Thursday, 19 June 2014

Egilsstadir, Iceland - The shipping news

After two days and two nights at sea, I've made land in Iceland. My Faroese boat, the Norrona, left Denmark on a sunny morning of Mediterranean blues and slipped into the grey waters of the North Sea.

There was a strange assortment of passengers heading for Iceland. The silver-haired campervan set were joined by a cavalcade of noisy, smelly motorbikes. No doubt they felt they were heading to adventure in a wild, elemental land but the truth is all they have to do is put petrol in their tank and go. Not like the cyclists on-board who have to overcome the weather, bad roads, steep climbs and energy lows. Those cyclists included a Dutch man biking round a country his wife had longed to see but died too young, and a serious, quiet German who had the most amount of equipment I've ever seen anybody carry on a bicycle. And me. A middle-aged Scottish woman looking for adventure and gluten-free cakes, and hoping to find out something about Iceland and life and herself.

On the first morning, as the ship ploughed the waves of the North Atlantic, I dragged myself out of bed early as Norrona scraped passed a cluster of low-lying, rocky-edged islands. Gannets wheeled overhead and patrolled at deck-level beside the ship, as if seeing an intruder off their territory. This was my first ever sight of the Shetland Islands, the most northerly outlier of my own country.

Later that day, excitement built on the ship and a crowd of people wrapped up in warm clothes and colourful waterproofs braved the weather on deck to watch the ship dock in the Faroe Islands. It quickly exchanged passengers and sailed on through dramatic storm-bound peaks and plunging cliffs. Wherever the slopes and clouds relented there was a scatter of colourful houses surrounded by fields of emerald green. Some of these Faroese villages are incredibly isolated communities on a chain of islands that's already unimaginably remote.

After a night of rough seas, Norrona docked on the second morning at Seydisfjordur and I cycled off ready for adventure. I was immediately hit by a cold blustery wind, steep hills gushing with waterfalls and a very long climb into the snows. Welcome to cycling in Iceland!

Fact File
Daylight - 23.5 hours
Distance - 4143 miles, 6667kms
Days - 83
Route - the ferry Norrona sails from Denmark on Tuesdays and Saturdays in summer, stops at Torshavn on the Faroe Islands and takes 48 hours. It passes really close to Shetland where it used to also make a stop.

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