Faroe Islands 2019

My experience on the Faroe Islands was so mixed, that I find it hard to answer the question: Will I return? On the positive side, there is the stunning drama of the landscape, where nature’s fury seems exhilaratingly evident – in the steep slopes, the impossibly jagged peaks, the vertiginously high cliffs. All the angles are acute, declivities extreme. The grass is green, the villages picturesque (mostly), and the sea – even on a grumpy day – an alluring shade of blue.

Bour, first night, the view from my window

So why would I not return? I felt like I was part of William Blake’s poem, The Garden of Love, where “Thou Shalt Not” was writ over the door of where he wanted to play. Every mountain I wanted to climb, it seemed, was on someone’s private land. I either had to sneak on, like a fugitive, or pay between $50 and $110 for the privilege of walking a few hundred metres across the land to be able to start climbing. I don’t enjoy feeling unwelcome, and even less do I favour feeling like a felon. They don’t seem to have heard of the notion of “National Park” where you save something beautiful for all the people to enjoy, or of the wonderful English Right to Roam, where you access high land through established rights of way, and have freedom to roam above a certain height. Oh how I adore that system!!!!!!!! But what we have, and palpably feel, on the Faroe Islands, is a huge tension between the broader Tourist Industry, which desperately wants our presence (well, our money will do), and the farmers, who equally desperately, do not.

Bour. That’s my little bothy down by the water. Great view. Pity about the interior.

Now, I have no problem with the farmers not wanting us there. It is their land, and their right not to have us on it, and not to want their country overfilled with idiotic, rubbish-dumping, disrespectful tourists. I totally get it. I also get it that they don’t want signs in a foreign language and they don’t want to have to alter their own beautiful customs to accommodate ridiculous tourists who can’t leave home without demanding to have their own habits infiltrating a foreign place – a kind of culture conquest. The Faroese quite rightly want to be who they are, thanks very much. So what’s the problem? The problem is that the tourist industry lures us there, but then farmers implicitly tell us we’re not welcome. The tourist industry’s representatives and the farmers need to sort out their tensions and come to some kind of resolution so that travellers are not caught as pawns in this battle zone. When I was there, farmers had worked out that they could get rich faster than a charging cheetah by requiring each tourist to pay $50 to cross their land. Like many others, I paid, as I’d gone to the trouble of being there, but I felt we’d crossed from “culling the number of tourists” to downright greed.

Malafossur. First morning. Gasadalur is the town above.

Funnily, I even totally agree with the concept of culling numbers by charging high prices (they do that on Lord Howe Island, with great success) – I just don’t like naked greed, and that’s what I witnessed on the Faroe Islands. Also, the situation we confronted in 2019 contradicted what we had been told: “There is only one hike on these islands that costs money”. Bunkum!!!! I don’t enjoy misrepresentation and deceit.

Climbing Middagsfjall

I’m afraid that every tourist I spoke to was feeling ‘used’, and unwanted. Some laughed about it; some were angry; others, just philosophical, but all felt it. It wasn’t so much about the money, as the feeling we had of being unwelcome and bled dry. For example, my first night’s accommodation (in Bour, Vagar Island), I paid $375 (just for me), and yet slept on the couch in my own sleeping bag, as the bedroom didn’t fit me as well as the bed; it had no windows to speak of; the cheap, synthetic duvet was too heavy to tolerate; and the fabric of the sheets was abrasive. There was no milk in the fridge, or anything helpful. The shower grew mould like a Tassie tree grows lichen. I had packet soup for dinner, as all shops were closed (Sunday) and there was nothing to let me know I was welcome in my little bothy. (In fact, I stood for over ten minutes in the rain trying to work out how on earth to get in. I was not welcomed by the host.) I had dried biscuits and my own coffee for breakfast, there being nothing else available. I kept telling myself: “You’re paying for the view, Louise”, and staring out the window. The view was certainly dramatic and amazingly beautiful, but is that enough?

More from Middagsfjall. I loved it up there. A plane flew underneath me to land.

I had to use my own sleeping bag on three of my seven nights. It would have been four, but I cleared out of one place I’d paid for, and just paid double to be somewhere nice on my final night. I wanted to finish on a good note, and I’m so glad I did.

Mykines Island. Day 3

That’s a lot of negatives, so let’s not forget that I’m still undecided on the topic of a possible return. In fact, even given the above, I probably will go back – just like a woman is able to kind of forget the pain of childbirth and turn up for baby number two. The joy of the birth outweighs the pain of the process. So, having warned you that life on the Faroes is not all candy and cream, I can proceed in gushes and gahs about the beauty. (Actually, I have NEVER seen so much candy in my whole life; I was truly amazed. Unfortunately, I wanted, and couldn’t find, something nutritious and tasty to eat).  Apart from playing inept criminal in the local saga, I really did enjoy myself, and every single fellow traveller I met was extremely nice.

Mykines. Lucky Puffin: home with a view.

On the first day (having survived my opening night on the couch), I set out for the famous Mulafossar (pictured) and was not at all disappointed. The sun even gave me a gorgeous shaft of gold, stage-lighting the village of Gásadalur above. That was a good start. I felt almost appeased. I felt very much so when I arrived at my accommodation for the next night in Midvagur (Ingis Guest House) very early indeed (before lunch) – I was actually just checking out what it looked like, knowing that places don’t like you checking in so early, but this place had an owner who was visible and who saw me and made me perfectly welcome. The place was as roomy and comfortable as the other one wasn’t.

Mykines lighthouse

That afternoon, I went to inspect my second waterfall, Bøsdalafossur, and the famous cliffs nearby, Trælanípa. And thus began the game of farmers deciding to whack on huge charges. I wanted to see, so I paid. But I wanted my money’s worth, so climbed a few extra mountains alongside, and neither asked about, nor cared, whose land they were on … and then felt guilty for climbing mountains. Oh dear. And now, from the safety of home, I am angry that I didn’t climb more. There were others I wanted to climb, but felt uncomfortable and cleared out, and now regret it. There’s no point in reading blogs written in previous years about climbing this and that, as things were different then. I wanted to go back for a sunset or sunrise photo, but the farmer said the $50 was for one visit only!

Tindholmur and Drangarnir. Sunset (near midnight)

My next day, day 2, I had tried to book a ferry to go to Mykines and see the puffins. But the booking was all in Faroese, and very confusing. I and three other couples managed to book in the opposite direction to the one we wanted, and thus weren’t booked at all. Anyway, by a stroke of luck, I did manage to get onto the ferry, and had an enjoyable trip across. By the time I arrived, however, I was a little block of ice, so thought I’d have a coffee in the cafe the island was supposed to have. I couldn’t find one anywhere. I eventually found someone to ask, and she said I was right outside it. It doesn’t have a sign. Coffee, cake and fish soup were wonderful, and I was then defrosted enough to begin the walk. It was very short indeed, but also cost $50. Everyone was there for the puffins, but the signs told us we had to march purposefully past the puffin area, and we were not to stop or even slow down. To my relief, I saw everyone disobeying, but, again, I felt terribly naughty for looking at what I’d come to see – and paid for. In Iceland, we were allowed to stare and photograph to our hearts’ content. Nobody hurt or endangered these birds. We were all staring because we love them. I didn’t witness any bird suicide due to human invasion. Right at the end, the day’s gang of tourists had all gone back, and puffins and I enjoyed just being there on the hillside. I watched the partner come in from a day at the office, tell his wife what he’d been up to; she offered a few remarks, and off he flitted again, to be repeated many times over.

Tindholmur and Drangarnir. Sunset (near midnight)
Mulafossur, also around midnight

On Day 3, I had booked to go on a hike with a guide. No. I did NOT need or want a guide, but this farmer insisted. Cost $110. This guide was hilarious. He turned up in his slippers and track pants, while we, the eager hikers, were assembled with boots, packs and stocks (those who use them).  We had to wait a bit, but were then allowed to begin. I was up the front with the eager beavers, wanting to get as far as possible for my money, and especially wanting to arrive at our goal before the midday glare ruined it. I actually wanted to see it at sunset, but this was not allowed. There were three of us with tripods, and he agreed we could go to the end alone. Two of us did. I arrived, photographed a bit and some more, and was eating lunch when the rest turned up.

Hike to Tindholmur

“Did he say we’d eat here?”, I asked.
“He says nothing to anyone”, they said. Oh. I thought it was just me.
The others decided to eat lunch too. Our “guide” turned up, and played on his phone, ticking boxes while we chatted to each other.
He spoke to us to tell us it was time to turn for home. (The info said it was a six hour walk. We’d been walking for 1 hr 10 mins. I didn’t feel I’d had my money’s worth.)
On the way back, one of the poor Chinese got dive-bombed by a vicious attacking brown sea bird. He lay on the ground petrified. Who rescued him and taught him how to deal with these birds? Our guide? No. You guessed. Me.
I felt ripped off by the mismatch between $110 and what we’d received, and was longingly eying up nearby mountains. Damn this farmer. I’d paid to be on his land. I was jolly well going to get more than this, so I told the “guide” I was going to climb that one there, and turned around and went. He couldn’t call me back, as he’d never bothered to ask any of us our names. On Lord Howe Island, I had to have a guide I didn’t want, but he was highly educated, with a university degree in environmental science, and spoke interestingly on various issues of the island. He was also friendly and helpful. (Same price).
I had great views up there on my naughty mountain, and felt more peaceful on my return.

Looking down on Tindholmur and Drangarnir from nice and high.

The following day (day 5) I had to head north, and decided this would be the day I climbed Villingadasfjall, quite high and dramatic. It was recommended not to do this in the mist. My mist was as thick as quick mud, but off I set, past the collection box, and up the gooey slope into the palpable gloom. The maker of the track did not waste time with zigs and zags, which meant the slip factor was pretty extreme. I witnessed one descender damage his coxis with a bang. There will be problems in the future. It felt a bit eerie up there for some reason – perhaps because of the dire warnings against doing exactly what I was doing, so I saw my summit and retreated quickly. It rained lightly most of the day, and the wind was not gentle. This was as far north as I got. The fjall is the third highest on the Faroes, and the view is supposedly brilliant. Another time I can try for the view. It felt nice to have had a good workout.

Fabulous views from Villingadalsfjall
Scene on Kalsoy Island day 6

On day 6 of my visit, I had chosen to take a ferry to Kalsoy to see the famous lighthouse there. I loved this island, and don’t even remember being asked to pay money – but maybe that’s because the rain was bucketing oceans and no tax collectors wanted to brave such conditions. I knew it was due to clear around 2pm (briefly), but needed the early ferry to be sure of getting there. I was armed with a book, and read for four hours at one village, and then two more hours at Syðradalur waiting for the promised break. My friend Goncales from the famous guided hike was there, so when the break finally came, we dashed up to the lighthouse (27 mins), photographed with squeaks of excitement at the beauty we were witnessing for 45 mins, came back in about 25, and closed the car door as the rains returned.

Kallur Lighthouse, Kalsoy Is

My accommodation that night was at a village I didn’t like (Vestmanna) at a place that I liked even less than the village (yet another use-my-own-sleeping bag but pay-big-money place). Yet again, for love of money, I could not find one single thing in the supermarket I felt like eating, so settled yet again for packet soup for dinner. Next morning, I decided I just could not bear to be there for the next – my final – night, so cleared out (I’d paid for two, so this was money in the bin, but worth it).

Saksun Village, Streymoy Is

The last day involved a visit to Saxon, but I felt the dislike of tourists and left. Others did the same. A smoking guard stood over me while I had my brief wander. I wanted to climb the highest mountain on the islands, Slættaratindur, but I couldn’t even see as far as the back of the car, and wasn’t in the mood for that, so proceeded further to the village of Gjogv.

Gjogv, Eysturoy Is

I saw it and fell in love. Did they have a room left? Yes, one. Oh joy. They even had nice food, and friendly staff. This was the note on which to finish my trip. I checked in, and then climbed a mountain up behind the village, from which I had a great view. Boy was it good to have a cooked dinner with real meat and vegetables!!! Trouble is, I broke the world speed-eating record and forgot to chew, so long had it been since I’d eaten real food.

Gjogv from up high

This village – that area – is one of the reasons I do actually want to return to the Faroe Islands. I have a lot of unfinished business (in terms of mountains I want to climb) in that northern region, and the failure to have climbed all that is possible does not sit well with me. I stare at my map and plot …  even now.

Gjogv: lovely note on which to finish.

Next morning I drove to the airport to begin the big trek home. The hire car guy – from Justdrive – was so disappointed to hear what I said about the farmers (and angry at the greed) that he didn’t charge me for any of the tunnels to give me a better feeling about the place. His spontaneous generosity worked. Now I have left with an ambrosial taste in my mouth. It’s great to finish a trip on a good note!

ENGLAND Lake District 2019

I was completely taken by surprise by my strong emotional reaction to being in the Lake District this year. I gazed out my hire-car window at the usual quaint pastoral scenes: lush grass, gorgeous Herdwick sheep, stone walls, charming cottages, and huge spreading trees that always fill me with delight; I smelled the marvellous combination of roses and other early-summer flowers; and I heard the welcome call of blackbirds along with other twitters that I can’t identify. All these aspects of what I love filled me with an aching nostalgia and I burst into tears that shook my body.

Climbing Robinson

I have been travelling to the Lake District on and off since Bruce and I first completed undergraduate studies at university. We’d been there three times by the time we had children; of course, we took our girls there to walk the high fells; and we have been there many times since, but this was my first visit since my husband died late in 2017, and I realised here, standing in the lanes near Skelwith Bridge, how much all this beauty surrounding me was part of the very being of my husband. The Lakes were not just an area Bruce admired: they were actually part of who he was.

Climbing Robinson

The teenager Bruce imparted to his little teenager girl friend, later wife, his deep love of all things English. Bruce inhaled English literature. By the time he had finished his honours degree, he had read every great book written in the language before 1900, could burst into Old English at the drop of a hat, or chat about any of the characters that filled the books as if they were old friends. The Lakes were beloved as the padding ground of many of his favoured poets. He loved telling me stories of their experiences here. This area embodied much of what filled his being and sparked his enthusiasm, but now I was here without him. I was yanked back to younger days, but without the person who made them meaningful.

Elter Water

Together as recent graduates in our early twenties we had roamed its hills, with me photographing while he wrote poetry on the summits. Later we loved sharing what we loved with our girls. When we did post-graduate work at Oxford, back we came for more, and somewhere in there, I realised I could “get” all the Wainwrights, so then we came back each year to enable that. But by then, Bruce had developed Parkinson’s disease. Bit by bit he got slower and less coordinated, but still he came, and still he wandered up high, gathering fells with me, and delighted in being there. He died just over a year after his last trip there.

Herdwick sheep greeted me

I walked the lanes still crying. I don’t care. There’s nothing wrong with crying. As I climbed Loughrigg Fell, my first fell for this trip, and became distanced from the cottages and lanes, roses and blackbirds, and up into the zone of open spaces and expansive views, my spirit picked up. Up there on the ridges and summit, with the breeze in my face, I was able to tap into a different version of me, of us. I am probably at my most peaceful in life going up or down a mountain : moving freely in grand nature with space all around.

Borrowdale Gates Hotel: scene of our party

It’s good that I did recover my spirit, as I had a party to attend that night, and I didn’t want to ruin its mood. My dear friend, David Purchase, was celebrating his 30-year Monroaversary, as well as the completion that day of his second round of the Wainwright Outlying fells. I sure would have dampened his summit party had I arrived in time for that one, but by evening when we all met up, I was ready for a party, and could focus on celebration, and not my drowning wave of emotions.

Misty morning

What do you do when you come from Tasmania and have climbed all the Wainwrights, but still want to keep climbing? Why, you begin all over again, of course.

Climbing Lingmoor Fell

So, the day after the splendid party, along with party guests Stephen Moore and Michael Earnshaw – both mighty multiple completes of meaningful lists of mountains – I climbed five Wainwrights of my Round Two Collection. I have now, as of the end of this short stay, climbed thirty five fells on Round Two. It’s fun beginning again. I am every bit as haphazard and unsystematic as I was on the first round, just climbing what I feel like / what takes my fancy at the moment. I want to return next year and begin the task of photographing the ones Bruce and I climbed in the very early days, but which I failed to photograph, as photography was very expensive when you were still a student and each slide cost 1/6th of my weekly scholarship allowance, aimed to keep two of us alive. Other photos are just blurry prints from when I downgraded cameras to save money, and did a triple downgrade in quality.

Black Crag

You know, it’s not just being up high in the endless space with mist or breeze (or both) in my face. I also love the valley life in England. I love it that if you pop into a pub for soup at lunchtime, almost every single other person there is wearing walking boots, and there is a map on the table. Spontaneous conversations begin across tables as people compare where they’ve been that morning, and what conditions were like up the top before we all venture out for another round in the afternoon. I love the attitude to dogs, especially as I live in a ridiculous canine-ophobic society that seems to think dogs are the worst pestilence that has hit planet earth. How my little Tessie would love to come freely roaming the hills with me instead of being forced to walk suburban blocks with a lead around her neck. (Yes, she comes waterfall bagging with me, but I can’t think of a single real mountain she’s been allowed to summit, as they are all placed in National Parks).

Ivy Crags near Holme Fell summit

I just can’t wait to be back, reacquainting myself with long-neglected fells. Tessie will be babysat in Tasmania.

Climbing Black Crag

SCOTLAND Glencoe 2018

Glencoe, Scotland. June 2018

Stop Dearg – I was so excited to see this welcoming giant
Oddly, I was in Glencoe mainly to eat fish and to climb Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain: 1345 ms), which my firstborn daughter had said I should do before I die; in retrospect, neither of these feature in my memory much at all.

River Coupal
Two factors come into play here. The less important of the two was that I got bitten (inevitably? Considering exactly who I am, I think so) by the Munro bug. But the primary distracting factor was the scenery: I was far more enchanted by the captivating landscape, and by the joy of camping out in those particular mountains than I could have ever guessed in advance. My nights in B&Bs were endured merely for the showers they offered; they were a very poor alternative to being in the real mountains in my trusty tent, munching slowly on my cud and staring out at the prolonged sunsets, and the delightfully protracted sunrises.

Am Bodach
I particularly loved the area around the Buachailles, with Stob Dearg being my favourite. I became especially motivated to climb it when the ladies at my first B&B implied that it was too dangerous for me. That was a red rag to this “bullette”. I discussed my route in the local pub with the guy who brought me dinner, who knew all about the surrounding mountains. He told me the best route, and off I set as soon as possible next morning, having already climbed Am Bodach kind of opposite, and the other Buachaille, Etive Beag, with its Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach, the day before.

Atop Stob Coire Reinach on Buachaille Etive Beag

Cooling off with a swim near Glencoe after climbing

Kilday Falls
Be that as it may, the Buachaille I wanted was Buachaille Etive Mor, subject of so many gorgeous photos (and, of course, I, too, had already photographed it, but I also needed to stand on top); the Stob of my quest was Stob Dearg. I suppose the ladies in the neat and tidy B&B were right, that the climb was dangerous in that it ascends steep, loose rock, but I was not the only person to ascend that day. A little doable danger adds spice to life. I am not reckless, but I do welcome a challenge, and if you don’t want me to do something, telling me it is impossible is definitely not the way to go about stopping me. I always ran my best races when someone told me I would not do well. I reached the top in mid-morning glare, which is hardly conducive to exciting photos. Next time, I need to lug my tent up and stay overnight. At least I got to surmount the challenge.

On the way up, a guy called Bruce caught me from behind, and chatted to me while we ascended together.  He then politely warned me not to be too close behind given the nature of the loose stones, and went on ahead. After maybe ten minutes, I caught him back, along with two other guys who had had a head start, but who were all now resting. As they saw me approach, they set off again. I saw their route, didn’t like it, chose my own, which was not directly underneath, and climbed.

Stob Dearg
I was eating at the summit when Bruce arrived. The other two never appeared. There are millions of guys who would not talk to a mere female who had done that, but Bruce is not one of them. I have to say, it was really weird for me, talking to a guy called Bruce so soon after my own Bruce has died, but I got over it, and he was very nice. We are still friends. He ate up there too, even though it wasn’t yet time to eat, and we both photographed some more, not because the photos were going to be any good in that light, but because you’re excited to be there, so you take photos to commemorate, and then we went up the next couple of mountains together. I was going to do more, so we parted, but then I decided he was wiser than I was. The day was exceedingly hot, so I turned back and climbed back down with him. I love meeting people in the mountains. They’re my kind of people.

Stob Dearg from my tent site
If you are not Scottish (and even if you are), you will have noticed that names are long, and also hard to pronounce, as the letters actually seem to bear little relationship to what you end up saying. Many animals are also, of course, different to what I know, and many terms mean nothing to me, so that when a guy I met near the summit of one of the unpronounceable mountains told me he had seen two goyals up there (pointing), and expected me to be interested, I didn’t have a clue what I was to look for. Was this a bird? A wild animal? A military special marker of some sort commemorating a battle? Was I expected to be watchful, pleased, full of wonder …? I didn’t have any idea, so, with a confused face, asked him what a goyal was. Now he was the nonplussed one, trying to seek out a way of clarifying this. Hesitantly, he said it was, well, a female. OK, so, a female wild animal? He kind of waved his arms about, lost for words. He told me it was like me. (Ah ha, then definitely a female wild animal). Eventually, the penny dropped. There were two more girls on the mountain. I chuckled as I progressed to the summit, hoping these wild females would get the joke when I told them the story. They did. We laughed as we descended together.

I know that I struck unusual weather in Scotland, and that the fact that I actually swam is totally epic, but that is the Scotland that is now firmly implanted in my memory, and the one I wish to return to. And then there is this little matter of over 270 Munros that have not yet been climbed. Oh dear. Life is way too short.

The obligatory climb up Ben Nevis
Ah yes, Ben Nevis. Sorry, but I found it possibly the most boring mountain I have ever climbed. For a start, that was a B&B day, so I had to wait for the obligatory 8 a.m. B, thus missing the best part of the day. I didn’t get underway until about 10 a.m. One starts from near sea level, and climbs to 1345 ms, so there is the challenge. I strolled along the hugely wide dusty road, singing to keep myself occupied in this boring task, and was at the top in 2 hrs 30, having not taken a break, as breaks in such territory are not necessary. I took some photos, made friends with an American lawyer called Andrew with whom I seemed to have much in common, and strolled back down in a two-hour descent. It was a pretty good workout, but not much more. I’m glad I can tick it off the list ‘though. If I climb it again, I will go up one of the interesting narrow ridges that I eyed up. I think I’d prefer to tackle new mountains than do a repeat, however.

And soon enough, it was my final night in Scotland, and I had driven some of the way towards Edinburgh airport, as my flight next morning was frighteningly early, and I was nervous about getting there in time. I chose a town called Callander as my final resting place. I had done no research before getting there, but once I had arrived, I chose Ben A’an as the mountain I would climb after dinner as my farewell mountain. It was absolutely magic up there. I met others who’d decided to do the same; two couples had even pitched their tents to stay all night. Others, like me, had just popped up to witness sunset. We were a merry bunch of nature lovers. I was glad, however, to descend alone in the gloaming, thus able to soak myself in the mood of the evening, and in the bitter-sweet aspect of the joy of the night, yet the sorrow of leaving this place that had stamped itself in my heart.

SCOTLAND Isle of Skye 2018

SCOTLAND Isle of Skye 2018

What was I expecting as I drove over the bridge and onto the Isle of Skye: Isle of dreams and hopes? I had seen some wonderful and dramatic pictures, mostly taken of the Quiraing and Old Man Storr, as well as the red and black Cuillins, so I wasn’t totally without preconceptions, but I can’t say I had any concrete outlines to give shape to what lay in store for me – and no fixed plans either. I’d just go with the flow. I had some nights booked into accommodation, and some nights left to float free and either use my tent or find something last-minute, as conditions and weather dictated. The itinerary would be decided by opportunity and weather.

Sligachan bridge
I had held off booking for far too long; a friend had said she’d like to come too, so I kept waiting for her to firm things up. By the time I realised I needed to book, it seemed the entire island was booked out. Warning: Skye is very popular! Lucky, the best possible accommodation had space for me: the self-catering accommodation at Sligachan. Whew.  I managed to find it and check in.

First day. On my way up the mountain behind (with obligatory unpronounceable name – a name so long it is no use my repeating it). Photo number 1 had Glamaig in the background, which, being merely disyllabic, will score a mention. 
At last. Now, let the holiday begin. I decided it might as well start out the back door, at the mountain staring down at me (Benn Dearg Mheadhonach [in photo above]), so up I headed off into the gloomy mist, with wind that gathered in intensity with every step I took of a height-gaining variety. Despite the blast, I was enjoying the wild feeling that comes with walking in a storm, and strode purposefully towards my goal. I was, indeed, a bit nonplussed when I met two German guys descending, who said they hadn’t made it as the wind was too dangerous up there. In my hubris I told myself it was because they were Germans, but I would be fine. They were just tourists for sure.

This turned out to be one of only two mountains in my life where I have had to snake on my belly to touch the summit cairn. Even doing that, I was petrified. The wind was treating me like a silly plastic toy that should be discarded … now. Even crawling exposed too much surface area to its malignancy, so, belly it was. But having had two strapping guys in their late twenties also backing out of any more, I was not ashamed to come straight back down, and lay off my plans for the other two mountains I had intended for that afternoon. I learned a new respect for the winds of Skye that day.

On the next day, the wind was still raging, so I chose a tamer option. Yet even that was hazardous, and I had to defang some of my original intentions, and merely go over a pass and down to Glenn Bhreatail and return. I pleasant day’s outing,  but not the summit I wanted.

That chasing of less adventurous options became a nasty habit, but at least it kept me alive, I guess. Next morning, I chose to visit the Fairy Pools before breakfast to beat the armies of tourists I’d witnessed the day before. Mission successful. I had this magic and delightful place mostly to myself, although I did meet a photographer from Melbourne who had similar designs to mine.

I decided that, as the winds were blasting from the west, I should climb things to the east, so chose Bealach Cumhang, just north of Portree, before moving my headquarters further north to the Quiraing area, and playing up there for a few days, climbing lots of fabulous peaks north and south of the main attractions (such as Meall na Suiramach, which looked down on all those lovely rock towers, and The Storr).

There was absolutely no accommodation to be had in this section of Skye, but, as I had my tent and could remain flexible, it didn’t matter. Food was more of a problem, as I found it really hard to find anywhere that would serve me dinner.

Back down near Sligachan for a brief second stopover, I managed to get up Glamaig – one of the mountains intended for my very first day. On no day so far had the wind been kind to me, and on every day, there was mist in abundance. This all changed when I moved in the direction for my final night, to sleep, I thought, at the bothy at Camasunary. Luckily, I went there nice and early, as the bothy was all locked up, which means it is not a bothy at all, and needs to change its name. I’m sure glad I didn’t arrive exhausted and near dinner time.

As it was, I retraced my steps, and chose a truly magnificent spot underneath Beann na Cro and other majestic Cuillins. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Huwel, who is still my friend. He was camped nearby, and I appreciated his company, feeling uncomfortable about being within sight of the road as I now was. The evening was mild; the day had been warm and wonderful. It was so lovely to eat outside by my tent, roam a bit, chat a bit, and just enjoy being alive in this wonderful place, on this brilliant eve.

On my last sad morning, I climbed Beann na Cro, with magnificent views, before heading off for my next adventure to mainland Scotland, and the area around Glencoe.
There are so many, many more beautiful photos of Skye that I could show you (I have culled it down to 440 images). I hope this small selection suffices.

ICELAND 2018 4 Final four days.

ICELAND 4 2018 June. Final four days.

Day 11 dawned grey and moody, like its predecessor, … so, we didn’t rush out of bed for sunrise photos (which was a bit of a relief: we were getting rather tired by now), and chose instead to just take the horn in our stride as we continued east. We were nonetheless thrilled with what we saw. We stayed there so long that we needed lunch not too long afterwards, a meal had in a bunch of lupins with dark grey mountains observing our table manners.

I hadn’t done any research on the next section of our eastward journey: life would end at the Vestrahorn, all the rest was just marking time, I thought. Ha ha. The road was full of drama and wonder, and we also ended up having a fun game of hair and tortoise with a couple of other cars:
(To the Spaniards): “We’d better get a move on. The Germans have taken off already. They’re now in the lead.”
(Spaniards): “Don’t worry. They’ll be distracted by the next lay-by”.
(Germans): “Ah, you got us back.”
“Yes, the Spaniards bet we would. Look, they’re pulling over too.”
“We’re moving on now. See you at the next beautiful spot.”
“Yeah. In about 100 metres”.
We pulled out of the game when we hit the coast and got out to do some walking as well as photography.

Coast past Eystrahorn

Coast after Djupivogur
And then we met Jay and Lissa, who are still our friends. Lena the brava had already crossed this big wide river with slippery boulders at the base of the Sveinstekksfoss. I was pussy-footing around its edges and had just decided to go back to the car when another couple pulled over. I watched while they did some vacillating about exactly where one might cross. (Lena clicked away, undeterred). I was relieved that someone else was worrying about their equipment like I was. I went up to them to make friends and compare notes. In the end, Jay crossed. I stayed on the safe side with Lissa, deciding the photos on the other side weren’t worth the risk to my gear.

Sveinstekksfoss from the wuss side of the river.
I had already determined we would next photograph the bigger waterfall behind from above, so drove there, and the same two parked near us. We liked them, but I was concentrating on my task. This time it was Lena who did most of the talking. They were gone when I once more entered the world outside my immersion in the scenic moment. We had found out their names, but not a great deal more. That night we checked out Jay’s photos on the web (www.jaykerrphotography.com/). They were gorgeous. We were sad that we wouldn’t see them again.

The higher version.
Somewhere between there and our accommodation at Berunes HI (YHA), I became aware that my phone was missing. I decided I had dropped it at the cafe where we had had afternoon tea. We couldn’t do the “where’s my phone” trick, as we needed wifi for that, so pressed on to the hostel. I expressed disappointment in Icelanders. Surely someone noticed I’d dropped my phone. We eventually found it in the door of the car. This lead to a few stupid in-jokes in which we, knowing the full story, would giggle, but others were no doubt dumbfounded as to the point of our mirth.

Our hosts at the fabulous Berunes HI were Steinn and Sigridur, so I have called this waterfall Steinnurfoss. It is on Steinn’s family’s farm. Hope he doesn’t mind the name.
We loved absolutely everything to do with Berunes: it was so delightfully isolated; the hosts so utterly friendly and lovely; the food, so extremely delicious. We wished we had arrived earlier, but at least enjoyed the tiny bit of time that we had allowed. The fish soup for dinner was exquisite. The cinnamon and apple porridge for breakfast (and fresh bread), just what anyone would dream about.

Steinnurfoss from a different aspect.
Day 12
. Our fabulous hosts at Berunes, Steinn and Sigridur, had given us details on a private waterfall on the family farm, so, armed with this information, off we set to examine what sounded like a treat. it was as wonderful as we expected.

Gilsarfoss, also on the farm.
Our next goal was to go and see the puffins on the north east coast. Now, it is just a little failing that Lena and I share by bad genetics that we get so excited by the immediate happenings that we kind of forget practical little details like buying petrol. This was the third time this trip where the wretched petrol light went on in the middle of nowhere, putting us in mild panic. This particular nowhere was situated such that we knew we could not go backwards. We just had to hope that forwards would work. There was a name on the map, written in purple. Surely that was a good sign. Lena consulted Siri, who gave us directions. Hoorah, we made it over the mountain pass (always a test when low on petrol), and began rolling down the other side, still in the middle of nowhere. Siri announced we had arrived. We were laughing so much I had to stop the car. We would have had a terrible accident had I not pulled over.

Me playing with edges on the natural arch above Gilsarfoss.
What on earth were we to do? Well, we’d just have to go on until we ran out, and work things out from there. On we pressed. We saw yet more beautiful scenery, to pulled over to photograph it. Hey, you might as well run out of petrol with beautiful pics in the camera.  Who should pull over at the same spot but Jay and Lissa! We were overjoyed to see them, and said that if we make it to the puffins, and if there’s a cafe there, we must have coffee together. Meanwhile, Jay said he’d drive behind us to kind of mop up if we didn’t make it. This was a fabulous offer, and we felt very secure all the way to the funny little shed with funnier man who, unbelievably, sold us petrol.

Now we could relax photographing puffins with Jay and Lissa; now we could enjoy the over-an-hour having coffee when we really should be driving to our next accommodation, which we finally reached at quarter to eleven when the owners had gone away (but, never fear, it worked out fine). Driving into Seydisfjordur with ice and snow and steely gloom was very atmospheric. This was our final day of pure pleasure. The next two days would involve a huge drive west to get us to the airport in time.

A wretchedly truncated stop by the fabulous Gufufoss as we set out from Seydisfjordur. Don’t worry beautiful foss. I will be back next year to give you more time!
Day 13
. This day was earmarked for driving as far as Vyk. This seemed to me a daunting task, and I was very tense at breakfast time. We did not really stop much anywhere along the way (apart from at the Gugufoss, right at the start of the day), which was great as we arrived at Vyk, somewhat dizzy but alive, around 2 in the afternoon.

This thrilled me, as I really wanted to see Dyrholaey, and now we had the chance. It was fun up there watching the lowering sun, and enjoying the cliff edges.

Dyrholaey and its fabulous cliffs.
Day 14. This was such a sad, sad day: our last full day in Iceland, but we were too busy enjoying it to think much about sadness. We began at 4.50 a.m. with a climb up the Reynisfjall, to shoot the Reynisdrangar from above as the sun rose in the sky. It was utterly exhilarating up there. It was also rather cripplingly cold, but we managed. Beauty invigorates somewhat.

The rewards of climbing a mountain at 4.50 a.m. are many.
Our last full (delicious) breakfast in Iceland, and off we headed west again, bound for the airport, but with a swim at an historic hot pool, fed by a thermal spring in the mountains – a pool that, Timea had told us, was the oldest in Iceland. Lena swam while I climbed up high to a beautiful area above. We had some delicious soup for lunch not too far away, and then full speed ahead for the airport.

The famous Reynisdrangar from above. This perspective dwarfs them. A human does not even come up to the first and bottom bump on these giant rock towers.
Our very last night was utterly hilarious, mainly due to the discrepancy between expectation and reality. I don’t want to offend the owner of the accommodation, who, I assume, does everything she can to make it work, but the situation gave us so much mirth that tears ran down our faces, and we clutched our aching sides with the hilarity of it all (not in the owner’s presence). Instead of a final celebratory meal (to be had in a town that didn’t exist), we had a few scraps from our food box and more laughs. “The last night and the last meal are never good,” says Lenie.

Selja River, above the famous pool. Lenie swam; I explored the higher ground … both quite predictable. Farewell beautiful Iceland. I will be back!