We haven’t made it to Oulanka yet. We’re not even really close. In the last ten days we have spent 5 days in Jyvaskyla trying to get healthy, and 5 days back on the road. The first 5 days were relatively lovely and warm, the last 5 days not so much.
Jyvaskyla was a nice place to hang out for a while. We combined one night camping in the forest, one night in a cheap airbnb, and two nights with our Australian couchsurfing host Steve. Our final night at Steve’s place involved a poker and sauna night, followed by a midnight fishing excursion to take advantage of the few days a year the whitebait are running in the rivers. Steve’s Finnish friends got a huge bucket of fish, and we took a small amount to cook and eat before leaving the next day.
Last Friday, feeling rested and hopeful of our health and injury problems being behind us, we set out again. Over the first two days we covered 75km, taking it fairly easy. We found great camping spots both nights in forests and on the edge of frozen lakes. On the third morning we had only ridden 5 kilometres when Tanya’s knee pain resurfaced. Having spent hours researching and tinkering with our riding positions, we now decided to resort to a couple of other changes we had talked about. Tanya changed from hiking boots into crocs, and started riding with her knees pulled in close to the top tube of the bike. By some miracle, the pain was instantly alleviated and we were able to cycle 35km in no time before having lunch.
After lunch we continued, full of hope that we could start making some real progress. Alas, within kilometres Tanya started experiencing intense stabs of pain in her knee again. Dejected, we limped down a small road towards a lake, and decided to camp in the yard of the final house on the road, which was a small summer cottage which are so common here and not yet in use.
It was a freezing night, and Tanya used some of the snow to ice her knee. In the morning we thought the only thing we could do was give it another shot. We were now 150km away from our next warmshowers host, and we wanted to try to make it in two days. As we packed up our bikes to get going, I managed to hurt my back while reefing on a cord, necessitating an hour of lying on the ground and gingerly walking around just to get it in a state where I could ride.
Now both injured, we set out. It was only a few degrees above zero, and the wind made it feel colder. We limped through a very long day, finally making camp at 8pm having covered 75km in ten hours. The next morning we were up at 5, and on the road at 6 with the temperature at negative 2, although thankfully no wind this time. I managed to slightly injure my calf muscle while climbing an innocuous little hill, but again we limped through a cold, snowy day, and 12 hours after we started we finally reached 75km for the day and our hosts farm. We shared some tired conversation, had a sauna, and slept well.
So, basically, our bodies are not handling the combination of the cold and the demands of cycling large distances on heavy bikes. It seems my long-held attitude that training is not required for a cycle tour may be a little off the mark. Or at least not true for everyone. We have self-diagnosed Tanya’s issue as some form of patella tendonitis, and we feel that we need to take at least a week off the bike to let it recover and avoid anything more serious happening. If we’re lucky it might warm up a little too.
The only big downside to such a decision is that we will have to scrap something from our itinerary for the trip. The most luxurious plan we had was to try to squeeze in a two week hiking trip in Greenland, so we have decided to stop dreaming about that. Our bodies need the time to rest, and we’ll save a bunch of money on the few extra flights that would have been required. And hey, we can always go there next time we are in this corner of the world.
So, that’s our update. Things aren’t exactly going to plan, but we just have to sit back, go with the flow, and wait for our bodies to adapt to what is being thrown at them. We are staying with our host family again today (we watched Finland win a match in the Ice Hockey World Championships last night), and the father works at a beautiful outdoor resort where we can camp for as long as we need to stay still. There are also a couple of nice national parks nearby if we feel up for some hiking. Things are certainly not all bad.
T & T