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Hello from the Faroes – my journey to the islands

on June 30, 2014

Grindstop

For the next two weeks I will be blogging from the beautiful Faroe Islands where I am taking part in Sea Shepherd Operation Grindstop 2014. The campaign is aimed at stopping the slaughter of whales and dolphins, something done in the name of “tradition”.

I left home in Slovakia yesterday and had an uneventful flight from Bratislava to London Stansted. It’s interesting (to me anyway) that Bratislava’s airport is named after Milan Rastislav Štefánik, who died in a plane crash. Not exactly guaranteed to soothe the mind of a nervous flier. But apart from that it’s a very nice airport and my Ryanair flight was unexpectedly pleasant.

Stansted was a bit of a surprise. I haven’t been to that airport for at least 12 years and was therefore oblivious to the fact that it has grown from a relatively small airport into an absolute monster. I had to take a train from the place the plane stopped to the terminal building, where there was a chaotic half hour of queueing just to get through passport control.But I got out of there eventually and onto the shuttle bus to the nearby Holiday Inn Express. My room was nice, but I was hungry after the journey so I needed food, and fast. The obvious place to look was the hotel restaurant, which was disconcertingly empty. I asked the hotel receptionist whether there was another restaurant, because surely some food would be available on a Sunday at lunchtime. But no. “So where can I get something to eat?” I asked plaintively. Her response was that I could try the petrol station across the road. Welcome to England…

Today I left the hotel at 7 and headed for the airport, where I met Brendan, another crew member, someone I’ve known on Facebook for a while but had never actually met in person. It was nice to have a travelling companion – we were very aware of the curious looks from other passengers, although we were not wearing anything that could identify us as Sea Shepherd crew members. We didn’t want to attract any hostile attention before we even got to the islands.

The flight was pretty uneventful – until we came in to land at Vagar, the airport in the Faroes. The plane went lower and lower and we were still flying through clouds, until suddenly we saw ground and it was way too close! The plane accelerated sharply upwards, and a few minutes later we were informed that the landing attempt had been “unsuccessful”. We circled around for around 45 minutes before the pilot announced that we would be heading to Iceland to take on fuel, after which we would probably make another attempt to land at Vagar. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, but not under these circumstances. But I can confirm that the small bit of the country I saw out the window of the plane was spectacular. There was a lot of turbulence as we approached Iceland, but thankfully We landed safely at Egilsstaðaflugvöllur, which I couldn’t even attempt to pronounce. We weren’t allowed to leave the plane so we sat on the plane while the plane sat on the runway, and took on fuel and some dodgy looking non-vegetarian sandwiches. Off we went again and spent another merry 45 minutes circling round the Faroes where we eventually landed despite heavy fog. The pilot got a round of applause from the very relieved passengers. After spending more than 6 hours on the plane we were very, very relieved to get off and stretch our legs.

We were met at the airport by Sea Shepherd crew members and I said goodbye to Brendan as we headed off to join our separate teams. I got my first look at the Faroe Islands during the drive to Klaksvik, where I will be based. The islands are incredibly beautiful. The scenery is spectacular – huge mountains rising out of the sea and pretty towns lying between the mountains and the shore. The hard thing is knowing what happens here – as one killing beach after another was pointed out as we drove along. This place seems too pretty, too calm, to have such things happen here.

Tonight I’m in my team house, full of an excellent vegan curry, getting to know my team mates, who come from a variety of countries, and arguing about music. I’m looking forward to participating in my first Sea Shepherd campaign. You can follow the campaign on the official website or on Twitter

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One response to “Hello from the Faroes – my journey to the islands

  1. Well done on surviving the aborted landing – sounds scary!

    Like

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