Fine feathered friends in the Faroe Islands.


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August 24th 2012
Published: August 24th 2012
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We seem to possess a certain proclivity to be present at opportune moments. In other words, sometimes we just step in it. Our arrival and check in at the domestic airport in Reykjavik went uneventfully. Next, the boarding processes had us ready to venture to the Faroe Islands for some more exploring. At the gate, there was a slight delay due to the weather and the next thing we know, a gentleman breaks out his guitar and starts kicking out a few tunes. Nice strumming and an equally nice voice. And wouldn’t you know it, he was one of the musicians that was in town from the Faroe Islands for Cultural Night in Reykjavik. Wait…it gets better. Turns out that he is quite famous in the Faroes and most of the crowd knew all of his songs and sang along. His strong baritone voice was amazing and that was the most enjoyable time spent for a plane delay…..ever! Dave got the chance to chat him up and MJ discovered that his name was Hanus G. Johansenn. We have found him on YouTube and hope to purchase his music.



The other mentionable moment happens when our plane is taxiing down the runway. The pilot accelerates, we are picking up a great deal of speed and…..then we come to a screeching halt. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen everyday. The pilot informs us we have to go back to the gate because one of the doors has not been closed properly. Ok, weird thoughts go through your head for a couple of minutes like, “didn’t they notice this before we were practically airborne?” But then one returns to reading. The flight went fine from there and ninety minutes later we set down in the Faroe Islands.



All our days in the Faroe Islands involved fog; light fog, heavy fog and intermittent fog. If you can imagine all the types of fog, we experienced them all. We concluded that it added to the mystery of these islands.



The Faroe Islands are said to be a bit warmer than Iceland, but stormier—we are told that 280 days per year they expect drizzle, mist, downpour, snow, etc. Precipitation is a constant here in every imaginable form depending on the season. Every meteorologist should be required to do an internship in the Faroes.



The islands
Home cooked mealHome cooked mealHome cooked meal

Fish and vegetables
are a nature lover’s paradise with 1600 species of plants and 50-80 species of birds depending on which source you believe. Not to go all Marlin Perkins on you, but there is plenty to look at and appreciate despite the fact that there are next to no trees here. No kidding. There might be a handful, but we have not seen any.





Mykines



Voyeurs for Puffins…..and more



The next morning after a fine meal and some rest, we scooted down to the nearest port for a boat excursion to Mykines, the western most island in the group of Faroe Islands, which is renowned for its diverse bird life. Our sojourn to Mykines via ferry was in search of seeing Puffins. MJ loves Puffins for whatever reason and has for many years secretly wanted to see them in their natural habitat. She lost a bit of sleep the night before we headed to the island because she was excited to see Puffins and yet worried she might not. For weeks she has been telling herself not to be disappointed if she didn’t see Puffins. On this morning, frankly, it was not looking good as the islands are socked in with the afore-mentioned fog.




In the end, no worries, as today we believe we saw well over 1,000 Puffins.



Mykines turns out to be one of the world’s best places to see these winged wonders and is also a breeding ground for the attractive bird. A great day for birding, as they say. The little village is postcard cute as well and we end up having a fine day. It even cleared a bit later in the day and that produced some excellent photos.


Puffins, puffins and more puffins………



We saw puffins swimming in the sea on our way to the island, we saw puffins soaring in the sky, we saw puffins nesting in the grasses and we saw puffins standing proudly on the rocks and ledges. Puffins were everywhere!! We sat and watched for nearly two hours. Their flight patterns and erratic wing flapping are a joy to watch. MJ experienced true happiness.





Vestmanna



After all this puffin-induced excitement, we boarded the ferry back to Vagar and made our way to Vestmanna on the island of Streymoy for an overnight at a local home stay. Along the way we went through a seven-kilometer (4.5 miles) undersea tunnel constructed a decade ago by the Danish government. There are several other tunnels in the islands due to the terrain, which make car travel much easier.



Vestmanna is a fishing village of some 1200 people and upon arrival into town, we asked a resident for help in finding our lodging. She did not immediately recognize the address, as apparently addresses were relatively new in this village. She pointed to a yellow and red house way up the hill from our location. And so, off we went.



After a rather serpentine approach filled with a few wrong turns, we arrived at the home of Jogvan Johannesen, where we discovered we were the only guests for the evening at his home, mainly because only one guest could stay at a time. His converted room upstairs was quaint and clean. As the time was approaching seven in the evening and we were a bit tired from an active day of puffin watching, we inquired about dining, only to be told that the only restaurant in town closed at 5 PM. Wow, one restaurant in town and it closed at 5 pm…come prepared.



Fortunately, there was a market open, so down the hill we went, making yet again some wrong turns in a light drizzle to the market, where we picked up a few cold beers, cheese and bread and promptly pronounced our purchases as dinner and headed back up the hill and dined on our newly acquired food.



We fell into bed early, but were awakened at 3am by a smoke detector just above us in a loft. Dave quickly disabled the noisy device, looked around and promptly went back to bed. In the morning, we let Jogvan know and he said he heard it as well and thought perhaps we had turned on the stove top for heat. We replied that was not the case and so the incident remained a mystery.



We had a nice breakfast and chat about local life in the Faroe Islands. We bid him adieu and headed down the hill to the docks where a boat waited to take us among the cliffs near Vestmanna to look for more birds. And once again, we were not disappointed. The cliffs rise from the sea more than 300 meters
Cliffs of VestmannaCliffs of VestmannaCliffs of Vestmanna

entrance to cave
(1,000 feet) and are home to many birds and also as it turns out, a summer home for sheep.



We saw Fulmars, Gannets, the Arctic terns, gulls and puffins, Yes, more puffins!



As the cliffs are at a startling 60 to 75 degree incline, you had to wonder how the sheep got there, and the answer is that they are essentially lifted up and are left to chew the plentiful grass that grows courtesy of what else, bird fertilizer, of which there is an endless supply. You look at the sheep and wonder how they don’t simply misstep and fall into the water. The boat guide informed us that they do indeed fall in from time to time, but there is a bigger chance of them getting killed by the side of the road in these islands, than falling off cliffs. That didn’t strike us as terribly reassuring, but yet there it was.



We rode with a boatful of Danish pensioners who most likely had arrived on the cruise ship in Torshavn and were immediately bussed to this boat. It was a very pleasant two-hour cruise and the sights were amazing
Faroese sheepFaroese sheepFaroese sheep

laying low
to say the least. The waters were calm and the fog began to lift nicely.



Faroe Island Salmon



One fascinating thing we learned while on this boat trip is about the salmon farms in the Faroes. They export enormous amounts of salmon each year around the world—this is high quality sushi grade salmon. (Yippy)



In the waters of the Atlantic they have built huge netted pens to give the salmon the perfect conditions in which to grow. They are in smaller tanks until 6 months and then moved to the large, large netted areas in the ocean where they can grow in optimal conditions for another 2 years. Recently, American distributors have begun to purchase this high-grade salmon for import. They grow to approximately 11 pounds, we could see them jumping—it was a very natural habitat that has been created.



Nolsoy and the Storm Petrels



After our cruise, we took off for the city of Torshavn, where we would catch yet another ferry to the small isle of Nolsoy, home to the Storm Petrel. (More on that in a moment.) Nolsoy is one of the
Storm PetrelStorm PetrelStorm Petrel

captured and released
smallest of the 18 islands in the Faroes and offers village life rather than that of a city.



Torshavn is the capital of these Danish owned islands and is the smallest capital in the world, population-wise, but a very pleasant town, filled with all the trappings of most cities; shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. The sun popped out for a while, which was most welcome. We even saw a few stoplights here, which are quite unnecessary for the rest of the islands. The roads everywhere are well maintained and easy to navigate. This is always useful when you’re the one driving in a foreign land.



After a couple of pints at a watering hole where we checked our email, we took the twenty-minute ferry ride to Nolsoy, where we were met by the gentleman who would be guiding us later that evening to see the birds. He took us up to our guesthouse and introduced us to the proprietor.



Travel tip: when traveling to smaller out of the way places, ask about meals in advance of arriving if you are unsure, as it paid off handsomely here. When we arrived in Torshavn, we found the booking agency for our trip here and inquired about many things, including whether or not we could plan on dining on Nolsoy or should procure dinner before boarding the ferry. They called the guesthouse and discovered that we could indeed plan on dining there that evening.



We made arrangements to have an authentic home cooked meal on Nolsoy and our chef and owner of the guest house greeted us and officially let us know that dinner would be in ten minutes. This was good news for us because of what occurred the previous evening. Another travel tip: There really was nowhere else to dine in this village of some 240 souls. We were treated to a fish dinner that for lack of a better description was heavenly.



After coffee and desert, we gathered at the home of Mr. Jens Kjeld Jensen, otherwise known as “The Birdman.” Seems that Jens is quite the expert on the birds in these parts, but more interesting is the reason why. This extremely knowledgeable man has come about his knowledge of the birds because he is a world expert in the field of….wait for it…..lice. Lice? Yes indeed. Jens’ work on identifying some 200 plus kinds of lice came about as the birds are the carriers of the little devils. He showed us some slides he had and sure enough, there they were. This, as one of our birding mates from Sweden said, “is more than a little creepy.” Like in a Silence of the Lambs way…



At any rate, he was a most pleasant gent who showed us a roomful of taxidermied native birds of the Northern Atlantic regions and answered many questions from our small group. Then we were off in search of the European Storm Petrel.



The local population of some 500,000 of the European variety represents about 50 percent of the world’s population. They are nocturnal creatures and so we hiked some two kilometers out of town, up the hills and then sat on the rocks while he set up a special net to capture a few of them. It had the appearance of badminton net, but proved to be perfect for the task. The petrels swoop low down from the cliffs and some right fly right into the net. Jens tagged each of the eight or so captured, and photos were taken before releasing them back into the night. These tiny birds easily fit in the palm of your hand, but are also capable of flying all the way to South Africa and back. They live quite a long time with the average lifespan in the range of twenty plus years. Amazing little creatures.



We have found ourselves thoroughly enjoying the Faroe Islands because they are uniquely remote, unspoiled and dramatic. The fog has made it more mysterious. In 2007, National Geographic magazine queried some 500 travel experts and they rated the Faroe Islands as one of the most appealing destination in the world due being so unspoiled and friendly. It was rated ahead of many other islands such as Azores, Lofoten and exotic islands like Bermuda and Hawaii. The magazine wrote: “Lovely, unspoiled islands, a delight to the traveler.”



When telling some of our friends this was one of the locations we were going to visit, we are uncertain if the puzzled look expressed was, “why?” Or, “where the heck is that?” Located in the North Atlantic, northwest of Scotland and half way between Norway and Iceland. If you enjoy wind and changing weather…and of course bird watching, this is the kind of place for you to visit. It’s raw in the Faroe Islands, raw unspoiled beauty, that is.



Alright then, on to some interesting facts and such about these enchanting isles for those of you still reading?



Ok, so now we are attempting to learn a few Faroe words, the stress is generally placed on the first syllable. Apologies as our computer doesn’t have all the appropriate accenting vowels and such to really spell the following words correctly.



Hello: Gooan dog

Good evening: Gott kvold

Thank you: Takk fyri

What time is it? Hvat er klokkan?

How’s it going? Hsussu gongst?



Population 50,000

Nolsoy population 240

Torshavn population 15,000





The weather is maritime and quite changeable, from moments of brilliant sunshine to misty hill fog, to showers. The Gulf Stream encircling the islands tempers the climate. The harbors never freeze and the temperature in wintertime is very moderate considering the high latitude. Snowfall occurs, but is short-lived.



Since 1948, the Faroe Islands have been a self-governing region of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has its own parliament and its own flag. It is not a member of the European Union, and therefore special treaties govern all trade.







Places we stayed:



Airport Hotel

Jogvan Johannesen Guest house (home stay), Vestmanna

Kaffistovan Guest House, Nolsoy

Hotel Streym, Torshavn



See you back in Iceland!


Additional photos below
Photos: 55, Displayed: 32


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24th August 2012

Puffins!
I'm glad you found your puffins. Frankly, I didn't even know what they were. Nor do I know a thing about Faroe Islands. You two educate me! Happy trip and keep safe, my friends!
24th August 2012

You'll have to read a little about the puffins
They are so pretty. We are glad to educate you. We should see you soon-- November.
24th August 2012

you blog
Great to see or should I say read, that you are having a great time, envious, enjoy
24th August 2012

Hello Andre,
So good to hear from you. We are having the time of our lives! This part of the world is simply gorgeous. Keep in touch. Glad you are following along.
24th August 2012

Puffins
I'm with MJ on the puffin front! What engaging birds. So glad you got to see so many.
24th August 2012

Hello Mert
Great hearing from you. They are amazing birds and we were happy to hang out with them. Thank you for your message.
24th August 2012
The Puffin Dance

puffins!
so cute, but I find these guys quite comical - I think it comes from watching too many animations :)
24th August 2012
The Puffin Dance

They are darn cute!
We were shocked, thrilled and amazed to see so many. It was wonderful.
24th August 2012

I'm so glad you got to see so many puffins in the Faroe Islands! We had a much harder time trying to find them in Iceland and only saw them by luck (not including a stuffed one that happened to decorate the cashier's register at a restaurant). It's great to hear that there's a spot where they are enjoying themselves by the thousands.
24th August 2012

Early June is the best time to see them
So good hearing from you. We are having the time of our lives and I am still giddy with happiness about seeing so many puffins. Wish I had my other camera....but life happens.
24th August 2012
Mysterious & Amazing

Lovely shot.
...and I would agree a pretty accurate title!
24th August 2012
Mysterious & Amazing

Thanks Jason
That is a compliment coming from you. Appreciate the fact that you have given our blog a glance. It is an amazing place.
24th August 2012

Painted puffins
Such lovely photos of the beautiful birds - their markings are lovely!
24th August 2012

Thank you so much for your message
So many lovely things to see.
24th August 2012

I am so glad you are having luck such as this. This trip sounds like it is incredible. And how different from your last trip. Morocco is so busy and fast paced, where this trip is about sitting and watching birds (and sheep) to your heart's content. Very very nice.
24th August 2012

We have enjoyed the pace
The puffins and sheep are giving us pleasure....watch for a new mascot coming soon! Miss you.
25th August 2012

Puffins
At least you got to see live ones. We only saw them on the menu in Iceland
25th August 2012

Yes, we feel fortunate.
Not sure I can eat one as they are too cute. Thanks for following along.
25th August 2012
Mykines is the place to go

PUFFINS
Having been brought up on Puffin Books...never knew where they were from...now I know. And Faroe Islands...certainly know of them...a minnow in European football. There may not be many of them but I guess a tough lot. Enjoy.
25th August 2012
Mykines is the place to go

They are rather amazing birds
We loved watching their flight patterns. They have to be a sturdy breed to thrive in this ever changing wind and weather.
27th August 2012

Puffn Paradise
I'm back in wifi land, and what a treat to read of your amazing adventures. I love that you've ventured into lands so removed and are giving us a taste of them. I saw puffins in Alaska and northern Scotland, but they were far from me--you two have the puffin prize. Glad you got to see them so closely. I can hardly wait to see your new mascot!
27th August 2012

Hello Tara,
Hopefully, our new friend will make an appearance soon. This is a land of breathtaking beauty. Each day we think we have seen the most beautiful thing we will ever see and then we go around another corner. Keep on with the adventures.
27th August 2012

Hello Tara,
Hopefully, our new friend will make an appearance soon. This is a land of breathtaking beauty. Each day we think we have seen the most beautiful thing we will ever see and then we go around another corner. Keep on with the adventures.
27th August 2012

another vocab list!
I love it!! Looks like you guys have made a great start to your adventure :)
28th August 2012

Yes, we are doing ok.
And as you say....we are just getting started. Having a great time exploring new places and meeting new people.
27th August 2012

Nice one !
These puffins are sooo cute !! Great entry (once more) with some really good pictures, the mist giving a depth & somehow dramatic feel, thanks for sharing this adventure !(and the travel tips ...)
28th August 2012

Hi Laetitia
Great hearing from you. Yes, we are having a wonderful adventure. This part of the world is so beautiful. It is like living in a postcard. keep in touch.

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