I have a bucket-list, albeit a pretty short one these days. I never even thought to put a helicopter ride on the list, but if I had, I would have checked it off in the Faroe Islands!
Before going to the Faroes I did some reading on other blogs and found a couple mentions of the helicopter taxi. The idea is that since some of the islands are SO remote that there isn’t even a regular ferry, the government subsidizes – what else – a helicopter taxi. Tourists are only allowed to take it one-way so it can’t be your main form of travel, and you’re restricted to routes that you can get back to your car on the bus. But really, who am I kidding, everything about it is awesome.
The first night that Ellen and I were in the Faroes together we loosely planned out our days and I insisted on trying to get a helicopter ride on the schedule. It didn’t take long to find the timetables online and only a couple more minutes to book our route. It cost about $30 apiece for our roughly 15 minute flight. Comically, at the bus station on our way back I saw a poster for a 15 minute sightseeing helicopter ride – for $150. Sometimes it pays to do your research.
It was a beautiful, sunny day and we arrived at the heli pad on-time – 40 minutes before the flight. It was a very casual affair; two guys in reflective vests in a little shed with a bench behind it. Another couple was getting on the same flight and we all sat together and drank terrible coffee poured for us into plastic cups by the guys in the booth. We had one false start when a copter came in to be fueled up and then flew away without us. We were eventually told that because it had been bad weather the last few days it needed to make a delivery to a ship anchored offshore. “That’s life in the Faroes” the pilot joked.
After waiting another 20-30 minutes in the copter came again, landing and refueling, and then finally the guy in the shack came and waved us to follow him over. Ellen and I were super giddy and smily and jumping for joy and she said the pilot was laughing at us as we approached. No one else was on-board except the two pilots in the front and one other guy who seemed to work for them, and then about 12 empty passenger seats. The other couple took seats in the back row and Ellen and I climbed into the front, her facing forward and me facing backward so we could make faces at each other. The pilot gave us a little chat (in English) and then revved the motor and we tipped forward a bit and then were airborne!
I’m sure you can tell by my face that I was completely freaking out. I’ve never felt anything like it and could not stop giggling uncontrollably. I even got a little seasick at the beginning but it just added to the adrenaline. I’m pretty sure I said “I can’t believe we’re doing this!” at least 50 times, although no one could hear me.
(Can you see the helicopter shadow in the last picture, at the bottom?)
We flew from Klaksvik down to the capital City, Torshavn (Thor’s Harbor), which felt a lot more like the kind of maritime culture that we both grew up with. The southern islands are flatter and even the houses and yards felt different. For whatever reason there were a lot of people boarding here when we got out. I was still so excited that I forgot to take off my headphones (what do you call them?) and had to run back.
So that was the trip of a lifetime. And I doubt tourists will be able to do it much longer (especially at that price) so I feel so incredibly lucky that I got to experience it.
From the helipad we walked to the downtown, found the bus station, and then wandered through the oldest part of the city-a tiny rocky peninsula called Tinganes. The story is that the very first meeting of Viking parliament was called here in 825 AD. That makes Tinganes one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world. The government still operates out of some of the buildings there.
Before catching our bus back to Klaksvik we managed to find an actual bar to have a quick beer. It was one of the things that most puzzled us about the Faroes in general – all of these tiny little towns and yet we barely saw any alcohol. The islands have some of the highest employment rates in the world and we couldn’t figure out what folks did after work. We eventually found a small brewery and one or two other bars, and even found a grocery store that carried (only 2 cans of) beer, but when we asked people made it sound like social drinking isn’t uncommon. Regardless, it was nice to just sit and feel normal, watching kids play in the street and people eating nachos.
Then it was the 2 hour bus ride back to our car. I think everyone on the bus fell asleep. And that made it an even more perfect day.