The Faroe Islands: adventures in the northern islands

Some of the places I wanted to see on the Faroe Islands like Saksun, either aren’t on a bus route or the buses are infrequent so I hired a car for a couple of days from 62°N at the airport. My intention was to camp at Vestmanna but when I got there there was only a patch of grass the size of a table, it’s really geared more towards campers, so I headed back to Tórshavn instead.

The next day I drove up to Kaldbak to see the church in better light before heading to Vestmanna to book a place on the boat the next day to see the cliffs. The tourist office told me it’s not possible to hike along there but a local woman later told me you can but its about 10 hours as you’re going up and down, and in and out all the time. I headed up to Saksun then via the so-called buttercup routes, which are particularly scenic. The roads are good but occasionally one lane, but there are lots of passing places. In the old tunnels one direction has priority and cars coming in the opposite direction, or any vehicle if the other is a truck, must pull in. There are two toll tunnels, Vágar-Stremoy and Eysturoy-Viðoy, but these get added to your car bill as hire cars all have tags. It’s compulsory to drive with headlights at all times. And watch out for the sheep. They’re everywhere. Even in the airport. The speed limit is 80km but in places you’d only do that if you have a death wish. It’s common to overtake several cars in one go, and often there’s good visibility ahead, but there’s also several crashed cars on display as a public safety slow down campaign.

Saksun is a pretty little village on both sides of a small river littered with waterfalls. People were out gathering hay, which they cut with either a tractor or a strimmer, depending on how steep the hill is. It’s like Discworld’s Kingdom of Lancre; lots of land but most of it vertical. I’m sure the first settlers thought that looks great if only we could get up there. The evening sun was warm and golden as I walked down to the lagoon. Over across the mountain Vestmanna was dark and cloudy. Each fjord has its own weather system. Martin, the owner at the campsite in Eiði was there at 6am the next morning, before even the birds had woken up, and had the most beautiful photos where the reflection in the water was as clear as a mirror.

I headed up to Eiði for the night as the Danes told me it was the best campsite ever. They have a Facebook page also. As no one was there I strolled over to the sea at first to take some photos. All the eggs are hatched and the terns were the best behaved I’ve seen yet. The campsite is on an old football pitch, complete with fake grass. Apparently it was too windy as the north winds come straight in from the sea. There’s a couple of bouncy castles, a trampoline, swings (obviously I went on all of these) and a hot tub. It’s 100kr got the night, showers are in the changing areas, there’s a kitchen, washing/drying 20kr and a lovely sitting area upstairs. I met Martin and his wife who have run the site for the past two years. It had been lying derelict for about six years when, after their daughter died tragically of cancer in her early 20s, Martin suggested the idea to his wife, to lift her spirits. As he said it’s not about the money but seeing his family happy and meeting people from around the world. We had a great chat and it was the kind of welcome you would receive from a friend. He told me a brilliant story about a little girl who told her father that there would never be a war in Faroe. When he asked why, she said that when the world leaders would look at the globe, deciding where to fight, they would think the Faroe were nothing but a speck of fly shit. I loved the place so much I stayed again the next night. I also managed to perfectly pitch my tent so no sliding in the middle of the night for me.

Just behind the headland at Eiði there are two rock stacks. Legend has it that two giants Risin and Kellingin tried to tow the islands away to Iceland but the operation didn’t go smoothly, they even split the mountain, and when the sun rose the turned to stone where they were. I went on the road to Gjógv the next day and a few minutes outside Eiði there’s a good view of the giants. It’s less than a dozen kilometres to Gjógv but of course I took hours as I kept stopping to take photos of the scenery under a beautiful blue sky. I headed to Vestmanna the long way round for the next part of the day, the boat trip. Vestmanna is supposedly named for the West Men, monks from Ireland (who Martin said were dropped off here on the way to Iceland because they were seasick), and St Brendan talks about the islands. There’s a Saga Museum here at the tourist office at the tourist quay, like the one in Reykjavik but I have to say much better. There are 11 exhibits, very realistic and well told. The cliffs themselves are the big draw here with a couple of boats doing several tours a day. The weather and light were a bit flat which was disappointing but that can’t be helped. The boats go in under arches and right into grottos as you crane your head to try and see the top. Knocking your hard hat off repeatedly. Though how much of it some people saw I don’t know as the watched it through their iPads.

Towering cliffs at Vestmannabjørgini, Vestmanna, Streymoy, Faroe Islands
Towering cliffs at Vestmannabjørgini, Vestmanna, Streymoy, Faroe Islands

I took the road to Tørnuvik on the way back that evening to see the giants from the other side and to have a swim. The water everywhere is so clear and the light gives it a beautiful aqua colour. It is cold. But no more than Ireland early in the season. When I was walking (doing the fastest shivery shuffle I could) up to the toilets to get dressed I saw a guy from a camper taking my photo. Why?!!? I probably looked like an escaped lunatic.

Back at the campsite I was talking to Martin again. He works with the Salvation Army, homeless and youth groups for drug and alcohol treatment here on the islands, rather than before when they sent them to Denmark. He is one of the kindest, warmest people I’ve ever met and I’m glad to have had the experience. I walked along the shore to take more photos of the stacks. The light here hits the eastern mountains like fire on good days. When I came back I saw a lot of smoke and some cars leaving. I thought the place might be on fire but no, a couple from Tórshavn were lighting the hot tub, which I relaxed in while watching the sunset. I woke up 5am early the next day and decided to go back up to the lookout and work with the views out west in the early light, slowly working my way to Viðareði on Viðoy where the Enniberg Cliffs, the tallest, vertical cliffs in Europe are. Unfortunately, tomorrow is wet and miserable so it’s not the day for it but I’d like to climb up here if I can before I go. They do recommend you take a guide, the route is not that clearly marked and it’s very steep. I had that mangled stomach feeling all day and despite the blue skies was not feeling like a four hour hike.

I stopped at Klaksvík to set up camp before I headed all the way to Vágur with the car. So I could go all the way back on the bus. The Faroese could I met last night told me the town would be hopping as its Summerfest. Cliff Richard headlined last night. Not my cup of tea but I didn’t want to be rude and kept my mouth shut. (I was later told he was totally out of tune and the backing singers were better!) There’s a special campsite for the festival right in the centre of town but the regular one is a few km outside. 100kr a night, payable to the tourist office gets you tent space, one toilet, one shower and basic kitchen. These are usually locked but the tourist office was closing so I couldn’t get the keys and they were open because of the festival. Speaking of which I almost got lost as the main route through the town was closed off, there were millions of diversions and my there’s-no-one-around-I-can-sneak-through plan was less subtle than I thought. As I was in Klaksvík I thought I’d hang out at the festival for a while. The wind was starting to pick up and the rain was coming down but they didn’t stop anyone having a good time and I was randomly kissed (or sexually assaulted whichever you prefer) by a guy who was clearly enjoying himself. I was gutted that I missed one of my favourite bands, Highasakite, the day before but since I had a magical evening with perfect light you can’t win them all. Which is a philosophy I’m trying to accept more. I often have this I-need-to-see-everything feeling going on while away but I’m realising it’s important just appreciate what you do see, take a moment, and take a lazy day too.

When I headed back up to the campsite it was bucketing and the wind was really strong. There I met a German couple who recognised me from Mykines, Jan an Aussie who was travelling with a friend from Holland, a Swedish guy and later two Danish girls who love the Faroe more than anywhere on earth. We got chatting and notes were compared about what I’m now calling the Troll Woman of Mykines. It turns out that the Australian and Dutch guy met the hapless Italian who was given hell the day I was there and was still traumatised. The German couple she told were very nice but the Danish girls had the best story. They were told the same as myself, to move to the other side, when they didn’t she moved their tent several times, asked them for their phones so she could send emails, stole their tuna and when they were showering the next day kept banging on the door, shouting and looking under the door to hurry them up! She also abided two poor Swedish guys because they were playing Uno which apparently was too loud. Please if anyone has stories to share about this women let me know because we could start a support group. Jan and his friend are heading there in s few days and I think are dying to meet her now. All you have to say to someone is the crazy women on Mykines and they’ve either encountered her or know someone who has. And she’s scaring people away. And apparently fighting with the hostel owner. God knows what the islanders think of her.

A few tents were lost or leaked in the night and the Danish girls and the Swede had to sleep in the common room, but thankfully not mine. Jan also had a Terra Nova and reckoned they were great. He also introduced me to the concept of cockroaching, which is getting free stuff that you haven’t stolen. I got his travelling blog and intend to study it well. At 1am I was still awake listening to a force seven wind and though my tent was well pegged down, and I had all my gear inside I didn’t stick in my headphone just in case. Winds were gusting to almost 50km/hr. Luckily the only wetness was from my jacket. So thank you Basecamp Dublin for the right gear.

At some point there were shouts and there were a few tents less in the morning. I just had my sleeping bag up around my head. The forecast for the next night was even windier so I decided to head back to Tórshavn, get a bed indoors (it’s a triple room – I can’t even decide which bed I want I’m do spoiled) and get some washing done. I need this tent for the next month and while it would probably be fine there will be a time when I don’t have options. Actually it’s the only home I have right now as I moved out in Dublin so I need to be nice to it. It also means that my plans to hike in Enniberg have to change as walking up sheer cliffs in strong winds on your own is probably not the best idea in the world. There’s some walks I want to do on Vágur and in the late or early light so I’m going to get s car again as some aren’t on a bus route and even when I get to one the last bus is at 8:30pm. You need to be out after 10pm to get any sunsets so… I’m only sorry I didn’t take a picture of my tough little tent. Out little storm survival group were chatting for a while and is best summed up with “I’m eating chocolate I didn’t know I had, drinking Gammel Dansk, chatting to nice people and getting free food, it’s s pretty good day.” The Swedish guy gave me a much welcomed lift back to Tórshavn and a roof. I can hear the wind howling outside and I’m under a roof. It’s a luxury.

1 Comment

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Stella Turraoinreply
August 9, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Spectacular scenery, brilliant photos!

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