THE FOR­GOT­TEN FAROES

The glo­ri­ously re­mote and mood­ily beau­ti­ful faroe is­lands are a dream for hik­ers

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Lifestyle - Geetik­a­glo­be­trot@google­mail.com GEETIKA JAIN

Far north, in the misty At­lantic Ocean, a clutch of eigh­teen rocky out­crops, known as The Faroe Is­lands, hud­dle be­tween Ice­land and Nor­way, but are far from be­ing lost at sea. This plucky and con­tent lit­tle na­tion, over­seen by the King­dom of Den­mark, knows what it’s do­ing, and is do­ing what it knows.

Lured by stun­ning vi­su­als of vir­ginal, elec­tric-green hills tilt­ing sharply to the north­west, then drop­ping the­atri­cally into the ocean, of mul­ti­coloured, grass-roofed cot­tages in un­peo­pled val­leys and an abun­dance of gorges, wa­ter­falls and sandy coves, my friend and I de­cided to make The Faroes our hik­ing grounds for a few days. The Faroes aren’t ex­actly en route to any ma­jor cities and no one’s ever men­tioned them. At first glance th­ese lonely, tem­pes­tu­ous, wuther­ing heights with lit­tle to of­fer by way of cui­sine seem un­ap­pe­tiz­ing, es­pe­cially given the com­pe­ti­tion from the rest of Europe. Head­ing out there was a leap of faith. A faith that even the Faroese Tourist Board lacked; ‘The weather is un­pre­dictable. It’s snow­ing right now, the ground is wet, and it’s windy.”

“Have the puffins ar­rived on Mykines Is­land?” It was early May, and we’d hoped to visit the west­ern­most isle known for its enor­mous colonies of the be­wil­dered look­ing, in­tensely adorable birds that mys­ti­fy­ingly man­age to scoop up a ridicu­lous num­ber of sand eels in their or­ange beaks. “No, the puffins haven’t ar­rived yet, and the ferry and he­li­copter ser­vice to the is­land is un­pre­dictable right now.” We de­cided to take our chances, start­ing in Lon­don we flew east (to Copen­hagen) to fly west, laugh­ing at our mad­ness, read­ing about the lo­cals’ fond­ness for rae­set, a tra­di­tional ‘air dry­ing’ culi­nary tech­nique where fish and sheep meat, of­ten in­fested with mag­gots, given time, went from be­ing de­li­ciously ‘pun­gent’ to de­sir­ably ‘fetid’.

HIK­ING THE DRA­MATIC MASSIFS

All doubts were cast to the tor­rents as we found our­selves en­tranced by the drama and pri­mor­dial beauty of the land­scape. The Faroes don’t have the ice­bergs of Green­land, the vol­ca­noes of Ice­land, the cas­tles of Scot­land or the mag­i­cal cities of Europe, but they are a se­cret haven of win­some vis­tas and seas warmed by the Gulf Stream, and teem­ing with fish and whales. The sun bat­tled away the moody rolling mist, and an em­bar­rass­ment of ful­mars, terns, gan­nets, puffins, and guille­mots be­gan ar­riv­ing as we watched. While the Faroese are proud of their land, they may not be aware that they in­habit a rare na­tion where ev­ery nook and cranny is beau­ti­ful. Slen­der, beau­ti­ful, loop­ing roads and tun­nels con­nected the is­lands seam­lessly and de­posited us at the doors of small, scat­tered, achingly beau­ti­ful wa­ter­side vil­lages where ev­ery­one knows each other, the ca­dence of life is un­hur­ried, and fish­ing and herd­ing roll in tandem with mod­ern liv­ing in the sparse haven of just 50,000 souls.

We also ex­plored the isles via hikes and drives with our en­gag­ing guide, Jo­han­nus Han­son, a rap­pelling ex­pert. At Lake Sor­vags­vatn we punched our way in the thick grass, over boul­ders and marshy patches on a three­hour hike to a water­fall on the hill’s crest. De­spite the wind’s evil in­tent, the dive-bomb­ing birds and sheep that re­buffed our af­fec­tion. At the top of the hill, the jagged, rocky cliffs plunged into the ocean be­low. Ful­mars flew, but landed on the craggy footholds. With pound­ing hearts and cau­tious feet, we peered over the edge. The sea snarled and clawed at the base of the moun­tain, its frothy-mouthed roars bay­ing for sac­ri­fice. Jo­hannes read our thoughts, “Many peo­ple fall off the cliffs when col­lect­ing birds and eggs, es­pe­cially in the fog.” Sea stacks (lone, ver­ti­cal tow­ers) rose from the wa­ters close to the cliffs, a mag­net for tribes of ab­seil­ers who come just to scale their dizzy heights.

In the evenings, we’d head to the chic cap­i­tal, Tor­shavn, with its bob­bing boats, painted shop-houses, restau­rants, and de­sign stores. It grew warmer and the sum­mer sun set the un­der­bel­lies of clouds on fire, mak­ing us stare and steal­ing our sleep.

PHO­TOS: GEETIKA JAIN

The Mu­lafos­sur water­fall by a typ­i­cal Faroese vil­lage

Houses with grass roofs in Bøur vil­lage

PHOTO: ISTOCK

Fish­ing boats in Tor­shavn har­bour

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