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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


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’.


Blogger Michael said...

Thanks again for the great write-up Justine. It's a treat to read of your wanderings among the misty Faroe Islands.

Thanks as well for hosting Wendy Killoran's blog. Her voyage arounf Newfoundland is gradually winding down as well, but it's been another wonderful adventure for all of us to share. I hope you host other adventurers in the future. It's a great idea.

12:51 am  
Blogger Justine Curgenven said...

Thanks Michael,
I'd like to host more expedition blogs in the future, so if anyone is planning a trip and is interesting in having their blog on cackletv then please ask them to get in touch with me.

4:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Justine,

Actually the woman in the yellow house (Juliana) was at that time the Dutch consul for the Faroes in Thorshavn, so there was a special banding. My impression is that everyone is still there, although it’s not easy to recall the faces after 10 years. We spent some time on the island due to the weather. We left by seal launching from the rocks with the locals counting the waves. This was completely in stile with our arrival: during the crossing winds went up to strength 9 bfrt, not only the ferry didn’t come that day, the helicopter didn’t fly either. So we where given a great welcome, especially because one of us (Tjaart) had been there before. So Mykines has a very special meaning to us.
I’m not to afraid for lots of see kayakers paddling the coasts of the Faroes: it is a demanding playground for skilled kayakers only and you’ll need a bit of luck with the weather to get around. Not everybody likes to paddle with hats and gloves during the summer months.


4:24 pm  

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