Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reliving an old trip – 17th June 2005 – Suðuroy

My ferry to Suðuroy (or Sue Roy as I think the locals pronounced it – can anyone help here?), which is the Southern most island of the Faroese archipelago, didn’t leave untlil 12:30. This meant I could leisurely pack up my tent at the campsite and have a pretty relaxed morning. Of the 4 other people at the campsite when I arrived, just 2 were left now, a British couple spending four weeks on the Faroes who I chatted to. I was jealous – I’m here for a week which is probably longer than most people get, but wow four weeks would be great. They were cycling round the islands, and as I type this up some seven years on from the trip I’m now massively into cycling myself (in fact I’ve got the highlights from the Tour de France on as I type) and perhaps I’ll have to do a similar trip soon….Anyway I digress.

I got to the ferry terminal about 10, and being the Faroes was able to leave my bag on a shelf (not even in a locker) free of charge, and I wasn’t particularly worried about it. No terrorism or theft threat here. I walked up to the Kings Monument, which was nothing special in itself, but did afford a beautiful view over Torshavn.

My ferry was called the Smyril, and used to be on the Smyril line going all over the North Atlantic. Now it just did the journey between Streymoy and Suðuroy, and was looking pretty tired, and is due to be replaced. The 90 minute journey was stunning, and worth doing just to see the small islands of Stora and Litla Dimun on the way. Litla Dimun was particularly impressive, a tiny island, just a mountain top really sticking out of the ocean. There used to be a farm on the island and it was home to around 15 people, but is now deserted.

Litla Dimun Lítla Dímun

Litla Dimun

Upon my arrival at Drelnes on Suðuroy I got the bus to the hostel in Øravík. Apart from a couple from Torshavn staying at the guesthouse next door, it was completely deserted. It was now about 3:30 and I set off on a walk to Famjin, home of the first Faroese flag, but the terrain was heavy going and my feet were still aching so I didn’t make it all the way. Back the hotel I got a takeaway pizza (it’s a bit of a weird setup with a combined youth hostel, guest house, hotel and pizza counter, I guess this is the way to do it in such a remote place). I watched a little Faroese television, some kind of quiz show was on.

Tvøroyri

Tvøroyri, seen from the ferry

I feel I could’ve planned this Suðuroy trip a little better, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging around today, and have got a very early start tomorrow to catch a ferry back so feel like I haven’t really given Suðuroy a fair go. It’s now 8 o’clock, there’s noone else here and I don’t fancy sitting at the bar on my own so it’s probably an early night, especially with my early start tomorrow. Still at least I made it here, albeit breifly, and it gives me a reason to return one day. I’d like to visit the village of Tvøroyri and also go right to the South of the island.

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World’s Most Dangerous Roads

Just watching the world’s most dangerous roads on BBC2. It’s the first of a new series tonight, and Ed Byrne and Andy Parsons are driving along the road of bones in Siberia in the winter.

Somewhere I’d love to go, and far more remote than anywhere even I’ve been, Alaska included. The mining town of Ust Nera particularly caught my eye, a real “end of the earth” type place, run down soviet architecture, -50 and covered in smog. I’ll have to go one day.

Difficult not to be slightly snobby about shows like this though – at least they’ve got a 4×4, I was in Finland in February driving on what looked to be similar roads, and of course without a backup/film crew for me driving along in a Toyota Yaris 😐 (which was probably the most expensive car I’ve ever hired but that’s a story for another time…)

Reliving an old trip – June 16 2005 – Kirkjubøur and exploring Torshavn

Day two on the Faroes, and after a great nights sleep at the Torshavn campsite I headed into town. My feet still ached, and concious of still having a lot of walking ahead I decided to take the bus rather than walk over the mountains to Kirkjubøur, the historic village on the other side of Streymoy which was my destination for the day.

I had an hour and a half to kill before the bus left, so I walked up to the main shopping mall in the Faroes, the SMS shopping centre. Dubbed the “SOS” centre by locals, it’s much like shopping centres in small towns the world over – disappointing. But it does have a decent enough supermarket so I stocked up on bread ham and cheese (ever being the budget traveller)

SMS Centre Torshavn

SMS Centre, Torshavn

The bus to Kirkjubøur was more of a coach than a local bus service, very impressive really. And only 20Kr for the ride, and with just 4 passengers on the bus I wonder how much the government have to subsidise the service. Kirkjubøur is a small but nonetheless impressive village, the main draw of the Magnus Cathedral was unfortunately covered in scaffolding, part of a project to dry out the walls (a difficult task given the Faroes climate) as the first part of a major restoration. There are controversial plans to add a roof to the cathedral (edit: as of 2005 when I first wrote this – anyone know if this happened or is happening?) It’s an amazing building, was very struck by the very thick walls and it’s done well to (at least mostly) survive against the Faroese weather all these years.

Magnus Cathedral

Magnus Cathedral

I also saw Roykstovan, which is apparently the oldest inhabited log building in Europe – quite a claim. There was also a modern church.

Roykstovan

Roykstovan

My feet were feeling alright so I decided to walk the three or four miles back to Torshavn. Back in town I walked past the Vesturkirkja church, unfortunately closed, an the museum of natural history. There was some interesting material about the geology of the islands, though it was all a bit dry, and none of the potentially more interesting stuff about the animals on the island was in English. Still, at only 20Kr entry I wasn’t too disappointed.

Vesturkirkja

Vesturkirkja

It’s been a pretty good day weather wise, and I was able to check the forecast using the free internet at the national library and it looks like this will continue. My first soaked night in Shetland still lingers in the memory though and I’ve a feeling I’ll experience some proper Faroese weather before too long.

I’d had enough sightseeing for the day so heading to Cafe Natur for a beer, had a Faroese dark beer which was pretty good. Then I went to Cleopatras Bar, described by my guidebook as “a good place for a midweek drink” but at 8 o’clock on such a midweek night I was the only one in there. Perhaps I need to get out of my English (early) drinking habits and adopt a more continental attitude.

Reliving an old trip – June 15 2005 – The Norröna and Torshavn

I’d fallen asleep in the canteen about the Norröna Smyril Line ferry from Lerwick to Torshavn, and as such couldn’t really complain that I was woken up at 8am by an army of kids running around and screaming. Still, it was a tad irritating having got to sleep at about 4 (we only left Lerwick at 2). But I’d had a few hours kip, and mercifully the sea was again calm. I started to think about the Faroes, somewhere I’d wanted to visit ever since reading about them at the back of a guidebook to Iceland I’d had for years. I still had seven hours on board though. I tried to tune my radio and couldn’t get any British stations, I finally found a crackly music station and the first four songs were Abba, Stevie Wonder, Status Quo and Abba (again), I knew this could only be Faroese National Radio (Utvarp Foroya)

Smyril Line Norröna

Smyril Line Norröna

The hours passed. I ate a little, although not having the greatest sea legs in the world I was careful not to overdo it. Most of the other passengers on the boat were Faroese, which I guess was no great surprise. I enjoyed listening to the Faroese language, sounded like a much softer (and less harsh) German, although I should point out I’m certainly no linguist.

Finally, after several more hours, the Faroes came into sight on the horizon. They were just like I’d imagined, tiny colourful villages clinging on to the side of sheer mountains coming straight out of the sea.

Arriving in Torshavn

Arriving in Torshavn

Arriving in Torshavn I made for the campsite, wasn’t too far a walk but carrying all my gear in an unseasonal heat wave (20 degrees!) was hard work. There were two other British couples at the campsite both on bike tours. The campsite was in a nice location slightly out of town right by the sea. Pretty basic facilities but more than adequate for the 5 campers here! There was a friendly local woman running the site.

Torshavn Campsite

Torshavn Campsite

Having set up my tent and relaxing for half an hour, I headed into town. A cramp at the back of my right foot was now getting worse, it had come on during the walk I did on Unst a couple of days ago. Maybe it was my walking boots, but I was planning to do a fair amount of hiking over the next few weeks so it’s a bit concerning.

Tinganes Parliament Building

Tinganes Parliament Building

In town I went to Skansin, an old fort, with some great views. Then took a quick look at Tinganes (the parliament building), which was typically low key. Then I headed to the Tourist Information Centre, and chatted to an Irish guy outside who’d been over here for the football (a European championship qualifier) the week before. He’d been all over the Faroe Islands and seemed to love it.

Traditional turf roofed house in Torshavn

Traditional turf roofed house in Torshavn

I then went to Niels Finsens Gota, the main shopping street in Torshavn. I’m on quite a tight budget for my trip, and found a pizza place selling takeaway pizza for 70kr but this made me realise it wasn’t going to be a cheap destination, but then that’s Scandinavia for you.

Small harbour in Torshavn

Small harbour in Torshavn

Having only got a few hours kip on the ferry the previous night I went back to the campsite fairly early and got an early night. Despite the almost perpetual daylight slept like a log 🙂