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 on an expensive phone number twice.
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 change 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’. 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 fces 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. 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 no pictures in these recent posts. The thing is, I didn’t feel like taking 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 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.
I happen to be on the Isle of Man for a few days. This morning I hopped on a random bus, which brought me to Peel on the western side of the island. I spent an hour there and had an early lunch, and then took another bus north to Ramsay. I got off about halfway though, in Kirk Michael. And somehow I decided to walk along Baltic Road and across a hill from there. Halfway through it started to rain and the wind got stronger, and somehow I decided I’d walk all the way through to the other side of the island.
The path I had followed deteriorated to almost 😉 Malagasy dimensions. It soon ended and my only choice was to cross private land to reach Druidale Road further down in the valley.
On Druidale Road I reached Druidale Farm, from where a footpath leads to the head of Sulby Reservoir. Here I joined Sulby Glen Road, which climbs along the hillside of Snaefell (621m), the highest mountain on the island. The weather got worse; rain, fog and a heavy-heavy head wind (I should have done this in the other direction) made the walk somewhat difficult. Visibility had decreased to less than 50m and sometimes I walked side-ways to evade the heaviest of gusts. With rain in my face and wind in my ears I didn’t hear my camera’s screams for help – it drowned unnoticed in my jacket’s pocket (water-proof apparently means: the water that’s inside won’t get out any more).
When darkness fell I reached Bungalow, a station on the Snaefell Mountain Railway at the junction of Sulby Glen and Mountain Road. The railway doesn’t run during the winter, so what could be more obvious than to use it’s tracks to reach Laxey, especially since there is no other direct road or path available?
The walk on the tracks was almost pleasant and about an hour later I emerged in Laxey on the eastern coast of the Isle of Man. Only when I sat down in the bus that brought me back to Douglas (the capital of the Isle of Man) I realized that my clothes were more or less completely soaked and I started to get cold. Nothing a hot shower and a warm dinner couldn’t fix, though.
Just a few hours’ walk across North Morar. We left the car In Bracarina and followed the trail to Stoul, where we had our sandwiches for lunch before we headed back on the same track. No Munros or anything extreme, just lovely hill walking.
Stoul apparently used to be an inhabited place, as there are ruins of a couple of houses and stables there. Two stables have been upgraded to tin roofs and probably serve as shelters for the numerous sheep. Of the houses only the walls are standing, with a chimney at each gable.
I had grand plans for today and wanted to attempt to climb up to six Munros in the Glenshee area. Starting with Creag Leacach (987m) and Glas Maol (1068m), I wanted to cross over to Cairn of Claise (1064m), potentially taking in Tom Buidhe (957m) and Tolmount (958m), before returning to A93 via Càrn an Tuirc (1019m).
The weather wasn’t particularly great and I couldn’t see any of the hill-tops around me, they were all covered in a dense layer of grey clouds. So I also didn’t see that they were all properly snow-covered (though I guessed that from the snow patches on the hillsides – and the time of year). I had a good map, compass, and GPS with me, though.
I parked on the central car park of the Glenshee ski area and walked down the A93 to begin my walk with the ascent of Creag Leacach. In hindsight, following the descending road south added an unnecessary climb to the walk. If memory serves right, some of this could have been avoided by leaving the road quite early on and crossing over to Creag Leacach’s base via a parallel ridge. Anyway, whether that would have been faster is an entirely different question. And the ascent wasn’t so bad in the end.
Visibility soon went downhill while I walked up. Interestingly, the boundary between the council of Angus and the council of Perth and Kinross follows the crest between the peaks of Creag Leacach and Glas Maol (and from there the boundary between Kinross and Perth and Aberdeenshire follows over to Cairn of Claise and Tolmount), and additionally, is marked by a somewhat derelict drywall. This wall was visible for the last part of the way up to Creag Leacach already, and was easily followed thereafter as well, as it’s crown often peeked through the snow.
Not far from Glas Maol my path was crossed by a kind of snow mobile which was unexpected and faded away in the fog as quickly as it had emerged, but reminded me that Glenshee is a ski resort.
Both Creag Leacach and Glas Maol were easily reached. From the latter, however, it became more difficult to march on. Owing to white clouds on white snow, visibility was seriously poor and at some point both compass and GPS started to display gibberish. I was indeed lucky that there was snow, which allowed me to retrace my steps.
Having lost quite some time trying to find my way, I decided to call it a day. Walking towards the other Munros would have led me further away from the road and given the weather conditions and the flaky navigational aids that didn’t seem like an exceptionally smart thing to do. I descended close to the ski slopes and wished I’d had a snowboard with me.