During the 5-hour ride back to Ilulissat, most people found a seat inside the boat and dosed off. Some passengers even stretched out on the benches on deck for their nap. The air did not feel as cold on the return trip.
The captain seemed to have us trained. Anytime he turned the engine off, we grabbed our cameras and ran to the deck. For we knew a whale had been spotted. On one spotting, the captain was able to drift the boat along side two humongous humpback whales. They floated on the surface blowing water out of their blowholes before arching their backs and gently slipping below the surface. One of the whales seemed to wave goodbye as its massive tail lifted above the water and slowly disappeared beneath the surface. There was a collective gasp from us passengers and then even some applause.
"Hurry up, Mike. There are whales ahead!"
spouting humpback whale
slipping beneath the surface
We arrived back in the Ilulissat harbor at 7:15 PM after a 12-hour excursion. Although a bit long, the Eqi Glacier trip was our favorite excursion in Ilulissat.
We were shuttled back to our hotel where we went straight to the Greenlandic Buffet Farewell Dinner which was included in our vacation package. The buffet contained seafood such as smoked whale, shrimp, scallops, halibut, trout, and other smoked and dried fish. I tried just about all the items. Just like the lunch we had on the boat, all of the items were served cold. There were two types of smoked whale. One was black and the other was the color of cooked bacon. Both pieces tasted similar to soft, salty bacon but the black piece had a milder taste.
There were two fishes on the buffet I did not try. I can't remember if they were smoked or dried. In either case, it looked like they had been pulled out of the sea and placed on the buffet - eyes, fins, and all. Knowing they were cold and whole just messed with my mind too much.
There was a carving station and the meat there was served hot. Hurray! On that table was musk ox, reindeer/caribou, lamb, and fried whale. The musk ox and reindeer both tasted similar to roast beef; however, the reindeer was much more tender and flavorful. It was my favorite. The fried whale was rather tough to cut. It looked and tasted like steak but more salty.
Traci did not enjoy the buffet. She liked the shrimp but that was it. At this point in the vacation, she was really missing fruit and vegetables. Typical of our meals in Greenland, the closest thing to vegetables being served at this buffet was potatoes. Well, at least the potatoes were served hot.
After dinner, we were treated to a mini-concert from a Greenlandic choir. Some of the members were dressed in the national clothing. The choir sounded great. They sang hymn-like songs a cappella with tight harmony. I enjoyed the performance and the opportunity to taste some local food. It was a great way to end our stay in Ilulissat. We headed back to our room to pack for our early morning flight to our final Greenlandic town, Kangerlussuaq.
Greenlandic choir - some members in national costume.
Since our shuttle transfer to the Ilulissat airport was at 6 AM, Hotel Arctic opened the breakfast buffet at 5 AM instead of 6 AM to accommodate those of us with early flights. I thought this was a nice gesture.
As we waited in the airport, Traci and I had a fascinating conversation with an eighteen year old Greenlander and her mother who were on their way home to Aasiaat, Greenland. They told us about living in Greenland and even helped me with the pronunciation of some of the basic Greenlandic phrases I had memorized before coming on this trip. It was good to hear the words spoken because in many cases the words sounded nothing like they appeared on paper.
We were later joined by our London friends. They were flying north for a day trip in the town of Uummannaq which has the reputation of being Greenland's most beautiful town. As flight announcements began to sound over the PA system, we said goodbye in Greenlandic to our new Greenlander friends. We wished our London friends safe travels back home and then Traci and I lined up to board our 45-minute flight to Kangerlussuaq.
"See ya in Kangerlussuaq..."