Although we are fair weather people, there is something about misty weather that somehow connects you more to nature. Even though the lighting is mostly grey, the greens look as if you are seeing them through polarising glasses. Yellow, pink, white, orange and purple wildflowers line the roads, walking paths and cover most pastures. It is not only the greens that are mindblowingly bright, every colour is sharp – the air must be so pure here. The beauty of riding bikes as opposed to driving is that you can smell nature, there are so many flowers, you can smell them as you ride. Maybe not so good for those with pollen allergy. You can also smell the fish as you ride through villages.
The scenery is breathtaking! At times, it reminds us of either New Zealand, the Drakensberg in South Africa, Ireland or even Iceland. But the Faroes have a feel of their own. You feel the Faroese culture at every bend as the countryside is dotted with tiny hamlets, each costal one with its own little harbour. The air is clear like I have never experienced – even my own photos nearly look fake or like miniature villages.
We have visited a handful of the 18 islands which form the Faroes, enjoyed a number of small walks – it is hard to go for long hikes in motorcycle riding boots – and enjoyed just being, taking in the breathtaking raw beauty of this land. We were too late in organising ourselves for this trip to get to Mykines, one of the islands I really wanted to visit but had also been warned that trips there could be cancelled because of the weather – in our case, we could get there but not get back as every ferry and helicopter flight was fully booked. We didn’t want to take the risk of getting there and being stuck there for days. The attraction there was puffins and more inevitable breathtaking views. But we saw puffins elsewhere, in Gjogv (pronounced “jegv”) so all’s good.
And maybe there was another reason we had to go to Gjogv: as we were leaving the village, we bumped into a Dutch motorcyclist who was in Mongolia at the same time as us in 2017 and had been trying for the past 2 years to trace an Italian who he had heard had broken his ankle and had to leave his motorcycle behind to be shipped back. Feeling sorry for him, the Dutchman fixed the Italian’s broken windscreen for him and left a note wishing him well. He is Lino, the Italian we had come across in Khovd and for whom I had organised a local driver to take him to hospital. That evening, after returning to the campsite from Gjogv, I was able to email the Dutchman the Italian’s contact details. What are the odds, once again?!?! This really is such a small world…
The weather hasn’t been too bad. Apart from the first days when the rain was pretty heavy, we have just had a spattering of rain, and fog. No wind and not that cold. Making camping pretty enjoyable, even for Anthony! Sadly, the Faroes no longer allow wild camping because of too many inconsiderate tourists in the past so we have had to stay in official camping areas – nearly unheard of with the Speeds!! But we did find Aduvik, on Esturoy, which we ended up staying 4 nights because we loved the spot so much – can you tell?! Just a pity some people can be so noisy especially when in such a wonderfully quiet and wild area.
Travelling isn’t just about enjoying new scenery or riding fabulous roads, but all about the people and learning about new cultures. Talking to locals always brings an added level of appreciation of the places we are passing through. And what an unexpected and amazing evening last night!
As I stood looking out over the rocks, out to sea, I struck up a conversation with this guy who seemed to enjoy the area as much as I did. It turns out Jørgin is a local, and he and his wife and family are over to prepare the hay for his 88 year old father-in-law’s beloved 8 sheep, which Jacob keeps as a hobby but the whole family gets involved in looking after. Jørgin‘s wife Unn came over and we chatted for a while, until it was time for Jørgin and Unn to return to the field and get back to work. Jokingly, Unn suggested we go over and help to which Anthony suggested they could actually charge tourists to help them.
Well, I decided to go over and see what the process entailed and offered to help. They still follow the traditional Faroese process: after the grass is cut, it is first raked into little piles. Then you go back to each pile, turn the pile over, moving it away from it’s spot to allow the ground to dry, then spreading the pile flat again to allow it to dry. Because the weather was too damp, it was eventually decided to stop the spreading step and go to the next step of moving each pile into a single line down the hill. The next step involves pushing the central pile with the rake upside down, and pushing the grass into one massive pile which is then lifted into a large bale bag in a couple of easy swinging movements – that is best done by 2 people, each holding one bale bag handle, one foot standing on the edge of the bag and then scoop-rolling the hay into the bag. An hour and a half flew by. Because the hay and weather were too damp, the hay was then transferred to a drying ‘shed’ beside the campground. An old 1960’s car engine is used to heat the hay for 24 hours.
I hadn’t planned on spending an hour and a half raking grass and gathering it into bales. It felt great and I loved how it was a whole family affair, with 3 generations involved. Earlier, while we were raking, Unn asked me what we had planned for dinner: ham and crackers. Why don’t you come over to my parents for dinner and experience a Faroese home and dinner? What a fabulous offer? I accepted without asking Anthony as I knew he’d love the opportunity too.
Not only did we have a sumptuous dinner of home made leek soup with meat balls, carrots and potato dumplings, home dried sheep, cod which Jacob caught earlier today (at 88, he still goes out fishing on his own every day), various cooked meats, cabbage salad followed by all sorts of chocolates and cake. We learned so much about life in the Faroes, including social security, employment insurance, retirement, higher education.
After dinner, Jørgin drove us to the largest fish farming company in the Faroes. They work 2 shifts a day so at 10:30 at night, we were able to see the whole process by driving past the large windows – workers happily waving at us as we stopped! Pitty we didn’t know when we arrived that the company organises tours every Saturday. Next stop, the little harbour which is preparing for a fish festival this Saturday.
Suddenly it 11:15pm and it is just barely dusk. What a fabulous experience. And our favourite camping spot at Aduvik happens to be Unn and Jørgin’s favourite place too.Our last day is spent wondering the streets of Torshavn.
Thanks for everything Faroes.
We are only home a week and I volunteer to present at an upcoming motorcycle forum in just 2 weeks’ time. And not one presentation, but two different ones! What was I thinking?! We hadn’t finished unpacking yet, I hadn’t even switched my PC on, let alone downloaded all our photos from the last 7 months’ travel and the inevitable multiple software updates (and all the surprises, frustrations and headaches this exercise always attracts). We still have so many lunches, afternoon teas and dinners to have to catch up with friends – that all important step to regrounding ourselves. I did volunteer though … and very glad to have done so really.
As Anthony explained, we wanted to give back to the motorcycle community which we have got advice, information, inspiration from over time. It was a massive job preparing those 40 minute presentations but it was worth it from a giving back point of view and meeting fellow travellers, old and new. We decided to hire a car rather than fly or put our 19 year old car through 3000kms suddenly after not being used for months: that way we could also catch up with friends – sorry we missed so many, but hiring a car meant quite a few extra dollars for every day away …
Destination: Jindabyne for 4 days, 1500kms each way. First stop, Sydney and catch with friend and faithful blog follower John. We met John when we went to Bhutan in 2009: the three of us were always last, constantly stopping for photos, taking in the scenery and simply enjoying a sedate ride. It was great to catch up, chewing the fat and enjoying Sydney’s stunning harbour and tasty food. Talk about travel was never far!!
Rather than camping over the 4 days at the motorcycle meeting, we took up the generous offer of staying at a friend’s house just 50kms away. It meant a bit of driving everyday, but what’s 100kms?! And the scenery is simply gorgeous – just no drinking for me as I was the designated driving. Anthony found out just before we left for this week’s trip that his cataracts had worsened badly – yes, he realised that of course but the diagnosis means a consultation with the surgeon this week. So no driving at night for him (although he is still legally allowed to drive). And we made sure we avoided the dangerous dusk and dawn driving as big kangaroos are everywhere in this area.
The Horizons Unlimited Snowy Mountains 2017 meeting was fun to attend. The presentations were well received based on the lovely feedback we had and we were asked if we would make our presentations available, so they must have them useful.
The weather was pretty wild and unusually freezing for that time of the year!
On the way back, with stopped over in Sydney to see our oldest Australian friends – Jenny we met in southern Egypt in 1982 and we entered the Sudan together. It was wonderful to see Mark and Jenny as always, spending the afternoon chatting, going for a walk to the beach and having a family dinner with the 3 “kids” in the evening.
Many thanks to our friends for their hospitality and generosity. It was so great to see you.
We made the most of passing through Canberra to stop off and visit a exhibition on an important Aboriginal dreamtime story: the Seven Sisters. The paintings there were exquisite and the way the story was explained in different regions extremely well done. How the museum incorporated several paintings with a narrative which you watch lying down staring up at a dome was superb!! Quite magical.
It was a long day driving from Sydney to Brisbane as we stopped off in Port Macquarie to see more friends. Back home before midnight. What a whirlwind week. We packed so much in.
Home again. The rest of the unpacking, more washing from this past week, more paperwork to add to the mound of still-unopened-and-to-be-filed mail that greeted us when we returned from our RTW 3 weeks ago now: oh, this is overwhelming… Tackling the software issues, buying a new PC as Anthony’s died just before we left for the Snowies, sorting out the weeds in the garden, finding so many things dying after not being used for so long like the whippersnipper, being faced with a horrendous quote to fix the rusted gutters (we need scaffolding from a scaffold company but also the installation needs to be audited by another specialist to make sure it is safe – occupational health and safety gone mad once again) and paperwork – so much paperwork… And of course, there is the decorating, sometime. It is so much easier on the road: pay the odd bill back home and continue travelling with just 3 decisions: which direction, where will we eat and where will we sleep. So much easier…
The post RTW blues is a common problem and articles have been written about it recently by travellers. Everyone has their way of coping or recovering. We went through it once already, so the second time around, we know what to expect and how to combat it. I was so proud of Anthony when I read his last blog. It takes me a bit longer. My problem is not so much travel “blues” as such but feeling disconnected and rudderless. That’s where reconnecting with friends and having a routine is important to me. And working on new plans for the future.
First, a trip back bush calls me so I am off for a week. I buy new, fabulous art and visit some old friends. It is exactly what I needed on many levels. And my drive out bush was so special. I am just disappointed that I was not able to visit one particular community which always brings me so much joy but the road conditions would not allow me in the car I had – there was a shortage of 4×4 in Alice this week and I only managed to get a ‘fake’ one, an automatic Mitsubishi outlander. It would not have got me across the Sandover river bed. I chose sense over heart… can you believe that?!
And I am looking forward to going home!!! RTW blues over 🙂
A jolt as the train stops suddenly on a steel bridge of uncertain age wakes me from my torpor in this humid weather, the rusty cast iron bridge alongside does not fill me with confidence, or the comments from our fellow passengers about not swimming in the river due to crocodiles. Humm let’s get off the bridge. As the minutes tick by, it becomes apparent that something has happened, what we are not sure, then word filters through the train: someone is dead, an accident, no, sadly suicide, a 23 year old young man just stepped in front of our train. The body collected at the back of the train and we move slowly to the next station a few hundred metres away. Many passengers had headed to the back of the train and one young man had taken photos which he was showing to anyone who interested. Passengers gather on the platform to look, comments such as ‘bad person’ or ‘it’s usually the girls, haha’ are said to us by the man who was sitting behind us, now standing on the platform outside Anne’s open window. Is this a frequent occurrence? I cannot judge how different cultures and religions react to such events as this, perhaps here the Buddhist reincarnation plays a part in the apparent indifference to the tragedy. A whistle, the train schedule is resumed, no police examination, we are off again.
As we pull out of the station, we pass two men carrying a stretcher with the poor man’s body just outside our train window, all the more poignant for Anne, having lost her brother to suicide 18 years ago. This tragedy is yet to touch this young man’s family and friends, his life passed no more than 15 minutes ago. Will they react with as much indifference as those around us? Having stood at Gallipoli and seen thousands of lives ended prematurely and having wondered what each might have achieved in love and life, we are filled with sadness at a loss of life before the fullness of time. I write this couple of paragraphs within half an hour of the suicide as we, on the train, continue on with the normality of our lives…
Our title has two elements, the tragedy you have read and our struggle with thoughts and emotions as the train rattled on towards Colombo and the comedy you need to see below:
All this took place in the space of one hour on the same train. Life goes on regardless of our personal circumstances and feelings and sometimes, it’s better from an emotional viewpoint to be swept up and ride the wave of life.
A little difficult to revert to ‘normal’ writing mode, Sri Lanka was the next logical stop on our acclimation return to Brisbane and our 97th country to be visited. With only two full days and a vast and intriguing country in front of us, we needed to be very selective. I wanted to see more than just Colombo but what: rivers, mountains, game parks all interesting but too far away. We chose Galle, about 110 km. / 70 ml. south, a port first used over two Millenia ago exporting cinnamon, visited by the famous Chinese admiral Zheng He, then a fortified city, started by the Portuguese, upgraded by the Dutch and finally occupied by the British as part of the global European empire competition that took place over the world for a number of centuries , a bit like the European Soccer Championships today. Winner takes all.
There is a railway line connecting the two cities which runs along the coast at some points which I understood made for interesting viewing. As we wait for our train at Colombo Fort station, one of Colombo’s two main railway stations the sights are one for UK train buffs, the stations, signage and jobs are a throwback to an era long past, down to the cardboard train tickets, 180 rupees or about £0.90. / US $1.20 for a second class ticket to travel over 110km. 70 ml. Trains are all diesel both DMU and locomotive drawn. The old UK problem of ‘Slam door’ trains has been resolved here, the doors do not close, helps with the ventilation as well. Our Galle bound train pulls in, the locomotive was built in Varanasi by Indian Railways, a place we visited in 2014 on RTW1.
Our engine pulls eight old carriages out of the station in a cloud of unburnt diesel fumes. The rhythmic thump of the engine and the coal like smell has one almost imagining a steam loco up front. All the equipment is aged, some more than others, I suspect that any increased passenger capacity comes due to not retiring older equipment. The track does indeed run by the ocean as we travel southward passing through small towns and villages, houses built close up to the railway tracks. The coal smell is replaced by sea and then drying fish as we progress.
Galle Fort turns out to be, yes you guessed it, another UNESCO world heritage site to add to the collection, and it is surrounded by a dutch style walls reminiscent of Cape Town castle, same era of course, buildings have both Dutch and English heritage. While a smorgasbord of sightseeing awaits us, we are looking forward to going home, the journey is over and we want to go home, I fell more like sleeping than exploring, so Anne wanders the walled city. Enjoy the photo collection that Anne has created of our visit.
Although we have one more stop in Singapore to see our friends and our godsons before getting home to Brisbane, this feels like the end of the road. We celebrate with a Sri Lankan dinner at the ‘Ministry of Crab’ – guess what we had for dinner. It was superb and a great way to celebrate the end of RTW2.
Oooo that hot, steamy, salty air that hits us as we get off the plane feels good. It feels and smells like holidays. We are quickly greeted by hotel staff at the airport and taken to our transfer vehicle:
This is an exciting way to get to your hotel:
Flying back to Brisbane from Europe with the inevitable jetlag from the 10 hour difference has steadily got harder for us to recover from over the years so we decided to include a stopover longer than the overnighter we’ve done on occasions.
Not only was the flash speedboat, rather than a ‘rustic’ old boat which I expected, a lovely surprise, the garden bungalow I booked was upgraded to this:
Not sure why we got this incredible upgrade, but we are extremely grateful – thank you Kurumba Resort.
So here we are in the Maldives with the only decisions we have to make being whether to eat, swim, swim in the pool or the sea, read or sleep, swim with the reef shark or get out of the water. The 1 metre long shark appearing in 50cm deep water just in front of us was all my fault: Anthony did tell me I should not have hummed the Jaws movie song!! He was right!
This place is truly amazing: the food is superb and we have only eaten at the cafe so far, not at any of the 7 restaurants. And although the resort is currently 95% occupied, we hardly ever see anyone. This is a once in a lifetime experience for us and we are loving it. It will be back to canned tuna and crackers or baked beans on toast when we get home and that’s fine.
So over and out until … the next stop over. This should be easier for you to guess where that will be!