Day 12 – 95.92 miles – Into Lapland
After hammering the miles the last few days, today I had planned slow it down a bit. I got my MP3 player working today which helped me get through some of the miles. Today was the day I made it into Lapland. It was definitely a landmark moment.
The scenery today was beautiful, the road took me through an area full of lakes. The cycling felt easy today I was relaxed which makes things better. I could have done with a big meal but I only had quick cook pasta. I stayed on a campsite which only cost 150 Krona, really friendly staff. Tomorrow I hoped I will reach the port of Umea which is where I would make my crossing to Finland. As much as I had enjoyed cycling in Sweden and Norway it’s exciting to make your way to a new country. I didn’t expect the senary to be wildly different but it would still have its unique quirks.
Day 13 – 58.78 Miles
I had planned to make it to the port today but I couldn’t manage it. I don’t know if I hit my wall but I physically couldn’t cycle any further today. From when I left my campsite from 11 am until 5 pm the cycling was into a headwind. It had taken all of the power out of my legs. It wasn’t only going to be a short day today I planned to have an active rest day tomorrow. I feel like after nearly two weeks of cycling covering some serious mileage I deserve a break. When I first started out on my journey one of the physical challenges I set myself was to average 100 miles per day. I realised that I can’t do it, I can’t consume enough calories and I don’t have enough strength on the bike. I remind myself this is a holiday and not supposed to be torture. The campsite was just before the town of Bjurholm, the campsite was perfect an even afforded me the opportunity of a swim which is the perfect way to end the day. It one of the great things about Sweden, lake everywhere and many of them you can swim in. Just before I got to the campsite I picked up a pizza which provided me with some well-needed calories.
Day 14 – 68.55 miles
Two weeks of cycling completed. I set out at the start of the day with the intention of taking it easy, not overdoing it. I’m still trying to process what happened yesterday. I got to the point where I physically couldn’t go on. I have to remind myself this isn’t a race, I’m here just to enjoy myself. Arriving in Umea I feel elated. there’s a really vibrant feel to Umea. Students sitting around laughing and joking, the coffee shops are full. one of my first stops was Mcdonalds where I had 4 burgers. I convinced myself I needed to go back for a few more. I’ve lost a lot of weight, so taking on as many calories is really important. I want to put in some big days in whilst in Finland, bigger than the 114 miles. Secretly I would like to achieve 125 miles in one day, it’s a milestone I would like to hit on this trip. As I’m dreaming of cycling mileage my mind turns to tomorrow. I have a ferry to catch. I always feel a little apprehensive when I have to be somewhere at a specific time in case I don’t make it. The ferry crossing isn’t cheap (£70) I would hate to part with more money for another ticket.
The easy days and the ferry across to Finland feel like a natural break in the trip. This is now leg two.
In Umea, I discovered a beautiful campsite run by an exceptionally friendly Italian man. I didn’t have much food with me apart from some tuna spread and something which looked a bit like thousand island dressing. The Italian owner of the campsite gave everyone staying half a french stick. A little gesture like that is amazing, particularly when you really need them. Only 1 week left now before I need to be in Helsinki to catch my flight. At least I’m now in the right country. It was lovely riding in and out of Umea, truly a great city.
Day 15 – 24.95 miles
Today I made the Umea to Vassa ferry crossing. feel bad today for not doing any proper cycling in 3 days. The only mileage I did today was from the ferry terminal and around the city. I had Mcdonalds again, I’ve convinced myself it’s good for loading up the calories for the next section of my trip. Feeling stronger even revitalised, bring on the next few days. I’m going to try and sleep early tonight. I woke up at 6.30 am this morning because it was too hot to sleep. I definitely not normally an early bird. Going back to the tent to plan my route tomorrow and then just relax. A final note as I left the campsite this morning the Italian man gave me the tastiest parma ham. it was another great gift that helped set me on my way. The taste will stay with me for many days, actually even to this day.
Day 16 – 103.19 miles
For some reason today I’m feeling stressed. I’m not sure why as I’ve eaten and had plenty of rest. It’s probably to do with the impending end to my trip and all of the work involved in getting me and my bike out of Finland. When I get to Helsinki I will need to sort out a box for my bike, accommodation, take my bike apart and pack it, organise a taxi for me and my bike to the airport. Too much time to think whilst cycling my mind is wondering to the more mundane takes ahead. As my mind drifts back to where I am, I smack one of the hoard of flies attracted my sweaty body. The glamour of the ride is really hitting home. Actually it’s really not that bad, I’m sitting by a lake, the sun is out people are swimming, it’s actually beautiful.
I clocked up a big day just over 103 miles. I thought today was going to be bigger but as I ticked over the 100 miles mark I saw signs for a campsite. It’s hard to resist a warm shower. My mind drifts off again thinking about returning home. Part of me is happy, part of me feels motivated to make real change to my life when I return. Time alone cycling is perfect for breaking down those complex problems you never have time to give your attention to. This trip was meant to change something by doing something it was going to kickstart my life. Only time will tell what impact cycling for 3 weeks will have. Whatever kept me going over the last two weeks I feel proud that I have the mental drive and motivation to get up each and every day to keep pushing. Having the passion and energy to stay motivated is important to me not just on this trip but when I’m at home. I stopped just before 6 pm and my mind ran wild with all the thoughts it could.
Day 17 – 119.64 Miles
The day was unremarkable but the distance was the greatest I’d done on a bike up to this point. It was a late finish as a rolled into Vammala I couldn’t find a campsite I spent ages looking. Although I had spent several nights wild camping the draw of some creature comforts was too much to ignore. At 8 pm I was overjoyed that I had found a campsite. I spoke to the man at the reception and he told me in his limited English there was no space. I tried to explain my tent was tiny but he wasn’t interested. A very friendly bunch or rather hammered finish guy said I could stay in a cabin with them. It was a really kind gesture. I felt I had to go back and try again, the guy spoke limited English but he called over someone staying on the campsite who understood my situation and reasoned with the campsite attendant. Jari spoke great English and was interested in my adventure, he arranged the 15E fee and I was super grateful. After I set up my tent I bumped into a couple of the Finish lads from earlier, they invited me for a swim. It was one of the memorable moment from the entire trip. Being able to float in the cool water, chatting about our lives, experiences and friends. I went and had a shower and started warming up dinner, sitting down I pulled out my book to read a few chapters. As I sat down I got into a conversation with another Finish man he was really friendly he told me he was a police dog handler. He was cooking Finish sausages over a fire pit with a grill. The smell was all-consuming it’s all I could focus on. I didn’t expect to be offered one, but he did. It tasted better than the rehydrated food I had eaten earlier. It was always a great pleasure to share food or what little someone wanted to offer. He asked me how I felt, I was honest I couldn’t be better I’ was in my happy place, completely content. At that moment I knew I should be in bed, however, I wanted to savour the satisfaction and contentment from a great day full of emotional twists and turns.
Day 18 – 125,03 miles
Where do I start the adrenaline is still pumping through me. I ticked off 35 miles in the last 2 hours which is a lot when you consider I have already cycled 90 miles and whilst carrying 30kg. I feel a bit like I’ve broken my body. I stopped at a campsite I probably shouldn’t have stopped on because it’s closed. I would prefer to be on the site legitimately as it’s hard to relax knowing someone could kick you off at any point. Anyway, I boiled my pasta it seemed to take forever, As I lay in my sleeping bag I massaged my legs, my right knee and left calf feel really tender. I’m hoping to get to Helsinki tomorrow. I have around 7 hours of sleep. I want to get up and leave early tomorrow otherwise there is always a rush to find somewhere to camp. It was really hard to navigate today the map scale wasn’t detailed enough, so ended up taking a few wrong turns. It was thanks to a really helpful Finish girl who was working in a petrol station. She photocopied me a local map which helped me find my way on to the 224 to Salo. I still can’t believe I cycled 125 miles today. As I set off this morning I found it hard to motivate myself each turn of the peddle was hard work and require a lot of focus. As I cycled the setting sun was spectacular, illuminating the sky for what seemed like an hour. I wish I had a camera to capture it but sadly the battery on mine is dead.
Day 19 – 101.92 miles
The end is in sight only a few miles to do tomorrow. I woke up early today at around 7.30 am. I thought the campsite opened early but it was still closed up. I spoke to a chap cleaning but he looked at me blankly, I don’t think he spoke any English. As I turned to leave he mentioned something about 9 am and something being open. sheepishly I wasn’t going to hang around. Bit of a messy start as I couldn’t find the right road, note to self must improve navigation. As I cycled I noticed a cyclist coming towards me I pulled over. It was actually a couple and they looked well kitted out. Probably the most hardcore tourers I’ve come across on my trip. There was an additional little one secured in a trailer of one of their bikes. I can’t remember his name but he was from Poland and they had been on the road touring for 70 days. We exchanged email addresses and said our goodbyes. They gave me a map of Helsinki, even better it was actually a cycle map with all routes in and around Helsinki. It was invaluable I checked the colour coded map and zoomed into the centre Helsinki in no time. When I finally found the hostel it turned out that it was full. Always frustrating when you think you have finished for the day and you haven’t. The lady at the hostel kindly found me an alternative place to stay 63 Euros for one night and 20 Euros for the second. I was staying in what I think used to be Olympic athletes accommodation. I feel like a bit of a tramp in Helsinki there are lots of beautiful well dress people around town. I feel out of place with the cycling shorts I’ve been wearing for 3 weeks, and only hand-washed during my drip. The room was good for the price and I even had access to a kitchen.
Day 20 19.21 miles
The penultimate day of my trip, it’s going to be fairly quiet. The only thing I have to do today is change hotels, book a taxi to the airport and find a box to transport my bike in. Although I need to dismantle my bike part of me feels I need to sit down and write about the last 3 week. Summing up what it feels like a right ending to the trip but I’m not feeling in the right mood.
I’m sitting on the grass in the centre of Helsinki listening to some acoustic music. I feel it’s the perfect time to relax, I didn’t sleep well last night I woke up feeling like I have a hangover. I feel like the exhaustion has kicked in now I’ve stopped cycling. This might not be a good thing but I have conviced myself that I must have a massive calorie deficit. The justification has meant that I have become Helsinki Mcdonalds best customer.
Day 21 – No Cycling
No miles on the bike today, my bike is packed away in its box. Still feeling drained but also buzzing after completing the trip. Today I spent most of the day in the markets looking for presents to take back home. I went to the park and chilled reading a book a friend gave me for the ride. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an interesting book an exceptionally thought-provoking. It has been the perfect companion for my solo adventure. I have had plenty of time to digest the ideas and contemplate how I will embed them into my life. I feel vulnerable, I feel euphoric, I never want this feeling to end.