Monday 26 June 2017
My flight to the Faroe Islands was via Copenhagen, so I spent the night reading a guide book and looking at the big map I had bought.
How did I end up on this far flung cluster of islands? Well, it started in early January 2017, I was looking for somewhere to go on holiday where I could climb alot of mountains in the run up to the Lakeland 100 I had entered. I started at the Western Isles, moved to St Kilda, then a little further north and west and found the Faroe Islands.... a cluster of 18 rocky, volcanic islands, stunning landscapes, mountains and coastlines.... checking of flight prices and before I know it I am booked on a 10 day trip in June.
Tuesday 27 June 2017
When I landed at Vagur I walked to Sorvagur to buy some food and drink in the supermarket, then back to the airport and took a bus to Torshavn, the capital, where I found the shop that sold maps, I bought the maps I wanted and sped back to catch the next bus to Klaksvik, a town on Bordoy.
Arriving at Klaksvik I walked to the campsite which was a small patch of scrub land near the school with a portakabin kitchen and another portakabin toilet and showers. Toilet roll provided by a fellow camper who carried her own supply.
Wednesday 28 June 2017
I went to pay for the campsite, at Tourist Information, where the friendly staff treated me to a coffee and biscuits and lent me a desk. After some map fondling I set off on a walk, from Klaksvik to Arnafjordur, and back. It was a nice climb, following a route description in the guidebook, a climb, a descent and a little township at the bottom.
I returned to Klaksvik, then after some coffee and use of wifi I caught a bus to Fuglafjordur on Eysturoy. From there I walked to Hellurnar along an old track which is littered with old stories of giants and milkmaids.
From Hellurnar I make my way to Oyndarfjordur and from there along the old village path to Elduvik and I find a nice spot to wild camp looking out to sea. Elduvik is an ancient settlement, there are lots of old houses with turfed roofs.
Thursday 29 June 2017
After visiting the local gorge I take the path along the valley.
I follow a river, climb up the side of a waterfall, then descend to Funningsfjordur. From there I walk firstly along the road then across boggy hills to Skalabotnur. Here I stock up on food and drink at the petrol station, and set off to cross the ridge to Selatrad. The climb is way marked with cairns, the land at the top is flat and stony, and as usual from the top the views are amazing.
I descend and follow the road to Selatrad, where I camp for the night on the scout campsite; the scouts were building a big camp for the weekend and helped me plan my exit the next day. They rang the bus to ask it to come for me.
Friday 30 June 2017
The bus arrived at the stop on time and took me to Torshavn, then I took a bus to Sorvagur. I am booked on a boat from Sorvagur to Mykines, the small, most westerly of the Faroe Isles.
I help Johan, who is moving to Mykines, unload boxes onto the boat, then arriving on the island, climb up to the cluster of houses.
The weather is hot and sunny, I pitched my tent and walked up to the top of Knukkur and ran down. There is just a Danish war ship at sea coasting along as I climb and descend.
On this walk I have my first encounter with the Great Skua. I saw a pair circling above me for quite a while, and as I continued my ascent, as I approached their territory, they started an impressive air display, literally coming at you out of nowhere! You sort of hear a short sharp whistle, look round and this massive winged predator is coming straight at your face! I ducked and fell over, a few times, I was quite scared as they were clearly very protective and seemed to be going for my eyes. As I only have one good one I am quite protective of it.
The views from the top of Knukkur were breathtaking. I could see to the islands I had just left a few hours previously. On reaching my tent, I bump into a man who says he is a farmer. We talk about the Great Skua, he knows where they are, and then he says, entirely unprompted: "And those fucking hippies from San Franciso, they can fuck off. Who the fuck are they to tell me what to do? These are my islands and we have been here thousands of years. And guess what, I just had some blubber!" I just look at him, confused and don't think there is much point saying anything.
Saturday 1 July 2017
I spend the day in my tent as it's raining and windy and I didn't see any point in getting cold and wet, I read a book.
Sunday 2 July 2017
I walked up Knukkur again, and said farewell to the Great Skua, as the protective pair came at me again. I came upon the plaque to the airplane that crashed on the side of the mountain and thought of the families affected.
I then walked to Mykinesholmur, the westernmost tip of the island, crossing a bridge across the Atlantic. There were thousands of puffins flying around me as I walked and further on there was a gannet colony.
I flew by helicopter to Torshavn, and from there I took a boat to Tvoroyri on Suduroy, where I caught a bus to Hvalba and camped there overnight next to a massive anchor.
Monday 3 July 2017
This was an exciting walk, the plan was to walk from Hvalba in the north of Suduroy to the southernmost tip of the island. I made it as far as Sumba covering around 25 miles, passing Nes, the Turkish Graves, Trongisvagur, Ordavik and Vagur. There was alot of ascent, magnificent views and and I met one person on the way who said he was a farmer having a walk up a hill.
I finished in Sumba, where I knew there was a campsite, but I couldn't see one. Some people I asked took me in a car to the campsite which was a disused football club, about a mile out of the town. The manager of the campsite came to let me in to the club house and assured me no one would come, as I planned to sleep on the floor of the clubhouse rather than pitch my tent. I was tired! Tumas assured me no one would come.
Shortly after midnight I awoke to the sound of the door to the clubhouse opening. I was a little worried at this development and announced my presence, to the camper who had just arrived and was looking for the bathroom. This turned out to be James, who expressed his embarrassment at being a US citizen and said he didn't identify with most of his countrymen.
Strava link Hvalba to Vagur
Strava link Vagur to Sumba
Tuesday 4 July 2017
I woke up and took a quick trip from the campsite at Sumba to Akraberg and back, had a coffee on a bench with James who was setting off heading north; then the bus took me to Tvoroyri where I caught the ferry to Torshavn. From there I caught a bus to Giljanes on Vagar, where there was a hostel and campsite.
Wednesday 5 July 2017
I set off on a long walk without my usual rucksack and tent. I headed for a deserted village, Slaettanes. This walk is an opportunity for me to get some miles and ascent in. I chat to a friendly Danish couple of walkers and then hap upon a pair of Great Skua, equally scary as the previous pair on Mykines. I fall over ducking, and take some photos, they are extremely impressive, aggressive, protective and majestic.
As I approach the deserted village I am targetted by a hundred or so Arctic Terns, these birds don't like me being there and make sure I know it. I spend about 15 minutes worrying about what they might do, and they only turn back and leave me alone as I reach the village where I sit on a bench and look at the sea.
Knowing that I have to get past the colony of Arctic Terns, and then past the pair of Great Skua, I am a little anxious and manage to take a wrong line on my return from Slaettanes. I realise I have made an error, then I have to work hard to find out my way back to where I should be, which I manage with just a little elevated heart rate. The lost art of reorienting oneself, I understand. It is quite an exciting hobby to have.
I arrived at the campsite at Giljanes having had a fairly long day out, the last few miles I was escorted by some whimbrels who were far more friendly than the other birds I met further out that day.
Link to Strava
Thursday 6 July 2017
I flew home.
Oh dear. I realise soon after booking my trip that this is where the pilot whales are slaughtered, in a cruel and now unnecessary hunt, the Grindadrap. The Faroese say this practice is not cruel, and is part of their culture. Maybe prior to the second world war, the consumption of whale meat and blubber contributed to the economy of such an isolated community. The islanders don't need the meat of the whales they kill, any more, but they do consider this traditional hunt is an ancient right.
The Faroe Islands are a principality of Denmark and self governing. They are not part of the European Union and therefore the slaughter of whales is not illegal.
Heri Joensen argues that the Grindadrap is no worse than a slaughterhouse.
Sea Shepherd Global has submitted a request to the EC to launch infringement proceedings against Denmark for facilitating the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands.
Some animal welfare activists think that instead of direct action, a different approach to the slaughter of the Grindadrap will produce results, pointing to evidence that contaminants in pilot whales and blubber indicate that there are significant health risks arising from consumption of whale meat and blubber.
In November 2008, Høgni Debes Joensen, the chief medical officer of the Faroe Islands and Pál Weihe, scientist, recommended in a letter to the Faroese government that pilot whales should no longer be considered fit for human consumption because of the high level of mercury PCB and DDT derivatives.
I didn't want to go. On reflection, as the weeks and months went by, I decided that most countries have poor records on animal rights and human rights abuses, why boycott these islands, when at home we are not much better, our cruelty to both humans and animals takes place usually in private, behind closed doors rather than on the beaches for the world to see and judge.
Game bird shooting for example in the UK: animal cruelty which is not prosecuted as the industry exploits loopholes in animal welfare legislation. The slaughter of animals for sport takes place in the county in which I live.
The Western Isles also face allegations of animal cruelty, the history and practice of killing gannet chicks is no longer necessary, although there is resistance from some islanders who maintain the specific skill may become necessary in the future.
How the pilot whales are ushered into the shallow bays and killed in the Grind makes harrowing reading.
I travel to the Faroe Islands, despite all this, feeling ashamed and depressed that I am going to such a place.... I chose this holiday for the mountains but I really don't want to go.
I chatted to a few people on buses but didn't really get to know any Faroese people. I don't think I would go back.