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And finally..... Foula
Friday, July 28, 2006


Well, We're back home in Wales, enjoying the tail end of the heat wave, but not before we crammed in a final trip to the most remote of the Shetland isles, Foula. We arrived back in Lerwick on Wed night at 9pm and were met by Mavis Robertsons' smiling face and taken back to her home for the night. We had 2 days to enjoy Shetland as the next ferry back to Orkney was on Friday night at 5.30pm ( no, we didn't kayak it this time!) The weather was so good that we decided to take the opportunity to go to Foula, 16 miles west of the other islands in Shetland. Mavis kindly lent us her car so we drove for about an hour to near Walls, the nearest place to Foula for the crossing. It was clear, sunny and calm - perfect conditions for a crossing to the dramatic cliffy island on the horizon. The tidal streams there are meant to go roughly sideways across our path, but actually we unexpectedly had about half a knot to a knot of tide with us for most of the way, meaning that we made good progress. There was hardly a breath of wind until we got within a mile of Foula when force 4 gusts created by the island shot out to greet us ( well, to try to push us away from the island).

Foula boasts the highest sea cliffs in Britain and we headed straight around the northern tip to the west coast to gaze up at them for ourselves. They were really impressive - not as tall as some of the Faroes cliffs but equally dramatic because of their curving shapes and solid arretes. I immediately noticed the constant background chatter of wildlife, hundreds of birds calling to each other and dozens of seals howling. We saw very few seals on the Faroes, so it was great to see the grey hulks hauled up on rocks. I don't suppose they get disturbed very often!


We spent a lovely 3 hours circumnavigating the island ( about 7 miles), gazing up at the cliffs and enjoying the wildlife. Every corner we turned brought another pretty view. What's more, the wind died down and the tide always seemed to be with us. Finally we landed at Ham, the settlement where the ferry arrives. It was a pleasant change for us to have a convenient slipway to land at, and a very short carry of the kayaks. I'd failed to catch us any fish this time, so it was corned beef and mashed potato for dinner ( washed down by a nice bottle of red wine)!


We briefly chatted to Kevin and his wife, 2 of the 30-odd residents of Foula but we didn't get a chance to have much of a look around the island from the land because we had to get up early the next day to make sure we made it back to the mainland in time to catch our ferry to Orkney. The alarm was set for 6am but we were actually woken up by a thunder storm at 5am. I'm sure I managed to get back to sleep at 5.55am, just before the alarm! By 6am the thunder had passed, but the mist was right down and visibility was about 100metres. Once on the water, we followed our bearing of 070degrees, with the GPS as a reassuring back-up. Again we had a bit of tide with us for most of the journey which always brings a smile to my face (we left 6hours before HW Dover for the return trip, and at 1 hour after HW Dover for the trip to Foula). A bit scarily, at 3 times during the crossing the thunder storm returned and came very close to us. The shortest gap between lighting strike and thunder was about 2 seconds meaning the core of the storm was about 2 miles away. The thunder boomed in our ears and the rain was pummelling down on the sea with the force of hail stones. It was very eerie and a bit scary, but we were committed and I tried not to think about whether Alun's wooden paddles would save him, and my lovely Lendals' might be my end if I got struck by lighting! An hour before we reached the mainland, the mist lifted and we could see where we were going. 2 miles away, the wind picked up, and of course was against us, and the tide changed so it was more against us than with us. Finally, we had to cross an lumpy tidal race a hundred metres offshore. I didn't mind though, we'd had a great 24 hour flying visit to Foula! We even made it back to Mavis in time to take her out for a nice lunch ( Mavis was concerned that all we'd seen of Shetland's eating-out cuisine previously was fish and chips!)

The ferry ride was misty so we didn't get to see Fair Isle again, but once we got to Kirkwall we did meet up with Douglas, an Orkney paddler who we'd met at the Shetland symposium. Douglas very kindly met us at the ferry at 11pm and put us up for the night. Thanks to him and his wife for a great evening.

Fun in Fugloy and Celebrations in Torshavn
Sunday, July 23, 2006

We made it back to Torshavn after a fantastic 17 days exploring the Faroe Islands. I have been charmed by the fairytale islands and the friendly people we´ve met and highly reccomend a visit here. From Videroya, we kayaked around the north side of Vidoy island past the highest vertical seacliff in the world! At almost 800 metres high it was truely an impressive sight towering above us. The whole coastline on the north of Vidoy is really dramatic, with grin-inducing vertical stacks with holes through them in very picturesque places, as well as caves you can go in one entrance and out of another. Some of the Faroes best “bird cliffs” are here aswell and we could look up at mostly guillemots stacked up on ledges with impossible looking nest sites. The echoing squark of the birds bickering mixed with the sea lapping against the stacks is really evocative for me. Puffins, black guillemots, fulmars, shags and eider ducks were flying all around us, keeping us amused, although I was a bit disapointed at the number of birds actually on the cliff. Perhaps we didn´t see the very best areas but compared to say, Orkney, there seemed fewer birds nesting.

After enjoying the amazing scenery of the West and north coast of Vidoy, we started a 7 mile crossing to the north of Fugloy island. This brought us out from the shelter of the cliffs and into a moderate south-easterly wind which immediately changed our mood. From slowly ambling along and craning our necks upwards, we were suddenly heads down, teeth gritted and battling onwards. To make it more challenging the mist immediately came down, hiding all 600 metres height of Fugloy. My GPS decided not to work this day so it was quite exciting to have to rely on a compass and taking bearings of different mountains to work out our progress - especially as all the mountains dissapeard into the drifting mist after about 10 minutes and didn´t reappear for about an hour. It’s easy to see why the northern islands were thought to move around in the old days. They called them the drifting islands as they were there one minute and completely gone the next. It was fascinating to watch various shapes appearing and disappearing under white veils during the paddle across.

The wind slowly picked up, and although we should have had tide with us, the tidal currents here seem to flow in very narrow streams.The tidal stream atlas we have shows the current flowing from the north of Vidoy to the north of Fugloy at that time, but I think we drifted too far south ( to make sure we didn´t overshoot the island without knowing it in the mist). We were then out of the main current and just battling into the wind. Whether that was the reason or not, it took forever to get to Fugloy, the easternmost island in the Faroes and one of the most remote and smallest. The original plan had been to kayak around the north coast and down the east coast, landing at 1 of the 2 villages, but we abandoned a further slog into the wind and paddled down the sheltered west coast instead. The mist cleared from this coastline for us to enjoy looking up at the impressive cliffs and we even saw a few seals. A short but windy paddle round the corner onto the south coast brought us to one of the villages. We are learning that the quays here are not designed for boats to land and launch easily - most are just used for dropping people and goods off, so there is just a vertical concrete wall for us to try to get the kayaks up. It´s not usually simple with heavy kayaks, so it is with some anticipation that we come to a new place after a long paddle ( with the next possible landing spot usually some miles away). On the other hand, all these places used to be used for launching wooden fishing boats so it was quite a nice feeling to be following in their footsteps with our kayaks. In the end the landing at Fugloy was fairly straightforward ( because the swell was small) and we carried out boats up to besides an old traditional double ended fishing boat. We walked up some steep winding steps to the village to ask if we could camp somewhere, and were immediately surrounded by inquistive and friendly people. Within 5 minutes we had been invited into a house for hot tea and bread and jam, and half an hour later we had been offered a bed in another house. Thank you so much to everyone, especially Lone and Gutov for taking us into their home. We spent the next day getting to know some of the people and exploring the island. Only 8 people live there all year, but in the Summer, dozens more come and live in their holiday homes. Everyone was happy and friendly -they were interested in our kayaking trip, and eager to tell us about their lives. It was still misty at sealevel and most of the time we couldn´t even see Svinoy, an island with towering cliffs just 1 mile away. But we walked to the north of the island and climbed to the highest point, where we could look down on Fugloy and see many of the other dramatic islands poking out of the mist. The shifting fog actually made it more beautiful and we sat for ages watching the changing landscape.

That evening was a musical treat for Fugloy. Every year musicains come out to the island and to Mykines to give a concert to the locals -the philosophy is that even though the people are isolated, they should still have access to good music. So for just five pounds we crowded into the school house with all the locals and listened to 4 great bands. Everyone was packed in tightly and you could almost touch the musicians which made it really special. There was a fantastic Finnish band ( from the island of Aland) called SKRA which played Irish-type music with 2 violins, a guitar and drums, 2 local bands and a Danish medieval band with a Faroese girl with an incredible voice, and all sorts of instruments include a hurdy gurdy. We felt privilidged to be able to join in as the only tourists, as there is no campsite or place for tourists to stay on the island. Look out for SKRA music in 'This is the Sea 3'

We reluctantly left Fugloy the next afternoon and just took a short 3 mile paddle to Svinoy. Again we couldn´t see the island when we left Fugloy, and it only came hazily into view when we were about 200metres away. When we arrived i went back out in my kayak to try to catch some fish, and I used my GPS to mark the location of the jetty so I could get back safely because visibility was so bad! I am not a great fisherwoman so I was experimenting a bit with length of line used and paddling speeds. I just sat there for a while with the line out and dozens of fulmars drifted to within a paddle length of me. They were fishing aswell, looking down into the water, or looking at me wondering what I was doing. It was great to be lost in the mist with only fulmars for company - although Alun did remark “not ANOTHER picture of a fulmar”!
I caught 3 fish in the end and we had a great thai green curry with fresh fish.

Yesterday we paddled from Svinoy back to Torshavn. 23 nautical miles, mostly in the mist. We had loads of current with us to start with and shot along at 8-9 knots between Svinoy and Vidoy. It was a really calm morning, no wind and no swell and there were already a few small to moderate sized races for us to bounce through. I would love to see the area ( but not paddle there!) in a big storm - I bet there are some amazing waves there. As we approached Torshavn the mist rose and we paddled back to the beach where we started this adventure almost 3 weeks ago. Andras picked us up again and we are once more camped in his garden until we catch the Symir Line Ferry back to Shetland early tomorrow morning.

Last night we celebrated the end of the trip with a Satruday night out in Torshavn. Andras took us to a great bar where we played lots of pool with some locals, and then Alun and I found our way down to the harbour where there was a big party going on on the street. We even met Luka - the lady from Koltur island - there! We crawled back into the tent at about 4am, thinking that the Faroese people know how to have a good time. Today, Andras cooked us baked trout for lunch (caught by him in local lakes). Now I’m typing this up on his computer, with a full belly and a big smile, enjoying reminicing about a really memorable and fun trip ’up north’.

Vidoy and the Northern Isles
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We are in striking fingers of the Northern Isles - long, thin, knobbly islands with impossible looking pointy moutains. Yesterday we kayaked on both sides of Kolsoy, which is 10miles long, less than 1 mile wide and over 500 metres high along most of its length. What an incredible ridge line! We were taking advantage of a beautiful sunny, calm and clear day, using the tides to go first down one fjord, and then after a stop for lunch in the working harbour( loud dredging machines clanking) at Leirvick, up the other side. After a brief view of the East side of Kolsoy, we actually paddled a short dog-leg, further east and north, around and up the Harraldsun fjord between Bordoy and Kunoy islands. We thought we would paddle under the bridge in Harraldsun and get the benefit of the ebb tide shooting up the fjord which is less than a mile wide. Unfortunately, we didn't account for the fact that the 'bridge' isn't a bridge yet! It's a 'temporary' causeway, which seems to have been created from a quarry 20 metres away - dug specially for that purpose!? we kayaked closer and closer to the barrier, hoping we would spot the ellusive 'way through' as we got near to it, but soon we had to admit that we'd have a very long paddle back around the island, or we'd have a shorter, but more painful, portage, up a 45 degree slope of jagged broken rock, over a road, and down another 45 degree slope.
We took the quicker option, and used some discarded planks of wood to slide the kayaks up and down which made it so much easier. It still took 45mins and felt painful! After that, we kayaked for another 2 hours, up and around the top of Bordoy, and 1mile across to Vidoy. As we approached the northernmost town on Vidoy at 10 o'clock at night, after over 25 nautical miles of paddling, our hearts sank again - although our map shows no contour lines here, and shows houses within 50 metres of the shore, it appeared to be only a grey wall of rock that greated us. Where would we land? We could have decided to paddle around the north end of Vidoy and land at the same village from the East side ( where we knew we could land) but it was late and we were tired. We are getting used to landing on fairly steep rocky places on this trip, and the sea was calm.

As we got closer, we saw people. "Great,they might help us land" I thought. But they stood there at the top of the cliff and took photographs as we managed to land alongside some low rocks, with just a little bit of swell making it interesting. The cliffs weren't that steep, and we could see rotten wooden planks bolted to the rock where people used to launch their fishing boats. I guess no-one uses them anymore as most were gone completely, but it showed it was possible! So now we are camped in a stunning spot above the northernmost town in Vidoy island. It's raining today, with low visibility and we have hitched 10 miles to Klaksvik - the biggest town in the 'northern isles', connected to Vidoy by another causeway. Tomorrow we hope to kayak to the easternmost island of Fugloy. This isn't connected to any other islands by bridge, causeway or tunnel, so I'm looking forward to getting to the Eastern fringe!

I forgot to mention that we left Saxun after 3 days off and had an evening paddle of 10 miles to Eday. In the morning, we had decided not to paddle beacuse it was still windy, but as we were halfway through a walk over the mountains to Tgnavik (sorry for very bad spelling, I dont have a map here), the wind dropped and it became a beautiful day. so we finished our walk at about 6pm, hitched back to Saxun by about 8pm, and were on the water before 9.30pm to take advantage of the good weather window. We had a great evening paddle and made good progres with tide behind us. Going around the headland north of Saxun we could feel the sea restless beneath us ( Alun likens the tide races to sleeping monsters - even when it is calm, you can feel them beneath you stirring, throwing up a few waves, and you know that just a little bit of wind or swell will kick them up into big scary water. We don't tend to hang about for long on these headlands. As the sun went down, making the sky pink and grey, the wind just started to pick up and we turned in land to Eday, where we enjoyed another portage up steep boulders to a nice campsite.

Tent Breaking gales!
Friday, July 14, 2006

OK, back at Torshavn library! So, on Tuesday we started paddling up the beautiful cliffs by VestManna and the wind was gradually picking up. High cirrus clouds had appeared in the morning and the pressure was starting to drop so we knew that something was happening with the weather. We decided to land at Saksun which is an amazing feature. Steep cliffs suddenly give way to a 200metre wide valley, which extends about a mile deep to a lake at the community of Saxsun. You can only paddle right to Saxun at high tide and it was low tide when we arrived. We half paddled, half dragged the kayaks about half way up the river until we saw a very flat patch of grass on the side of the valley that we could camp on. This was still about half a mile from Saxun itself, but it was easier than dragging the kayaks further and looked like a pretty place. It was an exposed spot, but so was everywhere in the valley. That evening we cooked 2 of our fish we'd caught and then tried to get an early night so we could paddle with the tide early the next day. But gradually the winds picked up and picked up and there was no way we could get to sleep. Alun kept getting up and anchoring the tent down and making sure that things were inside the tent or packed away. It was an incredible feeling because the air would be completely still and then suddenly an incredible gust would hit the tent and bend the poles and the fabric right over our heads. We´d have to shoot our hands out from the sleeping bag and hold the fabric back to protect the tent from breaking. Throughout the night, the pressure was dropping and the wind just kept on coming. At one point a gust picked up my kayak ( which is not light!) and dropped the back of it onto Alun's kayak, right on top of his precious Greenland paddle. Both boat and paddle were OK, but Alun brought the paddle into the tent after that and we tied the kayaks together. We later found out that the wind reached 29 meters per second and is not normal for a summer storm. (I've just looked this up on the internet and it is a force 11 wind, or 65 miles/hour. The Beaufort scale says "widespread damage to structures"!) The upshot of it was that at 11am the next morning, after over 12 hours of gale force winds, a huge gust hit the tent and we heard a pole snap. I was really impressed with the VE-25 North Face tent and don't think it is to blame for the breakage, it was just an incredibly violent and sudden wind. I have a metal tube designed to put over a breakage in the pole and I tried to put this on the break during the storm, but it was very difficult so we decided we better take the tent down to avoid more damage.

We took it in turns to hold the tent up while the other one packed everything away, then we walked up to Saxun and found some locals who would let us sleep in their sheep shed for the night, where we mended the pole and managed to finally get some sleep. we hitched to Torshavn the next day where we are enjoying being normal tourists for a while! We even stayed in a hotel for the night!

It's still windy but not nearly so bad so we hope to continue paddling to the northern islands tomorrow.

Thank you very much to 3 arin
for letting us upload all of our pictures on their shop computer for the last hour or so!! Come here for all your photo, music and dvd needs!!

Puffin Hunting & tent-breaking gales!
Thursday, July 13, 2006

Well, what an eventful week in the Faroe Islands! I have a lot to write so I'll put it in headings!


After Koltur, we paddled 23nautical miles to Mykines, the westernmost island. We left in quite calm conditions but the wind picked up and this combined with a 2 metre swell gave quite exciting rebounding waves off the cliffs, even 100 metres offshore. Despite this, the tide was behind us and we made good time. The 2-3mile crossing to Mykines is well known for being rough and treacherous. 14 metre overfalls have been seen in this area in a bad storm, so it was with some anticipation (and a lot of fog and rain) that we crossed. We stayed a few miles south of the island for the crossing and avoided the 'scary' area very succesfully. The tide carried us up to the SE corner of Mykines perfectly, and the crossing was a lot easier and calmer than paddling in the clapotis earlier in the day. Once we reached Mykines however the wind picked up again and we were once more in pyramidal rebounding waves. This time we had no tide behind us so we slowly crept along the cliffs to the SouthWest end of the island where we had been told we could land. The 3 miles seemed to take forever, and as we drew closer to where the houses were marked on the map we began to doubt that there would be anywhere to land - it just looked like cliffs everywhere. Just then, a small boat appeared behind us - it was the ferry and we were both very pleased to see it. We watched as the ferry pulled ahead of us and then paused for a while before seeming to disappear into the cliffs. When we reached the entrance to the 'harbour' we could see why the ferry had paused.

A small concrete quay jutted out into the bay, but the swells were breaking onto it, and over it. Waves were also breaking over shallow rocks at different places before the quay and we'd have to weave around the areas of white sea to get there. It didn't look very friendly, but we had no other options ( except for a long long paddle back to another island). In the end we made it through the breaking waves OK, but it was cetainly full of adrenalin. And we were lucky that we arrived when there were still ferry passengers at the quay because several strong men helped us to lift our kayaks out of the turbulent water and carry them up some steps. Then as we were starting to get organised, a man in policemans waterproofs came up to us and said " Come with me, up to the yellow house, we will take care of you". We weren´t sure exactly what that meant, but when we got up to the yellow house, cups of tea were thrust into our hands and we were sat down at a table full of food and ordered to eat. There must have been about 15 people in the house, of all generations, chattering and smiling and making us feel welcome. They told us that in 1988 they hosted a Dutch party of kayakers who landed on Mykines, and ten years later in 1998 they looked after another party of Dutch kayakers ( and 1 of the men was the same). As far as they knew, we were the 3rd group of people to kayak to Mykines. We were 2 years early to make another anniversary, but they looked after us just the same! Alun was happy because he got to watch the world cup final on a big screen TV with the family. We were also given a room to sleep in, and had the chance to take a shower.


We spent almost 2 days on Mykines which is famous for it's birds. It has the only gannet colony in the Faroes and thousands and thousands of puffins. Swarms of them sit on the sea, and stand on the cliff tops. On Monday, we had the chance to go puffin hunting with Karl from the yellow house. Catching and eating birds is traditional on the Faroe Islands, in the past they relíed on the birds as a big part of their diet. They are only allowed to hunt puffins from 6am - 12 noon, but we were up at 5am, to walk up to the cliffs to be sure of getting the best 'seat' for catching puffins. Karl carried a big net on the end of a 6metre pole and he explained to us that the direction the puffins fly in depends on the wind direction and strength. today was a South-Westerly which pleased him. We sat down at Karls favourite 'seat' and hundreds of puffins were circling above in a big group. Karl lay his net on the ground in front of him and held the end of the pole. He was chatting to us about how the puffins seem to know the length of the net and fly just out of range, but he always had 1 eye on the sky. Suddenly, the net shot up into the air behind him, and before I could see what had happened, Karl was pulling the pole through his hands, pulling the net towards him and there was a puffin in it. He took out the puffin and - there is no nice way of saying it - broke it's neck. The bird was instantly dead. It was strange for me to see this, as I felt sad to see such a cute bird be removed from it's natural environment and killed, but I also respect the fact that the Faroese are out there living in balance with nature, killing what they need to eat, honestly and with their own hands. I cannot say it is cruel when I probably eat battery farmed chickens and other animals which have been bred just for slaughter. I don't find out the details of what I eat so it's easier to ignore any cruelty. Also, ironically, the puffins are not doing so well in the Faroes recently, and it's the same story all over the world. The reason is perhaps partly overfishing, and partly global climate change. The seas are changing temperature which means that sand eels and other small fish that the seabirds eat are not doing aswell as they did, or are not as plentiful at the right times. So man as a whole is destroying millions of seabirds by our industrial lifestyle. In this context, and despite not liking seeing the puffins killed, I find that I can't disagree with Karl killing a few hundred puffins, all of which will be eaten. I didn't mean to get into a moral argument here, but it's hard to write about this without giving my opinion. It was also hard not to admire Karl for his skill at catching the puffins. Alun nicknamed him Karl 'Federer' Leonsson for his use of backhands, forehands and slice strokes.

In the afternoon, we watched Karl, his father and his brother in law use specially built machines to take the feathers off the puffins, then chop off the limbs. The puffins will then all be frozen and eaten later in the year. Some will be sold. We had a turn at chopping the limbs off and it's harder than it looks! ( well, thats my excuse). All in all, the Leonsson family showed us great kindness and hospitality, insisting that we eat with them while we were in the island and always keen to chat to us about life in the Faroes. I will always remember our stay with them.

That evening, we got on the water at 7.30pm - oh, the joys of almost no darkness! We paddled 10miles back across to Vagar island. It was a beautiful calm evening and a lovely paddle. We camped at a small abandoned village ( well, 1 house) called Viki ( I think!). It was a bit of a mission landing and hauling our boats over some rocks, but was a beautiful spot.


Next morninig, we crossed to Streymoy island and continued in our kayaks up the stunning west coast. It was a strange experience to feel completely alone on the sea and then as we approached the cliffs, 6 boats full of tourists appeared, taking the sightseers into caves and around sea stacks. It was a truely stunning and impressive piece of coastline with over 400 metre high cliffs for a 6 mile stretch. I also used my new hand fishing line for the first time... and caught 3 fish..... all at once!! It was quite scary trying to pull the fish up and I thought they would pull my kayak into the cliffs at one point! We landed at the beautiful natural harbour of Saxsun in the early evening in increasing winds.... That night the winds got stronger and stronger and stronger..... and I have run out of time so I'll have to continue that story next time I get to a computer....

Faroese Hospitality
Friday, July 07, 2006

Alun and I are in the dramatic Faroe Islands - described by our friend Axel like paddling in the sea of flames, and we can already see why. Their tidal stream atlas shows dangerous tidal streams and overfalls as intimidating red streaks, or flames on the ocean. It´s enough to make you think twice about getting on the water, but the scenery is stunning, with steep high cliffs and islands all around. It reminds me a little bit of Orkney and Shetland but everything is on a grander scale. We are near the southern end of the islands in the relatively fertile and less steep islands, and still we climbed a hill of 480metres today on an island less than 2 miles long.

We are on Klotur Island, one of 18 islands in the group. Just 1 family live here and farm the land here. They have a few hundred sheep and about 50 Scottish Highland cattle! It is the only good beef cattle in the Faroes and it's all organic so the beef is well known here. On Wednesday we took the Norona ferry from Lerwick in Shetland to the capital Torshavn. We stocked up with a delicious buffet breakfast, one of those where you know you are going to eat too much and feel a bit ill but there is so much delicious food to cram in! I had emailed a local paddler who bought one of my DVDs from the internet, Andras, and he met us the ferry and took us and our kayaks to his house (with an elaborate home made system for tying the boats to the roof of his bmw, without a roof rack!) We camped in his garden and walked into Torshavn for a look around. Thank you Andras for your hospitality!

Yesterday Andras dropped us off on his way to work, at a small beach just south of the city. A few walkers gave us amused looks as we packed everything into our kayaks in the drizzle. According to Andras, kayaking is not very common here and we are an unusual sight. We decided to just paddle about 13 nautical miles to the island of Koltur because Axel had told us that he had met some interesting local people on the small island. "It won't take us long", I told Alun, confidently, "We'll have the tide with us and there isn't much wind".

Once we got away from town and turned around a few small headlands, it turned out that the wind was a lot stronger than predicted, and of course, was in our faces. We could see a lot of intimidating white water marking the channel where the tide was going with us, but it was a long way from shore and heading in the wrong direction. We weren´t positive that it would curve around and take us around to the West into the channel we wanted to paddle into, so we hugged the shore and fought the wind and the eddy. It was slow going, but the cliffs to our right were very pretty - even though at less than 50metres high they don't even get a mention in any tourist guides in a group of islands where the average height of the land is 300 metres! When we reached the SE corner of the island, there was quite an exciting tidal race, and there seemed to be breaking waves everywhere in the channel we ultimately wanted to cross. We paddled hesitantly around the corner and hugged the coast again, out of most of the breaking waves. After 2 miles close to the shore, the sea seemed much calmer in the fjord. We stopped briefly at a 900 year old turf-roofed house - it has been shipped in from Norway and reassembled there, making it possibly the oldest pre-fabricated house in the world? After bread, jam, cheese and a hard boiled egg (well,it's what we had in our day hatch)we got back on the water and decided to cross the 2mile channel to our island of Koltur. The tide should be with us, going to the West and it was. We had 3knots of current with us, and it's only the smallest of neap tides at the moment. We passed close to the island of Hestur, the top engulffed in mist, and aimed towards Koltur. We knew the water in the channel between Hestur and Koltur should be sucking us to the south so we didn't get too close. The waves certainly got bigger as we crossed the channel and there was a moderate sized race close to Koltur, but the current wansn't strong and we made it to Koltur easily in an ever-lowering mist.

We landed by a small quay, and walked up to the house, appearing from the mist. We soon met Bjorn and Luka, the couple who have lived here alone for just over 10 years. Not only are they farming, but they also have plans to restore the old turf-covered buildings, which are the best example of a farming community in the Faroes 50 years ago. There is a guy from Czech Republic, David staying here with them for a month - he studies languages and is here to learn Faroese. It's a beautiful place, with an impossibly tall bulging hill on the west side, a smaller hill on the east side and a small valley inbetween. They even have a small sandy beach on the north side. On our walk today we saw lots of birds, including a tern colony, fulmars, a wren, wimberels and oyster catchers. We spent the evening last night chatting with them and eating traditional dried sheep meat, aswell as other types of sheep meat, made into pate and all sorts of tasty things.

They have a website, and you can read a bit about it, in English following the link below.

It was windy again today, and misty and raining this morning. It was one of those marginal padlding days where you could go, but you could justify staying! We decided to stay here for the day and have an explore of the land. We climbed the big hill as the mist cleared and had fantastic views over many of the other islands. It's truely a stunning place and I can't wait for the next 2 and a half weeks of exploring it. We also watched with interest the many tidal races around the islands, there was always white water somewhere, but the location of the race seemed to move along a fjord and never stay in the same place. That was a new experience for me, so we are slowing starting to try to understand this magnificent land. Tomorrow we hope to paddle - if conditions are good we will try to get to Mykines, the furthest west of the islands, through a notorious tidal race. If it is not good, then we will probably go to Vestmanna up one of the sheltered fjords. We are told there is a city party there tomorrow night!!

Shetland Symposium
Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We've enjoyed mostly lovely weather for the Shetland sympoisum - which I forgot to mention that we kayaked right to the door of.... It's a beautiful place, 'bigger islands than Orkney, with more hills and moorland. If you like caves and sea stacks then Shetland is the place for you. I was lucky enough to be mostly asigned to day trips during the sympoisum and Alun and I enjoyed a day paddle around Muckle Roe, which is a lovely granite island about 15km around, with stunning red caves and passages through rocks. It's always a delight to poke your bow into a dark cave and creep forwards carefully until you see a gleam of light shining a hundred metres away. You have found a way through!! The swell was pretty big on this day so I'm told we couldn't get into 'the best caves', but I was very satisfied with what we did manage to explore. I think we'd still be there if we had been able to get into every cave.

Yesterday we paddled around the small island of Noss which has some of the best 'bird cliffs' in Shetland ( except for the island Foula which we hope to visit also). I think the cliffs are about 180metres high and there is a large gannet colony, and a few other stow-aways in amongst the gannets. Guillemots, razor bills, puffins and fulmars also made their nests there. We enjoyed fantasic views and sounds over lunch as we landed at some almost horizontal ledges underneath the towering colony. A few people found themselves a bit too much 'underneath' some of the flying birds, and the sea was used to clean affected clothes and hair.

We might be going to Faroe tomorrow - a bit of an earlier departure than planned because of a minimal ferry schedule to get us back from Shetland to Orkney. If so, we hope to paddle a day or 2 more in Shetland after Faroe, and before returning home. I will keep trying to add photos! Happy paddling!

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