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 Justine's Journal

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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.

http://www.koltur.com/bp/index.php?id=14

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!!

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello!:)

I'm from the Faroe Islands:)
just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your bit about us. Hope you liked it here in our beautiful Islands. yeah.. I'm pretty proud of living here and being a pure-blood Faroese girl;) so.. anyone who reads this.. come visit us..:) you'll like it..;)

7:59 pm  
Anonymous american said...

Hello!
I am an european living in US. I really like this islan. How can I visit it?
Thanks

11:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow!! something unbelivble!!! is it posible to visit your islands?!i am a photographer www.buslenko.com
Sergey Buslenko
art_studio@i.ua

6:45 pm  

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