It had been a long dream to reach to the jewels of the North Atlantic Ocean on two wheels.

Kariina had just received her bike license and it seemed like a good chance to put it to the test. Iceland is remote enough for gaining that decent off-road experience, yet it has sufficient infrastructure in case something goes wrong.

This time I decided to take a different approach on documenting it. I had "forgotten" my nice and very practical digital camera home, fully intentionally. I always wanted to do one trip purely with my set of film cameras as an experiment, with just a stash of film rolls with me. Mainly to be able to root the perfectionist out of me and take things as they are - think before taking a picture and don't count on technology, only count on yourself and your skill. Thus not exacly your "the latest and the greatest" gadget infested nerd ride report but a proper oldschool way of documenting things. I had my trusty Pentax 67, my main workhorse that is around as old as I am and still going strong, plus cameras that were new to me: Fuji GA645i rangefinder and Soviet Horizon 202 panoramic camera for those proper unmanipulated panoramic shots. I had color and black & white films with me. NO Photoshop, I scanned them full frames as you'd see inspecting the film in your hands against the light.

The Atlantic islands offer plenty of adventure, for the motorcyclists and for the cameras...

We started out on a ferry from Estonia – in fact from the same harbour in Paldiski where we’d expected our ferry to take us to Sweden back in 2008 when we’d set out on our RTW journey. Contrarily to the cold October rain that saw us leaving home back then, the almost warm winds of August made our small detour to enjoy the sunset from the cliffs of Paldiski Peninsula a pleasant prelude to the trip. By the way, Paldiski is the location of an ex-Soviet marine base, where submarine officers used to train on an experimental nuclear reactor.

Our road to the Faroes & Iceland naturally was to be challenging with so many massive bodies of water inbetween: the Baltic Sea (Estonia-Sweden), the East Sea (Sweden-Denmark), North Sea (Denmark-Faroe Islands) & North Atlantic Ocean (Faroe Islands-Iceland) to top it all off.

by tsiklonaut

Crossing the mildly salty Baltic Sea was the first step.

From Paldiski the ferry took us to Sweden. One important thing to point out on this little-known ferry route, mainly used by truckers, was by far the best food on all ferries sailing the Baltic Sea (and, in retrospect… the best food we had on this five-week trip, because all of the countries that we passed through on this trip are crazy expensive for us and we mostly stuck to our camping stove)! The Estonian cooks are really specialists there. We loved every bit of it, till we were fully nourished. The crossing took the whole night, and was nice and smooth. The next morning, we rolled off in Kapellskär and headed towards Göteborg some 600 kilometers away.

The ride was tiring as the temperatures soared to around +28 C with the unusual heat wave that had hit the northern parts of Europe. For Kariina, it was the first time to be on a motorway, although we couldn’t go quite as fast as most of the traffic, because 110 km/h seems to be the farthest end of the DRZ’s comfort zone. We weren’t in that big of a rush anyway, having budgeted for some time to spare before catching the ferry from Denmark to the Faroes. So we split the distance and overnighted in a random bush – luckily, in northern countries, there is enough of free space to pitch your tent.

The next morning, we headed to Göteborg on the west coast of Sweden to catch another ferry to Frederikshavn, Denmark.

Göteborg is a very nice city itself.

The city founded in 1621 was named after the Geats (Swedish: Götar or Gřtar), the inhabitants of Gothia, now southern Sweden. The river on which the city sits is the Göta älv or Gothia River.

The ferry to Frederikshavn was a short couple-hour hop across the bay. Before heading for our Faroe Islands adventures we had time to visit the northernmost tip of Denmark, where the North Sea meets the East Sea - the Skagen Peninsula. With a population of just around 1600 it has a nice atmosphere being surrounded by the sea. The place was founded in the Middle Ages as a fishing village. Being positioned strategically in a very important spot there used to be a fortress for Nazi Germany in WW2. Some of the heavily fortified Nazi bunkers still stand today well camouflaged:

The bunkers are hard to see even on an infrared picture (you only see the light above 715 nanometers on those pictures) of the landscape.

You have to get closer too spot them. Designed to withstand even the most powerful bomb drop and the reason they're standing strong even today.

From there we headed to Hirtshals from where the ferry took us to the Faroe Islands. Before the sun set in the ocean, we sailed past the beautiful cliffs of Southern Norway. It had been a hot day, but after the sun sunk behind the horizon, the air quickly became chilly, and we descended to our claustrophobic bunks (even this lowest budget option came at an enormous price…). As we slept below the water level (and underneath the two car decks), it was a very stable ride.

We passed the Shetland Islands the next morning, and after a full day at foggy, yet open sea the Faroe Islands were finally in our sight. And it was an epic sight, with steep rocks, half shrouded in the fog, rising from the dark, cold waters of the Atlantic. Here and there we could see torrents rushing off the steep cliffs and straight into the waves. It was an approach to remember.

The Faroe Islands are somewhat an undiscovered jewel of the North Atlantic. As one German folk musician we encountered on the ferry put it: "Faroe Islands are like Iceland in a nutshell". Almost everything the Iceland has is there in a more compact size. Being isolated from the main lands of the World with vast distances of water it ought to be very different from anything we'd experienced.

The Faroes are an island country consisting of an archipelago of small islands between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland, 320 kilometres (200 miles) north-northwest of Great Britain. The area is approximately 1,400 square kilometres (541 square miles) with a population of 48,700. The islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

We disembarked in the capital Tórshavn, with population of around 12 600 people, situated in a calm bay on Streymoy island, the largest of the Faroese group.

Our route:

The name Faroe, Fćrřerne, may reflect an Old Norse word fćr - sheep. The sheep are indeed a lot and mighty on those islands. The Faroese bloodthirsty sheep are legendary and infamous in fact, they outnumber the local population almost by double and have evolved over 1200 years separately to dominate the landscape and the local food chain. Particularly the prime male ram skulls are evolved uniquely so thick that you can't take them out with a regular fire weapon available to an Average Joe. If you shoot them from a short distance, with their evolved extremely thick skull and their vital parts protected with the massive horns, it will not affect them at all and the angry ram knowing which direction the bullet came from will come straight at you, close the gap fast and take you out. The legend says the Faroese government once had to use the help of military special forces with precise and high-calibre snipers that can shoot from very long distances and not being taken out in the process to control the quickly growing sheep population since the Faroese sheep often killed local peasants when in too close contact in the angry sheep dominated territory. With the special weaponry the military had some success controlling the sheep population but also suffered heavy losses of their own when the snipers missed (they had to aim through the eye socket, but sometimes missed) and were taken out even when shooting from a mile away. The Faroese rams are mighty fast runners and very capable killers indeed.

I did not manage to take a pic from those beasts since I nearly got killed, but some other brave man managed to take a pic close (I hope he survived):

A faroese ram
by Erik Christensen, on Flickr

LOL, actually they aren't that dangerous, but you’ve got to be very careful with those Faroese Rams.

A quick dash around the rainy Tórshavn gave us a nice impression.

It rains some 250 days in the year here, hence not exactly attractive for bikers but this actually works as an advantage - you get to see the land few motorcyclists get to see.

Every island or hilly peak has its own microclimate and is more varied than you'd assume from the weather statistics. From warm to cold, wet to dry.

Our discovery led us to the northern part of Streymoy island. One thing that you cannot rely on when on the Faroes, is the weather. It mostly seems to rain, with thick clouds enveloping the hills. The next moment you may see rays of light coming though. And although the rapid changes of the weather mean the dilemma of whether to pull those waterproofs on or not (everybody knows that sweating in the raingear is almost as bad as being soaked without it), they do make it all up with the added drama. You could easily spend hours just watching the clouds rising and descending the green slopes…

Can you spot the sheep?

A sideroad took us to the village of Saksun, which is located in a steep valley and boasts an interesting grass-roofed church and museum. The church was originally built in Tjřrnuvík, but in 1858 it was disassembled, carried across the mountains and reassembled in Saksun. The museum occupies a seventeenth century farm house called Dúvugarđur. The house belongs to the Dúvugarđur farm, still an active sheep farm with approximately 300 ewes.

Saksun valley and surroundings:

The "red" dominated shots are from Kodak Aerochrome color infrared film. This photographic film was mainly designed to debunk enemy camouflage from areal spy shots during the Cold War. It sees green forest and grass in infrared light (shifted to red-spectrum), when it's a faked green by a camouflage it will show it in different shade that is easy to see by a human eye and thus US used to spot Soviet enemy positions this way. After the Cold War this film later found it's way into government forest surveys to map healthy and unhealthy forests from aerial mapping. I managed to get hold some rolls of this rare and very-hard-to-find film for that artistic visual photographic beauty it creates without any manipulation at all. Those pictures show exactly what you'd see observing my slides against the light.

Another great sidetrip is Tjřrnuvík that reveals the stark landscape of the Faroes. On a messed up b&w film roll, LOL:

Then to Eysturoy island.

The road took us up to the fantastic setting of Eiđi village, where we camped on old abandoned Viking ruins that stood there for eons. It was an amazing yet humbling feeling to know some Viking may had been shipwrecked or even willingly lived here, at this beautiful coast where the humid North Atlantic breeze softly touches your cheeks.


The slopes of the Faroes are just undescribable - unbelieavable at times, with just sheer vertical rocks penetrating the deep ocean - normal in nature, but your brain somehow just can't translate or accept that visual surreality.

Gráfelli rising.

And a high-altitude road to the North-East of Eysturoy island, that turned out to be stunning.

Down from the utterly thick raincload the road decended back to Funningur, I reckon it means "Fun Curves" in translation.

Once down from the high altitude the views got magical. I tried to capture it on Kodak Aerochrome color infrared film:

We camped out in the village of Gjógv. Managed to mess up one roll of b&w infrared film, but hey, there's a certain beauty in lo-fi material:

Around Funningsfjřrđur.

It had been raining all night, and the air was thick with humidity, so getting out of our sleeping bags required a fair bit of determination. Getting out of the tent was the same story, as the wind was blowing quite hard. But we managed to cook some oatmeal, which, together with a few sandwiches and coffee made our breakfast. By the time we packed our tent, the sky started clearing a bit, so we left in a slightly sunnier mood.
I’d say that one thing to remember from the Faroes were their tunnels. A wicked Norđoyatunnilin tunnel, 6.5 kilometers long and lying stunning 150 meters deep under the ocean, took us from Eysturoy to Borđoy island. It's an experience to go through it - first you just decend and decend... You feel the air cooling around you and the humidity rising. Till you hit the very bottom of it - it's a strange "weightless" feeling, you can't stop thinking about the 150 meters of water above your head with countless thousands of tons of sheer gravitational pressure waiting to crush this little rabbithole you're riding in.
Another unreal Vágatunnilin tunnel - 5 kilometers long and 105 meters deep under ocean from Streymoy to Vágar island. Vágar island itself is a real jewel, especially the Sřrvágur to Gásadalur road, crossing another 1.5 kilometers long narrow tunnel through the mountain to get there. Those countless tunnels in such a small area of the Faroes only tell you how topologically complicated and unreachable the terrain is.

In the distance you see the Gashólmur and Tindhólmur:

Faroe Islands greatly exceeded our expectations. Despite some locals tending to be emotionless whale killers & eaters, we still love Faroe Islands!

Woman Island
by tsiklonaut, on Flickr

by tsiklonaut, on Flickr

From there on it was road back to Tórshavn to catch our ferry to Iceland.

-> Go to Iceland (part I)