This is a recreation of the original blog from the-walk.se where I first documented my bicycle touring and bikepacking journey through parts of Europe in the second half of 2019.
I’m back! Plans for the coming year… (2019-06-15 16:09)
It’s been very quiet here on the blog during the last year. Mainly because there has not been a lot to report on that in any way has had any bearing on what the-walk is all about.
But now, finally, I have a bit of news that means that there will be a lot more happening here in the next year or so. Or even longer, who knows?
I have been working and saving, with the long term plan of heading out on another long trip and am now almost ready to hit the road again. There have been a number of different plans and ideas, many that almost became reality, but finally, just last week, I made my final decision. I’m heading out on a year-long bicycle trip and hope to explore most of eastern Europe, the Balkans, southern Italy and Greece. To begin with!
One problem I had in planning the trip (dare I call it the-ride), was deciding what bike to head out on. Would I take Molly, the Moulton fixie and be completely unconventional, or maybe Black Beauty, the Azub recumbent and enjoy a comfortable ride without any backside pains?
In the end, I went with Sir, my 29″ gravel bike. Mainly because I want to be able to explore a lot of smaller trails and bikepacking routes.
In less than a month, on July the 10th, I will ride the short distance down to the ferry and take it to Tallin in Estonia. Then it will all begin. I am so looking forward to being on the road again!
You will be able to follow along here on the blog and I am thinking about returning to Instagram but have not decided yet. Either way, I plan to document the trip both in words and spend a fair bit of time taking some good photographs. There will hopefully be a whole lot to share!
To be continued…
Back on Instagram (2019-06-23 09:38)
No more explanation required
Käsmu, Estonia (2019-07-24 22:01)
I finally made it!
I left Hjorthagen at 4 pm on Sunday and hope I have managed to complete all my obligations and can just hit the road for a year.
It was an easy start, less than 2 km down to the ferry that would take me to Tallinn, Estonia. Nice though as I was tired and I have no doubt that I am going to have to take it very easy this first week in order to decompress and get into the right mindset. Not to mention that I have not done much riding lately, so I’m sure my body is going to complain more than just a little bit.
Naturally, it was raining when I arrived in Tallinn, it is always raining when I go on a bicycle holiday in Europe!
I had a plan to stay in Tallinn a few days if the weather was too bad, but looking at the weather report, I could see that the rain would clear up by the evening and the rest of the week was going to be warm and dry. So I pushed on.
Rode past large apartment complexes, both new and older, a mixture of abandoned and more or less running industries and found an off-road path to the tele-tower.
I waited out some rain at the tower and then headed along the northern coast. Managed to take the wrong road once and had to backtrack from the city dump.
Then, riding down a small road to stay off the highway, I found a large pet cemetery. There were hundreds and hundreds of graves, in all stages of repair. Fitting as I had spent part of the morning riding along and thinking about memorials, the need a lot of people seem to have of a certain place to got to, to remember.
Made it to Jägala Falls early in the afternoon and was very tempted to call it a day and camp there. Not sure if it was allowed, but there was plenty of space and a couple of teenage boys had a tent set up. But I kept going, it was just a bit too early, and I’m glad I did.
I found a free campsite in Kaberneeme, with a fireplace, firewood, table and seats, a freshwater lake to wash in and soft grass to pitch the tent on. Not bad at all, there was even a toilet, even if it wasn’t all that inviting!
I discovered that there are plenty of these free campsites in Estonia, just search for RMK on google maps.
Woke the next morning to the sound of fishing.
Tuesday was an easy bike along small country roads, exploring the peninsulas along the coast, with many stops at beaches, just to admire the view.
Found out that Pood is the local name for store, and managed to find one of those as well.
Arrived at Juminda Peninsula in the afternoon to have a look at the lighthouse, but it was not much of a lighthouse, it was more or less hidden by the trees around it!
But there were other interesting things to look at, Juminda was a Soviet Missile Base until 1993 and there is a memorial to all the ships that were sunk by the Germans and Finns outside the peninsula during the evacuation of Tallinn in WWII.
So I looked around, had a swim at the beach and decided to stay the night at the free campsite. Even had a nice conversation with a German couple that pitched their tent beside mine. They were on a 2-week car camping trip and offered me a beer. I naturally had to be friendly and accept!
The next morning I set off towards Hara Allveeavade Sadam, an abandoned Russian submarine base. I got there before it opened but could just ride past the gate. I did have to pay when I left though!
It was interesting having a look around, but mainly just because I had read about it before. As a tourist attraction, it is not all that exciting.
Spent the rest of the day exploring the peninsulas along the coast and arrived at the start of (actually the end) a bikepacking route I knew about, The Swamp Thing. I rode the most northern part of it and am now considering if I should do the rest of it, about 5 days, or head toward Narva as I had planned earlier. Can’t really decide but I really enjoyed the part I rode, the only thing that makes me a bit cautious is that there are supposed to be a lot of mosquitoes along the route. And I HATE mozzies. I’m going to leave the decision to tomorrow.
Got myself a room in Käsmu, in order to have time and internet to update the blog, and to think about what route to take tomorrow.
Naturally, the whole trip has been in flip-flops so far it is working great as usual. Life just is better in flip-flops!
Pärnu, Estonia (2019-07-29 20:20)
The best decision, considering both my rather poor shape and lack of riding time, would have been to continue following the coast towards Narva.
So, naturally, I decided to cycle the Swamp Thing Route!
And just how wrong that decision could be was apparent after less than 10 km.
On the first real off-road section, I went around a fallen tree and as I cut through the tall grass I heard a sharp bang followed by a hiss. I had managed to stake a sharp branch through the sidewall of the rear tire!
The cut was too large to be repaired with the tubeless repair kit I carry and I had to put in my one and only spare tube. So much for mounting the tires tubeless in order not to have to repair too many tubes…
I didn’t mind the work repairing the tire so much, but what really annoyed me were the countless horseflies. They have a vicious bite and don’t seem to care one little bit about the insect repellent I had doused myself with.
But I’m glad I continued, the rest of the day was brilliant riding, with all sorts of tracks and ended at yet another great RMK free campsite.
The first half of day 2 was hard work and really put my limited fitness to the test. Rooty, twisty singletrack, going up and down, followed by swampy tracks through the bog. Again, brilliant fun but so tiring…
By lunchtime, I was totally spent but had gotten further than expected. A long, slow lunch at the Green Frog gave me enough strength to continue, at least to the next campsite.
I recovered more than expected and reached Ardu where I invested in a luxurious camping cabin. Complete with a cold shower and, well nothing else.
Day three was easier, thankfully, but warm, 29 degrees. Mainly gravel roads, interspersed with the odd stretch through a bog or two. After a late Lunch in Lelle, I was ready for a new campsite.
I found a nice swimming hole at a bog, where I spent some time talking to an Estonian couple and then cycled less than 1 km to another free campsite. Unfortunately, this one was a bit small and there were a few campers there already. I had to pitch the tent more or less in the car park and went to bed as soon as I had forced myself to try to eat some dinner. I could have been a bit more sociable if I wanted, there were plenty of people to talk to, but I just wanted to sleep!
I had more or less decided to head off the route the next morning, in order to cycle to Pärnu, and that proved to be the right thing to do as I woke to find the rear tire flat again the next morning.
It was a slow flat and I could pump it up and it retained pressure for several hours. It was only about 60 km to Pärnu and I had planned an early start as the temperature was supposed to reach 32 during the day.
It was a boring ride along larger, but nice and straight, roads and I was in Pärnu in time for an early lunch. Just as well as it just got hotter and hotter through the day.
I had booked a room for 2 nights, planing to have my first rest day.
Well, not so much rest day as repair day, but at least with time off the bike.
Spent the next morning walking through a grey, overcast Pärnu, waiting for the bike shop to open so I could buy another spare tube.
The beach was empty but as the day wore on, the sun broke through the cloud cover and the temperature rose again.
I did some work on the bike, washed some clothes and had a rest.
Later in the afternoon, I went for another walk and now it was a completely different town.
Found an Airstream trailer selling Cuban street food. There are many different restaurants and food vendors throughout the town, it is easy to see that this is very much a resort town.
There are lots of nice older wooden houses, some restored and some, well, not. Mixed among them are modern, architectural design buildings and the odd old Soviet-era blockhouse. All in all a very interesting place.
Ended the walk with a strawberry margarita and fajitas. Not exactly Estonian fare, but just what I wanted!
Tomorrow should see me heading south towards Riga and Latvia, but one never knows what will happen. I am tempted to continue north along the coast and explore the Estonian islands but maybe that is best left for another trip…
Sir retires from the-ride… (2019-08-03 08:45)
I’m back in Stockholm!
Surprising, but I have spent a fair bit of time considering some major equipment changes and finally decided to just do it. I plan to be travelling through Europe for a whole year, so spending yet another few days making sure everything works as well as possible should prove more than worth the effort.
One problem I have been having is punctures. I’ve had 4 in just 10 days! This was something I was afraid might happen as the tires mounted to Sir, Schwalbe G-Ones, are far from touring tires and I was always expecting to have to swap them out for something a bit sturdier, with a more aggressive tread pattern. Just not quite so quickly, this first section of the-ride was supposed to be an easy one!
But a bigger problem I have been having is that Sir wobbles at speed when fully loaded. I do have a bit of gear with me but have packed somewhere between a bikepacking and a more conventional touring setup, so it is not as if I’m carrying huge amounts of stuff.
Sir is just not built for this type of riding.
One problem could be the tires, that they flex a bit too much, but there are other reasons as well. I bought the bike converted from being a mountain bike with a suspension fork to a more gravel oriented bike with a solid Surly fork. But it turns out that the fork is just a bit too short and does not have enough offset for the frame, making the bike self-steer under heavy load. While Sir’s frame is a thing of beauty, it is built more for lightweight bikepacking or racing use and not for expedition touring. Even the 29-inch wheels are 28 spoke rather than a more solid 32 or 36, light but maybe a bit flexible.
I have spent a fair part of the first 10 days of the-ride trying to decide if Sir was going to be able to cope or if I had to make a drastic change and in many ways, the decision has more or less made itself. I just need to look at where I have been and what I have done.
Estonia was expected to be a rather easy start to the-ride but I have already got stuck in a bog, zipped along tight, bumpy single-track, had to carry both up and down stairs, ridden along beaches and carried over rocky coastlines, made strange (and probably highly illegal) railway crossings and jumped logs and stones. It seems that I just naturally gravitate towards the rougher tracks rather than the paved bike paths. So when I reached Riga, I booked a ferry to Stockholm to either change bikes or make some changes to Sir.
I landed in Stockholm on Thursday morning and rode straight to Cyklecraft, I knew from their website that one of their stores had what was probably the only Surly Troll, size large, left in stock in Sweden and had been trying to see if I could buy it online for the last 2 days without success.
Thanks to the great customer service by Mats (great name) at the store, I finally managed to buy the Troll and got it delivered to the store the next day, Friday. I spent Friday afternoon fitting my racks and holders to the bike and am going to try loading it up and going for some test rides during the weekend.
The Surly Troll is probably one of the original bikepacking, off-road touring bikes and is already a classic. I have wanted to own one for a long time but have always been sidetracked in one way or another from getting one. But now I am end of the world, bug-out expedition ready, the Troll is built to take it all!
But I am sad to leave Sir behind, it is a great bike in its own right, just not for this ride. It rolls so well that I sometimes felt that it was rolling by itself, even on the slight uphills! After testing the Troll for 20 or 30 km I realize that it is going to be a bit harder work from now on. I have already started converting Sir back to its original configuration with a suspension fork, with the right length and offset, and am hoping to be able to do some lighter backpacking trips with it later on. Maybe the tour divide…
I’ll post an update with information about the Troll (needs a name) and equipment after the weekend and hope to be back on track by Tuesday evening. The only problem is that I now have to decide if I go back to Riga to continue or start again from Tallinn? The coast along the western part of Estonia looks like really nice riding and it would be sort of nice for the new bike to get a chance to start from the beginning. That would see me having to ride the 2 days between Pärnu and Riga again, but at least Estonia would be well and truly done…
Time will tell.
Presenting Mister Shine! (2019-08-05 16:48)
I am finally more or less ready to head back out on the road again, this time with a new travelling companion.
Mister Shine is a Surly Troll, outfitted with the racks and fittings from the bike I started out on, Sir. Everything moved over without any problems and I have more or less been able to pack the same kit, in the same place. I have made one or two changes, but nothing too extreme. The one larger equipment change, apart from the bike, is that I’m leaving the camping stove at home. Most people want to have a stove with them but I didn’t have one when I walked through Europe and am pretty certain that I will survive just fine without it. In fact, I find that I end up eating better, more nutritious and healthy food when I don’t have to cook it myself!
I was lucky to get my hands, very quickly, on what was probably the last and only large Surly Troll available in Sweden. I have to especially thank Mats at the Stockholm store of Cykekraft who helped me get the bike from their Gothenburg store in record time. Great service!
The Troll is the original off-road touring bike and is made super strong in order to survive just about anything. I have tested it over a variety of terrain and it feels solid and confidence-inspiring. It is heavier and does not roll as easily as Sir, but I am not racing, so I will just have to take a little bit more time.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, we take the ferry back to Tallinn to start all over again. Rather than head back to Riga to start where I left off, I am going to take the opportunity to cycle the western coast of Estonia, a route that looks really interesting. That way, I can at least say that I have cycled a large part of Estonia. Some of my friends are also taking bets as to whether I will make it past Riga this time, or if I will find another excuse to take the ferry back to Stockholm again!
Mister Shine got its name from 2 different sources. The first is from the Diamond Troll called Mister Shine in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchet. It was difficult to find a smart Troll in literature to name the bike after, most Trolls are both evil and stupid, not traits that I value in my travelling companions. But Diamond Trolls are different, as explained by Wikipedia:
“All trolls are made of metamorphorical rock. The Diamond King is a Troll born not of jasper or beryl or bluestone or granite, but pure diamond, and as such his destiny is kingship. As diamond trolls, they are capable of regulating the temperature of their brains by reflecting all heat. The troll brain being a lump of impure silicon, troll intelligence is lowered by increases in temperature.
Diamond trolls’ ability to regulate temperature makes them very intelligent, and intelligent in all environments.”
The other source is after an Australian Stockhorse that I once owned that was called Mister Kelly. Again from Wikipedia:
“The Australian Stock Horse (or Stockhorse), has been specially bred for Australian conditions. It is a hardy breed of horse noted for endurance, agility, and good temperament. Its ancestry dates to the arrival of the first horses in Australia brought from Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is used today in a wide variety of disciplines and is still valued as a working horse by stockmen and stockwomen throughout Australia.”
So it will have a lot to live up to! I will most probably just call it Mister, which continues the rather formal tradition started with Sir and I now have 2 bikepacking bikes. One, Sir, a lightweight, easy-rolling thoroughbred and Mister, a practical, solid reliable bike that can handle anything.
Let the fun begin!
Kuressaare, Estonia (2019-08-11 20:09)
It’s great to be back on the road again, although the change of bikes worked very smoothly, it still felt like a setback. Still, everything feels great right now, Mister feels like it can tackle just about anything.
The problem now is me!
After leaving the ferry, I rode 50 easy kilometres, met some very friendly bicycle tourers and finally decided to camp at an RMK campsite right next to the beach. After I had been there for a while, a German gentleman rode up and camped a bit further along. He was on his way to Nordkap and we had a nice chat.
I’ve been seeing a lot more bike travellers here along the coast compared to when I rode the Swamp Thing, not surprising I suppose, especially considering that most of them are riding old school touring bikes with 4 fully loaded panniers plus an extra bag over the rear panniers and a handlebar bag. Ortlieb of course, as a fair percentage of them seem to be German.
But you definitely meet the nicest people when long-distance touring. There is a special camaraderie among long-distance travellers.
Day 2 was spent riding along the coast, enjoying the scenery and finally taking the ferry to Hiiumaa, Dagö.
I found yet another RMK campsite near the beach and continued on my way the next morning.
There are lots of interesting things to see along the way, small villages, old farmhouses, and even old abandoned service stations.
I was on the lookout for anybody speaking Swedish, or something that sounded like it, as there are old Swedish colonies on the islands, but I had no luck.
I took the late afternoon ferry to Saareema, Ösel, and arrived at yet another great RMK campsite very tired after two 100 kilometre days. I’m not used to this yet!
Woke to a calm morning with fog, not much seemed to be happening at all.
Which suited me just fine as I was still tired. I knew from the start that the first month or so was going to take its toll on my body as I haven’t done any real preparation.
I was going to have to take it easy for a couple of days and let my body slowly get used to the new sitting position. Strangely, it is my wrists and hands that are suffering the most. My backside is coping and my legs have been reasonably ok, even though I can feel that they have been working.
After just 50 or 60 km, I found another great campsite (almost getting boring, isn’t it) and settled in for an early evening to get as much rest as possible.
It started raining during the evening and rained more or less all night. But I was comfortable in my tent, with plenty of room and stayed completely dry. Spent most of the night listening to an audiobook, Good Omens, and it magically stopped raining in the morning.
I don’t mind if it rains while I cycle, or during the night, just as long as it doesn’t rain while I’m either packing or unpacking my stuff.
The next morning my wrists were still complaining and my worse knee had started to tighten up and almost cramp at the back of the joint, so I decided that another shorter 50 to 60 km day was in order. Like most people, I have two knees, in my case one bad and the other worse.
A little over 50 km took me into Kuressaare, where I found a cheap hut with wifi so that I could charge my equipment and update the blog.
I had a walk around town, played tourist in the castle and had a nice dinner before sitting down and writing this.
Amongst other things, I found out that I am 1475 km from Berlin. Which shouldn’t mean anything as I wasn’t planning to go to Berlin, but I have found out that it is possible to get e-visas to Kaliningrad now and with that in mind, I might just continue on along the coast rather than turning east as planned. I’m not sure yet, but I know of a bikepacking trail that starts in Rostock and heads down past Berlin. From there I could cut east along the Check-Polish border, head to Krakow and then down through Slovakia to Hungary.
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Pärnu, take two: (2019-08-14 22:27)
When I woke up the next morning in Kuressaare, I found that I had a new neighbour. There was a tent sort of pitched on the lawn next to my hut. The rain cover wasn’t exactly covering much, and some of the tent poles were missing, but it was there and there was somebody moving around in it.
It turned out to be Manne, a Finnish musician who had come visiting friends, using money his mother had given him for his 60th birthday. I offered him some morning coffee and we sat around talking for a while before it was time to pack everything and get back on the bike
The morning was a nice ride across the island, and I even visited the meteorite holes in Kaali along the way. Everything was going great and I was slowly but surely getting some miles done until I stopped and had lunch in Orissaare. That’s when it started raining. But I wanted to push on to the ferry back to the mainland, so I set off and raised the tempo to help get some warmth into my legs and arms. Felt good, even though it was raining, and I had the pleasure of speeding past a few other bicycle tourers. Even Mister can be speedy when it has to!
The ferry crossing was a short one and as my phone promised that the rain was going to stop any minute, I bought some food and a cider and sat down to wait. 40 minutes later it was still raining…
I finally got out all the rain gear, got properly dressed and set out. Sure it was raining, but it was a nice ride along the coast and there was very little traffic. The roads became smaller, turned into gravel and mud, but Mister just churned along without any problems.
I was starting to get tired, but had set my mind on reaching a campsite at Matsi Beach (has to be a great place) and did not feel like stopping as long as it was raining anyway.
Less than 11 kilometres from the campsite, after I had had a quick coffee in a small shop, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds. It was still raining but at least now it actually felt like there might be a chance that the rain would stop before I had to pitch the tent, never a fun thing to do in the rain.
As the sun continued to shine, a rainbow appeared in front of me and it actually looked like it touched the ground approximately where my campsite should be. I took an early photo with the mobile, and then as I continued further on, the rainbow developed into the most impressive rainbow I have ever seen. It spanned the sky in an uninterrupted arc and all the colours were clearly visible. I had to stop and just look at it.
My first thought was to get the camera out, but it was deeply buried in waterproof protection and it was still raining. Then I just thought, f… it, I am going to keep this one for myself, and just enjoyed the view as I slowly pedalled the last few kilometres to the beach.
By the time I arrived, the rain had more or less stopped. Perfect timing!
I got to pitch the tent and try to hang some of the rain gear up to “dry” before I wandered around and enjoyed the last rays of the setting sun.
There were a fair few other cars there, but it was a long beach and there was plenty of room for everyone. Yet another great, free RMK campsite!
Next morning I was feeling a bit tired, I had done somewhere around 135 km the day before, so I took it slow and stopped several times during the morning for coffee and cake at small cafes and shops. I only had about 70 km into Pärnu where I had promised myself a rest day.
Today I have taken it easy, done some washing and tried to find a new drybag, wandering around in Pärnu and just relaxing. I did find time to apply for a visa to Kaliningrad and hope to get a reply in the next couple of days.
Tomorrow I will set off towards Riga again, and see if I manage to get past it this time. Who knows, anything could happen…
Hiding in the Forest (2019-08-20 06:31)
Jurkalne, Latvia (2019-08-20 21:13)
I’m having a half-day today, using the excuse that I need to write this post, but it’s really because I’m knackered. Yesterday and today have been a struggle into strong headwinds and it has been slow, hard going. I still did 85 km yesterday but that just made me more tired today, so a half-day, 50 km, it is!
I’m in Latvia and have made it past Riga! Wonders will never cease.
The riding here has been varied and the roads are generally worse than in Estonia. They are in much worse shape and have smaller or no shoulder to ride on. Still, I have been able to ride along beaches, gravel roads, and forest tracks, not only paved main roads.
The one thing that made yesterday a bit special was finding an abandoned military city. I was looking for an excuse to have a rest and saw a sign about a radio telescope a few kilometres off the road and decided to check it out. It proved to be rather uninteresting and more or less closed for lunch, but on the way, there were the ruins of what had been a large military posting.
There were still 4 or 5 large apartment blocks standing, along with a few smaller buildings.
There was also heaps and heaps of rubble. It was difficult to try to guess how large the city had been before it was abandoned.
I spent a bit of time exploring but there wasn’t a lot to see, everything of value or interest had been removed. There seemed to be somebody living there in a trailer home, that was slowly stripping away anything of value they could find.
I’m heading along the coast as I hope to get a visa to cycle through Kaliningrad, but there have been some problems…
I applied for a visa through the new e-visa system and received notification that I had a result a few days ago. The only problem is that I have to log into the visa site to see the result. Which I can’t do as my password no longer works. There is no way to reset the password and I have sent e-mails to Russian ministries, but have not got any answers about what I should do. As I am getting closer and closer to Kaliningrad, I need to decide what happens next and in the end, I have made a new e-visa application. I don’t know if that will work as it has the same passport number as my earlier application.
I should find out in about 2 days if I get a visa and I should be getting close to Klaipeda in Lithuania by then. I will either be able to cycle through Kalkiningrad or have to cycle around it or get the ferry around to Poland.
The possibility of getting a visa has changed my planned route, so I do hope it goes through and I will be able to continue along the coast and maybe even get to do the Trans Germany bikepacking route down to Berlin.
Mister is doing its job with ease, much easier than me. But there are a few things I would like to change with the equipment, would be great to have those done before I start on the Trans Germany route, but we will see when and how I have time to change stuff.
All in all, everything is going great. I always knew that the first month or two would be a bit hard as I got accustomed to the load of cycling every day. I am just a bit surprised that it’s my wrists that are doing the most complaining!
Gdansk, and Stockholm! (2019-08-29 08:00)
It’s been a rather intense week since I last updated the blog. New countries and altered plans!
Luckily, the strong headwinds of the previous days eased off a bit and made life easier. Not only that, I was expecting Lithuania to have worse roads but they actually turned out to be better than in Latvia and there was even a fair bit of riding along cycle paths through forest and along beaches. Very nice!
I spent some time sightseeing in Klaipeda, a nice harbour town with an old centre and the starting point for my trip along the long peninsula that stretches into Kaliningrad.
And my visa had finally come through!
I took the ferry from Klaipeda early in the morning, wanting to get to the Russian border with plenty of time left during the day, just in case there were any problems with my visa.
It was nice cycling along the peninsula, nearly all the way through Lithuania consisted of cycle paths rather than along the main road.
I made it to the border just after lunch and they let me in straight away!
The Russian side was not as pleasant to ride as I was now forced to ride along the main road, and the area is a national park and there was a fair bit of traffic, some of it large tourist busses, and the road was narrow.
But I made it into Zelenogradsk, a seaside resort town and enjoyed a quiet night at a hotel there. The staff did not speak any English, but registered me and filled out a lot of papers, taking one that I was given at the border and giving me another. Which was to prove interesting later on.
Next day I had a short ride into Kaliningrad and spent the afternoon walking around. Right in the middle of the town, there is a gigantic building that looks abandoned. Not sure what it was or had been, but it felt really strange just standing there, occupying what must have been prime real estate.
Next morning I again got an early start as I planned to do about 100 km and there was the border crossing into Poland to contend with. As it was a Sunday, I was not sure how quickly I was going to be able to get through.
Not very quickly it turned out, I was missing a very important piece of paper. Or so I assumed, despite the fact that this was a major tourist route, there was nobody that spoke any English, and my Russian leaves a lot to be desired.
The lady behind the counter waved pieces of paper, talked a lot in Russian and when I answered that I didn’t have any more papers, she started gesticulating and waving even more pieces of paper. That didn’t help as I really did not have any more paper, so I just shrugged and said that’s all I have. Which resulted in what sounded like complaining in Russian, more paper waving and a number of phone calls. In the end, she just sort of gave up and finally stamped my passport and told me to leave!
It’s slightly ridiculous, but it felt good to be back in the EU!
The last part of the day was hard, especially from around 80 km to about 90 and I could not work out why to begin with. There was a slight wind, but nothing serious, yet I still felt like I was being forced to change down a gear more than usual all the time. To start with I just put it down to being tired but after the 90 km mark, I finally got the answer. Suddenly, I was changing up all the time and the kilometres were flying past.
It turned out that the last 10 km had been a slight incline, with only a 1 to 2 % rise. Not enough to make me notice it, but enough to make it harder work than along the flat. The beauty with bikes is that you get most of the effort you put into climbing back again when it comes to descending, and the last 10 km of the day was a breeze.
The next day I pedalled the last 70 km into Gdansk and to the ferry to Stockholm.
I had decided to make a, hopefully, last resupply run to Stockholm to change some equipment. Everything has been working reasonably well, but after almost 3 years of walking, I have a good idea about how I want things to work and what makes life easier in the long run when you are living out of a few small bags.
The biggest problem I had been having was with the bag containing my electronics and valuables. It was difficult making sure it stayed dry, especially when constantly wanting access to stuff like the camera. I also want to be able to easily take that bag with me when I stop at stores or have to leave the bike for any reason. In the end, I ordered a new Meanwhile basket bag to keep my stuff dry and enable me to quickly and easily take my valuables with me when needed.
I also decided to change the frame bag. Not because it wasn’t working, in fact, the Ortlieb frame bag has been great, but because it is too small for Mister’s frame. I originally bought it for Sir, the bike I started on. As I like to see this trip as a test run for future long trips, I wanted to maximize the utility of the frame bag and ordered a new frame bag as well.
Now I am just waiting for the Swedish postal service to get their thumb out so I can repack and get back on the road. I’m using the time to make sure everything is ok with Mister, and at the same time fixing up Sir in order to try to sell it.
I might also make some changes to my camera equipment as I am a bit too lazy to get the camera out and use it as I should. I might need to change to a set-up that I can have access to more easily.
Finally, I have decided that I will try to cycle the Trans German bikepacking route. As soon as I am finished in Stockholm, I will take the ferry back to Gdansk and cycle to the start of the route in Germany. If I manage to cycle the whole route, I will then be able to ride over the Alps, through Switzerland, and into northern Italy. A plan then might be to take the ferry to Corsica, then Sardinia and finally Sicily. But that is a long way off and as you already know, my plans have been known to change…
Karlskrona (2019-09-08 11:35)
Again, a lot has happened since the last post.
I spent a great time in Stockholm being spoiled by my Aunt and Uncle and even had the opportunity to go for a high-speed boat excursion with my cousin in his powerboat. Cruising at 50 knots…
I also had time to finish rebuilding Sir to its natural glory and went for a trail ride in Nackareservatet. No bags, the proper suspension fork and Mtb tires make for a very nice ride! Sir is more or less for sale now that it is restored to a suitable condition, but I can’t say that I would be too disappointed if I was forced to keep it. I can see many more bikepacking oriented trips being possible in the future…
But my new bags finally arrived and it was time to hit the road again. The original plan was to take the ferry back to Gdansk, but I did not really feel like getting back on a long-distance ferry again and started considering other options.
The last time I came back to Stockholm, I started over again. Maybe I should do that this time as well?
In the end, that is what I decided to do. I would ride down the east coast of Sweden, to Trelleborg and take the ferry there across to Sassnitz in Germany. It’s only about 900 km…
All the way to Gamleby I kept crossing the route that was the start of the-walk, 6 years ago. It is strange just how much you remember along the small country roads. I swear that I recognized individual trees and bushes along the way!
In Västervik I was lucky to be able to stay with Daniel Peterson and his girlfriend. Daniel is a backpacker turned long-distance cyclist, turned kayaker. It was a great evening filled with stories of cycle trips in Africa.
I also had time to get diagnosed with Lyme disease. I got bitten by a tick in Estonia and had been keeping an eye on the bite and when it got inflamed and started getting bigger I contacted a doctor who diagnosed Lyme disease.
Nothing very serious when diagnosed this early and a 10-day antibiotics cure should fix me right up.
I am glad that I decided to ride down the Swedish coast, there are many beautiful things to see along the way and I have been lucky to be able to find some very nice smaller gravel roads and have avoided the main roads and all the traffic.
In fact, I was riding along, enjoying the scenery and thinking about how much there is to explore close to “home”. We don’t really need to jet off to Afrika, South Amerika or Australia, there is a lot of beauty right here. Then, just as I was lost in thought about what to explore here in Sweden, a cold gust of wind made me stop and put on a warmer jumper and I remembered that winter was on the way and why I really want to be further south as soon as possible!
In Kalmar I got a call from my sister, telling me that my grandmother had passed away. Very sad news, especially as she was the last of my grandparents still living, but as she was in her high nineties, it was not extremely unexpected. Still, if anyone was to reach 100, I would have expected it to be her.
Today, Sunday, I am having a rest day in Kalrkrona after more than 635 km in 6 days, with only about 300 km left to Trelleborg and the ferry to Sassnitz where I hope to start the Trans German bikepacking route.
The-ride so far has been through 6 different countries and more than 2900 kilometres, actually already making it my longest bicycle tour. But everything so far had just been the warm-up and trial period. It feels like it will start properly next week when I take the ferry to Germany and try to find the start of the Trans Germany bikepacking route. Then it will be time to get serious!
Berlin (2019-09-18 11:10)
After my rest day in Karlskrona, I was left with a bit more than 300 km to do in Sweden before finally taking the ferry to Germany. I thought that it would be an easy 300 km, and the first two days were ok but the last day into Trelleborg was hard work. I had a head or sidewind all day and I had left myself with 100 km to do in order to catch the ferry the next day.
It can be pretty demoralizing when you are cranking along, bent over the handlebars, barely pushing more than 5 km/h and meet another cyclist heading the other way that is sitting upright, barely pedalling and still doing close to 30 km/h!
Still, I made it and rewarded myself with a hotel room for the night. The next morning I was up bright and early to catch the 8:00 ferry to Sassnitz.
I had an easy first day in Germany, basically just finding my way north to the start of the Trans Germany bikepacking route and camped early at a campsite. Wild camping is not allowed in Germany and I decided to be legal for at least one night!
It was a nice campsite, right next to the beach with very nice warm showers. It cost 9 Euro for the night and that is what I expect to have to pay for most official campsites on the continued journey through Germany.
Next morning I woke to the sound of rain on the tent and just relaxed and waited for it to stop. It did after about 1 hour and I was able to pack all my stuff before it started raining again. By that time I was sitting at the campsites’ cafe, enjoying my morning coffee. I ended up having 3 cups while I waited for the rain to stop and eventually had to set off in a slight drizzle. But it cleared up almost immediately, and I cycled up to Cape Arkona and the start of the bikepacking route.
And it was a very nice start. Riding along limestone cliffs, through forests along single-track paths. Navigation was not always easy, as there were plenty of different tracks and I had to check the phone often.
The route passed through forest, farmland and recreational areas as well as national parks and I found myself at a kitesurfing and windsurfing beach watching the beginners having a lot of difficulty with the high winds.
It was very varied terrain and the GPS led me into the forest along no visible track at all several times. I found myself lifting Mister over fallen logs and using it as a tank to clear the way through masses of stinging nettles. Didn’t help much though as I got stung by that many stinging nettles that I finally just stopped worrying about it…
I finally covered 104 km the first day on the track and camped by myself in the middle of a forest (don’t tell anyone).
Day 2 continued in the same way with a lot of varied terrains and now the track was starting to get a lot sandier as well.
You don’t have to go to Namibia to have to be forced to push your bike along unrideable sand tracks. It surprising how remote some of the areas I cycled through felt. At times I could have been in outback Australia if not for the different plants.
The day was a long 110 km and I finally made it to a campsite that I had thought I would have no way of reaching when I set out in the morning. My general fitness, although still very poor, has improved a lot and I think I have lost close to 10 kilos in weight during these first 2 months. Still much more to lose to reach my “fighting” weight, but a good start.
As I got closer to Berlin, there were more and more remnants from East Germany, and I found some old aeroplane hangers along with large concrete staging areas. I wasn’t sure if they were for aeroplanes or tanks to start with, but I found some that were still in use for private aircraft a bit later on and surmised that they were indeed for aeroplanes.
It was a hard 98 km day, with lots of pushing along sandy tracks. But interesting and fun, it’s great having a route to follow that picks out more remote areas that you wouldn’t normally see.
Next day I struck out away from the route in order to get to Berlin. It was only about 70 km and I thought it would be an easy day but the previous days had tired me out and it felt like a long way before I finally reached Berlin and my friends and colleagues at Kniv Retouching, who I would be staying with for a couple of rest days.
Berlin is great, as always, and I spent most of my first “rest day” walking almost 20 km through the city.
Today, I am going to do some washing, check Mister and write this post. I’ll make sure to have time to drink a beer and have a kebab as well though!
I hope to head out again tomorrow, Thursday, and pick up the bikepacking route just outside Berlin.
It is starting to get a bit cold and I am worried that my sleeping bags are not going to be warm enough. I thought that they would easily do me down to 0 degrees, but I have been a bit cold at night when it has been only 8 degrees…
I wonder how cold it is going to be when it comes time to cross some of the higher mountains.
I really need to get further south in a hurry!
Bozi Dar, Czech Republic (2019-09-28 16:22)
After a nice rest in Berlin, I really felt like moving south in a hurry. The first 3 days were pretty uneventful with much the same forest scenery as earlier. Maybe a little bit less sand, which was welcome!
There were still a lot of obstacles though, and there was a lot of lifting over fallen trees. In some places, there had been a lot of lumber work, which left a lot of branches and smaller trees all over the place and the tractors and machinery had more or less destroyed or hidden the so-called track.
On the first night out, I found a nice campsite that was being looked after by a young couple and the guy had done most of the Trans Germany Bikepacking route himself. It was the first time I actually met somebody that had heard of it. The place was very quiet and the cafe was closed so dinner became 2 bottles of beer and a bag of peanuts.
I left early the next morning, pedalling along the canal and watching the steam rise from the water.
One sight I did get to see was an open-cut coal mine, not the prettiest sight even though there were great efforts being made to return the land to a usable state after the coal machinery passed through.
I spent the second night wild camping in Poland, close to a service station where I would be able to get my coffee in the morning. One thing that was very noticeable was that all the service stations were on the Polish side of the border. Petrol and especially cigarettes were much cheaper in Poland and there was a lot of smaller stores set up just on the Polish side, catering to the Germans that wanted to buy cheap smokes.
As I rode through the forest the next day I found a countless number of ruins amongst the trees. There was a huge amount, stretching over 5 or 10 kilometres. I suspect that they are old army fortifications and you could easily spend a week or two photographing the remains.
But it was onwards for me…
I tried some wild camping in Czech as well, hiding out behind some of the denser growth just in case.
By now the riding was no longer along flat ground. We had started climbing up into the mountains and there was more and more hike-a-bike as there was no way I had the strength to pedal up some of the long hills. Especially when the route was single-track.
There were some were nice sections that followed an old railway line, complete with tunnels, but that was the exception. More often than not, the track followed small, rough single-track trails through the forest.
I needed to take plenty of breaks to catch my breath, but at least the scenery was very nice.
It was not all that uncommon that the track deteriorated into a slightly cleared path through the trees that was overgrown with grass and bushes. There has been a fair bit of hike-a-bike but even some carry-a-bike as I tried to navigate the GPS trail.
But it has been a beautiful trail and I would recommend anyone that wants to try some bikepacking to explore the border area between Germany and the Czech Republic.
You can’t see much in this picture, but one morning I came across a large group of wild pigs crossing the path. There are signs of them all over the place, but I had not seen so many of them before in one place.
Since I arrived in the mountains, the weather has been pretty poor. A fair bit of mist and some rain, along with strong winds. Difficult to dress for as I get soaked either from the rain and mist or from sweat if I wear rain gear.
My mileage has dropped way down as well, what with all the hike-a-bike I have had to do. I have had a couple of shorter days in order to try to recover properly but noticed that I did not have all that much in reserve even then.
Heading up to the highest point on this route, I got to follow the old bob track as it wound its way to the top. It would have been much more interesting going the other way!
Once I made it to the top, which is also just a bit more than halfway along the Trans Germany route, I celebrated with a hot cup of chocolate, knowing that I had close to 20 kilometres of descending ahead of me.
But after just 5 kilometres, the rain got worse and the wind was gusting more and more. After checking the weather forecast I decided that maybe it was time to take a rest day. Both in order to recover some strength and, hopefully, for the weather to improve.
Said and done, I got a room right on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic and have been trying to rest and get clothes both dry and clean again.
I did get a chance to help a fellow bike rider. A German man staying at the same place had got a puncture and did not have any way of fixing it. So I broke out the tools and patches and helped him get mobile again. In return, I got a beer and a schnapps! We even went out for dinner together in Bozi Dar (much cheaper on the Czech side) and we tried to communicate, with him not really knowing any English, and me trying to get by with my poor German.
It looks like the weather will be slightly better tomorrow, and I plan to get away as early as I can. But the day after, Monday, is supposed to bring with it a storm-front from the north. I really, really need to be much further south than I already am!
Nürnberg, Germany (2019-10-05 08:35)
I have just had a rest day in Nürnberg to try to decide what to do next. After 5 days of mist, rain, and wind, I was starting to wonder if I would not be better off heading south by train or bus.
I mean, here I am traveling through some of the most scenic parts of Germany but not enjoying it as much as I feel I should. A lot of times, I have not even been able to see the view due to the weather.
Of course, it is my own fault for being at least a month later than I originally planned. All the f-ing about with bikes and equipment and the subsequent restarts has taken too much time!
But after drying the tent for the umpteenth time, and having spent way too much on accommodation, I went ahead and booked a bus ticket to Italy.
So, tonight, Saturday, I will hopefully get on a bus (if the bike booking works) and tomorrow morning I will be in Mestre (Venice)!
I won’t be heading into Venice as I have been there before, instead I will have to decide which side of the Adriatic Sea I will cycle down. Italy or the Balkans? At the moment I am leaning towards Italy, and then going to Greece and traveling through the Balkans on the way north.
I spent yesterday washing clothes, washing and checking Mister and doing some repacking. I’m going even more minimalist and have sent both of my rear panniers back home. I am now truly in “basketpacking” mode! Time will tell if this setup works, but I still have the rear rack, so I can always just strap any extra equipment, food or water I need to it.
Now I’m off to spend a whole day walking around Nürnberg while I wait for the bus departure time.
And guess what?
Leaving Germany… (2019-10-17 15:52)
After having decided that I was going to head south, towards some sun and hopefully away from the rain, I had to spend another day in Nürnberg waiting for the bus.
Nürnberg is a nice enough city, but if you are walking around with your bike, just waiting for the bus departure time, and the weather is a bit sketchy, then it’s difficult to get too excited.
At one stage I wanted to take a picture of some colorful chairs in front of the cathedral and I was pretty obvious about what I was doing. As I tried to line up the shot I wanted, a girl wandered over and stopped right in my frame. I waited a while and then finally just took a very obvious photo. Whereupon she wandered away again… I guess she just wanted to be in the picture?
I spent a lot of time over a long lunch/dinner in a Chinese restaurant and finally, the clock slowly got closer and closer to 22:10, when the bus to Mestre was leaving.
Boarding and loading Mister was very straightforward and I settled down for a long night on the bus.
I didn’t get much sleep but arrived in Mestre (Venice) early in the morning and loaded up all my stuff (my new lighter basketpacking setup) and set off towards the south.
It was great to be out of the rain and the temperature was much more comfortable than it had been for the last week or so. It wasn’t long before I had to stop and change into shorts and flip-flops!
Oh, yeah, I’m back!
Chioggia, Italy (2019-10-17 16:06)
My first day in Italy was spent slowly heading south. I stopped in Chioggia, about 50 km south of Venice for lunch and was fascinated by the town.
In the end, I decided to get a room and stay the night so that I could spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around, exploring the town and taking a few photos.
San Marino, Italy (2019-10-17 16:29)
From Chioggia, I headed south to Ravenna, where I found Dante’s tomb.
I was really there to look at the mosaics in the monasteries, but you could not buy a single ticket. They only had combination tickets for all the sights and they were closing in 20 minutes. In the end, I just had a look from the outside.
I spent the next day riding through small fishing villages and beach resorts that were more or less closed for the season.
From Rimini, I headed inland and spent 2 hours pedaling uphill in order to reach San Marino. Once I got there I decided to play tourist and get the cable car up to San Marino itself.
It was interesting walking around the old town. Building the town on top of the cliffs must have been very hard work!
Like all these sorts of towns, it was very touristy and there were uncountable numbers of shops selling a lot of more or less useless stuff. For some unknown reason, there was even a Vampire museum…
The view was very nice though and I was lucky that I was there during the low season. I can’t imagine what it must be like climbing up all the stairs in the August heat, along with thousands of other tourists!
The best part was that I knew that I was going to start the next day with a 20 km downhill!
Lesina, Italy (2019-10-17 16:49)
From San Marino, I continued along the coast and past long stretches of deserted beaches and resorts.
In Ancona I met Paolo from Milano who was riding the other way from Bari and back home. I looked enviously at his very light road bike and bikepacking set up…
In Montenero di Bisaccia, I was very lucky to have my first European warmshowers hosting with Andrew and Ruth. It is a picturesque Italian town built, like so many, on a hill and Andrew and Ruth were great hosts. We spent the evening discussing more or less everything and I even picked up a new toy. An Orb, a water bottle and side visibility light. Check it out here: www.orb.bike
The next day I headed towards Lesina and now I am riding through and exploring the Gargano National Park. I’m trying to take it slow and enjoy myself and not worry about trying to do too many kilometers every day. The weather has been excellent and I can honestly say that heading south to Italy rather than staying in Germany to finish the bikepacking route had been one of my better decisions!
Some thoughts on tubeless tires… (2019-10-29 14:17)
I started the-ride on Sir, with both tires mounted tubless.
After a lot of reading on the net, it seemed to be the way to go and offered a lot of pros and only a few cons. As it was, the very first puncture I got was to big to be self repairing and put me straight into the con territory. Removing tires filed with puncture fluid on the side of the trail is a messy procedure!
Nethertheless, this put me in the position of having one wheel tubeless and the other with a tube, letting me make some comparisons during the rest of the ride. It might not be a fair comparison as the wheel with the tube was the rear one and might have been more heavily loaded, but the results were interesting.
I had 5 more punctures during the next 500 km and all were on the wheel with the tube! The front wheel, mounted tubeless, just kept on working, taking whatever I threw at it.
When I changed bikes, I chose to make sure the new tires were mounted tubeless. I wonder why!
Since then, I have had no punctures, despite riding over and through thorn bushes and countless broken bottles in both Berlin and Italy.
At this stage, I am a convert. I would not chose to have tubes unless it was the only option available. Things may change as my tires wear, but in that case I will update these thoughts.
For now, tubeless rocks!
Corleto Perticara, Italy (2019-10-29 21:10)
Since I wrote last, I have been enjoying a relaxing ride down the coast and around the “heel” of Italy. The weather has been excellent and I have been a bit lazy, enjoying finding cheap off-season accommodation rather than camping as much as I really should.
I’m not going to write too much this time, just leave you with some photos as I start cutting across the country to reach the west coast and start my journey up towards Rome. I have to be there to catch a flight to Stockholm on the 13th of November in order to work and study for 2 weeks. But I have found a place to leave Mister in Rome and will be returning on the 27th to continue cycling.
I hope to be able to get to Naples by the 7th in order to see the start of the Two Volcano Sprint bikepacking race. It should be very interesting and Andrew, my warmshowers host is going to be racing.
Apart from that, I will just continue to enjoy myself and get plenty of climbing practice done as I cut across the mountains towards the west coast.
Ercolano, Italy (2019-11-06 11:30)
The last week has been a mixture of highs and lows, as it should be I suppose, it makes the journey a bit more interesting!
A definite high has been some of the roads. Traveling across Italy, along quiet country roads curving up, down and around the hills has been excellent! I think one of the best parts of the whole ride so far was the 15 kilometer downhill, switchback road leading down into Sapri. It was a great way to start the day, and also provided me with my first view of the sea on the western coast.
Something that has not been as great is the weather. Since arriving on the west coast it has been raining and overcast most days. There has been some sunshine as well, but I can only imagine what this coastline would be like in better weather. Pretty spectacular I imagine!
The rain has also been responsible for the biggest mishap of the trip so far, a long slide down the tarmac after my front wheel slid out from under me on a wet switchback corner. I was lucky that nothing very serious happened, but have been nursing a sore shoulder, hip and knee for the last 4 days and am only now starting to feel a bit better. Still, nothing that is not healing and it hasn’t really affected my milage as I was always planning to take it slowly along this part of the coast.
Mister survived with only a few small scratches and I will just have to remember that the touring tires I am using do not offer much in the way of wet weather grip in the future.
I’m also starting to see more and more Roman ruins, like these in Paestum. Interesting stuff!
The ride along the Amali coast was definitely a highlight. Incredible scenery even though I am sure it would have been even better if it wasn’t raining every day!
I’ve now arrived in Ercolano and plan to stay here for a few days. I want to see the start of the Two Volcano Sprint tomorrow and I want to visit the Herculaneum archaeological site. I didn’t visit Pompei and really want to visit Herculaneum.
Then I have a short ride in towards Rome that I will have 5 days to complete, so I should have plenty of time for sightseeing, followed by a 2-week break from cycling as I fly to Stockholm and then Finland to work and study. Hopefully, the weather will be better when I come back!
I am not sure how I plan to continue the-ride. My options are to head north from Rome, towards Florence, Pisa, and Livorno, and then take a ferry to Corsica. Or, start the same way and then head east towards Bologna, past Venice and towards Slovenia and Croatia, and then head south towards Greece.
As always, time will tell…
Mt Vesuvius, Italy (2019-11-07 18:31)
I got up very early on the 7th of November, too early.
4:15 to be exact, in order to be in time for the start of the Two Volcano Sprint bikepacking race.
The weather was pretty miserable. Rainy, dark and a little bit cold (maybe I shouldn’t have worn my flip-flops…)
But the racers were all in high spirits and the race set off on time, with the Major of Ercolano starting the race by cutting the tape.
And they were off, on a 1000 km bikepacking adventure!
They had to start by riding to the top of Mt Vesuvius and I decided to follow them up. I was soaked already, so I might as well!
On my way up, I met Andrew, my coldshowers host who had told me about the race, in the lead on his way down. In fact, as I write this at the end of the day, Andrew is still in the lead after close to 300km and has been all day!
I reached the top long after most of the racers and was rewarded with an excellent view after 950 meters of constant up, up and up.
Down was a lot easier, but a bit cold instead and I went back to my room for a warm shower and a change of clothes before I went to have a look at another Mt Vesuvius sight.
The Herculaneum archeological site. Pompei was not the only city buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, and I had been told that this site was actually more interesting than the Pompei one.
I had a nice look around and then walked home to a warm room and a soft bed as I though about the racers that were still out there and would probably keep going long into the night. After all, they are still less than one-third of the way to the finish..
Stockholm… (2019-11-27 08:32)
My 2 weeks off the bike are coming to an end and I am waiting to board my flight back to Rome. I’m really looking forward to getting back and to hit the road again!
I haven’t decided where I will be heading yet, but I have decided to change how I’m sharing the-ride and keeping you updated.
From now on, I intend to do all of the quick updates on Instagram, and only use the blog for longer stuff.
That means the blog will not be updated as often, but the content there will be in a longer form. Complete travel reports, reviews and possibly the odd opinion piece.
The more current stuff will be on Instagram, and I will try to write a little bit more to go with each post so that you will know where I am, what’s happening, and how much it is raining
It’s going to be great!
Surly Troll review, so far… (2019-12-20 11:17)
This post has been moved to the reviews section:
A loop of Southern Italy… (2019-12-20 14:18)
One of my goals with the-ride was to see a bit of southern Italy as, even though I have been in Italy a fair few times earlier, I have only been in the northern parts before. I think it is fair to say that I did manage to see a fair bit, covering more than 2,500 kilometers along both the eastern and western coasts, and cutting across the country twice.
There is so much to see in this part of Italy and there was no way that I was going to be able to see it all. There is so much history, along with great scenery and miles and miles of brilliant small country roads to explore.
Traveling off-season proved to be both good and bad. During the first 2-3 weeks along the eastern coast, I had unseasonably warm weather and it was very easy to find good, cheap accommodation as the tourist season was well and truly over. It also meant that a lot of tourist attractions were closed, but as I don’t generally do too much “tourist” stuff, preferring to just hang about on the streets and get a feel for “ordinary” life, that did not matter to me.
Unfortunately, the western part of my ride was not as lucky, with a lot of rain. Very disappointing, as this part was very scenic and I can only imagine what it would have been like in better weather.
Because of the weather, and the availability of lots of reasonably cheap accommodation, I did not do nearly enough camping, something that I sort of regret. But, that’s just how it worked out this time…
There were plenty of highlights, with the best, in no particular order, being:
Chioggia, a sort of mini Venice.
The Gargano National Park. Check out this video to see what I mean:
The 15 kilometer downhill, switchback road leading down into Sapri.
The Amalfi coast, despite the weather.
Seeing the start of the 2 Volcanoes Sprint and cycling up Mt Vesuvius
Rome, there is so much to see and explore there, I will definitely be coming back.
All in all, I really enjoyed my ride around Italy, but there were 2 things I was less happy with.
One, it can get a bit expensive. Not much to do about that apart from being careful to avoid the usual tourist traps.
Two, Italians throw their rubbish everywhere. Riding along the road, it is not unusual to find all sorts of garbage littering the roadside. The worst thing is that nobody seems to care and there does not seem to be any cleanups going on. There is a very egotistic mindset to communal areas, and as long as your private area is clean, nobody cares about anything else. For a country that prides itself on having “style”, it goes to show just how shallow that style really is.
But I can highly recommend Italy as a bicycle touring destination, especially if you try to get here a bit earlier than I did. Ideally just after the tourist season, but before it gets colder and starts raining.
I just want to walk… (2019-12-24 09:42)
I am writing this just before Christmas, after finally giving in to an urge that has been bugging me for at least the 3 last months.
I’ve decided to stop riding.
It’s not that I am not enjoying being out on a long-distance bike ride. The weather could have been better lately, but the weather is going to be the same no matter if I ride or if I walk, so it’s not that.
It’s that I have not been able to find the same peace of mind while cycling as I have previously attained while walking. Not sure why that would be so, but try as I might, it is.
Maybe I have changed and am different now, and will not be able to find that state even when walking, but I hope I will. I long for the simple, minimalistic mindset that I had while walking to Sydney and have finally decided to ditch the bike, pack a minimal backpack and start walking.
So after Christmas, I’m flying back to Stockholm to park Mister in storage, repack just the basics and find a flight to somewhere warmer. Southeast Asia and India are on the cards at the moment, at least until the weather in Europe warms up a little bit and I can continue exploring the Balkans.
This in no way means that I am finished with cycling, it just means that I am coming to terms with being a walker who sometimes uses other transport, rather than a cyclist who sometimes walks. Which feels weird as I would always recommend cycling over walking as a way to explore the world for anyone who wanted to start out. There are so many benefits to cycling as opposed to walking. Much easier to cover larger distances and still have time to sightsee and explore.
But I guess I am just a walker.
I shouldn’t write “just” a walker, it’s a title I’m proud of!
I borrowed and modified the title to this post from this film with Lael Wilcox. Well worth watching!