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Leitisvatn / Sørvágsvatn, Faroes [+Gásadalur and Leynar]
by John Doh » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:34 pm
Date walked: 11/08/2017
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We arrived on Thursday, 10 August, in the midst of a rainstorm. We were scheduled on a trip to Mykines for Friday, 11 August, but, not suprisingly, this was canceled. The weather was better on Friday but the swell was still too big for the boat to safely land on Mykines. That left us with an alternative hike out to the famous lake of Leitisvatn (or, depending on whom you ask, Sørvágsvatn). This is the biggest lake in the Faroes and has the particularity of dropping into the sea in a waterfall.
We took the route south from our holiday apartment at Leynar on the island of Streymoy and, by way of the subsea tunnel, reached the island of Vágar. Subsea tunnels are also a thing that doesn't exist in Scotland (at least not yet, I've read on Shetlink there's some talk of a tunnel between Lerwick and Bressay).
We stopped at a layby on the route to the airport just at the lakeshore where, according to our guidebook, the path out to the cliffs started. Indeed, the first 200 meters or so there was a path but soon enough, it became rather faint. The path at the beginning:
No problem, we thought, as it's all along the lakeshore so you can't get lost. However, with the heavy rainfalls the day before, there were dozens of streams to cross, some smaller, some larger. We managed to avoid wet feet but the going was slow. What was strange is that along the path, sometimes there were "street signs" indicating the name of some places in the middle of nowhere - see below:
The weather stayed windy and so we saw one of the famous inverted waterfalls too.
The going was difficult with all the small streams. We saw some other hikers way up the hillside above the lakeshore making much better progress and figured out there had to be another path, one the guidebook did not mention. Anyway, after about a bit over an hour, we were overtaken by a fit woman who soon after quit the lakeshore and made up to what seemed to be a hill. We thought there was something to see up there so followed her up an old sheep dyke. On the top we were surprised to find ourselves standing on a huge cliff. This is the small "peak" you see in the first picture above.
From there, we went on to the end of the lake to see where it drops into the sea. Up on these cliffs, the wind was impressive so we did not venture too near the drop.
From this most southerly point we then went up all the way to the cliff top to check out the views.
Looking back to the lake, you can see the difference between lake and sea level. On the second picture you can see a guy with a red backpack cover on the cliffs, to give you an impression of the size of cliffs we are talking about here.
Out in the sea, the islands of Koltur (that's for another report) and Hestur.
The weather was deteriorating so we didn't linger and decided to return after an hour or so on the cliffs. As we did not fancy going back the lakeshore track with its thousands of streams, we decided to give the high path a go, the one we'd seen from the lakeshore. Actually this is a new path and that must be the reason why it was not in the guidebook. It was not quite finished when we were there and there were a lot of gravelbags waiting to be laid out. Still, the path was much better than the lakeshore track.
This doesn't mean there weren't some streams but they were manageable and sometimes even picturesque.
The problem with the high path was that it did not end (or start, if you like) at the same place as the lakeshore track. At some point we realised that we would probably be heading down to Miðvágur if we followed that path. Our car, which we could already see, was in the opposite direction. This meant that we had to cross the bog to get from the high path back down to the lakeshore. Our feet, that had stayed dry all the way, were now soaked. As we had some dry socks and sneakers in the car, this did not bother us too much. When we were almost back at the car, the sun came out for the first time since we had arrived on the islands the day before. Everything looks lovelier in the sun:
The hike took exactly 4 hours, with more or less 1.5 hours in and 1.5 hours out and 1 hour on the cliffs. If you can find out where the high path starts, you should be much faster than that though. However, you'll miss the weird street signs that way... It's a fascinating place and it must be even better in really good weather.
As the sun was out (more or less) and we were early, we decided to explore Vágar some more. Driving past the airport and Sørvágur, you soon get good views out on the fascinatingly spiky island of Tindholmur and, in the back, the big lump that is Mykines (that too is for another report, stay tuned).
Closeup of Tindholmur, stacks and a natural arch.
Looking back to Sørvágur with Bøur on the left.
As you can see, Bøur is nice but it is not the real reason you drive out there. Gásadalur is. This village was once the loneliest village in the Faroes as in order to reach it from Bøur, you had to climb a steep hill and then walk down an even steeper path to the village. Few people did this unless forced to do so, like the postman (until the arrival of a heli connection in 1983) or the villagers of Gásadalur bringing their dead to Bøur to be buried there for want of a cemetery in their own village. My friend Mr Tattie Heid climbed the track back in 2001 but did not descend down into the village, because, as he aptly put it: "I thought about descending to the village, but I'd only have to have come back up. It's not like there was a pub down there or anything". Check his report here: http://www.mrtattieheid.com/Mr%20Tattie%20Heid/Faroe%20Islands%202001.htm There's other good stuff on his homepage, Scotland, Iceland etc...
Anyway, since 2006 there is a tunnel to Gásadalur. It's one of these slightly scary single track jobs with passing places inside the tunnel but you get used to them, they can even be quite fun! And it's worth it. Gásadalur is one of the most emblematic villages of the Faroes and you will find a picture of it with the famous waterfall on virtually every calendar, website, guidebook or postcard about the Faroes. Luckily, the weather had improved so I was able to take a few decent shots of village and waterfall. Here's one of the best. To get to that spot, park your car along the road to the village on the lowest point and just walk down the path to the landing place.
You also get decent views of Mykines
You can then walk over a bridge over the stream that becomes the waterfall and up on the cliff edge to the village. Looking back to where the waterfall picture was taken - just below the wee white house at the white railings (these were probably installed for the many tourists that take pictures there). If you look close you can see the steep steps down to the landing place for boats. Tindholmur is in the background.
Here I am in the village looking at the tunnel in the middle of the picture.
On the right hand side of the tunnel you can see the old path zig-zagging up to the mountain.
In the village, quite a few traditional houses with the grass covered roofs.
After this pleasant visit we returned to the island of Streymoy to our holiday village Leynar, now under a brilliant sky. Leynar is famous for its sandy beach that attracts many locals and tourists alike. A word of advice: Either leave your car in the village, drive down to the beach or up from the in reverse gear. Do not attempt to turn the car down at the beach as you might get stuck in the sand (a spectacle we witnessed one night).
It's a nice place on a sunny day.
Our house is the one on the right with the glass front. It's on Airbnb if you feel tempted.
by jacob » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:18 pm
by Stefan1 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:55 pm
- Posts: 35
- Joined: Oct 12, 2017
by John Doh » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:21 pm
jacob wrote:These are some great images. I do feel ambivalent though about ever visiting the Faroes, due to the tradition of whale slaughter. Do you know if they're still doing that?
Hi Jacob. They still do it. They take out around 800 pilot wales per year. I was a vegetarian for many years and consider myself to be pro animal rights. However, I do not have very strong feelings about the Grindadráp. From my sources, it seems that the pilot whales are not endangered and the hunt is sustainable. Also, the killings happen rather quickly. The whales bleed after they are already dead. It is an old tradition just like the Guga hunt. That having been said I certainly wouldn't mind if they would stop doing it. I still prefer it over industrialised factory farming which takes place to feed the masses at the cheapest possible prices.
By the way, this picture was hanging in our holiday apartment:
by John Doh » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:24 pm
Stefan1 wrote:Beautiful stuff, I've always wanted to go. Although... the risk of solid rain has always put me off a little!
Cheers Stefan. The weather is comparable to Scotland. At least in Summer it's rarely pouring for days, rather raining at one moment and sunny the next moment. We were lucky to have a stretch of mostly fine weather for almost a week.
by litljortindan » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:19 pm
Would be even nicer if they left the whales alone though.
by Alteknacker » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:43 pm
How on earth does the economy work? I suppose via subsidies etc. from the parent country?
by John Doh » Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:14 pm
Alteknacker wrote:Great pics and a very interesting report of a place we don't often hear much of. Thanks for posting.
How on earth does the economy work? I suppose via subsidies etc. from the parent country?
Cheers Alteknacker. I understand they make most of their money with fishing. They also drill for oil but no luck so far. Not sure how much money they get from Denmark. I am sure that most of them would not like to call it parent country
by Mr Tattie Heid » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:07 am
There is a lot of misinformative propaganda circulating on the web about the grindadráp, depicting it as a cruel and wasteful ritual conducted by bloodthirsty Faroese. It is in fact very tightly regulated, down to the specific tools and methods used. Very little of the whale is wasted, and the meat is distributed in the community according to legal formula. It accounts for 30% of household dietary protein. It all seems very distasteful to those of us who buy our steaks out of a supermarket cooler, but I wouldn't really want to visit a slaughterhouse, either. Life on a cluster of small rocks in the middle of the North Atlantic is different from ours in Europe or America, and I'm not sure we really have the moral authority to judge. If it still puts you off visiting the Faroe Islands, well, that's okay with me. I've watched over the past twenty years as Iceland has been increasingly overrun by tourism, and would hate to see the same happen to the Faroes. It's a much smaller place, and so far, a relatively unspoiled one.
- Mr Tattie Heid
- Posts: 2
- Joined: Nov 12, 2017