The cruise ship shore excursion brochure definition of “strenuous” activity usually exaggerates the level physical challenge. Although we’re hardly gym rats, we’ll eagerly climb a “strenuous” path or stairway to access a great hilltop photo-op. (Especially if there is the potential of a cocktail afterwards.)
When we were in the Faroe Islands aboard Azamara Journey, we learned that some excursions live up to the real meaning “strenuous.” We jumped at the chance for what we thought was a typical cruise excursion hike. Little did we know!
This windswept North Atlantic island chain about halfway between Iceland and Scotland is an autonomous territory belonging to Denmark. The Faroe Islands have fjords and a Norse/Viking heritage. Think of Norway without the trees. The islands have rugged and rocky terrain beneath an ever-changing sky, giving them a beauty all their own.
Drizzle and rain greeted us at the trailhead. We braved increasing wind and rain as we climbed the steep trail, watching our footing to avoid slipping in sheep deposits. Maintaining balance on the steep, rocky and muddy hillside made the hike strenuous (and not just in the cruise-ship brochure sense of the word).
The right clothes make all the difference
After the group climbed several hundred feet along the trail, our guide announced this was the last opportunity to turn back. Putting up a butch front, we watched the warm, comfortable bus creeping away on the hairpin turns. We wanted to break into a chorus of “Don’t leave me this way,” but knew we had to save our breath to “Survive.”
Our pre-cruise investment in layered clothing, waterproof jackets, and new hiking boots proved invaluable. We felt incredulous seeing fellow hikers in tank tops and rain ponchos! We’re not infrequently the most stylish couple at parties (especially gatherings with a large percentage of heteros), but we never expected to be among the best-dressed for hiking!
Horses and sheep
The terrain of the hike challenged us, but the views as we climbed higher made our exertion worthwhile. We shared the mountain with horses who came to investigate us. We stopped several times to gaze in awe at dramatic waterfalls and tiny streams bubbling to the sea far below. A few times we accidentally separated one of the sheep from the rest of the flock, causing a bit of anxiety on the part of the sheep who don’t like being solitary and who let us know how they felt!
The sky constantly changed color from threatening black to multiple shades of gray with the occasional sun break. Climbing higher, we accessed wonderful views of faraway farms on the shore of the fjords. We saw one of the many waist-high horseshoe-shaped mountainside rock shelters built by farmers for sheep to escape the fierce winter wind.
If you go
We recommend a hike in the Faroe Islands. Even for these gay city boys with aging knee joints, the walk became one of the highlights of our trip. As denizens of the American southwest desert, we felt refreshed by the contrast between the landscape of the Faroes and our hometown of Phoenix. If you go hiking in the Faroes, remember to pack appropriate clothing so you can face sun, rain and wind. Next time, we’ll take a walking stick and a preventive aspirin.
At the end of the day, our stiff joints cried out for a stiff drink. And what a great way to work up an appetite for dinner. We met our new onboard Canadian friends Karen and Pam in Prime C, one of Azamara’s premium dining rooms. Double servings of Creme Brûlée anyone?
*Note: the authors traveled as guests of Azamara Club Cruises. Read our disclosure policy here.