The waterfall, Vikafossur whooshes down grey-brown rocks and is surrounded by rich green mosses, grass and scree. As we walk a fairly steep slope I’m told in jest that it’ll be easy to climb here ‘the sheep do it, that means we can too’ (it might actually be true for the locals but certainly isn’t for me)’. The sun is bright and beautiful – this is easily the best weather I’ve seen so far in the Faroes and the waterfall spray is bright as liquid diamond. The guys have done all the safety tests, told us what to do and how to do it, Henrik and his 11 year-old daughter Rigmor have already rappelled down alongside the waterfall and it’s my turn next. Clad in a red-for-safety shower-proof jacket and hardhat I give my camera to Eyðun for safety and start leaning back.
I bottle. I’m too scared. I just can’t do it.
I discover the first psychological difference resulting (albeit indirectly) from the cancer and chemo. I’d like to say that I thought that, after having gone through 6 months of chemo I’m not risking my life climbing (or doing whatever else) again but it would be untrue. I have confidence in the people around me, know that the danger is minimal but despite all this am too scared to do the rappel.
The reality is more prosaic. In the 2 years since diagnosis I’ve forgotten how it feels. Since I’ve only been fit enough for soft adventure I’ve forgotten that pretty much every time I do something different that I’m scared. It didn’t matter that I’ve abseiled down 50-floor buildings, walked through places I shouldn’t have been, eaten food that still wiggled or struggled through miles of dry desert alone, I had briefly forgotten that near-terror is normal, that I can manage it, that it is exactly such extremes of emotion that make the feelings memorable and my writing good. I had even forgotten that the only way I can get stuff done is to embrace the fear, go through it and keep doing so again and again.
I guess this was the first step in relearning how to do that at the same time as I recover my strength and fitness. I’ve promised them – and myself – that I’ll learn, go back to the Faroes and do the rapelling properly when I do.