Faroe Islands part 1 – Vágar to Sandoy

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The Johanna before the start of my voyage

The Johanna before the start of my voyage

After getting off the plane at Vágar airport I was met by Weather with capital “W”. The Faroe Islands definitely have weather and the initial offering of heavy clouds, mists, wild winds and lashings of rain was pretty impressive. Luckily I was spending over three weeks exploring some of the 18 islands that make up the Faroes and so wasn’t overly upset by the first day’s display – there would be ample time to enjoy these isles in all weathers, I figured.

The Faroe Islands are a self-governing, autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, with a population of less than 50,000, spread mostly over 14 islands – four of the smallest islands have less than ten inhabitants. Faroese, the mother tongue of the majority of the population, is similar to Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings in times gone by, but Danish and English are also widely spoken and understood, much to my relief (my Old Norse is a bit rusty).

My journey from the airport to capital Tórshavn took 45 minutes, with good views of the misty, sheep-filled landscape (there are far more sheep than people here), following some of the coastline and passing through the immense underwater tunnel connecting Vágar Island with Streymoy Island. I was in actual fact taking the long way around – where I needed to be was much further south, where a handsome vessel called Johanna was waiting to whisk me away on endless adventures, but it was late in the day and a night in Tórshavn was the best option, before heading south.

Tórshavn

Tórshavn

It had been a good while since I was roughing it and my heart sank somewhat when I arrived at the hostel, only to find it overlooking a 4-star hotel – withdrawal symptoms immediately ensued. Still, it was only for one night and given that I was spending several weeks on a 121-year old ship, there might be greater hardships to come. For now though, sleep beckoned, followed by attempts to get used to the aforementioned Weather, which next day had turned even more wild and wicked. Apparently the hostel was also overlooking Tórshavn itself, but you could have fooled me, the fog was that thick and I didn’t see much of town as I was making my way down to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry to Suðuroy, the southernmost island. Leaving the hostel I found it surrounded by very cute and very skippy, black sheep, the older extremely shaggy, the little lambs with great shaggy potential. I would have stopped for pictures if the rain hadn’t been quite so horizontal, it was that windy.

The journey down to Johanna was quite a trek, including a bus through Tórshavn to the ferry, a 2-hour ferry journey to Tvøroyri, on Suðuroy and another bus to tiny Vágur further south, where the ship was waiting. Johanna has quite a history – built in Rye, in Sussex in 1894 she has truly stood the test of time. This wooden old boat can be chartered by visitors and now plies Faroese waters around the different islands, an excellent way to experience the Faroes, as I was to find during my voyage. Still in the driving rain, I stepped off the bus in Vágur and there she was, lying in the harbour, safely docked. Heaving my two backpacks back on my back (travelling light? what’s that?), I staggered more than ambled, my way down to my new home, clambered onto her deck and hollered after the captain in my best “Scandie-speak”.

Tórshavn

Tórshavn

Soon I was ensconced below deck, where I had my own little “coffin” to sleep in, a kind of hole in the wall to crawl into, strictly for sleeping – there’d never be room for anything else. The boat sleeps 21 at a push and for this adventure we were 11 of us, plus three Faroese crew. Before said adventure could start however, the weather had to improve and as it was we had to spend another two nights in Vágur before the fog and rains let up enough for us to get going. I must admit by then cabin fever was setting in and I was raring to go, having spent some four days in the Faroes already. Finally on a blustery, still rainy, kind of morning, we set off along the coast of Suðuroy, enjoying some gorgeous, if misty views, of the spectacular landscape. The sheer cliffs stay green almost right down to where they meet the waters here, with an abundance of romantic-looking waterfalls cascading gracefully into the sea. A bit of sunshine was seeping through every now and then, but mostly it was a day of rain, fog, mist and wild winds. The sea wasn’t too rough at first, but once we were slightly further away from land there was some quality rolling going on.

That first day thoroughly tested my sea legs and I found they were not quite as good as I remembered. It had been a long while since I spent time on a small boat in rough weather, but on the plus side, my waterproofs appeared to be working remarkably well. By the afternoon several of the group had succumbed to seasickness and the endless rolling was starting to wear me out despite beautiful distractions all around, such as lovely views of Litla Dimun and Stora Dimun, two smaller islands that we passed on the way to our destination, Sandoy, the fifth biggest island in the Faroes, with only some 1,500 inhabitants, scattered across six communities.

the beautiful scenery from Torshavn to Runavik via the sound between Streymoy and Eysturoy

the beautiful scenery from Torshavn to Runavik via the sound between Streymoy and Eysturoy

We docked in Sandur, the largest community on Sandoy, in the late afternoon and I was more that delighted to be on dry land. The last hour I’d mostly been lying in “my coffin” (which felt more of an apt description by the minute), thinking “stop the rocking, stop the rocking”. Sandur gets its name from the sandy beach – one of very few on the islands – on the outskirts of the community, but sadly it was rather too chilly to swim. This was already mid-June, but the temperatures continually hovered between 8 and 12 degrees, never quite reaching the balmy heights of 15. Not that I’d come here for the sun, sea and scorching heat. I’d been after an outdoorsy adventure and that’s what I was getting.

To be continued…

Anna Maria travelled with The Clipperton Project  which is a non-profit organisation with international reach, organising expeditions, exhibitions and various events. Most expeditions take place onboard ship.

For more information about the Faroe Islands, click here.

Story and images ©  Anna Maria Espsäter

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