Packing for Finland (2017-06-28)
I had hoped to get away on my cycling trip through Finland last week, but…
First I had to postpone due to work and now I have been sidelined by a bad cold. I hope to get well enough to get started on Friday but it means that I will probably have to shorten the trip somewhat, not only because of less time but also because I doubt I will be in the best shape for the first week or so. The daily mileage is not going to be impressive!
The only good thing is that I have had time to refine my packing, rather than just throwing everything into the Alu-Box on Steve, the Bullit bike.
The picture above is everything I plan to take apart from some electronics, a camera, and a food bag. The only things missing are my thongs (flip-flops), they will probably be on my feet more or less the whole time.
The packing list goes like this:
2 Merino wool short-sleeved shirts (one is worn out and is going to be thrown away as soon as it is dirty).
1 long-sleeved Marino wool t-shirt
1 pair Merino wool long johns
1 pair of long pants, synthetic hiking type but slightly more stylish
1 Pair shorts
1 Pair of board shorts, for swimming
1 pair of cycling shorts
2 pair underpants
2 pairs of wool socks
1 Synthetic down jacket, Houdini
1 Hoodie, Houdini
1 Rain jacket, Houdini
1 pair of rain pants
1 reflective vest (the-walk)
Gloves, one thicker pair, one thin wool pair and a pair of cut-off riding gloves
1 Fleece cap
1 pair of lightweight hiking shoes
1 pair of thongs (flip-flops)
Lightweight Tent, Terra Nova Solar Competition 2
Thermarest air mattress
Down sleeping bag, Haglöfs LIM
Sleeping bag liner
Gas stove with integral pot
First Aid kit
Mozzie repellent (very important)
Mozzie head net
Odds and ends (bits of line, carabiners, repair kit air mattress etc)
Add toilet paper, food and electronics (no computer this time) and that is it.
There is so much room left in the Alu-Box that carrying fresh food will never be a problem!
DAY 1, Finland 2017 (2017-06-30)
I am finally on my way.
For some reason, it seems to have been harder to get away on this short summer trip to Finland than I remember it being to start the-walk. But day one is done and it was an easy, lazy day. Just what I needed to help me continue my recovery from my cold.
Just 1 km, all downhill, to the ferry and a slow 21 km from Mariehamn in the afternoon to a great little B &B in Godby.
Tomorrow will be the real start of the cycling, even though there are going to be plenty of ferry breaks tomorrow as well, as I make my way across the islands of Åland towards Finland.
Being on the road again feels great, just the fact that I am slowly making my way forwards liberates me in a way that I almost find disconcerting. I mean, what does that say about me, that I relax and enjoy myself the most when I am on the way somewhere? The “where” I am headed seems to be less important, if not inconsequential. I could probably be accused of “running” from or “looking” for something but that’s not true. I just happen to live the most “in the moment” when I am on the road.
Day 2 was interesting and pleasant.
I started out from Godby a bit later than I would have liked due to a great breakfast that I didn’t want to miss out on. The weather was clear but a bit windy and I enjoyed a morning of rolling through farmland, following meandering roads along the coastline and hopping ferries between the islands.
The ferry breaks were great for me, giving me time to rest and making sure I took it easy. I met and had an interesting conversation with a father and son when I was waiting for the ferry to Osnäs. They came riding by on what proved to be 2 odd bikes and came over to have a look at Steve (my Bullitt bike). We ended up talking about everything from Moultons to recumbents.
At just before 6 pm, I rolled off the ferry and was in the “proper” Finland. A couple of hundred meters along the road I found a sign advertising live Jazz at 6 pm down a side road. I’m not the biggest Jazz fan but live music is live music and always worth a listen. But what really clinched the deal was the small sign just underneath, it just said pizza! So I spent a sunny evening sitting outside, listening to music, eating pizza and having a beer.
I tried to continue on after that but less than 10 km later I decided that enough was enough and started looking for a campsite. Found some cliffs just off the main road overlooking the water and set up the tent.
The tent was a last-minute change of plans, I had intended to bring my new hammock, but decided instead to bring my tried and trusted tent. When I crawled inside and settled down I was glad, I felt right at home and more comfortable than in my “proper” bed. I will have to think about replacing the tent with a new one though, it is starting to show some wear and tear and there are some other features I think I would appreciate in a new one.
It’s nice being out and travelling again and I am consciously trying to adopt a carefree, in-the-moment mindset and just enjoy myself. I am after all exactly where I want to be, on the way somewhere…
No photos this time as I had difficulty uploading them. Might be able to add some later.
It was nice waking up with a view of the sea and the first night in the tent had been a comfortable one. I felt refreshed and my cold continues to get better despite cycling, getting sweaty and then drying in the cool breeze. There is a lot to be said for being outside in the fresh air!
I didn’t bother making any breakfast as there was a town just 15 km away and I thought I could get some hot coffee and maybe something to eat there. I didn’t count on it being Sunday, everything was closed or opened later…
I continued on to the next town but it was the same there. After about 40 km I gave up, pulled into a rest area and made myself some peanut butter and jam sandwiches and some hot coffee. The instant cappuccino mix I have with me is shit and I will have to try to buy something better.
The day started out with a bit of a drizzle but after that, it was cloudy but dry. Nice cycling weather with not much wind. I am taking it easy and relaxing into the riding, even walking a few hills (there are only small ones here) to give my back and legs a bit of a change. Still, with a stop for lunch at a buffet, the km rolled on. The landscape is scenic and there is always something to look at, from seascapes to forests and farmland.
Before too long I had cycled 100 km and started looking for a campsite. Ended up deep in a forest with just the sounds of nature around me, almost certain I heard a moose outside the tent during the evening.
The day ended up being 110 km long, longer than I expected or thought I would cover. I’m not very fit at the moment and recovering from a cold, so I need to ease into it and not overdo it. Will be interesting to see what I feel like tomorrow.
I’m slowly getting into the right mindset and worrying less and less about everything else, enjoying now and here. And why not? I’m back on the road and back wearing my flip-flops!
I woke and listened to the rain drumming on the tent, just like it had all night. Rather than try to pack up in the rain I hoped that the weather forecast was correct and that the rain would ease in the next couple of hours and settled back to wait.
I have a pretty eclectic selection of audiobooks with me and settled down to listen to the one I had started the day before, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. It just seemed so appropriate for this trip!
The forecast actually proved to be correct and a little after 8 am I was busy trying to pack without getting everything wet. The day rolled on with food and coffee stops and a long, drying siesta once the sun showed itself.
I felt surprisingly ok, with no real aches and pains, just a general tiredness and lack of energy.
I had thought I would make it to Pori by evening but the cycle path meandered through the landscape and my lack of peddling enthusiasm wasn’t propelling me along at any great rate. Anyway, the early evening found me cycling along a forest that promised plenty of nice camping spots and I finally capitulated.
I found a small track that led into the forest and found a quiet clearing. An early night and only about 60 km done but it had been a nice day and that’s what counts.
I finished the evening by listening to what has to be one of the best audiobooks I have heard, Sherlock Holmes the Definite Collection read by Stephen Fry. I’m a bit of a Sherlock fan and Stephen Fry makes this collection come alive like no other.
After a while, I turned off the audiobook and just listened to the forest sounds around me, closed my eyes and fell asleep.
Tuesday turned out to be a wet day…
I managed to pack up my campsite and make it into Pori before it started in earnest, but then I spent an hour over coffee and doughnuts in a bakery, watching the rain pour down.
There was nothing to do except break out the wet weather gear and head north, (the cycle path actually headed east from Pori).
Once I got out into the rain it was actually completely ok, I would even go so far as to say I almost enjoyed peddling through it. After a few hours, it turned into a drizzle and then the sun started peeking through the clouds occasionally.
I was expecting some great scenery after looking at the route on the map, but most of the coastline was hidden by trees and most of the time I was cycling through forests or fields, not along the shore. Still fine views though, I am not complaining.
Late in the afternoon, I got my first real chance to do some dirt riding as the route led me along a small dirt road but Steve (the Bullitt bike) handled it without a problem.
100 km into the day found me in Merikarivia and starting to look for a place to camp when I spotted a small sign advertising rooms for the night. So I splashed out on a cheap room and ducked inside out of the shadows of the dark, heavy rain clouds above me.
The day had been reasonably easy, sure, my backside feels like it has been on a bike all day, every day, but all in all, I felt good. No serious aches or pains and not having to push myself to do 100 km in a day.
Mentally, I am forcing myself to take it slow and try to enjoy each moment as it happens. I’m on the road and heading north, that’s enough!
I’ve had a couple of cold, windy days heading up the coast. Have still managed 100 km a day but have not been inspired to do any swimming in the sea.
The winds have been from the north and pedalling into them all day has kept any speed I manage low. Thankfully though, they have been more or less dry with rain only falling during the night.
I spent one night at the camping grounds at Kaskinen and really enjoyed a long, hot shower. I have been taking plenty of breaks, having coffee and snacks at the small stores and cafes along the way and listening to the special Swedish spoken in the area.
Last night I camped in a forest, just next to a logging road about 12 km from Vasa and was almost eaten alive by the mosquitoes. There were great gigantic swarms of them and standing still was impossible. Every time I did, I started breathing in mozzies!
But I hid in the tent and had a nice rest.
This morning, Friday ( I had to check on the phone what day it is),I had a nice short ride in brilliant sunshine into Vasa and will spend a few hours here having a look around before continuing north.
I really would have to recommend cycle touring in this area, especially if you want to try and see if you like it. It is easy and there are both plenty of services and lots of places to free camp. The scenery is not too bad earlier!
I’ve had a couple of nice days with better weather and have been trying to take it easy and enjoy the surroundings.
Not that hard to do as the surroundings have been very nice!
I found a perfect camping spot right next to the sea and the best part was that there were almost no mosquitoes.
I was very lucky to have been offered a place to stay in Jakobstad, with a teaching colleague, Emma, and her family. Always great with a nice friendly break, not to mention a hot shower and a great meal!
I’m now on my way even further north and have a vague plan of reaching Happaranda in 4 days. But only a vague plan, not sure what will turn up along the road and it’s the unplanned, serendipitous happenings that are the ones to savour.
Back to the road…
I’ve gotten as far north as I am going on this trip, and as soon as I finish breakfast and pack, it will be time to turn south through the middle of Finland.
After my short break in Happaranda to attend my grandmother’s wake, I returned with the overnight bus and started out already tired and feeling a bit dull.
But heading north out of Tornio I met a human-powered contraption that made me smile.
A polish couple on a tandem, towing their dog in a gigantic trailer. They had been traveling for 7 months, having come through the Baltic states and Finland on their way to Nordkap. Now they were heading down through Sweden to finish their trip.
We talked for a while but they were in a bit of a hurry and there were a lot more questions I would have liked to ask.
I only managed 60km out of Happaranda, having had a late start and not feeling all that rested.
The next day, Tuesday, started with rain and then just got wetter. I reached Rovaniemi just after lunch and sat down to a Chinese buffet, dripping water all over the floor and the table. I took my time over lunch but it just kept raining and I finally capitulated and decided 80km in the rain was enough for the day and got myself a room.
All in all a good decision and I am now primed to start heading south and start my exploration of inland Finland.
Finland 2017 round up (2017-08-28)
At last, here is a final blog post about this summers bicycle trip through Finland.
It’s been a long time coming. For some reason, I have just not managed to get around to finally writing it, even though I finished more than 3 weeks ago.
I can highly recommend Finland as a great bicycle touring destination. It is easy, scenic and hopefully, you will have better weather than I did!
It seemed that I had my own private little rain cloud following me for most of my trip and even though I enjoyed the cycling, I would have liked to have spent a lot more time in the sun, relaxing beside one of the thousand lakes.
I spent a lot of time by myself on this trip. Not because people were difficult to connect with but because I think I needed it. This last year has been pretty intense and I meet and interact with a lot of different people all the time. Being out on the bike and being by myself has given me some time to reflect and try to absorb everything that has happened. It’s a big change from all the time I had to myself during the-walk and I needed to decompress, probably a lot more than I realized myself.
But I still managed to meet some wonderful, helpful people along the way. In Helsinki I stayed with Hannu and his family. Hannu is the guy who invented Kickbikes and Kickbiking in Finland. He now runs Kickbike who made Stan, the kickbike I rode in Australia and Asia. It was great, relaxing in the sauna and dreaming about new extreme kickbike adventures.
In the end, this trip lasted for 5 weeks and covered 2,500 km. I averaged an easy 80 km a day and Steve, the Bullitt cargo bike, worked without a hitch. As a shakedown ride, it proved that the bike works wonderfully (especially after I changed the saddle) and apart from a small gearing change there is nothing that needs to be done before it would be possible to head out for a much longer adventure.
A 5-week trip should by most measures be considered as a reasonable holiday but felt way too short. I have been spoiled by the more or less unlimited time I had on the-walk, and I felt a constant time pressure. I was always very much aware that I had a limited time and that it was slowly ticking away all the time. A longing for the endless road was always close to the surface. Wishing to be able to just go where I wanted, when I wanted, without always being aware of logistical restrictions, just going walkabout….