Suðuroy and the Art of Understanding Timetables in the Faroe Islands

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on August 31, 2015 · 2 comments

Sumba in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

I was smug. The plan was going as smooth as, and we were about to reach the southernmost island from the westernmost island in a day, with plenty of time for food shopping in Tórshavn, the capital, in between. We even had time to pick up take-away sushi, and we were now sitting at the ferry port, half an hour to spare. Mind you, there was nobody else on the 2nd floor waiting for the M/F Smyril headed to Tvøroyri in Suðuroy, just us and a student downstairs sitting by the bare tables with his laptop, benefiting from the free wi-fi at the transport terminal.

The time for the ferry to arrive, reload and take off again came and went, and our confusion grew. For sure there was supposed to be a ferry, daily, at 18:30.

Except there wasn’t. It was Monday, and the ferry had gone already a few hours earlier.

Hilmarsstova in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Hilmarsstova in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Hilmarsstova in Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

We did make it to the south, or as south as you can get here in the middle of the Atlantic on these small islands, after the darkness had already fallen. Our Airbnb host Fróði was already waiting for us at the ferryport, and drove us to Hilmarsstova, the small hobbit-like cabin with a grass roof overlooking the bay at Tvøroyri, outside the main village on the island. This was to be our base for the next four days of exploring the southern and apparently most Mediterranean-like island, at least when it comes to how people compose and express themselves.

Going back to understanding those public transportation timetables, is not that hard, really. The transportation system is made up of a network of buses, ferries and helicopter flights that are smoothly connected to correspond for changing from one to another. It is not even necessary to calculate for transfer times between buses and ferries, or buses and buses, and it is totally fine if the first bus arrives at 08:25, and the connecting bus leaves at 08:25. The local Travel Card is valid on almost all buses and ferries excluding journey to Mykines (cards valid for 4/7 days), and all the timetables are in English on www.ssl.fo. But the trick is, sometimes the buses run only on Mondays and Tuesdays. Sometimes only on Wednesdays. And sometimes the given bus goes from point A to B to C to D, but at other times only from A to C. And then there are those little “T”s in the schedule you must watch out for, that means the buses will only run on request!

Akraberg, Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Akraberg, Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Sheep in the Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

So understanding the timetables is not hard at all, but we seemed to have trouble paying enough attention to get the timetables right.

“Did you take a taxi here? We took the bus and then hiked. It was easy, really. I don’t know how much the taxi costs but the bus…” the voice with non-arguably French accent, belonging to an elderly lady kept going on and on.

Yes. We did take the taxi. But we did take the bus too. We just hand’t read all the details and the bus we had chosen stopped in Vágur, instead of taking us all the way to Sumba and Akraberg, the most southerly of Faroes’ lighthouses. But we got to the lighthouse in the end. And back on the bus!

Hiking in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Hiking in Faroe Islands I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Other than those two French ladies, we did not meet any other foreign travellers nor local hikers on Suðuroy. Some of the paths we followed were marked with cairns, while others were just faint outlines of a path once well-trodded. At times we ventured to unmarked moorland to reach the steep cliffs and high sea stacks which seemed as if they had not seen people in a while. And there might have been an occasion too, when we tried to figure out where we were on the map, enveloped in thick fog and hoping to see some landmarks which would aid in finding our way back down to a village to catch a bus back to our cozy cabin.

Rituskor, Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Rituskor, Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Rituskor, Faroe Islands I @ Kate Cornfield I Destination Unknown

Although Suðuroy might not have delivered when it came to sunshine and fantastic sunsets in Mykines-style, it did introduce us to the scariest bridge I have ever seen, perched up some hundred meters above the Atlantic, crossing over a sheer cliff to Rituskor, a small isthmus off the mainland. While Kate and Anne Marit took and posed for the pictures, I was observing from a safe-distance, concentrating on my breathing and trying not to let the new-found feeling of vertigo take over me.

When it comes to the Mediterranean feel, the fog, wind and rain made sure we had none of that weather-wise at least, but the people were friendly, driving us around when we missed the last bus (nothing to do with misreading the timetables…), helping us to use the scale to get a healthy dose of pick’n’mix after long day’s hike and driving us to the bus – when we were about to miss it after venturing into a wrong village on our fog-filled hikes.

Whether the people down south were friendlier than the rest on the Faroes is left to see as we move on to the northern islands for the next week. We have read and reread the timetables, and I am pretty confident we will make it from the south, to the north, in a day. Maybe…

Where is Suðuroy and how to get there?

Suðuroy is the southernmost of the Faroes Islands and the ferry journey there from Tórshavn takes approximately two hours on M/F Smyril, which runs to the island 2-3 times a day. Accommodation and eating-out possibilities on the island are limited, hence we rented a self-catering cottage through Airbnb (and loved it!).

Pictures: Kate Cornfield & Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

FREEDOMtravel September 1, 2015 at 8:32 AM

Beautiful!!! We hitchhiked around when we were there (the same island), including on a hay cart behind a tractor :)
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 1, 2015 at 8:43 AM

Love it! We ended up hitchhiking too and were impressed how quickly we got a ride (the first car stopped!), but it was nothing as exciting as your hay cart drive :)
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