A week in the Faroes

I yearned for a return to nature and solitude. Even though we set off from the capital Torshavn in the rain on our first day exploring the Faroes in its typical foggy and drizzly best, it wasn’t long before I felt I was exactly where I needed to be.  The past 9 months’ stress fizzled away into the mist, lifting my spirit, even made me feel like I could start it all over again – but not just yet!!

Can you tell Anne is loving riding in the Faroes?

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.  

Foggy morning in the Faroes

Wildflowers everywhere in the Faroes

Wildflower in Tjornuvik, Streymoy

In Sandavágur, Vagar

Gásadalur, Vagar

View from Vagar

Up to Saksun, Streymoy

Typical church in the Faroes

“Thanks for Everything” is commonly written on gravestones in the Faroes

Saksun, Streymoy

Saksun, Streymoy

Saksun, Streymoy

On the way to Tjornuvik, Streymoy

Tjornuvik, Streymoy

Tjornuvik, Streymoy

Planting potatoes in Tjornuvik, Streymoy

Waterfalls everywhere in the Faroes, Streymoy

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.  

On our way to Gjogv Eysturoy

Funningur, Eysturoy

Bumping into Nimbus Danes we met on the ferry over in Funningur, Eysturoy

Some of the Nimbus bikes in Funningur, Eysturoy

Anne is happy in Funningur, Eysturoy

View from above Funningur, Eysturoy

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.

Old port in Gjogv, Eysteroy

Gjogv, Eysturoy

Puffin spotting in Gjogv Eysturoy

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.

Camping at Aeduvik, Eysturoy

Relaxing at our camp at Aeduvik, Eysturoy

Watch where you’re walking when so close to the water – I tripped up taking photos of the algae!

Exploring the rocks at Aeduvik, Eysturoy

Our campsite at Aeduvik

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.

Preparing hay in the Faroes

Unn teaching me

Turning over and spreading the small piles to dry them out

My line ready to be pushed down the hill

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.

Jørgin and Unn on the far left

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.

Learning about printmaking at Studio Bloch, Torshavn

Ingenious rowing boats with provision for small engines in Torshavn

Torshavn port

Thanks for everything Faroes.  

– Anne

Ferry to the Faroes

Everyone seems to arrive very early for the ferry and it feels like a well oiled mechanism – we’re give a yellow sticker with lane 18 marked.  Yellow stickers are for Faroe passengers, and these get onto the ferry after the Iceland bound vehicles.

Exciting to see the Faroes sign

Our ferry to the Faroes

I can see the attraction that our loyal followers have for the couch. I have spent most of the afternoon ensconced in one in the Naust café & lounge on the M/F Norrona as we head to the Faroes. I have eaten, slept and spent time starting the redrafting the three pages on motorcycle equipment camping equipment etc to better reflect the passage of time since they were first written back in 2014. It is a lot more comfortable than being in the saddle all day. Any one want to swap?

Danish Danish

We sailed out of Hirtshals on a bright sunny day onto a calm sea with Streak and Storm lashed to the deck down below after a little struggle with the securing ropes. It took me a while to realise that the locking mechanisms did not work for many of the straps and old fashioned knots were the go. We have 36 hours before we reach the Faroe Islands so time to relax and enjoy the many restaurants and bars. Our travelling companions include a fleet of RV’s from Italy, about 40 motorcycles including a couple of Nimbus motorcycles, a 1936 and 1955, and I thought that a Nimbus was a magic flying broom used in Quiditch games from a Harry Potter movie.

A Nimbus. Famous Danish motorcycle. You guess the type.

All aboard.

They have got themselves a good spot on the ferry

Looking at my phone, which was using global roaming via the extra AU$5 per day Vodaphone package I see I am still connected to the phone and 3G out to sea. Maritime Roaming? Eeek! I switch off the Global Roaming and phone to flight mode. I see a message from Vodaphone advising me that I will be charged AU$5 per minute for calls, AU0.75 for text and AU$5 per 1MB for data. It was just a seamless transition, lucky I am not a heavy mobile app user. A trap for the unwary, such as me.

Due to our late booking we were only able to secure a “couchette” for the first leg of this journey. Anne’s view of the couchette experience:  Our 6 birth ‘cabin’ is on deck 2, burried in the bowels of the ship, below both car decks that is 2 levels below the cars.  If that wasn‘t bad enough, the saloon type swing doors from the couchette room open inwards, that means that in an emergency, you would have to remember to pull into the room rather than push out.  Being claustrophic, that is a double whammy that I don’t know I’ll be able to cope with.  I tried sleeping on the top deck, but being the kids’ area, and with mostly citizens of a culture where kids rule, kids can play all night and make as much noise as they want even after midnight (while their parents sleep peacefully in their own room), so in the end, I relented and joined Anthony in our illustrious couchette room.  It wasn’t all bad, because we had the whole room to ourselves.  And I did sleep.

Our couchette doors

Apart from the couchette room doors opening inwardly, we are very impressed with the ferry.  It has several comfortable seating areas, 2 eating areas, one ‘cheap’ cafetatia type and one with more luxury dining.  We even had live ‘pub music’ in the bar last night.  Breakfast in the Diner/cafetaria was ‘free’ for couchette passengers and quite adequate.  Different brochures on the Faroes and Iceland kept being resupplied.  There is an information desk where you can buy various tours, if they not already fully booked 😦 as I found out yesterday.  Oh well… there might still be a cancellation for us to get to Mykines.

If you have forgotten anything, fret not, the duty free shop has it all, from butterfly/packable ladies shoes, to the all important motorcycle stickers, wollen and hiking clothing, underwear, jewellery, wool and knitting needles, architecture Lego, electronic spares, alcohol and chocolates.

Someone likes Toblerone

On the way back, we’ll try and remember to take our swimmers out so that we can enjoy the scenery from the top deck, from the comfort and warmth of the hot spas!

We spend the first day at sea skirting the Norwegian coast with the possibility of a glimpse of the Orkneys promised at five am tomorrow. I think I will give that a miss and just buy the postcard. The sea is so calm barely a white cap in sight all day. We are so lucky as neither of us are great seafarers and we have avoided shipborne travel wherever possible. I am surprised to see water running down the windows on the opposite side of the ship given the calm seas, no big waves but regular window washing to keep the view clear for all us passengers. Great Service.

Beautiful sunset just before midnight

The next day, we arrive at Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. This is the weather we are expecting for the next week.

The weather as we approach the Faroes

One of the first off the ferry, we head straight to our hotel – thought a night in a hotel would be good after the overnight ferry. We get a very odd greeting, with the owner/manager telling us he has booked us into another hotel – no explanation, no apology, just “this is a very nice hotel”. Back into town we go, and this new hotel definitely has a fabulous location!

Torshavn cathedral and harbour from our hotel window

We could just fall into bed and sleep but we have a shower and decide to explore the capital before treating ourselves to a rather delicious dinner at Aarstova restaurant.

Torshavn harbour

Torshavn harbour

Tinganes houses, Torshavn

Tinganes houses, Torshavn

Aarstova restaurant, Torshavn

Despite the dreary weather, we are both looking forward to the coming week on the Faroes although Anne is more excited than Anthony at the idea of camping in those conditions. Anne & Anthony