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Iceland The Globe Travel Guide
© David Williams
Catching the ferry

29 June 1981


In 1981 the ferry service to Iceland was run by the Faroese shipping company Strandfaraskip Landsin using the Smyril. This operated between Tórshavn (the Faroese capital) and Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland. The ship also travelled to Scabster in northern Scotland, Bergen in Denmark and Hanstholm in Norway. Travel from Scotland to Iceland was straightforward, with just a brief stop in Tórshavn to pick up passengers from Denmark and Norway. However, returning took many days as there was an enforced break in the Faroes whilst the ship returned passengers to Denmark and Norway.

This article describes the start of the author`s first visit to Iceland: the ferry trip from Scotland to Iceland via the Faroes.

This is the author`s lowly orange VW Beetle parked beside a French-registered Land Rover, complete with its own living quarters. Close inspection reveals that the Land Rover`s passenger is wearing an Icelandic sweater; perhaps the vehicle`s occupants have been to Iceland before. Note the spare spring bolted onto the front bumper.
This French-registered Toyota Landcruiser is far too heavily laden on the front, so much so it could possibly affect the steering. In addition, what happens if the vehicle is involved in a head-on collision ?
I could not see the need for four extra driving lights on the front of the vehicle as it never gets dark in summer in Iceland ! In addition, it is very likely that they would get damaged by small stones thrown up by other vehicles.
The device outside the passenger door is a high-lift jack which is used to raise the car when it is in soft sand.

There was no need for the alarm clock - the early sunrise and my excitement made sure I was awake early and with lots of time before the ferry. But there was no time for breakfast as I was overly-anxious to get to the quayside and join the queue. As I packed up the tent I could see the Smyril crossing the Pentland Firth and slowly making its way towards the shelter of Scrabster harbour. I had to leave now.

As vehicles arrived and were parked in orderly rows on the quayside it was time to wander about and inspect fellow passengers. There was a real mixture of European nationalities: Scots, English, Germans, French, Belgians, Netherlanders, Spanish, Swiss and Italians; some had already undertaken a long journey even before this ferry crossing. The Danes, Norwegians and Swedes would join us at the first port of call in thirteen hours` time.

Everyone looked at everyone else`s vehicle. A hierarchy was soon established and I soon realised I was well down the social order with my bright orange seven-year-old Beetle which had already seen better days. At least the heater control was permanently jammed on at the hot setting, not cold. Only optimists make this journey. As consolation, there was another Beetle - and it was six years older than mine.

Our lowly cars were dwarfed by massive Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Toyota Landcruisers, a vehicle I was seeing for the first time. All these go-anywhere monsters were crowned with roof-racks festooned with jerry cans, sand ladders, high-lift jacks, big shovels and countless spare wheels. Many of the vehicles, notably German and French, were plastered with stickers advertising various companies who were sponsoring these intrepid explorers. All I had managed to borrow was an ancient ice axe from a school store - and that had been grudgingly given to me by a grumpy old man with no sense of adventure.

Most of the motorbikers were German - is there anywhere the Germans don`t take their bikes to ? - and their sleek black machines were heavily laden, with bulging panniers and sleeping bags and tents piled up behind the pillion passenger. Rather them than me I thought, especially when you are away for six weeks. At least I can shelter in the Beetle when it rains. And it will.

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