zondag 16 augustus 2015

IS2015 Day 5 - 8: Tórshavn & Viðareiði

The longest ferry I've ever been on was the one from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa, with a sailing time of about 8 to 9 hours. Typically that's alright, since you can catch some sleep and have a walk around until it's time to disembark again.

This ferry was an entirely different matter though. You have to imagine - it's the only passenger ferry left sailing to Iceland, and it takes 2 days of sailing to get from Denmark to the grim frostbitten North.

In my case it would leave at a half past 12, and arrive the next day at 10.30 pm in the Faroe Islands (Arrow #1). I would then stay on the Faroes for 3 nights, after which I was to continue the sail towards Iceland with another overnight ferry (Arrow #2).

Forty-eight hours on a boat. For a guy who can't even handle an hour on an aeroplane without drowning in a sea of succulent boredom and scratching at the walls from the megalomanic monotony, you can imagine it wasn't exactly the part of the trip I was looking forward to most.

So time to look for a solution! Typically I tend to do some video editing if I need to pass the time (the compilation is done by the way, but you won't be seeing that until the end ofcourse. Mhahaha!), but for this trip, I thought a book would also do the trick.

During the resting day I took a stroll through the little town of Hirtshals, both in search of a bookstore as well as the harbor. It left me curious of the journey to come, in the sense that everything I'd see next was a big unknown to me.

I also got an insight into how people treat each other's possessions in this neck of the woods; I'd parked my bike on the central square (not far from the above picture), went off to buy a book, and when I got back I discovered that I'd left the keys in the bike's ignition.

That could've been the end of the trip right there. No harm no foul I guess!

Back at my stay for the night I met another German couple. Peter and Marion were on their way to Norway to see their daughter, who worked there as a chef.

I also set out the replace the war-torn Denmark sticker on the panniers. I'd found a new, plastic sticker at a petrol station, and so my mission became to effectively remove the old one.

This is, ofcourse, harder than it seems with paper stickers... as they leave a glue residue that is notoriously tough to get rid of. That, coupled with their vulnerability in rain, is the main reason I tend to avoid them whenever I'm looking for a worthy pannierable addition.

(unless you have terpentine at your disposal, ofcourse)

There, that's better.

I then subconsciously committed a new blunder - the book I'd just bought that morning, was finished that same day. All 300 pages of it.

Part of me thought of going back to the bookstore the next morning and swap it with another book, but on the day itself, the sixth day of the tour, I had more pressing matters to deal with.

Like getting to the ferry.

The nice thing of waiting for a ferry with a motorbike is that a bikers are in the same line, which quickly leads to an exchange of stories and information about each other's bikes.

Before long I was joined by fellow Dutchmen Dave and Niels, who'd ridden all the way from the South of the Netherlands to Hirtshals in two days.

There also was Erik, a Dutchman living in Switzerland who was going to travel Iceland with his wife in a sidecar. "Are you going camping?" he inquired. "Yes." - "Good luck"

I didn't know exactly what it entailed, but I was to find out soon enough.

Eventually we were also joined by two other Swiss bikers; Andy and Reto, who respectively rode a Honda Africa Twin and a Cagiva Elephant. Coincidentally it was a similar bike to Niels's, although (as Niels admitted) one in a bit better condition than his.

Before long,  it was time to strap down the bikes on deck. It was here I noticed how surprisingly absent the deckhands were - normally on overnight ferries deckhands tend to take care of the strapping-down part, as they don't want any damage to the ship.

I vividly remembered both the ferries to Britain and to Greece, where deckhands (specifically in the latter) wouldn't even let me touch the bike once I'd parked it. Now, there was nobody.

Alright then, time to get to work. I put the bike in gear, put on the front brake and took out my own ratchet strap, as the ones available were in quite a poor state. I guess there is something to that 'Be prepared' mantra...

Next stop: the Faroe Islands!

Once in the cabin I immediately made work of both the compilation, as well as the possible destinations on the Faroes.

(and scoring some treats, but that's beside the point)

As the day on board progressed, we hit some stormy weather as we got to the top of the North Sea. Various people were lain in the hallways to get to grips with the boat going all rollercoaster on them.

Now normally I tend not to get seasick at all, but my imperviousness apparently ended as soon as I had some dinner. With waves several meters in height, the boat made it a habit of climbing them, before plummeting down, crashing into the next wave, shaking the entire ship like an earthquake and sending vast volumes of water over the outer deck. At one point I had to retire to the cabin (or more to the point: the cabin's bathroom), where the steak dinner saw a hastily organised comeback.

Given the size of the ferry I was on, it made you quite aware of how powerful Mother Nature can be. Ofcourse, the Faroese men in my cabin (one being a retired fisherman) thought nothing much of these waves, claiming real waves would start at about 30 metres.

You see, when you take this ferry on your own, there's two options to choose from as they won't allow you to take a 2 person cabin by yourself. You either spend the night in a so-called 'couchette', which are basically dormitories with shared shower and bathroom facilities in the bottom of the ship, or you take the more expensive option of a 'cabin' - in which you and three others of the same gender have a room in one of the upper decks, with your own shower and bathroom.

I shared a cabin with two Faroese men, Johannes and Igor, and Spaniard Miquel, who was traveling with his girlfriend all the way from Barcelona. 

Johannes and I taught each other our own native version of 'thank you' - his pronunciation of 'Dankjewel' was quite good. As it turns out, the Faroese 'Takk fyri' (pronounced tahk fuhruh) was the same as the Icelandic for thank you. Bonus points!

I told them all about the reason of my traveling to Iceland, and unanimously it was deemed as 'an amazing story'. It provided me some insight into what I was doing, and how significant it would be if I were to complete the journey.

Approaching the Faroes, I got goosebumps. You sail for over a day seeing absolutely nothing but ocean for as far as you can see (not even other ships), and then, there's this small group of islands in the distance. It gave me an idea how insignificant Earth must be compared to the size of the universe - a whole lotta nothing, with a tiny inhabited rock somewhere in the middle of it.

Soon enough, it was time to disembark. With our small contingent of bikers we all disembarked at the same moment, and, aside from Erik and his sidecar, all ended up at the same camp site. Luckily, the camp site in Tórshavn is quite close to the ferry dock, as this following uncut clip will demonstrate:

IS2015 - Entering the Faroe Islands
Going off the ferry towards the camp site in Tórshavn!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Sunday, August 16, 2015

We made camp, looking out over the beautiful coastline, and even though it was already 11pm, it didn't appear like actual darkness was going to come anytime soon.

Welcome to the Faroe Islands.

The next day, it was time to explore the islands a little. As you probably can guess from the map at the beginning of this page, the Faroe Islands aren't that big at all. In fact, you can easily do all tarmac in a day if you put some effort into it.

Dave, Niels and me thought it better to take it easy, especially since we had two full days to spend here.

I mean, just look at that gorgeous weather. And view. Omnomnom.

Today's mission was to reach the northernmost town of the Faroe Islands Viðareiði (pr. veearaiuh - they hardly pronounce the ð, which is usually pronounced as the 'th' in 'these'). It would only be a 90 kilometer drive, so we could take our time doing it.

Back on the ferry I had enquired with Johannes, one of the two Faroese, what the real delicacy would be to eat on the Faroe Islands. His initial reply basically said it all: "Are you from Greenpeace?". You see, the yearly Faroese whale slaughter has grown notorious around environmentalists, seemingly bringing the Faroese themselves to a state of near paranoia. 

You could sense an undercurrent going on that behind the welcoming people, there was an air of vigilance - something I could very well understand as the whale meat in question is only allowed to be distributed among the Faroese people themselves and is a valuable source of nutrition in their already limited diet (because well, there's hardly anything that grows on the islands)... and yet, there's all these foreigners coming into the small island group annually claiming they know better.

Me, I was more interested in the dried mutton (or skerpikjøt, which is respectively pronounced like sherpatshuht)*, which is a local delicacy I'd read about back home.

*don't be afraid if the rules of pronunciation are now completely lost to you. Remember, the Icelandic part is still coming, whoo!

First though, we wanted to get as far North as possible.

There's only one road leading to the North and it has several tunnels, most of which are single lane. You can probably guess that, with me riding at the rear, I was questioning my decision not to put my earplugs in, with Dave and Niels soundblasting through the darkness.

With ears still ringing, I stopped for a minute to soak in the scenery.


We were converging on to Viðareiði, so I decided to let the camera run for a bit.

IS2015 - Entering Viðareiði
Going into the northernmost Faroese town!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Sunday, August 16, 2015

We ended at this boat run-off, where are local fisherman was painting one of the rowing boats.

Apparently, they use this bay to go fishing themselves, using wooden boats to fend for their own households.

Walking up a path north of the town, we could only draw one conclusion: What a bewilderingly beautiful place.

Then we headed back. Here's a bit of the same road as before, but then going the other way!

IS2015 - Leaving Viðareiði
Going the same road, but then the other way!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Sunday, August 16, 2015

Afterwards, we also went into the town of Tórshavn, to check out the fish merchants and also complete my search for a Faroese sticker. Thanks to the beautiful weather this had been a magical day, but, as we were to learn the day after, Faroese weather can be rather fickle too...

IS2015 Random - Day 5 -8
With a parental advisory warning!
Posted by The Dekatria Project on Sunday, August 16, 2015