Author Archives: Tom Kelly

Seven months in Monkerai

We’ve been quiet since our Scandinavia cycle tour. That’s partly because we were a little sheepish about having to cancel our big plans to cycle the length of the Americas (and beyond). Those feelings have gradually dissolved, because life moves on. The other reason we’ve been quiet is because we’ve been trying out farm life and seeing if we might like to base a lot of our future adventures here in the Monkerai valley.

Once our Scandinavia tour started to go pear-shaped, we began dreaming about what our more stationary future plans might look like. For months we did extensive research into what quickly became a focus on Nelson (NZ), and Hobart. In short, we wanted to find a little bit of land to buy within an hour of Nelson, but we were also open to considering Hobart because we love Tassie, it’s a little cheaper there, and a little more practical for regular visits to and from family. We drooled over real estate sites, drooled over instagram tiny house feeds, and just generally drooled over the idea of living in New Zealand (or Tassie).

Anyway, to get to the point, when Tanya got home from Iceland, I had almost convinced myself that we were moving to Hobart for a while to see how we liked it. First we spent a month doing harvest and other work on my family farm in Gulargambone, and in that time we suddenly decided to first try the oft-mentioned but quickly discarded option of living at Tanya’s family farm at Monkerai. 2 weeks later (after a quick trip to Brisbane), we moved in and started what has been a 6 month process of getting the living space into decent shape.

Photo cred: BeGriff photography 🙂

We live in essentially a couple of demountables built into the side of a large shed. It’s bigger than it sounds, and with a bit of work it has come up okay. No one has lived here for at least 10 years, other than some occasional weekend visitors. It was a real mess. In the 4 or so months that we’ve actually been here (we were away for 2 months, one of those in Tassie!), we’ve accomplished the following:

  • Removed all of the rat-infested furniture, and cleaned rat-infested floors.
  • Pulled out old shower, installed bigger one.
  • Pulled out kitchen wall, tweaked the kitchen layout a little.
  • Replaced most of the furniture using gumtree & our own stuff.
  • Cleaned one-bedroom Cottage.
  • Built garden beds using wood we found in the shed.
  • Had enormous concrete tank repaired.
  • Started long process of dealing with all the junk in the shed.
  • Put up an electric fence around the house.
  • Had satellites installed for TV & internet.
  • Used old hardwood doors to build shelves, a table & line a kitchen cabinet.

We’ve really been enjoying the process of gradually improving the place and envisioning how it might turn out in the future. In another month or two we are hoping to have finished the work we still have to do on the house and shed (repair roof leaks, give heaps of stuff to scrap metal man, etc). At that point we can turn our attention to projects that are a little more exciting than just cleaning up other peoples mess.

The main projects we have in mind are:

  • Build Tiny House: Despite having a decent place to live, we are still going to build a tiny house, which we might rent out for now with a view to maybe living in it one day if we ever decide to move.
  • Renovate Cottage: The one-bedroom cottage I mentioned before is a lovely space 50m from our house. With a little love it would be perfect for guests.
  • Add infrastructure: We want to build a shade for the back of our house to help keep it cool in summer, and a large carport to keep our cars and other machinery out of the shed.
  • Transform shed: Our vision for the shed includes a large building space (for the tiny house and similar projects), a home gym, a bike workshop, a table tennis/games space, as well as general storage for farm equipment. It’s a really big shed!
  • Establish permaculture garden: Tanya loves gardening, and with inspiration from some amazing local people and their properties we are hoping to turn the space around us into a bit of a food forest.
  • Get some cattle: The property is already home to a small herd of cattle, and we plan to buy some of our own to utilise the space and cut down on the need to work off-farm.

Another BeGriff photo

So far we’re pretty happy with our decision to give Monkerai a chance before racing off to start from scratch in NZ or Tassie. We’ve had plenty of visits here from family and friends (including for Tanyas 30th), and despite the stinking hot summer, we have quickly fallen in love with this peaceful little valley. We drive the 35km to Gloucester a few days a week for work (Tanya teaches at the school and volunteers at the community gardens) and social stuff (I play tennis and golf), as well as travelling in to Newcastle once or twice a month for  events and gumtree raids.

If only we could get a handle on these damn rats it’d be perfect.

T & T

P.s. We’ll probably continue posting about all our projects, as well as farm life in general. Mostly this is just to document things for our future selves, but if anyone finds it useful or interesting that’s great too.

Cycle Touring Maturing: Iceland Solo

Cycle Touring Maturing: Iceland Solo

 Well here I am in Iceland, just past the northern town of Akureyri. It’s been 2 weeks since I cycled out of Reykjavik on a warm and unusually sunny day; petrified, excited and ready for an adventure…whatever that meant here.

But before I even began, I realized that my fully loaded bike was wayyy too heavy for me to make it up just one small hill in Reykjavik, trying to cycle from the center of town to my lovely hosts place in the rain. After pondering over the latest ‘Cycling Iceland 2017’ map with Unner I promptly started a cull of my gear to leave at her place. With no Tom to carry the 2-person tent and balance out the rest of our shared camping items and bike tools, I had to get pretty ruthless.

Day 1; blue skies and no idea what I was getting myself into.

My first couple of days cycling north from Reykjavik were pretty magical and helped ease me into my solo adventure, if also giving me a slight false hope about the summer weather here. I decided to head into the highlands to avoid the busiest section of the ring road and all the tourists heading west. That’s when the real adventure and test began, on day 3 of cycling.

That’ll cut down the tourist traffic in their rentals.

The landscape changed from gentle coastal plains with interesting basalt rock stacks to bigger and bigger hills. Tarmac became gravel became bumpy 4wd track, and then I was in the unworldly highlands of Iceland with the wind getting stronger the higher I climbed (of course going the opposite direction to me). After only 25km against strong wind on day 2, I stayed the night in an emergency shelter where the guest book indicated a large handful of adventure cyclists had rested for the night, all mentioning the wind and rain in their comments, with some alarming notes of dust storms. My plan was to reach the closest town and campground 40km away the next day and I knew it would be tough, but didn’t realize just how tough. It was 5 degrees with mild wind when I set out at 6am (Finland prepared me well) and started cycling up the rocky pass toward the 720m summit. The valley I was cycling through is called the Kaldidalur, which means “cold valley” and passes a shield volcano and the Porisjokull glacier volcano.

Any wind block will do! Unfortunately I heard the air whizzing out of my front tyre just after this shot.

A welcome refuge. The weather looks peaceful right? Note the lack of any plant other than some tussocks of highland grass. I could spit and it would fly over 10 meters!

By 8am I already had a massive headwind and it took me hours to do the 20kms up to the summit before I could descend the final 20km. I had to walk and push against the wind that was so strong I fell over and had my bike fall on me numerous times bruising my legs all over. To make it more interesting it started raining which meant water and dirt were flying into my face as I stopped and panted deeply for minutes sometimes just to get 5 meters further up the road. Down hill was still an effort and only walking pace due to the sheer wind force against me. I don’t remember ever feeling so physically exhausted in my life and I felt at the point of collapse several times. Of course I could’ve opted out as there were a few 4wd’s passing me every half hour or so, some stopping to ask if I was ok or needed anything whilst questioning my sanity. The main problem was that I had wet shoes and was pretty cold all over! I didn’t sit down the whole 40km struggle, but somehow by 1pm I had made it to the campground surprising myself at how quickly I got there considering the extreme conditions. A 30 minute hot shower was enough to thaw me out and I was asleep by 6pm.

Just after first light. Promising blue skies?

Clouds rolling in and covering the mountains ahead.

Oh dear.

Bit of a washing machine atmosphere on a one way cycle against me.

A terrible photo depicting a bit of the struggle. Swollen, red lips from the wind and rain.

After that endeavor, the past week and a bit has been a mixture of rest days and leisurely cycling a 225km loop around a small section of the West Fjords. I met a great guy named Ed from Oregon who has cycled all over Iceland on numerous trips the past couple of decades. We caught a bus to the north together, almost losing all our panniers as the bus did 80kms/hr along the ring road before we realized the luggage compartment was open, but eventually we arrived in Akureyri where I have certainly had my fair share of waffles and hot chocolate. With Ed’s experience here we pondered over the map a lot and I changed my planned route at least 5 times, probably for the best.

On the bright side. Wild blueberries!

Soaking in some hot springs.

Lazy afternoons in the West Fjords.

It’s time for the second half of Iceland now. Cycling solo here has certainly brought many challenges but has also forced me to figure it all out on my own. I certainly miss Tom and have become apparently more homesick since he left, but I have also had a huge grin on my face most days, taking in the sheer beauty of this country and feeling fiercely independent with just myself, my bike and map in hand.

– Tanya








Two becomes four, and then one.

During our month in Sollia, it became apparent that Tanya’s injuries seemed to be recovering better than mine, or maybe just that I wasn’t dealing with the setback as well. Whatever the case, after much pondering and changing of minds, I eventually decided that I would cut my trip short and fly back to Australia to give myself the best opportunity to make a full recovery. Tanya opted to stick to our plan and carry on to Iceland.

I booked my flight, but before that we had a week of travelling with Tanya’s Dad Keith and his partner Margaret planned. At the end of July we cycled out of Sollia back down the hill to Atna, where we spent an unplanned night back at the house of previous hosts Jon and Anne, who treated us to more wonderful hospitality, including locally hunted wild moose and hand-picked blueberries in pie form. We camped in their front yard and were on the train to Oslo at 6 the next morning.

Little Atna station at 5:30am.

After leaving our bikes with warm showers host Daniel, we met Keith and Margaret at the train station and checked into an airbnb apartment. A couple of large pizzas and a big nights sleep was just what we all needed before getting our trip started.

We spent most of the next day travelling to Geiranger, where we stayed two nights in a cute little cabin with a stunning view of the Fjord. We did some hiking and checked out the village for an afternoon. The hiking helped to reinforce that my knees were not in a great state, and that Tanya’s were not perfect either.

Looking up past our cabin.

Looking down.

Tanya behind an impressive waterfall.

We then spent most of the next two days travelling to Bergen via a scenic ferry ride, a couple of buses, a night in Forde, and another bus. A tram ride got us to the door of another airbnb apartment. Out two nights in Bergen allowed us a day to look around the city which was bustling with tourists, as well as lots of good food and some cards.

Our final day together involved a scenic 7 hour train trip back across Norway to Oslo, where we checked into our respective accommodations and then met up again at an Indian restaurant. After the meal we took a walk around the harbour and then said our farewells, with Keith and Margaret off to explore Sweden and the Baltic countries.

Tanya and I still had two nights to spend in Oslo before I flew home, and we spent that time going to cafes, the botanic gardens, procuring boxes for packing our bikes, and relaxing. Our final night was spent back at Daniels house where we ate some delicious lasagna and had fun trying to fit all my luggage into a slightly undersized bike box.

In the morning we got the bus to the train station, getting off a couple of stops early and having to carry the box a little further than was comfortable. After finding the right platform on the second attempt, we had half an hour to say goodbye and wish each other luck for our 7 weeks apart (about 7 times our previous longest time apart).

I endured a sleepless 24 hour trip home, where I stayed in Sydney for a weekend with my uni mates. I then travelled to Tamworth where I saw a physio and found out what I need to do for the next month or two to get back to full health. I’m confident that next time I see Tanya I’ll be close to 100%. That’s about where my involvement in the story ends for now.

After four more days exploring Oslo, Tanya spent a night sleeping in a starbucks at the Airport, before boarding her flight to Iceland. Her first two days in the country were spent with warm showers hosts Sveinn and Unnur who gave her the best possible chance to get ready for the next 6 weeks. She has now been on the road for a few days, and it looks awesome. Let’s hope it all goes well and Tanya will be able to share her stories and photos along the way. I’m certainly looking forward to that.

Keith, Margaret, Tanya and I after disembarking the ferry from Geiranger to Hellsylt.


Living in Sollia.

We’ve been in Norway for 3 weeks. It’s really beautiful! Lofoten Islands is especially amazing, and that is where we went after three rest days in Narvik with our couchsurfing host Kristine.

We were hopeful that our knee problems would be sufficiently healed to carry on, but we were sceptical enough that we decided to catch a bus from Narvik to Svolvard, bypassing a lot of long tunnels which we were told would not be possible to cycle through, and also cutting down the need to ride too much each day.

10km out of Svolvard, two things became very clear. The first was that the 120km to the end of Lofoten was going to be some spectacular riding. The second was that our knees were not going to allow us to fully enjoy it. We camped for a night, then spent a painful day riding/pushing our bikes, stopping every ten minutes to take photos and curse our injuries. When a cafe appeared in the early afternoon we stopped for some waffles and to think about what we were going to do about the fact that we couldn’t ride our bikes.

We only saw the bottom half of Lofoton all day.

Why go on a flat road through a tunnel when you can go up and over a giant hill to get to the other side?

Luckily, this time there was a secondary road to bypass yet another tunnel through the mountainside.

It was a bit of a sombre night in the tent, and the next day we cycled 40km to Leknes, before catching another bus to Reine. Reine is stunning. We gawked at the scenery for an hour or so, and then headed off in the steady rain to find somewhere to sleep. It was only 10km to Moskenes where the ferry would deliver us to Bodo, so we planned to stop before then. Alas, the rain got heavier and heavier, and we didn’t really find a suitable camp spot, so when we cycled past the ferry terminal we decided we might as well call an early end to our Lofoten adventure. Our 10 day, 400km ride had turned into a very wet 2 day, 100km photography tour. It was still worth it though, for the scenery as well as the fact that the place was crawling with other cycle tourers and we got to meet a few of them.

Some rare sunshine to cycle with our exquisite backdrops.

Looking over the village of Reine.

Our ferry arrived in Bodo at midnight. It was raining and of course perfectly light, so we walked up to the big park at the top of town and pitched our tent. In the morning we went to the nearby police station to organise our Norwegian residence cards, but couldn’t get an appointment for several weeks. Instead we spent two days in the Bodo library, again camping in the park. We then caught an overnight train 700km south to Trondheim, where we spent a very similar 24 hours in the library and camping in the park. Trondheim was a very pretty city, but we were trying to find somewhere to rest and work out what the hell we were going to do with ourselves, so we carried on. Another train, this time 200km south to Atna, where we were met at the station by Jon and Anne (and their dog Onnie), a lovely retired couple who welcomed us into their home for two nights.

Trondheim, Norway. Funnily enough there are no tourists around at 4am…!

Our very welcoming couch surfing hosts Jon and Anne in Atna. And of course Onni.

That wonderful chance to relax and even do a little hiking in the surrounding mountains helped us to clear our heads and confirmed our decision to find somewhere to stay for the next month while we allowed our knees to heal. We booked an Airbnb in nearby Sollia, and then spent two days pushing our bikes gradually uphill for 35km to eventually arrive at our temporary home. We were greeted by Per and Magdalene, who live in a cosy house on a beautiful little sheep farm in an incredibly peaceful valley. Our window looks out to a lovely waterfall, and Tanya has been enjoying brushing the Icelandic ponies and taking walks along the picturesque river that flows through the property. We’ve been here for a week already, and it shouldn’t be too hard to stay for another 3 (although of course we’d rather be cycling).

A walk to the county border on some central Norwegian plateaus.

A very captivated audience!

Our lovely farm stay in Sollia (featuring Alver the Icelandic pony).

Our view across the rest of the farm where we are recuperating.

Both of us are still having pain in our knees, and it seems likely that one month might be a little short of the necessary timeframe for recovery. We have other things to do once we leave here, with our goal being to be ready to cycle by the time we get to Iceland in mid-August. It really sucks not being able to cycle on a cycle tour, not to mention the damage our budget has been receiving courtesy of extra transportation and accommodation costs that we usually avoid. We’re doing our best to stay positive, and with luck we’ll still get to see plenty of Norway by means other than cycling.

T & T

Snow Melting Down Rivers

There’s a travel cliche that goes ‘expect nothing, accept everything’. It usually refers to hospitality or general kindness from strangers. It is an attitude that has served me rather well in the past, and again on this trip the kindness is flowing in our direction.

There is also a broader way to understand that cliche, in the way that it applies to life in general. It is better to have no expectations and go with the flow. Both versions of the cliche have been very applicable to the last two weeks of our trip.

When we finished hiking Karunkheirros we weren’t sure what we were going to do. The original plan had been to go further north, but that was long out the window due to the cold and slow first month. The next idea was to head west, ride through Northern Sweden and get to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. The problem was that Tanya’s knees still didn’t feel good, and so we had some decisions to make.

Our Airbnb host Matti was cool with us staying around at his place while we worked things out. Pretty quickly we decided that I would continue cycling alone. It took a little longer to work out how long of a break we felt Tanya needed, and where we should meet. In the end we settled on two weeks, and decided to meet in Narvik, Norway on the 13th. That was settled on the 1st, and Lofoten was 700km away, so I had a cruisey 60km a day to ride.

Seeing as Tanya already had somewhere to stay in Kuusamo, she decided to stay there and catch a series of buses on the 11th and 12th to catch up with me. Matti happened to be away for most of that period, and they were going to be short handed at the vegetarian restaurant where he worked, so it was agreed that Tanya would work there in exchange for rent and as much food as she could eat from the restaurant.

Now I just had to hit the road. Problem was, my neck was killing me, and it was still freezing. Every day that week it was 4 degrees and sleeting. For four straight days I put it off and hung around watching movies, surfing the net, and eating all the food Tanya was bringing back from the restaurant. When I finally got going on the 5th I think she was glad to be rid of me.

I now had 8 days to cycle 720km. 90km a day. The first day I covered 100km and then did a 5km hike at Korouoma Canyon. The next day I got a bad case of saddle fever (when I just couldn’t stop cycling) and cycled 137km. 138 the next day. On those two days I saw my first fellow cycle tourist (an elderly French man), my first moose, and crossed the border into Sweden (or Sverige). After 375km in 3 days, I was feeling pretty sore, but for some reason the fever continued the next day, I started cycling at 4am (it’s currently light 24 hours a day, makes sleeping tricky) and had done 100km by midday. The final ten of those kilometres was with a German fellow called Bodo who appeared out of nowhere behind me. We went our seperate ways at Vittangi, and it was then that my saddle fever caught up with me.

Frozen waterfalls at Korouoma Canyon. Very popular for ice climbing in the winter.

Suddenly my knees were creaky, my shoulders were aching, and my mind was sluggish. I completely forgot to get water before leaving town, and then slept for an hour straight after eating my lunch. That lifted me a little, and soon after I got some water at one of those modern sensor operated rest stops, but I was in a bad state. I limped another 25km that afternoon, making it 500km in 4 days, and found another pretty cool camping spot.

After 12 hours sleep I managed to ride 45km into Kiruna, where I hoped to have 48 hours off the bike. In the meantime, Tanya was having quite the week back in Kuusamo. First she attended a church service run by the restaurant owner, where her knee and our journey were the subject of a few prayers. Then Anna-Liisa, one of the regular customers at the restaurant, offered free acupuncture treatment. They became good friends and Tanya received a lot of help from her over the course of the week. On Sunday Tan caught the first of 4 buses which brought her across to Narvik, and spent a night with a couch surfing host in Tornio in between.

Tanya caught a train between Kiruna and Narvik, a very scenic part of the world.

I only ended up spending 24 hours in Kiruna. I told myself that it was because I wanted to spread the remaining 180km over 3 days, but really I was just bored at the campground and suffering from saddle fever. I was also suffering from saddle sores, a much more real phenomenon, as I discovered while cycling 50km that afternoon. The next morning I rode 40km to Abisko, enjoying the first mountains of the trip and a pretty stunning lake. I hung out at the tourist centre for a few hours, and then rode another 40km to the border. It was now 6pm, I was in quite a lot of pain and generally exhausted, so I told myself I’d ride over the border and camp in the first semi decent spot.

Well, saddle fever is a funny thing, because even though I couldn’t ride uphill anymore, having to get off and push, I cycled past plenty of admittedly fairly rubbish spots. Luckily 90% of the 35km from the border to the coast were downhill because that’s how far I ended up riding, the adrenaline of the 60km/hr descents making up for the aching in my knees, shoulders, and most of the rest of my body. I stopped lots to enjoy the views, so by the time I pitched the tent it was 10pm. I’d cycled 715km in 7 days and was just 10 easy kilometres from Narvik.

Taken just before midnight, on the left is the mountain that looms over Narvik, on the right Lofoten Islands. It is light for around 50 straight days at this time of the year!

Tanya arrived in Narvik the next afternoon. I met her at the train station and we found another nice campsite in a local park. The tent was a little more crowded, but I’m glad she’s back.

Currently we’re staying with a couch surfing host in Narvik. The plan was to go hiking on the Kungsleden (royal trail) for a week, leaving our bikes here and hitching or catching the train back to Abisko where the trail starts. There is still a lot of snow up there, and now we both have bad knees, so we’ve got some more decisions to make.

Camping in a rather busy little park in Narvik.

The view from our hosts place.

Much like the enormous volumes of snow melt that are gushing down the rivers right now, we’re just going to have to go with the flow, even if it’s a little more turbulent than we’d like. I know that I don’t want to cycle alone again, so I promise to be much more patient with Tanya’s frequent stopping and steady pace. It beats my saddle fever any day.

Karhunkierros Times

The Karhunkierros Trail, or The Bear Ring (we didn’t see any), is Finlands most popular hiking trail. 82km, from the town of Ruka to Hautajarvi, via Oulanka National Park. The day after we arrived in Kuusamo, we put our bikes away, stuffed 5 days worth of food into our hiking packs, and set out.

The first task was getting to Ruka, only 25km away. We intended to catch a bus, but when our host Matti escorted us to the bus station across the road, he suddenly remembered that it was a public holiday. No bus today. Damn it. We decided to walk to the nearby highway and try our luck hitchhiking. Tanya led the way, because it was her first time hitching and girls get more lifts. It took a while to get our first ride, but in a little over an hour we’d arrived in Ruka and saved on the bus fare.

Our second ride was courtesy of a couple of volunteers for the NUTS Karhunkierros race, which is a running race that takes place each year along the trail. Distance options are 37km, 53km, the full trail (82km), or an insane return trip, 164km. We found out just how insane when we started the hike that afternoon and covered 3km in the first 3 hours, hiking through thigh deep snow for most of the way. By that point the novelty value had expired, and when we reached a day hut, we took refuge inside for a few hours, and eventually camped right next to the hut. There may have been a few tears, and we were pretty sure we were going to turn back the next morning and find a more enjoyable way of experiencing the Karhunkierros.

Less than a kilometre into the hike, we were wondering what we’d got ourselves in for. But, it was still kind of fun.

At least we had these orange markers put out for the race to make navigation easy.

An early end to the first afternoon, we could still see out starting point on the hill behind us.

The next day happened to be Tanya’s 29th birthday. We woke at 5, looked outside to see an amazing morning, slept for a few more hours, and then awoke again to howling winds and freezing temperatures. Despite that we decided to rug up and push on, thinking it surely must get better soon. Another 4 hours and 4 kms passed, falling into thigh deep snow every few steps, before we emerged onto a road crossing. There was a checkpoint there for the soon to be arriving runners, and whilst milling about we got talking to some Latvian hikers who recommended a detour to avoid the next 8km of similar deep snow. Grateful for this upturn in events, we took the detour and a couple of hours later arrived at the first overnight hut site. It was still early afternoon, but we made camp and enjoyed some unique mini birthday cakes (biscuits, nutella, chocolate) whilst playing cards in a toasty warm hut.

Happy Birthday vibes cheered us up in the morning.

Looks a little better at least?

Ready for anything.

Much happier now that we had this little hut all to ourselves for the afternoon.

Next morning we got underway at 8, just in time to see the race leader run past us, with 15km to go in his 160km race. He eventually finished in a time of 23h:25m. Unreal. Throughout the morning we occasionally saw the rest of the top few runners, and then after lunch the leaders of the 80 and 53km races started coming by, quickly turning into a solid flow of some 1600 runners who we were constantly stepping out of the way for. 20km and 7 hours after we saw the leader, we saw the last few runners, a group of four 160km athletes who were in a world of pain with 35km still to go. I hope they made it! We walked 24km ourselves, arriving at a nice big hut and enjoying some more cards, chocolate and fire-building antics.


Race winner going strong.

After a big day we were pretty sore, but we got going early again, keen to reach Oulanka Visitor Centre in time to replenish our food supply and get some info. After stopping at a few impressive landmarks along the river (which is in flood due to snow melt), we made it with an hour to spare. The range of food was less impressive than we had hoped, so we splurged on the ‘lunch special’ without even asking what it was. Our bowls of reindeer soup were interesting, but we were hungry enough not to care.

We walked another 5km in the evening, pitching our tent at a campfire site and falling asleep super early (around 7pm). I then woke at around midnight with a bad stomach (probably from drinking river water, hopefully not the reindeer), and stumbled out into the light snowfall in boots and undies. I felt awful, and managed to fall over 3 times on the 50m walk to the toilet. The last time I think I was lying on the ground for a minute or two totally out of it, but I managed to get up and get the door open. It was a smelly and uncomfortable night. I also managed to flare up a nerve problem in my neck, so as we packed up in the morning I was making myself generally useless. We decided to head back to the visitor centre instead of attempting the 15km hike to the point where we were intending to catch a bus the next morning.

The volume and speed of water moving through this place was mesmerising.

Lucky we were hungry.


Once back at the centre, we asked about buses, but there wouldn’t be one until the next day. We checked with our Airbnb host if we could arrive a night early, and when he said yes we decided to try hitchhiking again. Tanya asked a few people in the carpark, and then eventually managed to convince a couple of teachers to find room for us on one of their two coaches packed full of teenagers. That got us back to Ruka, where we hung out in the school staff room while waiting for the school bus to Kuusamo. We got chatting with the English teacher, who was about to head home to Kuusamo for the day. She was happy to take us. She ended up being a pretty cool lady, and was celebrating both her 63rd birthday and her final week before retirement.

Those pieces of good fortune mean that we’ve been able to spend a few days resting in Kuusamo (Tanya also got the stomach bug later that night). It’s still snowing, even though summer starts today. Our next move is still up in the air, but we will tell you what we ended up doing next time we have a story to share.

T & T

Dashing Through The Snow

Two weeks have flown by since our last post. Back then we were struggling with various injuries and starting to get more than a little sick of the cold. Now, we’ve managed to get ourselves mostly right, it’s a bit warmer, and we’ve just strung together 9 days and 450km on the bike to arrive in Kuusamo.

Our week off the bike was made incredibly easy thanks to the wonderful generosity of Bäle and Hannu. First they hosted us in their home for 3 nights, and then they helped to organize and ferry us to a 3 night stay at Hano’s work, which is the equivalent of an Australian sport and rec centre. There we were given a room and had a whole building to ourselves for the weekend, complete with kitchen, wifi, lounge area, sauna etc., but we still paid the camping price because we slept in our tent (the campground was still snowed under, hence the arrangement). We then spent one more night at their home, during which we played a very intense evening of floorball with some locals.

Bäle and son Anton on a hike making Finnish sausages over the fire..

Our camp at Metsakartano, the outdoor centre.

We got back on the road last Tuesday, planning to reach Kuusamo in 9 days. We started very carefully, covering only 80km in the first two days and spending almost as much time stretching as cycling. On the third day we got a little excited and covered 60 tough kms to the small city of Kuhmo. On arrival we spent a hectic three hours shopping, going to the bank, being randomly interviewed by a local journalist, watching Finland progress to the semis of the ice hockey championships, and all the while trying to find accommodation for the night. There were no campgrounds, no hosts, and no cheap Airbnbs, so we were resigned to cycling out of town and camping in the forest again. Thankfully we ended up finding quite a nice spot only a few kms later.

An awesome hut we found not far from the centre of Kuhmo.

We stayed in the hut all morning as it rained heavily, and despite murmurings of a rest day we started cycling in the afternoon. It was super foggy, which made cycling on the not-too-busy highway a little more tense than it otherwise would have been. We eventually found a dodgy little campsite on a logging road. The following morning we were getting quite far to the east of Finland, and we made a 5km detour to visit a Russian border crossing. It may have been a bit of a let down, except a Finnish border police man saw us taking photos and came over for a very friendly chat, checking our passports and writing some details in his notebook.

Kind of spooky!

Maybe some day we will ride into Russia, this time we were just having a look.

The last four days have been mostly without incident. The first two days were fairly tough as Tanya struggled with some soreness and general discomfort. We still managed to eek out over 100km on those days, finding one nice campspot at a community hall in a little blink-and-you-miss-it town. The last two and a half days have been very nice, as we covered easy kms on a very quite road, having to rein ourselves in a little so we didn’t arrive in Kuusamo too early. We spent a night in Hossa, a beautiful hiking/national park area, where we had our first shower and sauna after a week of roughing it. That was very nice.

This road was supposed to be part of our route. Had to turn back and go a longer way.

This morning we reached Kuusamo, where we are spending a night in a cheap Airbnb which we organized two weeks ago so that we could have a package delivered. We also needed a place to leave our bikes for the next 5-6 days while we go and check out Oulanka National Park and the Karhunkierros trail, or ‘The Bears Ring’ (hopefully we see some small Brown Bears!). It is supposed to be very beautiful, but the ground is still covered in at least half a metre of snow, so we’re not sure what is going to be in store for us.

A nice surprise as we rode into Kuusamo this morning. Reindeer!

Now we know why one of them was called Prancer.

Hopefully another few days off the bike will help our muscles and tendons strengthen further, and the general upward trend of this journey will continue when we return to the road at the end of the week.

T & T