi at 8:30 AM to find a major sales outlet that didn't open until 10. A helpful clerk recommended a street full of computer shops three subway (metro) stops away. The first place I tried had too much work, but the fellow at the second place said he'd give it a shot and to come back at 5 PM. When I arrived back at the hotel Marilynn and I set out to explore a little.
The hotel is located right at City Hall Square, and behind it is the maze of streets of the old town, filled with shops, restaurants and bars. There is a jazz festival on, so several of the many squares had jazz bands. Apparently the city is one of the world's principal jazz centres. There are outdoor cafes and bars everywhere, with loads of street entertainers between them. They all seemed to be packed in spite of the prices - beer is about $US10.00 a pint, wine averages $US10-14.00 per glass and Marilynn decided not to have a gin martini at $US20. The pedestrian only streets swarmed with people, but apparently there are not enough public toilets to satisfy demands. Marilynn turned to find the guy standing next to her peeing on the wheel of a parked bicycle, the city's favourite mode of transport.
We took a one-hour boat tour of the canals of Copenhagen, highly recommended and excellent value. Marilynn walked back to the hotel while I went to the computer shop, to be told the hard drive was shot and a new one would be installed by 3 PM the following day.
We found an interesting looking restaurant for dinner, but they said the only seats available were in a separate room with a large dining room table and 8 chairs. A Swedish couple were already seated there, so we asked to join them. They turned out to be a fun couple, and we had a really good meal while socializing. Marilynn and I then went pub crawling, not getting back to the hotel until about 1 AM. A memorable event was in the slightly seedy Viking Bar. She went to the rest room, and found she couldn't get out of the stall - there was no latch inside the door. It took the next patron to release her!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
We got going late, so after a bite to eat and a tour of the Erotica Museum (recommended by our dinner companions from last night), Marilynn went on the boat tour again to get some photos missed the first time around and I headed for the computer repair place. I'm definitely getting used to the metro. It is very clean, and bringing your bicycle, baby pram or wheel chair (including battery operated ones) is no problem.
The computer was still not working - the system would not recognize any of the three hard drives he had installed. He asked for three more hours, so I strolled in the Royal Gardens two-subway stops away, returning at 5 PM to find the shop closed and locked up.
Back at the hotel I called the technicians mobile phone to find he was still in the closed shop, but in the back room. He said he was going to keep trying and would bring the computer to the hotel. We waited for him, and he arrived at 8:30 PM, defeated. He had reassembled it, but gave up on getting it going. Tomorrow morning we fly to London, so I'll try again there.