Monday, April 25, 2011

The Road to Vestmanna

Past Leynar and the entrance to the Vagar tunnel the road climbs to several hundred feet above sea level and passes above the picturesque village of Kvivik. Tucked into a valley on either side of the river Stora, Kvivik sits like a dream against the breathtaking backdrop of Vagarfjordur, the body of water that framed our view of Vagar from the house in Leynar. In the distance Koltur rode at anchor and somewhere in the mist beyond lay Sandoy. Kvivik was one of the oldest villages in the Faroes and was the site of an early Viking settlement. Something about it called to me, inviting me to explore there and possibly find a home among the hundred or so houses that nestled against the hillsides on either side of the river. A small sheltered harbor had been built snug and high walled where the land met the sea and I could just make out a few boats moored there before we swept around a curve and the Kvivik disappeared behind us. Little did I know that a year later I would finally enter the village proper as we observed the end stage of a grindadrap. Nothing would change in my mind because of what we observed. The town would remain beautiful despite the immediacy of the kill and the bloody asphalt and the hundred or so dead Pilot Whales neatly lined up near the harbor. In fact, I would come away from that day feeling a link with the past more profound than that instilled by ancient mounds and relics.

But that day lay far in the future and was not our destination on this day.

The road led up onto a grassy plateau and swept northeast along the shoulder of the land. In the middle of this empty landscape a pair of black dots appeared and then resolved into two geodesic dome homes, each roofed with bright green turf. They were a mix of modern and traditional architecture where one least expected it and seemed both in place and out of place. We passed them long before I thought to take a picture. Another mental note. Another strange sight. My mind was wide open to the newness.

To our left and many hundreds of feet down, Vagarfjordur had narrowed between the steep side walls of Stremoy and Vagar to become Vestmannasund. Here and there along the shore we spotted arrangements of circles in the water and realized that these were fish farms where Salmon were raised for commercial markets abroad. Closer examination revealed many of these fish farms as we continued toward Vestmanna. The road turned right and gradually descended into the small village of Valar which sits opposite Vestmanna on one side of a small arm of Vestmannasund. A huge swath of glistening rock and tumbling white water appeared on the right. Children clung to handholds in the midst of the cascade and watched us as we passed, then resumed their play in a vertical swimming hole on a Summer's day in the Faroe Islands.

We swung to the left and passed a series of huge pipes that climbed up into the hills above Vestmanna's outskirts and disappeared into some low clouds a thousand feet upslope. They dove under the road and into a hydroelectric plant near the shore to our left. I checked the map and saw a huge lake with a dam indicated on a plateau several miles inland. Oil might be hard to come by in the future but with a setup like this on every island the Faroes would be energy independent as long as the rains didn't let up.

Bonnie turned down a side road and found her way to a small boat harbor a few hundred feet from the power station. She was looking for Gunnar Skuvadal, a gentleman who owned and operated the excursion boat Barbara that took passengers to the Vestmanna bird cliffs. Gunnar, like Pall, had answered the ad Bonnie had placed in Sosialurin requesting help for our expedition. Bonnie wanted to connect with him right away to thank him and to talk about her filming schedule.

Gunnar's office was a sturdy metal trailer that sat on a concrete foundation next to a moveable boat ramp that led down to calm water in an empty berth. The trailer was wide open. A note on the door invited anyone to come in and have coffee and said the boat would be back in about an hour. We must have just missed Gunnar. Bonnie took out her notebook and wrote a brief message for him while I looked around. At each corner of the trailer sturdy 3/4 inch steel cables angled down from the roof to large eyebolts that were driven to their necks in the hard packed earth of the parking lot. The cables went over the top of each end of the trailer and were equipped with large turnbuckles at all four corners. I tested the tension on the cable closest to me. It was as taut as a bow string. I pointed out the arrangement to Bonnie.

"You suppose they get some high winds around here?" I asked.

Bonnie took it all in and grabbed her video camera from the car. She filmed the trailer and the surrounding area and then we got in the car and left the same way we came. Our navigation skills now included how to get to Vestmanna. Not the town proper but the boat harbor. We knew we'd be returning. The bird cliffs were high on the list of things to do on Stremoy.

As we turned on to the main road for Leynar we saw a Texaco station across the street and pulled in to gas up. Inside there was a convenience store with all that hungry travelers could wish for in the way of victuals. We stocked up and when I went to pay I noticed that behind the wide counter there was a big grill of hot rollers turning an assortment of hot dogs. Cheese filled, chili filled or regular. Mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise and relish for inside the bun. The choices were endless.

I got one of each.

On the way back home we stopped on a bluff high above Vastmannasund and Bonnie filmed Larina with the smooth blue surface of the water far below as a backdrop. Shaggy black sheep grazed on the fenced in hillside above the road. The sun was still high in the sky but it was almost dinner time. When Bonnie was finished filming we beat feet for Leynar all the while drinking in the views that changed with every curve and filled my heart with a contentment I'd known only in the Hawaiian Islands.

Another link? Subliminal island panoramas? Or was it more...?

(To be continued.)

(As always, thanks for reading. If this half-baked blog site will let you leave a comment, please do. If it won't, I'm sorry. Might have to go blog site hunting. Call the moving van. Alert the media. Aloha, D.)


  1. Your description of the waterfall reminds me of something someone said to me on Streymoy: 'We Faroese like to see the water running down our mountain sides.'

  2. Dear Rudolf,

    I loved to see them in the one dark hour when the sun was down, running up the mountain side like silver ribbons.

    How long did you spend in the Faroes? You're one of the lucky few to have seen them in person.

    Thanks for stopping in.



  3. I love the thought of a vertical swimming hole. Sounds like great way to spend an afternoon!

  4. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for commenting. I've been under the weather. Will continue the story if I live (which is likely:)

    How goes Spring in the elitist bastion of the the northeast?



  5. Hi,

    Since I have not heard much from you on Twitter, I hope everything is well. Just letting you know your words are very missed.

    Also, I will check out the Stockholm Disc Golf Tournament you mentioned earlier.


    ps, thank you for an amazing post :)

  6. Dearest Caely,

    Thank you for checking in with me. I have been ill for a week but have recovered and will be posting again soon. (tomorrow!)

    I hope Spring is treating you well and that your world is blooming.



  7. Spring goes... lots of decisions to make right now. Known unknowns versus unknown unknowns, roads less traveled or roads that have never been blazed. Path of least resistance or a path of turmoil and trouble. Sometimes I think I'll flip a coin and let the fates decide (see ). Life is, however, good, promising adventure and challenge no matter which path is chosen.

  8. I live here in the Faeroe Islands... and this is the first time I've heard about this project... I think... Even I faintly remember talking to a Hawaiian film team back in 2003 or 2004... If it is so and the same, I've been interviewed by the crew :)