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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake

Jewels of Orkney

June 2nd, 2007 by sunflowers

OrkneyOrkneyIf I had known that the Orkney Islands were famous for their jewellery making maybe I wouldn’t have changed my ferry ticket to come back a day earlier. As it was I only had one day in Orkney. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best weather either so the landscape wasn’t really shown to it’s best. On the other hand it was closer to the misty, windy place I had imagined.

Dave from the Shetland Islands contacted Mark from Orkney off of a bmw forum and arranged for him to show me around for a couple of hours. So we met at a petrol station and Mark was riding his brand new RS1200. When asked what I wanted to do everything that I wanted to see was 20 minutes from Kirkwall.

OrkneyOrkneyOur first stop was the Italian Chapel made by the Italian prisoners of war who were made to create the huge concrete dams between the islands. The church is a true testimony to the ability of humans to create items of beauty with meagre materials and little time. Apparently the main designer actually stayed on to complete the church when everyone else was getting repatriated back to Italy. Close to the dams where the remains of the scarpered ships used to block the channel.

OrkneyOrkneyFrom there we stopped in a jewellery shop and I bought a bracelet that was a copy of a pictish design found at the Bay of Biscay where there must have been a jewellery factory for wealthy Picts. We also stopped at a motorcycle shop and they oiled my chain for me as I hadn’t brought any lube with me.

OrkneyOrkneyAt a tea break Mark told me about his transposition from a London City job to living on the islands and then left me. I was going to see the Neothetic mound where there is apparently Norse graphic graffiti but as I had a bit of time to spare before the next tour decided to ride up to the Bay of Biscay where I walked over the causeway. Coming back I still had time to spare so I followed the craft trail to another jewellery shop called fluke where I purchased a bracelet and ring of a humpbacked whale’s tail. I have small fingers and wrists so the jeweller resized both for me but unfortunately due to the high winds riding back to the mound I missed the last tour time so I decided to head back to my b&b.

OrkneyWalking through Kirkwall and sitting to watch the Maori All Blacks lose to England was a bit lonely so I rang a couple of friends which cheered me up and decided to go looking for seafood chowder. I didn’t find my soup but I did end up at an evening of traditional storytelling and songs.

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Shetland Island Cruisers Overseas (SICO) Member

June 1st, 2007 by sunflowers


ShetlandShetlandOn Friday morning we were forced out of cabins after a few hours sleep an hour before docking in Lerwick. As hard it was the sight of Lerwick in the sun was worthwhile. After a couple of hours rest I finally headed off to see the puffins. I have wanted to go to the Orkney Islands (I didn’t know about the Shetland Islands) for a few years now since I heard that they had colonies of puffins. In fact on arriving home the first thing my friend asked me was whether I had seen them or not. I did manage to see one popping in and out of it’s burrow but I was a bit too early for seeing loads of them. Still it wasn’t a wasted trip as it was a gorgeous day and I did see a herd of Shetland ponies including a couple of young ones which are tiny considering the adults only come up to your waist. ShetlandShetland

PuffinI was also made a SICO member and received my stickers (which will hold a place of pride on my panniers), badge, cap and t-shirt. Then it was time to catch the ferry down to the Orkney Islands.

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Published Photographer and Motor Sport Journalist

May 31st, 2007 by sunflowers

Faroe Islands

Thursday was our last day in the Faroe Islands before catching the overnight ferry back to the Lerwick.
Faroe IslandsFaroe Islands

Last year when the Shetland Island Cruisers had come up for a visit they had brought along a journalist with them so there was a misunderstanding and they thought that I was also a journalist – I am not sure if a contributing member to Progression my bike clubs monthly magazine counts. On our first day out they asked me to take some photos of the Harleys including the trike and they were published in the local newspaper also stating that Annette, a motorsport journalist from London had come up to write a story. To tell you the truth that was the icing on the cake of what had been a wonderful experience mainly due to the people I had met.

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Tonnes of Time to Think

May 30th, 2007 by sunflowers

Faroe IslandsOn the Saturday in Shetland I had checked my email before going riding and I had an email about the roof leaking again, the vacuum not working, one from my business partner in Turkey and one from my mother saying I needed to sort something out in New Zealand. So I spent a lot of thinking time the first four days away thinking about things and trying to work them out in my head. One thing I like about biking is you can be social riding in a group with people but you have all the time on the bike just to think things through and listen to music. When we were in the Faroe Islands Ove kindly gave me free access to the internet in the Harley shop and after a few days they were sorted and I could finally relax.

Faroe IslandsFaroe IslandsFaroe IslandsWednesday was our warmest day 11 degrees Celsius. We had a lovely day riding around. One of the settlements we went to had concrete blocks attached to the shed so that it wouldn’t blow away.

No Bugs Footnote: While riding in Shetland and the Faroe Islands I only ever had one bug hit my visor which made me realise that unlike riding around mainland UK there seemed to be relatively few bugs. I guess it is too cold and windy in Faroe and too windy in Shetland.

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Kirks and Drinks

May 29th, 2007 by sunflowers

KirkKirkOn Tuesday I woke up ready to ride after not drinking at all on Monday. My motorcycle journey up from London at 55 miles an hour had well prepared me for biking in the Faroe Islands where the speed limit is 80 kms per hour (about 50 miles per hour). Though no one had prepared me that the petrol would be a lot cheaper 0.90 Faroe Krone per litre (US$1.60) as opposed to the £1.06 north of Edinburgh (US$2.10) and I had filled my tank in the UK.

Faroe IslandsAgain we saw some beautiful scenery, were cold by the end of the day and in the evening experienced some more of the Faroese hospitality as we had a big bbq with a cake that was decorated with a picture of the group in Shetland (I am the blob beside the C in Welcome). I also got to sit in the fire patrol’s van with the lights on when I told them I used to be a volunteer bush fire fighter in Australia.

Faroe IslandsFaroe IslandsWe had a lovely day including a stop at the Faroe Island brewery and drink bottling factory where we were given our own tour of the establishment. It had been mentioned a few times that in both the Shetland Islands and the Faroe Islands you either attended the Kirk (Scottish name for church from the Old Norse word kirkja) or you drank. I was told that until about fifteen years ago each adult in Faroe had a ration of beer which they would ‘sell’ to a private club where you could go and drink. I was told there was a phrase that roughly translated into ‘it is good to be moral but to have double morals is better’. Mind you it wasn’t until we went to a restaurant later that night and I paid £6 for a pint that I realised it was expensive to have no morals.Faroe IslandsFaroe Islands

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Trikes and Tunnels

May 28th, 2007 by sunflowers

Faroe IslandsFaroe IslandsWhen the Norrőna docked in Tórshavn on Monday morning I was a bit worse for wear after an enjoyable night socialising with Shetland, Faroe and Icelandic motor bikers. For the first few hours we hung around the local Harley dealer who feed us until we could check into our bed and breakfast and afterwards took the role of our host for our visit . Then a few of the EMC showed up and we went for a ride around the islands for a few hours. I don’t think that any of us were quite prepared for the extreme conditions (cold).

TunnelOne of feats of engineering in the Faroe Islands is their tunnels. They range from a tunnel for the sheep (I kid you not), 3 kilometre long one-way unlit tunnels to newer dimly lit 6km tunnels between islands. In one of the unlit, one-way (with passing areas) tunnels we experienced a Faroe Island traffic jam where there were too many cars to fit into the passing lane for a truck and a bus to get by. One by one the bikes managed to squeeze past the bus enough to allow the cars into the passing bay.

TrikeI wasn’t riding my bike as I don’t know if I would have been legal so instead I sat on the back of Colin’s trike. Every where we went the trike was the centre of attention and people would all stop and stare. Sitting on it was a great opportunity for me to take photos and videos of the surrounding countryside. The only problem was that I kept on getting my hands out of my mits to take another photo only to get so cold I vowed no matter how good the next view was I wouldn’t bare my hands again only to feel compelled to take another picture. The landscape is much more dramatic than Shetland and is comparable to the fjords of Norway, sounds of New Zealand and lochs of the Scottish highlands.

Faroe Island Parliament BuildingsIn the evening we were served dinner in the Harley shop and then walked the few minutes into Tórshavn around the parliament buildings (with grass on the roofs) and went to a local pub. I was told that Tórshavn is the world’s smallest capital city as Faroe only has 45,000 people. Though I am not taking that as true until I check it on Wikipedia!

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Sitting in a Side Car

May 27th, 2007 by sunflowers

Dave’s OutfitShetland BeachDave who put me up for my night in Shetland is a qualified bike instructor and gave me a few pointers on not dumping my bike as I changed down a gear and rather easing out on the clutch and to roll my hand over the front brake. It was good as with all the time I spent on the trip following other people and not having to worry about navigation I could concentrate on my riding skills. On Sunday morning we weren’t meeting up with the rest of the gathering until mid-day so Dave took me out in ‘The Outfit’. The Outfit is a Kawasaki bike with a matching side car. Riding in a sidecar is one of the things that I have always wanted to do so we went for a spin around for a few hours and I got some cool videos which I will put up later.

NorrőnaView from NorrőnaView from NorrőnaDave who put me up for my night in Shetland is a qualified bike instructor and We then met up with everyone else on the esplanade in Lerwick and went for an afternoon ride up to a beautiful beach and then stopped at a hotel for lunch. Then it was a rush to get on the ferry at five to leave for the Faeroe Islands. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t been able to eat in the hotel over lunch as they were too slow to serve but I had been told that the buffet on the ferry was as amazing as the views of Shetland as we were leaving.

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Shetland Island Cruisers

May 26th, 2007 by sunflowers

LerwickLerwickShetland Island CruisersThis morning, after having a lovely evening talking to my cabin room mate and waking up fully refreshed from being rocked to sleep by the movement of the ferry, I disembarked to my very own welcoming party from the Shetland Island Cruisers. I was kindly being put up by Dave and Jacqui who made me feel right at home at their house in Scalloway 15 or so miles from Lerwick. I had a hard time keeping up with Dave on the way there being torn between watching the road and wanting to look at the scenery.

LerwickMavis GrindAt eleven we went and met up with the rest of the Cruisers and the Faeroe Islands contingency who had come down for the weekend and rode to a light house. On the way we stopped at Mavis Grind which is the narrowest point in the UK with just 35 yards between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean (there is a picture of my bike parked in the same place in front of both). There we left the main group and headed in a café a couple of miles down the road for a leisurely late lunch and to warm up. The rest of the group headed off to the rowing races and we headed back into town for a cup of tea and a spot of sightseeing.

ShetlandShetlandShetland Island Cruisers AwardThat evening there was a bbq at Colin and Carol Fraser who had helped me with all my bookings and were arranging the Shetland Gathering. There were three bands on including a really good blues band from the Faeroe Islands. Tonnes of lovely fresh bbq’d fish and I won an award for being the furthest travelled in the UK. We left just as it was starting to get dark at midnight and came back for a quick walk with the dog before I headed off to bed to catch up with my emails and post this.

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May 26th, 2007 by sunflowers

Shetland FlagThe Shetland Islands is an archipelago (100 islands stretching roughly 70 miles of which 14 are inhabited) to the North East of Scotland above the Orkney Islands and mostly lying above the 60 degree latitude north placing them further north than Moscow and online with the centre of the Hudson Bay in Canada. Is it is a part of Scotland but was under Norwegian rule until about the 15th century and the Scandinavian influence can be seen in the place names. This mix is also seen in the flag which is the same colours as the Scottish flag but shaped in the Nordic Cross.

Shetland PonyShetland is as far north as you can go in the UK and Lerwick the capital is as far from London as Milan in Italy. The islands have a population of 22,000 and fishing and the North Sea gas and oil fields are two of the main income earners for the area. The average temperature in the hottest month is 14 degrees Celsius and 5 degrees in the coldest month. In the winter you can see the aurora borealis (the northern lights) and in the summer there is no real darkness locally called the simmer dim.

Shetland is famous for it’s knitting and it’s ponies. Also it is either called Shetland or Shetland Islands (never the Shetlands).

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Granite City

May 25th, 2007 by sunflowers

StarbucksFerry WindowFrom Derby I rode to the Scottish boarder at 60 miles per hour (4500rpm). An hour before the boarder I had to stop and put on all my thermal wear as it was getting cold. At 2pm just after the boarder I asked the petrol station how long to Aberdeen and found out that it was three hours which meant I wasn’t going to make my booked service in Aberdeen. I phoned up the bike shop and they said to hurry. Luckily I had just hit the 500 mile mark which meant I could do 6000rpm so I drove for two and a half hours solidly at that revs and just made it in time to get the bike serviced and get to the ferry to be the last vehicle boarding.

AberdeenShirlaws Bike ShopAberdeen known by the locals as the Granite City definitely has some beautiful stone work buildings included the prettiest Starbucks and bike shop I have ever seen.

Leaving AberdeenNow I am sitting on my cabin bed in the last of the evening sun (it is doesn’t get dark until late up here) writing this after phoning my mates to chat and wish them all a good bank holiday weekend and let them know that I am ok.

Bug Footnote: Riding up to Aberdeen I was so driven to get there in order to get my bike serviced that a wasp/bee got into my helmet and rather than panic I just opened up the visor and shooed it out. I would also be pleased when it started raining as it was easier to wipe off all the bug goo of my visor without having to stop and clean it when it gets too bad that you can’t see.

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