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The Faroes & Iceland (Kaye James) PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

FAROE ISLANDS AND ICELAND

By Kaye James - Summer 2010

Introduction

We first Skidoo.jpgmet Kaye and Alan in Bucharest, on Camping Casa Alba in August 2003. At that time, they were travelling extensively in their Hobby motorhome. Later, they changed to a Shogun 4wd and caravan. For this journey to the Faroe Islands and Iceland, they left the caravan at home and travelled in their 4wd, seeking inexpensive(?) acommodation.

You can also read Cindy Webb's account of her and Martin's 2006 journey through the Faroes and Iceland in their Knaus Sunliner motorhome: Cindy and Martin's Icelandic Saga.

For images of Kaye and Alan in Iceland, see below or click The James Gallery

Kaye writes:

Here are some thoughts and observations about our trip to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

GETTING THERE BY FERRY

We went on the Smyril Line, a Faroe Island Company, which meant going to Denmark to get the ferry from Hanstholm. The ship is the Norönna and was a comfortable sailing. On embarkation they only allow the driver to stay in the vehicle; passengers have to walk on but they can get in the vehicle for disembarkation. The vehicles are parked like sardines, more so than in other ferries we've been on.

The ferry sails Hanstholm – Torshavn, Faroe Islands – Seyoisfjorour, IcelandTorshavn – Hanstholm. The cost of transportation for the round trip is the same, however long you stop off in each country. Our trip for the Mitsubishi Shogun and 2 adults with a sea-view cabin was just over £2,000.00. One downside is that cabins have to be vacated early, well before the car decks are open, because at each port they have a three-hour turn- round.

ACCESSIBILITY

Faroe Islands: There are many places that are only accessible by one road. This means extra mileage to get to another village only a few miles away (as the crow flies). Some roads have height and width restrictions due to natural rocks or cliffs. We met a guy who reckons he did a 32-point turn when he found the road too narrow for his motorhome.

Iceland: Ring Road 1 around the country is mainly sealed but do not be fooled: it can suddenly become a gravel road. When we returned to Seyoisfjorour to catch the ferry, the signs from Hofn showed that taking Route 1 was 10 kilometres shorter than taking the smaller coastal roads. As we had visited that region when we were in Seyoisfjorour initially, we turned inland. The first sign I encountered warned that this route over the Breiodalsheidi Pass could be impassable in winter and there are no services. The next was the gravel road warning - and this is the main road! I enjoyed the drive through the mountains and it gave us some superb views. By taking that route I had completed the full circle of Route 1. F roads are for 4x4 vehicles only but gravel roads can be encountered on any route. Do drive slowly when going from a sealed to a gravel road. Some road surfaces are deteriorated sealed roads and are like corrugated cardboard – very bumpy.

SPEED LIMITS

Faroe Islands: 80 km (50 mph)

Iceland: 80 or 50 km (50 or 30 mph). The Icelanders love to go over the speed limits. There are fixed speed cameras within 100 km of the capital, then mobile cameras elsewhere, and even on the remotest roads one sees Speed Camera warning signs.

CYCLING

We saw many folk cycling around as we travelled, even on some gravel roads. Some had travelled by plane and fixed their bikes together at the hostel.

FUEL

There are plenty of garages but most are automatics, needing a credit or debit card or cash. In some you need to state the maximum you will pay. The pump will stop at that amount, or if the tank is full before you reach that amount they only charge for what you had.

MAINTENANCE

We saw plenty of signs for tyre mechanics in Iceland – often just a sign leading to a house off the road.

ACCOMMODATION

I had booked accommodation for every night, months ahead to be sure of getting a double room. This is especially necessary in August in Iceland. We stayed mainly in Youth Hostels, the quality, location and service varying widely. We did cut down on costs with having our own sleeping bags and cooking meals. Many had laundry facilities and free WiFi. Costs varied, with no relation to facilities: between £44 and £56 in the Faroe Islands and £33 to £62 in Iceland, except for £94 in Reykjavik!

We stayed in a Guest House in Gjogv, Faroe Islands and paid £173 for half-board.
In a hotel in Lake Myvatn, Iceland we paid £138 for bed and breakfast.

CAMPSITES

Faroe Islands: All land is owned, so free camping is not allowed, but we did see free campsites, usually at the entrance to a town. There were private campsites around the islands and we saw a few caravans on farms without signs.

Iceland: Has some good campsites but there are many national parks and nature reserves where camping is not permitted. There is a good system of mountain huts where one can stay.

FOOD

This seemed more expensive in both countries if you bought imported goods, but fresh local produce in the shops was just a bit more than one would pay in the UK.

DINING OUT

There were bargains to be had in restaurants. Choosing a day menu would give you a three- course meal for the cost of the same main course. The plates were usually generous but not overloaded, as in some countries. We never had a disappointing meal, nor one that surprised us because 99% of folk speak English. Alcohol was very expensive and we only bought wine once for my birthday meal.

In Iceland Hot Dogs were the local favourite: people bought them at the garage after filling up the car, then drove away eating!

CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS

The annoying surcharge for foreign cards has not yet reached Iceland.

TIME ZONES

Confusing to say the least. Denmark was an hour ahead of UK.

On the ferry it was Faroes time – the same as UK.

In Iceland we were an hour behind UK.

FAROE ISLANDS

An overall impression of the Faroe Islands was that they are friendly, safe and secure, with lush green scenery, due no doubt to the high rainfall. We spoke to a Faroes Member of Parliament; he could only recall one murder in all his 65 years.

We arranged to see a football stadium in Sandur on Sandoy Island by email. The gentleman we contacted came to our hostel at 8 pm; he had been in Torshavn for a UEFA game, as he was a member of the Faroe Islands Football Association, and returned on the ferry. It seemed strange to start a visit at that time but as it did not get dark until 3am it was OK. Carl was a founder member of the Sandur Club and after we had met the team, etc, he took us on a tour of the island. He also owned the bus company and the milk transport lorry, so we visited the farm to see where the milk was produced and a fish processing plant, as his cousin was working there. We then learned he was also a policeman, so we had a tour of his station in Sandur complete with a cell. That had only ever been used to allow drunks to sleep it off before going home!

I was glad that we visited The Faroes before Iceland, as Iceland was so much more dramatic and awesome. In both countries the people were only too ready to help if we approached them for directions, etc.

MY FAROE ISLANDS HIGHLIGHTS

Torshavn – the harbour and the old town; the parliament offices in old warehouses on the harbour.

Saksun – stunning scenery approached by a narrow road meandering by a river through a valley.

Gjogv - the drive from Eioi to Gjogv must be one of the most dramatic routes in the country. The road slowly climbs up onto the high moors, around Faroes' highest mountain, then squeezes through a narrow pass to descend gently through rich pastureland to the village by the sea.

Vioareioi - the Faroes' most northerly settlement with spectacular views: to the west beyond the church and across to Borooy Island and the abandoned hamlet of Muli, and to the east from the harbour across to Fugloy, the last Faroe Island, reached by sea or helicopter.

The main sight in Vioareioi, other than the natural surroundings, is the 1892 church. Finding the key holder at home, we asked him to show us the church. Speaking no English, he was obviously relieved when a Danish couple arrived and could translate his animated talk. The church has a breathtaking collection of altar silverware, including a baptismal font donated by the British Government in acknowledgement of the charity and hospitality shown to the crew of the British brig “Marwood”, wrecked in the Faroes in January 1847. There were only 7 survivors from a crew of 36.

MY ICELAND HIGHLIGHTS

An overall impression of Iceland was WOW – superlatives were made for this country. To begin with, Alan found it much larger than he had imagined. The landscapes are awesome, experiences unique.

Highlights? How many do you want?

I wanted to – and I did:

1. Swim in natural thermal waters or sit in the hot pots (hot tubs to us) and see snow on the mountains.

2. Drive on the F roads where only 4x4 vehicles are allowed and to drive through fords.

3. Have my photo taken by a spouting geyser.

4. Visit the Blue Lagoon and many renowned waterfalls.

All fantastic memories but my highlights were not planned or anticipated.

Askja Caldera – on a super jeep trip, collected and returned to our hostel, we were the only passengers so had a private tour without the extra cost. It was luxury and our driver, Ziggy, a young man passionate about Iceland. The trip lasted 14 hours, every minute filled with delight at the extraordinary landscape we saw. The F road through a national park took us through some deep fords and I had a driving lesson too! We learnt so much about the country that day.

The Icecap Snæfellsjokull - immortalised by Jules Verne in “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. We only drove to Snæfellsnes peninsula as the weather was dismal in Reykjavik. Rather than drive the whole way around the coast we took the mountain track over the western side of the mountain. This was one of the F roads without fords; instead it had near vertical climbs and descents, hairpins and blind summits. The icecap was visible to us despite driving through mist near the summit of the pass.

Vatnajokull National Park - we had a boat ride in an amphibious vehicle on the Jokulsarlon glacier lake. The sight of the icebergs, either large permanently sited bergs or smaller floating masses, was beautiful. The Jokulsarlon lagoon has the deepest point in Iceland. This lake is frozen in winter and is where a sequence of the James Bond film “Die Another Day” was shot.

We drove from there to wait for a Super Jeep to take us up to the Joklasel lodge (altitude 840 metres) at the edge of the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. The drive up to the lodge was awesome, almost vertical and the sight of the glacier was spectacular. Alan drove the Skidoo; each holds two persons and we all went in line along a prescribed route.

The Vatnajokull glacier dominates the south-east of Iceland and its imposing icecaps, which even cover the highest point in Iceland, Mount Hvannadalshnukur (altitude 2119 metres) shape the landscape.

Kaye visits a Geyser

Geysir.jpg

Alan at a Glacier Lagoon

Glacier_Lagoon.jpg

A Pool of Boiling Mud

Hverir.jpg

Kaye and Alan on a Skidoo

Skidoo.jpg