It has been ten days since we arrived in Finland. I think the best way to sum it up is to say that we have had a really great time so far, but that it will be even better once we overcome the various teething problems we have encountered.
First, the vital small part that we discovered was missing on arrival. We ordered it online and will receive it in the next few days. The small mechanical problems caused mostly by the inherent roughness of being transported to the other side of the planet; we’ve gradually ironed out with the help of some of our hosts. The flu/colds that we’ve both been carrying all week, from a mixture of jet lag related exhaustion and cycling in very cold temperatures…we will be resting a lot for the next few days to give ourselves a chance to get back to full health. The bitter cold; well, the forecast suggests spring is about to finally arrive and with it some double degree temperatures.
Despite those minor complaints, it has been hard not to enjoy ourselves. We were hosted in Helsinki for two nights by Sebastian, whose vast cycle touring experience helped us to get a few things sorted and get our heads around what was ahead of us. Plus he was good company. We had a look around the city, and enjoyed the extensive network of bike paths which meant we didn’t have to ride on the road once.
We left the city on Saturday, moving slowly throughout the day into less densely populated areas. We ended up covering 60km before finding a small forest (which is not hard here!) to camp in. It was at this point that Tanya realised that she had been riding with her brakes partially on for most of the day, making her life more difficult . We were exhausted, and mostly slept through what we thought was a rainy night, before waking at 6am to find a very different looking forest around us. We had a little play in the snow and then got back in the tent for more sleep. It was almost midday before we got underway.
For the next two days we made our way through a mix of bike paths, quiet roads, and highways. Even on the highways the shoulder was wide enough and traffic was much more respectful than we are used to in Australia. Late on the second day we turned off a highway to find a place to camp next to one of the many lakes we had been passing. After 10 minutes we stumbled upon a campground, which following a short inspection we found was still closed for the off-season. There was no-one around, so we set up camp on a sheltered deck next to a sauna. What a luxury that was!
We were hosted on a farm by Pekka and his children, where we stayed two nights, spending the entire day inside the warm house as it snowed outside. By the time we left we were bursting to capacity with Pekka’s wonderful cooking, and our sickness and soreness was much improved by the rest. We then had 4 rather difficult days where a combination of sickness, injury, cold weather and navigational challenges meant we had to ride most of the day to average a little over 50km per day and arrive at our hosts place for the weekend. We made it last night just before the snow set in again, and Maija, Esko and children are making it very easy to enjoy some rest.
As we become more accustomed to the rigours of cycle touring, and leave the more densely populated areas of Finland and head further north, we hope to be able to put in some bigger days on the bikes. So far we have done a little over 400km in 7 days. Our first main target of the trip is Oulanka National Park, still over 600km away, and I expect we’ll post next once we arrive there. First we have the small matter of a few days rest to allow our bodies to adapt to the big changes we have put them through.
I think it’s fair to say we’re both glad to be through the settling in period of this journey, and are looking forward to better health, better weather, and more of the same beautiful surroundings (and people). That will truly make this a ten out of ten experience.
T & T