Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Rainy day for a road trip

Rainy day for a road trip 12.07

Sitting in a cafe in Klaksvig harbour trying to sift thorough the thoughts and words from my day. I have what must be the most awful coffee in the world. It's creamy taste suggests it may be made from condensed milk. I've tried a hot dog, the bread is baked round with a hole in the middle, mayonnaise is squirted in and the sausage threaded in. It was ok. To follow, rhubarb tart? It was ok. Can you tell I'm not buzzing with enthusiasm at cafe culture.

I nearly got on the Nolsoy ferry, just to go there and back again but the cloud is still low with zero visibility. Im thinking of the questions people may ask when I get home.... Did you have fun? No. Would you go back? No. And I wonder why I haven't fallen in love with the place in the same way I did the Hebrides and I suddenly wonder if it's a mistake to go back to the Hebrides, to try to prolong my experience from 2000. A stray thought passes my mind, wondering about asking carla to bring my car to Leeds for bens memorial weekend. I'll think on it. I'm fairly certain I won't be using my return flight to the Faroes. I do enjoy my continual questioning though, searching for understanding and my personal reflection that occurs when I am away from home. 

Anyway, here's my day.

Talk about total immersion, I'm in the midst of learning tunnel etiquette thick and fast. the northern islands are littered with tunnels, long and unlit unlike previous single track tunnels I've driven. I've deduced that the white arrow is the person who has priority over the red, just by noticing which side the pull ins are on. I've had plenty of opportunity to pull in and take pictures today, both forwards and back towards the way I've come.

I've pulled in and a car comes towards me.

And to the rear. Can you just about make out the red glow from my rear light in the bottom left corner? Sometime I see it and sometime I don't, look carefully!

Today my lessons are of a much greater magnitude. I've met more traffic in these tunnels than all previous put together! The thing to do is dip your lights early, indicate, pull in, switch lights down to side lights. It is difficult to judge the speed of a car coming towards you when in a narrow, black tunnel. Eyes play strange games, the walls and roof are uneven and shadows jump out. Eyes are constantly expecting a sheep to leap out. More excitingly though, i discover a hazard warning system. In these northern tunnels a large lorry or caravan triggers flashing warning signs at the other end., smaller lorries don't.

The big undersea tunnel from Eysturoy to Bordoy is large, a two way well lit tunnel, it has red blue and green lights in the deepest section. Very surreal but scary when what I can only assume are enormous fans come on and roar like an underground train going overhead. Drips of water hit my windscreen and I'm back like Chicken Little thinking the tunnel is going to come crashing on to my head.

I go to Kunoy but the grey foggy day means whilst i am aware there is beauty around me, I cannot see it. One of the highlights of Kunoy is a huge pile of earth being worked at the causeway from Bordoy. I cannot see where it has come from, there is no pit or hole in the hillside, just a large pile of earth beside the jetty, being worked by bulldozers. It is the same colour as the earth I saw yesterday. 

Other highlights include a small, hairy, white dog, crossing one of the many cattle grids that tirelessly make me jump as the car rattles noisily across them. The dog carefully looks where it is going, treads one paw in front of the other and steps across the grid. My final gem involves a search for a loo. Seeing WC with an arrow pointing uphill, I stop and follow the small path that weaves its way uphill, past a huddle of sheds and beside a waterfall. I reach the street level beyond but just as road signs disappear or are non existent, so does the WC sign. With no loo in site, I retrace my steps and try all the little huts as I wind my way down. Without success. What I do find though is a water wheel that once powered life but has now fallen into disrepair. A shame about the rain, i could have had some interesting pictures. Shame about the loo too, but despite rules about going 'al fresco', I think I managed to get away with it.

I think the journey worth it, even if just for the tunnel experience, though it is rather crazy to be visiting the most spectacular islands, on a grey rainy day. In my defence, there is no telling what the weather is like in different parts of the island. It was perfectly reasonable to think that the sun might be shining here when the rain was drizzling in Midvagur. With just two guests to clean after this morning, my work was done by eleven and I decided to head out on a whim.

Driving through Klaksvig turns into a minor farce. Very pleased to see the number of the road I need marked on signs, I don't bother to view my map to get my sense of direction. I drive through and through until i consider that speed humps might suggest I am off track. The road turns a hairpin bend and begins to climb. Im told it's not possible to get lost in Klaksvig but I certainly seem to be off trail. The road winds 360degrees round to retrace my line beside the harbour, but at some height above my original road. i stop to look at the Klaksvig street map but very helpfully, although it marks roads and places in town, it does not show through routes. I soon discover myself to be back at the beginning and start my Klaksvig tour again!

Feeling the need for relief from tunnels and towns I turn off the main road, to drive the buttercup route to Múli. Instead of gentleness though, I find my first dirt road with unmarked edges, precipitous drops, big potholes and ever present sheep. I stop for some writing therapy. 

The sheep are more interested in me than most, usually they run away but I think I had my son in law, Ben in the car with me today, he has been hanging around this week, these sheep were keen to get into the car and I could hear him chuckling and encouraging them.

There must have been heavy storms here overnight, I see long grass beaten down. I feel frustration for local farmers, waiting for the right moment to cut the grass but that moment has now passed. On the side of the road I watch briefly as men cut and turn grass despite the persistent rain. Here and there I see small, plastic wrapped round bales.

Continuing, i discover it is not possible to get to the abandoned houses at the end of the track to Múli, a no entry sign bars my way. Undeterred, I persist but it is soon apparent that bulldozers are working further up the track and it is definitely closed. Manoeuvring a six point turn on this precarious track is not something I envisaged but I take my time and possibly make it more laborious than I ought. I continue to drive carefully, aware that it would be possible to veer right off the edge and sink deep in the fjord leaving no trace and with no one knowing my whereabouts. Close to further earth moving equipment I notice recent improvements, a passing space here and there and a new rocky bank to prevent drivers, less careful than I, falling over the edge when manoeuvring in tight spaces. Perhaps the abandoned hamlet is to be restored to life by improving access or maybe it's tourist led.

The fog is clearing slightly and it just may turn out to be a fine evening. The rugged layer cake mountains become visible and i gaze wonderingly feeling dizzied by their height. I ponder the green icing layers. There must be soil for turf to be growing, yet in this windy landscape, how soil stays long enough for anything to take hold I'm unsure. I can see, where earth has fallen away in small avalanches, perhaps eighteen inches to two feet of red oxide brown earth with turf,dripping and crusted over the edge. I guess algae and lichens first take hold on the rock and over centuries, small plants have gathered as grit is trapped. 

This is not a place for travelling by car, the minute I get out to look at the view or take a picture I am struck by the sound only of sea, falling water and sheep. Although the the air is grey and little around is visible, I nevertheless feel a calming presence and tranquility. I climb back in, eager to get to my next stop, but know that really I ought just stay a while. With sunshine it would be an easy thing to do but the rain makes it less tempting

Across the fjord on Vidoy I see a road with ant like cars crawling along it. The distance does not look great but the scale of the mountain has distorted my vision. I remember it was thus but in reverse, in Australian deserts, when there was absolutely nothing on the horizon, small things became huge, just by being there.

Next stop Vidareidi. 

Just beyond where the turn from Múli rejoins the main road, the car in front of me hesitates then slowly moves on, I can see that the tunnel is blocked and we must use a road around it but as I get nearer, it looks as though this is actually a new tunnel nearing the end of its creation. I wonder where it is headed, thought we were nearly at the end of the line.

I reach Vidareidi and have to choose right or left with no idea where each might lead. Left perhaps into town whereas right looks to take me further towards the coast. Right it is. Earth moving equipment and road building machinery litter the dirt road. It looks as though it is being regraded and just as earlier, I drive faster over rough ground, as one would in Australia, it makes for a smoother ride and I do so again, disregarding the 30 sign. In fairness, it is impossible to say when a speed limit begins and ends. I often find myself well out of a small village that was marked when I entered, but holds no such marking as I leave, I'll hope this thirty was the same.

The dirt road looks to be newly created, perhaps even just bare rock at the moment and I get the feeling, not for the first time, that the road might just disappear over the edge of the cliff at any minute. I drive towards the brow of a hill, cannot see over and my heart is in my mouth for a few seconds until I can see that the road continues.

Machinery is now all around me and I discover I have entered the territory of another tunnel building project. This time it is dead end, no way round and I wonder where I missed the no entry sign for I am sure I shouldn't be here. I stop for photos then scurry to my car as a giraffe emerges from the tunnel and needs the road space. I look for a suitable stopping place where I might enjoy the ocean but find none. A crane, with wildly swinging chains blocks the road and I am trapped. At that moment, I wonder why it is that I have to push everything to the limit, always searching for what is beyond, never content to just turn idly into the village as more sensible others might do.

Later, looking at my map I realise that perhaps this was the two ends of a new tunnel going east to west across Vidoy. I understand the views from Vidareidi are particularly dramatic and I can believe it to be true but do not see any myself today. I park by the church and write in the car. I was wrong about the rain, as soon as I left Múli it returned with a fine, steady drizzle.

I recall that connecting and improving access to remote villages could be an EU funding agenda. I also wonder whether perhaps road making, widening, draining, repairing, could be the second largest industry here. I haven't asked about unemployment but I haven't seen signs of real poverty and it makes sense for the economy if employment is created by road building schemes.

Two small children in pink coats and hats push pushchairs with babies. The younger girl, with big padded bottom, turns to carefully watch my car, seemingly more road safety aware than the older who walks on regardless. I want to stop and take a picture but there is something about respecting privacy that stops me from doing so. I let these children be. I have seen a cafe stop and will go for food, but the motorbikes I have been travelling with for much of the day have beaten me there so for now, I can wait. 

The land on which Vidareidi sits is the only area in the country flat enough for agriculture so I have read. I expect to see fields of crops. Instead I find just one field with what might be recently transplanted turnips or cabbages but sitting sodden and waterlogged at the edges.There are cows too, I understand, but see no sign of them. 

I stop at the cafe, the motorbikes have gone, but find difficulty getting in. The likely looking door is firmly closed with no sign of a welcome on it. I try it and face a gloomy hallway looking into what appears to be someone's kitchen. Hello, I call, am I in the right place? I think so, says a voice and a young woman drying crockery greets me. I'm sorry we have no power, she says, we cannot serve food. Never mind, what do you have thats cold, nothing she says we have nothing. You can have beer. the tables are laid and there is that stale unpleasant aroma of fish in the air. the room is bright with windows overlooking the farmland and is littered with canvasses of colourful abstract and acrylic paintings, flowers and landscapes along with the usual knitted items, it would be a good spot to stay a while and but it is not to be. I ask for a glass of water and to use the loo. use your phone as a light she says. 

I've been hoping to meet up with ocean rower Livar Nysted, connected with him before coming and sent a message earlier to say I was coming his way but ive had no reply. He may well be out at sea. I wonder about taking the ferry to Kalsoy anyway, just for the sake of it, but rain defeats the object. I head for the ferry terminal at Klaksvig, then decide whether to jump on the ferry or look for a cafe as the whim takes me. I watch the ferry load and then head off to disappear, only then regretting doing so. My plan for the day had been this ferry and exploring the little island of Kalsoy but once in the vicinity, the weather made it clear that this was not he best option. I walk to find the cafe.

This evenings shipping forecast irks me, shame I didn't check it this morning. Visibility good? I've seen nothing all day!! I look out of the window and see the cloud has now lifted. Ten pm and brighter perhaps than its been all day. Maybe it bodes well for the morning.


Variable at first in south, otherwise northwesterly 3 or 4, occasionally 5 in east.
Sea state
Slight or moderate.
Good, occasionally poor in east.