A step too far

A step too far 30.06

On leaving the guest house to walk, I decided to put my thumb out. Walking to the lake would be two miles and walking beside it to the falls as far again. Road and lakeside walk to the sea. Easy. I thought it was time to see how hitching might work. If I got a lift, fine but if not it didn’t matter as there is no dark.


The third car along picked me up. Magic. The window wound down and I expressed surprise to see Dyoni, one of my walk in visitors that morning. I climbed in, knowing that his mother, Marion, was a friend of my host. Dyoni couldn’t acknowledge me or engage in chatter about our random John Lennon conversation this morning but had told his mother all about it. Beautiful connections. Turns out she is the vicar in Vestmannaeyjar, only one of the best birding places in the islands! Magical moments like this make workaway experiences a treasure!

Except that because we have a connection through her aspergers son, she decides there is a prettier way for me to walk. We proceed to take turn after turn, past Faroese ponies that are ‘smaller and tougher’ than Icelandic ponies, past many sheep, now grazing high summer pastures, depositing me at a gatepost above the town rather than at the bottom edge of the lake. Yes, I can see the path I should follow but my careful and safely researched route has gone. I’m sure it’ll be fine and I love the stories you told, but I have no maps and no idea where I am right now.

Then there’s that moment I recognise. That moment of dawning when I know I’ve gone too far. The expectation, daring and excitement build, I often note but disregard, warnings in my head and then the moment arrives.  Too far to go back now, the only way is down.

As I turn to descend, I see the top of the mountain opposite now shrouded in cloud. I remember the words from guests just two days ago, (their guide host needed gps to descend safely) and i expect fog to come down at any moment, leaving me lost out on the tops with no one knowing where I am.

Beneath me I can see my original destination, the waterfall, but I am high above it with vertical drops to navigate. When I left the path an hour or so ago, I thought about this scenario but just wanted to see the top first. I had turned a corner and unexpectedly found myself looking out over a sheer cliff edge. I remembered reading it was here that the Vikings threw their slaves, when they were no longer useful. The sudden and surprising view and connection drew me on, made me go higher, stopped me taking the marked, safe, worn, route to the falls.

This lake is above sea level and offers beautiful waterfalls as it reaches the sea. It also offers the best swimming opportunity I have. I just need a bike now!

The turning point. Excited by stumbling upon this view I just had to keep walking up instead of down to the falls. 

Birds nesting on the tiniest ledges.

I ended up at the top of this. I had to find a way, firstly down this section, then two more like it. My knees were not happy but I buckled my backpack tightly and very inelegantly sat down and edged my way slowly over ledges.

The falls turned out to be non descript when I got there and I am pleased to have had a bit of a mini scary adventure on the way. Well, two adventures really, birds had also frightened me whirling, peeping and crying as I disturbed their territory. I was dive bombed by a whimbrel despite being on the path and surely, dear bird, you didn’t make your nest right beside the path did you? I hear the sound of David Attenborough in my head and can hear him narrating as the birds warble and cry. I need to rewatch those episodes.

Six pm and the sun is strong. Two hours here, two hours back. I look into the next few weeks and decide I must find a way to get to the west of the island so I can sit all night and watch the sun. Other backpackers might be good for that. This afternoon I have begun to love my near surroundings, to see the beauty here, to find balance. I leave my writing and head back ‘home’
Helpfully, hippo bags of granite chippings, dropped by helicopter ready to improve the path, serve to keep me right on track, no straying. I watch a pair of hawks or harriers circling not far away, they seem privately engaged with each other and unperturbed. Kerthunk! A silent attack from behind has brushed my glasses from my head. I’m terrified! And very very alone. 
I grab my glasses, pocket them, berghaus hood goes up and I walk faster but am ready for the next attack! I don’t know bird psychology but my gut instinct is to counter attack. I watch and thrust my arms in the air when the bird closes in, emitting a loud guttural ‘chaaarrrrr’. I’m frightened but continue as best I can to get out of their territory, fending off at least six other dive bombs but missing another that came from behind! I slipped once, but threw my arms anyway and shouted, albeit on one knee, too afraid to be seen having fallen. I stood stiffly but at the same time as aggressing against them i was sorry to distress them by being in their territory. 
After that a pair of oyster catchers had a go and then another group of whimbrells. A pair of small grey flitty birds peeped loudly and even this now frightened me. It was though seven pm was time to attack. I couldn’t get on to the tarmac fast enough!

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