I stayed with my friends for a while and then returned home by bus, train and ferry. Here are a few photos I took during that time.
Today was the culmination of the awesomeness of the previous days. The weather was again perfect for riding fast (if a little chilly at times); the countryside reasonably beautiful to not be too boring, and not too exciting to be distracting either. Consequently, I stopped only a few times when hunger (or reason) made me want to eat (and when another spoke or two snapped and needed replacing).
I followed road no. 4/E75 through Sodankylä and Sariselkä and made it to Ivalo by half past 9 or thereabouts.
Crossing the 200km mark on the last 10km from Ivalo was the icing on the cycling cake, as it were. That’s 540km in three days, since Oulu.
I’m at my friends’ place now and will stay here for a few days. How I will return is undecided yet.
Yesterday was an exhausting day. I set out from Oulu at 11am and followed E75 for a while, which was bad enough.
The ‘funny’ thing with Finish cycle lanes is that they are not very well sign-posted, that is, there are pretty much no signs telling me where a particular cycle path leads to. And while they usually follow a major road, their direction is not always obvious at junctions where they sometimes lead through tunnels underneath the road.
Anyway, I left E75 and turned north at Simo, to sample some of the wilderness of Northern Finland. I cycled on gravel tracks and did soon have to fight with the wildest and fiercest of Scandinavia’s inhabitants – mosquitoes. And a hell of a lot of them. I was quite unprepared for their onslaught when three spokes snapped in quick succession and I had to stop to install replacements. I put on almost all the clothes I had to cover up everything except my hands. Pitching tent in the evening was a similarly adventurous endeavor.
Today, then, I joined road no. 4 somewhere south of Rovaniemi, stopped there for lunch and to buy mosquito repellent, and continued north. Road no. 4 is the one I will follow up to Ivalo and a little bit beyond, that is, for the next 200 kilometers.
I pitched tent just a few meters off the road, behind some bushes, deep in mosquito territory.
Last night saw me at an annoying hotel in Pori, for lack of a camp site near-by. There was no reception and one had to book online in advance or through a terminal in the ‘lobby’. Payment by card only. Their mail server (DNS, really) is badly configured, so that I didn’t receive their confirmation email with the access code for the door, and had to call them twice on an expensive phone number.
The temperature inside the room, once I finally got there, was too high for my taste, but it was not possible to open the windows or to adjust the aircon.
Anyway, enough of the rambling. After yesterday’s maths puzzle I decided to hop on a train and travel to Oulu (takes ~650km off my route) on my ‘day off’ today. Finish trains are nice. Comfy, with uncomplicated wi-fi, and proper aircon. :)
Oulu is probably my favorite Finish city (for its location), before Helsinki (for its size and architecture) and Uusikaupunki (for its name). However, the fee of 23 Euros for staying on the local camp site is even more ridiculous than in Uusikaupunki.
Six years ago I came through Oulu on my way down from Ivalo. I wanted to stay on the same camp site I’m on now, except that they didn’t want me. Apparently I showed up a few minutes after closing time, and even though there were still people working at reception they didn’t let me in anymore. I can’t for the life of me remember where I ended up pitching tent. Maybe on their premises anyway, maybe outside.
From here it will be some 500km to the shores of Lake Inari, which should be easily doable in 5 days, Insha’allah.
Yesterday didn’t end that bad after all. Eventually, the sky cleared and the sun came out. I rode the 2 or so kilometers to the city for some dinner and karaoke.
Today was slow again. I had a late start (11.30am) and the winds didn’t help either. They had shifted by almost 180 degrees two days ago already and were blowing from northerly directions again today.
However, the (remainder of the) weather was fine: not too hot, not too cold, and no rain! And the wind turned out to be manageable as well. The route changed direction so many times that I enjoyed everything from headwinds to tailwinds.
I also did the maths and figured out that I won’t make it to Lake Inari until July 18 (still ~1200km to go).
The ferry at 9am brought me to Finland proper. I was slow from then on, though, being very tired.
First I went eastwards, and then north. The countryside is flat, with very minor hills, some agriculture and some forests.
I am now in Uusikaupunki (funny name) on a camp site for which I paid 19 Euros. Wait, whaaat?
The weather is crap crap crap. I’d like to go back to the city center, but not in this rain.
I got up later than planned (7am instead of 6) and found everything infested with slugs, which took some time to get rid of. I left at ten past 8 and rushed down to Grislehamn at the Baltic Sea coast, 34km from camp, to finish the Swedish leg of the trip. The ferry to the Åland Islands left at 10am and I touched base at the ticket booth at exactly 9.30. Not too shabby.
The Ålands are an autonomous (and demilitarized) region of Finland. (And apparently a tax-free shopping haven.) They allegedly consist of ~6000 islands, skerries, and rocks.
I hadn’t had any plans for how to cross the islands, just a bunch of ferry schedules, but seeing that the winds are still perfect for travelling in a northeasterly direction, and seeing the grim faces of the cyclists going in the opposite direction, I decided to cut the visit short and not go any further south (than absolutely necessary). No visit to Mariehamn, no postcards from the Ålands, sorry. I crossed the main island and hopped on another ferry at Hummelvik. I got off at Torsholma and cycled north, towards the last ferry that will bring me to mainland Finland tomorrow.
I pitched tent on a sheltered rock facing the water. When going for a swim I found out that the slopes were so slippery that I almost didn’t get back out of the water. Imagine the headline… :)
It started to rain at night, and it still rained at 11am when I decided to leave nonetheless. I cycled less than 10km and stopped at a pizza place for lunch (still in Västerås), and to weather off the worst of the rain.
The weather later improved and the riding was helped by the well-known and loved tail winds.
I waited out another rain shower in a bus stop outside Uppsala while having dinner there as well. My tent is now pitched in the middle of nowhere, on private land not far from a house and a big lake, but the owners are not here. I used their access to the lake for a quick bath.
The Swedes still have that affinity for old US-American cars and Hot Rods. There are some pretty cool vehicles driving around here. They also (probably a different fraction of ‘The Swedes’, though) like to build good cycle paths inside and outside their cities. I was pleasantly surprised by the approaches to Uppsala, Västerås, Göteborg, and many smaller towns in between. Also, the cross-country ‘Sverigeleden’, a cycle path network, is pretty cool, with some of the tracks being far away from any roads and of high quality.
I woke up at 6am, and left at 7.30. The winds were still favourable and quarter past 10 I had cycled more than 50km already.
The terrain was flatter again and I could do 30, 35, or even 40kph over long stretches with little effort.
In Västerås I found out that I’d need Internet (and electricity) tonight, and the only camp sites on my route are either here (Västerås) or in Uppsala (70+ km further). I wasn’t really tired yet, but another 70 km would have been quite a stretch if I wanted to write proper emails afterwards. So I’m staying in a cabin, only to realize that my netbook’s trackpad doesn’t work (rendering it useless for what I need to do).
At least my paper maps can dry.
It rained through the night and until 9.30am. I packed up slowly and started at 11.
Quite a good day with strong tail winds, I hope they’ll keep on blowing for the next two days while I’m still in Sweden.
The countryside became more hilly, so the average speed is ‘only’ a bit over 23kph.
You’ll have noticed there are (almost) no pictures in these recent posts. The thing is, I didn’t feel like taking (m)any. I’m not sure why.
I’m in Fjugesta, on a proper (but pretty much empty) camp site, with a proper shower.
I started the day quite slowly and eventually left at quarter past 3pm. Yepp…
So far the weather had been hot and starting so late had the advantage of skipping the hottest hours of the day.
Later it started to drizzle and then poured down properly, and I sought shelter in a bus stop for a few minutes.
Then I kept riding on lovely quiet backroads (as I do pretty much all the time). Unfortunately, there were farms after farms next to the road and everything was either fenced in or nature reserve (no camping allowed) and it was difficult to find a place for the tent. Though eventually I found a spot on a field behind some bushes, just next to the road.
From 6am the first golfers drove their balls across the course in front of my tent. Luckily it was snuggly hidden behind some bushes and I slept on till 20 past 7.
The first half of the day was marvellous riding through beautiful Swedish countryside, including a short swim in a very cold lake at the road side.
At 2pm I pulled into Vedum, slightly exausted by sun and high temperatures (peaked at 33 degrees). I had a long break in the shade of the local supermarket before I continued for another 5km to a little forest, where I pitched tent.
I’m on my way to the far north of Finland, to visit friends.
The first leg, to Göteborg/Gothenburg is by train and ferry, from there I’ll travel the remainder by bike.
I missed the ferry in Frederikshavn, Denmark, due to a missing reservation for one of the trains, but eventually made it across the Kattegat to Sweden.
I left Göteborg at almost midnight and pitched tent well outside the city on the edge of a golf course, around 1am.
A short walk/climb up An Stac, an 814m hill not far from here.
It was chilly as I approached the hill from the north-east, in the shade. The sun was already past the zenith – I started the walk in the early afternoon. In some sections near the summit I had to use my hands to scramble a few metres, but mostly it was an easy’ish walk.
The view from the top was spectacular, though, as you can see below.
I descended on the ‘sunny’ side and was back down at the road long after nightfall.