The second, and longer part of the week looked a lot different than the first three days, weather-wise. I read that these islands only see 840 hours of sunshine over the course of a year. The reason they put it in hours instead of saying “35 days of sunshine” is truly obvious when you’re here and experiencing it. Everyone told us the weather changes FAST here. I know everyone in Nebraska (or anywhere you live, because they also said it in Texas when I lived there) say “If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 5 minutes.” But that’s really only true a handful of days a year in those places. Here though, you will literally go from sunshine beating down on you with a sweating back one moment, and then a quick, thick fog will roll in in a matter of seconds (that sincerely seems to develop out of nowhere) and the whole land goes into an overcast, misty chill. You cannot count on a whole day of sunshine any day on the calendar here like you can back home. So the sunshine is just counted in hours here, fleeting moments when the heavy layer of grey above you parts open for a moment or two– or if you’re blessed like us in the beginning of the week, a few hours. But we don’t mind it. If you consider the last few places Robbie and I have chosen to travel (Iceland, Seattle, Portland, etc.) then you know we embrace the chilly air, the cool days that almost require a coffee date and face to face time (our favorite), and the way the dark sky brings out the bold colors of everything on the ground.
Tuesday we decided we would hike the tallest mountain in the Faroe Islands, Slaettaratindur (Yeah, we don’t attempt to pronounce these things. haha). It’s really not that tall if you are used to hiking fourteeners in Colorado– but the difference is that this is just starting at the bottom with no trail or level parts to get your footing and instead just trudging straight up this insanely STEEP cliff side and just hoping your feet don’t choose a loose rock or slick spot to step into. We are not experienced hikers but we are always up for new experiences and new challenges. It was NOT easy; in fact it was incredibly difficult and I kept wanting it to be over to be honest. Our thighs could hardly stand the steepness, and we both get vertigo looking up at the top of the peak and down at our speck-sized rental car at the base once we got high enough. And I continually needed breaks from being so fiercely winded with racing heart from the incline. After 2 hours we made it to the top! We got out stuff to make sandwiches for lunch along with some other picnickers up there. There’s always comradery among strangers when you’re all at the top of a mountain, knowing what it took to get up there. I love that. On a clear day you’re supposed to be able to see all 7 main islands from the top… and well, clouds started moving in quick by the time we got up there. It had been sunny off and on during our hike up, but all of a sudden, it was just total whiteness, everywhere we looked. We saw a glimpse of the incredible island view, but never got to see it in it’s full glory. I’ll include a picture at the bottom, so you understand just how thick the fog was! We couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of us. We decided to wait it out, because we didn’t hike that thing to not see the view, right? So for 2 hours, we sat, we talked, we read the our Bibles, and nothing. Actually, it just got worse over time, with a heavy mist showering us. HAHA There was some inevitable disappointment, but then, we realized we had something to celebrate! Quality time, a new challenge completed, a fear of heights (for me) overcome! Not seeing the view at the top doesn’t mean we didn’t conquer Slaettaratindur! So we executed the hike down with zero visibility, sliding in mud at some parts and encouraging other hikers on their way up! We reached the cars so abruptly, as the fog was so thick we honestly didn’t know we had reached the bottom til we were just all of a sudden there, and it felt great! We did it!
We ended the evening with a coffee date and more reading in the village of Gjogv, a town sort of “famous” for it’s gorge right at the shoreline (Gjogv translates to gorge). We then spent a few hours exploring the village, wandering down into the gorge with it’s large cliff walls that surround the cement walkway they’ve placed along the ocean current that flows into the cove there. We watched boats sailing out in the distance, the fog rolling in and out revealing the mountains we didn’t know were right next to us, and discovering puffins flying above our heads. Robbie honestly loves wildlife, as much as maybe one might not say that’s a quality that really sticks out about him. But he’s fascinated by all creatures, and I love his passion and curiosity. His excitement for seeing the puffins led us up on another hike right next to us that would get us closer to the cliffside that the puffins were flying out from. The hike did bring us really near some nests, but not close enough for a great picture except a blurry zoomed in shot from my phone. We stood there admiring their actions for a long while. As we turned around to the West to trek down the hill, we realized that while we weren’t looking, the clouds that had been hiding the top of the peaks above the ocean had made its exit and the view out to nearby islands across the waters was stunning. I don’t know how long we stood there, looking in awe, saying, “It doesn’t get more beautiful than this.” We have also been pondering how if there exists this sort of beauty on earth, how much more astounding will Heaven be one day?! These landscapes singing God’s glory over us, our smallness realized, our human incapacity to understand Heaven– but our genuine excitement for our true Home even though we cannot grasp it now.
I was messaging my girlfriend Rachel this week and we have been wrestling with the idea that none of this is our own. All these experiences and extravagant privileges and blessings in life– travel, nice things, success in your career, whatever– is exactly that. A privilege, a gift. We should never feel bad or guilty that God chose to bless us by allowing us to be born in America, for me, in a two-parent household with food on the table each day and good education at our disposal. These things were blessings we had no say in. They were chosen for us by God. What we CAN do though, is recognize that these things are blessings and we don’t deserve them. All good things in our life are gifts from God– things that are not ours to claim. The only thing that is ours permanently is our salvation, our Protector and Heavenly Father. Anything outside of that that is given to us is merely God’s kindness and mercy– but we didn’t earn it. SO once we have ourselves convinced of this truth– I mean truly convinced (because most Christians will be able to say those things out loud as “truth” but then walk away still believing that their own hard work got them the amazing house they live in or the Mercedes they’re driving or whatever!) THEN we recognize that because of God’s generosity to us, we have the capacity and desire to be generous to others. And it makes the comforts of the American life seem mundane and less exciting because these tangibles on Earth are nothing compared to the excitement and passion for the HOME we are working toward in Heaven with Jesus. When knowing Jesus becomes the fiercest desire of our hearts, everything else just doesn’t seem as amazing anymore. Even the grandness of travel or having nice things just loses its flavor. So this travel is amazing, but so is life in Omaha, and Robbie and I will continue to strive for the mission God has asked ALL Christians to be on no matter what our bank account looks like, or what location God puts us in, knowing this adventure is a gift– not something that brings us glory, but brings God glory because He provided it!
Wednesday we drove to the farthest North village of the islands, getting to experience some new views along roads we hadn’t traveled yet. There are two sub-sea tunnels here that connect two different islands via a tunnel under the Atlantic. They’re so fun to drive into knowing you’re under the ocean, and they make our ears pop every time we travel through them! We ate brunch (our first meal that wasn’t from a grocery store) at a cute cafe in Klaksvik (the second largest village in the country with only 4,500 people!) and afterwards walked the village from one side of the harbor to the other. It was lovely. The afternoon was spent walking Saksun, a village that has its roots still strongly in a “past life” of the Faroes. It’s very “rural” (some might argue that everything in this remote country is rural, but you get it) and each home has more land on its property instead of the normal squished-together houses of most of the villages in all the valleys.
Something we have really enjoyed about being here is the modesty and humble lifestyle of the Faroese. There doesn’t seem to be a big economic range amongst the residents, and from the people we’ve talked to, it seems like everyone helps each other out (the extreme weather conditions year-round really bring the population together and they apparently are very spontaneous people– not being able to make plans very far in the future because the weather could, at any time, keep them from following through on plans. So when things are nice, the neighbors come over unannounced but are completely welcomed in for a “cuppa” (term for a cup of any hot drink) and a slice of cake and conversation out of the blue). We have also noticed that the Faroese people we have conversed with are generally very shy. The speak quietly (and it’s not for hesitation with the English language– the people here know English as well as you and I! It’s amazing! They say that all of their television and entertainment growing up was in English and in American accents, so U.S. English is second nature to them) and they are kind and gentle people. An interesting fact is the Faroese language is an “ingressive” language– a language where they inhale as they speak the words, instead of exhaling while talking like most of the world does!! Isn’t that amazing? Everyone has been so pleasant and we are thankful to know a population quite like our Karen friends– not showy or extravagant, but genuine, real and lovely.
On our way out of Saksun we spotted some wild Faroese horses grazing at the base of a mountain. We parked the car and wandered over. This particular horse was a creamy tan with a thick blonde untamed mane. He followed me everywhere I walked. I plucked a handful of dandelions and approached him, hands open in front of him, and he stuck his mouth right in there and chewed up the flowers with zero hesitation as I pet him and totally fell in love with him. Robbie sweetly captured some pictures of the interaction. I continued to pick dandies and feeding him for awhile before we left to return for our last night in that airbnb in Nordragota.
We got “home” and did a load of laundry in the airbnb and had our first experience with using a clothesline to dry it all! There’s enough wind here to dry them pretty quickly, but with incoming rain, we had to bring them all back inside after a couple hours but they were dry by morning. It seems so silly, but this experience still seems worth mentioning. Even though not having a dryer is inconvenient, I loved having this new memory of something we hadn’t done before.
Thursday we checked out of the airbnb and loaded the car for a new hike. We geared up with the rain pants we bought in Iceland when inclement weather tried to ruin our plans, and our rain coats and started hiking straight into the fog. It was a fairly easy hike along Lake Sorvagsvatn but still took us about 2 hours to get to the view we wanted. This fresh water lake sits right on a cliff edge directly above the ocean. Once you reach the peak of the cliff that juts out from the water’s edge, it’s almost an optical illusion. You see the lake above the ocean and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. With the high winds, it was a little scary sitting near the edge to watch the waves crash below, but we sat there holding each other for a really long time, enjoying the view that fog wasn’t hindering for us.
We stopped at a grocery store on our drive to our new airbnb for the next three nights that would be located in Torshavn (pronounced Tour-shawn), the capital city and largest village with 12,000 people in it to grab some drinks because of how thirsty the hike had made us. We spotted sisters across the street standing at a bus stop, holding each other tightly for warmth in the cold. Robbie had the idea that we should ask them if they were heading to Torshavn because if they were, we could just drive them into the city ourselves (which was about 40 minutes away). We had heard from locals that the buses here are not at all reliable and run very infrequently. Who knows how long those ladies would have to wait for one. So Robbie moved our backpacks and supplies to the trunk on the off chance that when we pulled around to the stop, they would take us up on the offer and need to sit back there. But sure enough, they were headed to the capital and they accepted oh so graciously (and were quite surprised by it at first! haha). We found out they were sisters in their twenties from New York City, Olga and Yulia. They grew up in Brooklyn and never learned how to drive because they just use the subway. They had taken a bus out to that city trying to do some horseback riding but were never able to find the place unfortunately and had spent many hours in the cold, walking around aimlessly and feeling pretty frustrated. They were so thankful for the warm car and a quick trip back into the city. (It was also awesome because Yulia found my phone number through my business page on facebook even though the only things she knew about me was that my first name was Chase and I was a photographer from Omaha, and she texted me the next day saying thanks for everything). We loved this fun interaction, and I am so thankful for a husband who seeks to help and has a heart for people. We found out they’re on our same flight to Denmark tomorrow, so I’m sure we will see them again!
This night was a favorite of ours. We checked into our new place, about a two minute walk from the city’s “Old Town” next to the water. We found a coffee shop and talked and talked about our week for a couple hours while we watched boats come and go. Around 8:30pm, we left to walk back to our room. Robbie heard live music coming from a building near us, so he led us inside. I thought at first that it was an open mic night, but it was actually a “famous” (to the Faroese) band here playing a concert to a packed room. It was folksy and absolutely beautiful! The musicians were so talented. Robbie especially loved the electric guitar player who was hilarious “feeling” the music and going all out with his body’s interpretive swaying and dancing to the rhythm. Very entertaining and fun! We found out the band’s name is “Gudrun og Bartal” and we listened to them for an hour and a half and loved every minute (even though we didn’t understand a single word sung OR word that was spoken between songs. Music is a cool thing that overcomes language.)
Friday we spent the whole day in the “city” in Torshavn, exploring in and out of shops and sitting on the rocks at the ocean and eating honestly the best sushi we have ever had in our lives at a place called “Etika” after our ferry we booked to this farther off island, Mykines (pronounced mee-chin-ness) got canceled due to “turbulent seas.” We booked it again for today, Saturday, and it was a go! So we drove an hour to the ferry, boarded, traveled the 45 minutes to the island getting absolutely drenched from our faces dripping salt water from our noses to our sopping backpacks and water in our hiking boots. The winds were insane and the seas were so turbulent, we couldn’t imagine what it would have been like the day before when they cancelled the trip! The haze and fog was so heavy that we couldn’t see anything in front of the boat, even though we knew there had to be mountains and cliffs surrounding us but we couldn’t see them. We arrived at the port of Mykines freezing and dripping with water and knowing what we planned to do there was a 5-hour hike in mud and fog and mist didn’t seem as appealing as when we had woken up that morning. Sadly, we decided to re-board the ferry and go right back. We were laughing at ourselves. We wished it had been different, and we sort of wished we’d been tough enough to withstand the elements and just go for it, but it is our last day in the Faroes and we didn’t want to end it like this.
So we made it back to Sorvagur, jumped in our rental and tore off our rain gear and unveiled wet clothing underneath too! Yuck! But we turned the seat warmers on in the car, drove to a grocery store and bought a big baguette with a tub of butter and a jar of jam and sat in our warm car and stuffed our faces. It was so fun and everything seemed wonderful. We have spent the evening wandering this perfect sea town of Torshavn, and revisiting the coffee shop by the docks that we went to the first night here. We sat over hot chocolate and coffee and discussed our week here and what God is teaching us through our reading and our experiences.
As we walked home tonight, we heard a “hi” from across the street. Robbie and I looked over and it was some guests we connected with from our last airbnb. A couple (Julia and Fred) from France who we had helped get their wifi set up and figure out what room they were in since the host was not home at the time they arrived! It was so great they recognized us! We stood on the cobblestone street for half an hour exchanging our favorite things about the Faroes and asking questions about each other’s lives. Today is Julia’s birthday and I’m so glad we connected! We shared contact info and plan to meet up in Paris where they live when we are there in a couple of months. 🙂
We are thankful for another week down together, in a country we will most likely never return to, but will hold so dearly in our hearts. We have adored the Faroes, a country so unspoiled by humanity, that we nearly get to see the way God intended his Earth to be. Raw and wild.