I’d taken three buses and a no-frills boat to get to this point – the tip of a tiny island in the middle of the North Atlantic. Kalsoy is one of 18 isles that belong to the Faroe Islands, a spikey archipelago that’s still largely unheard of. Public transport here is intermittent but scarily efficient.
On the approach, the island looked menacing and a whole lot higher than it did in the pictures that had caught my imagination several months before. I had seen a photo of a lighthouse perched on the edge of an impossibly green and empty land, facing all that the subarctic weather could throw at it. I had to go there.
I got off the bus at the village of Trøllanes, a small collection of houses and farm buildings that make up the last settlement on Kalsoy. There are about 30 people living here, almost a quarter of the total number of people on the island. They are outnumbered by sheep a big way. It’s sat in a big bowl-shape of land, surrounded in three directions by steep green sides with jagged tops, and on the other by the swelling ocean. There is no way out, save for one claustrophobic tunnel that the bus had crawled through earlier. And somewhere behind these peaks the lighthouse, known as Kallur, stood.
The bus had pulled away, and the land was silent and empty. I was alone, and could see no signs, markers or obvious start point for the hike. I felt apprehensive but undeterred, and set off in the direction I knew it to be.
The ascent was deceptively steep. I trudged up to where the breeze was cooler and livelier. On the way I met two locals from a neighbouring island who had hiked all the way from the other end of the island. They navigated their way through the landscape with ease. Tired of camping, tonight they were going to knock on a door in the village below and stay there. It was the Faroese way of doing things, apparently.
We think of clouds as silent and innocuous, but these ones came with a loud whoosh as they engulfed my world in thick, impenetrable grey. I could see nothing past a handful of footsteps. The Faroe Islands have a unique ability to thwart even the sturdiest of travel plans, as I had experienced first-hand all week. But I was determined to not let it happen this time. I’d reached a set of rocks and when the fog thinned out a little I scrambled over them.
The wind blasted against my face and drizzle hung on my eyelashes. The land was flat now, and I continued with naïve ambition. As the fog grew brighter my spirits lifted; the world was perhaps going to open up again. A faint outline along the ground grew stronger. I realised that it was in fact the edge of the mountain.
I had reached my nerve’s end – the promise of the lighthouse could take me no further through this invisible land of cliffs. On this occasion, the road less travelled wasn’t the way to go. I turned back and headed for lower ground.
Within minutes I reached another cliff edge. Then another. I was lost, and the edges were everywhere. I had to be more systematic; there was a lot of white sheep’s wool on the ground, which I started to collect. Then each time I saw an edge I put a piece down and moved on to the left. It’s amazing how in the 21st Century I still needed to resort to such rudimentary measures. If I hadn’t have been so worried I would probably have found it refreshing.
I didn’t exactly see the benefits of my idea; after another three or four times I saw rocks followed by a gentler incline. It had taken me almost an hour to find them. Could anyone be so happy at such a simple thing?
A while later there was a loud swooping sound and the clouds lifted up like a seabird gliding on the currents. I could see the world below again, and I finally took some photos before heading down.
The next morning I was keen to reach the top again but time and energy were not on my side; the bus was going to leave in an hour. To rub salt in the wound it had just become a glorious day. Looking up, my destination seemed so doable but equally so high and far away.
I felt relieved more than defeated, though. I lied down in the grass and appreciated what was in front of me for once. And it was mind-blowingly beautiful. The lighthouse loomed both behind me and in the back of my mind, unfound and almost forgotten.
How fitting to see the softer side of the Faroes during this time. Only hours after being blown towards the invisible edges of sheer cliffs, I wandered around the rich green land. Everything was calm and once again I understood why people love this place so much. It was like the night before had never happened – all had been forgiven.
Published by Justine Kibler