Viewing entries tagged
campsite

Cleanup on Long Isle

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Cleanup on Long Isle

Multiple people had recommended beach Long Island’s Veli Zal as a good camping spot. Upon arrival, I couldn’t understand why. There was no sand, just round rocks that moved around under my feet and were difficult to walk on, let alone push a bike through. Even worse, I didn’t see any shade, either. Vegetation consisted mostly of impenetrable bushes. Really uncomfortable for camping, overall.

After walking up and down the beach feeling glum about my lack of sleeping choices, a local lady told me there was a campsite "20 meters that way”, pointing in the direction I had just been in. Huh? She seemed serious, so I went back to look. Between the bushes there was a tiny little path, very easy to miss. After squeezing through it led to this amazing secret gem of a camping spot with soft ground covered in pine needles. What a treat! I never would’ve found it without her.

Just outside the bushes were two walking paths, yet it was almost impossible to see inside.

Already beginning to be accustomed to the many rats on the island, I hung my food from the trees and left the garbage bag further away as bait. It was better to get holes in my trash than in my tent, and the rats were happy to have something to rummage through.

They were getting really courageous. One day this brash individual kept trying to steal my sandwiches from right in front of me in broad daylight, while I was eating them. It seemed genuinely surprised and upset because I wouldn’t share my food.

“What will become of me?”

September 15th was World Cleanup Day, which has millions of volunteer participants from 150 different countries. I joined in by collecting a few bags of trash in Sali and Telašcica Nature Park on the south side of the island. The plastic right by the seashore was the worst - the sun, waves and salt water tear everything into these tiny shreds which are impossible to pick up. There are hundreds of them in this photo, and thousands when examined even closer.

It really is nothing short of insanity for humans to pollute the oceans in this way. The simple fact that toxic plastic is eaten by fish, and later us, should be enough. Not to mention that plankton produce more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere! And yet here we are, dumping 10 million metric tons of plastic waste right into these crucial waters. Per year.

Disgusting.

To cool down from the sweaty work of cleaning up Mir Bay, I jumped into the water from the pier for a snorkelling break. I had just bought the equipment from Sali the night before, and it was my first time snorkelling in... probably ever. I was instantly hooked. As soon as you dip your head below the water, all the sounds from above the surface die away. In a second you're transported into a place so otherworldly from everything you’re used to. That kind of contrast in experience is surely not available anywhere else.

Sunlight flickered through the waves on seaweed, corals and sea cucumbers. Huge swarms of sardines swam around me, sometimes jumping into the air to escape a predator. Some kind of catfish with white whiskers kept digging around on the bottom, sending silt everywhere. A few curious saddled seabreams followed me everywhere, but were too shy to start a conversation. I spent about an hour floating around on my stomach looking at everything.

I wish I could apologise to the fish for all the shit we throw in their habitat.

My kingdom for an underwater camera!
Crab wishes the fish would apologise for being annoying.

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Wild Pigs on a Mountain Pass

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Wild Pigs on a Mountain Pass

After the month in the cabin, Isabelle and I split up to meet later in Sardinia. On my first night back on the road I couldn’t find a secluded spot so close to the capital Ajaccio. I ended up camping next to a “no camping” sign in some outdoor recreation area next to a beach. A cooling swim felt amazing after climbing uphills all day in summer weather.

The views were nice and the water was warm.

When I was preparing to sleep, some young guys were pointing flashlights at my tent, clearly curious about something and talking among themselves. Peeking through the opening, I tried to gauge whether they were dangerous and planning to rob me. They started sneaking closer. That was scary, so I moved my passport under the mattress and tried to think of a battle plan.

Then one of them mimicked very exaggerated sex sounds and they all ran away giggling. Just some harmless kids. I was simultaneously annoyed and relieved.

EAU NON POTABLE.

The following night I wanted more privacy, so chose to stay next to one of these chemical water tanks. Every winding small mountain road in Corsica seems to have at least one of them, always elevated a couple meters above the road. Around them can always be found even ground, and sometimes the tank provides perfect cover from passing traffic. Later I finally figured out they must exist for fighting forest fires, and it’s not the best area to hang out in case one occurs.

From Propriano I turned towards the mountains inland, to get away from heavy traffic between Ajaccio and Bonifaccio. A reliable source told me that the road over the mountains was much better for cycling and camping, despite the hills. I waited far into the afternoon to avoid climbing in the heat. At sunset a pair of beekeepers told me to turn back to the main coast road, because there were too many mountains ahead. After explaining that I’m a photographer looking for nice views, they changed their advice to go via Levie and Zonza, the toughest of my three route options. I thanked them and continued up the hill, mostly walking the bike.

Sun going down in the mountains.

It got dark and I couldn’t find any ground suitable for camping on a road carved into the side of a hill. I found another tank, but it was protected by a gate and visible from the road. I passed a town called Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano and kept climbing.

Saving the batteries in my headlamp, I moved by moonlight. Until I saw something moving ahead. I turned on my light to reveal that for the first time in my life, I was face to face with a wild pig. It wasn’t huge, only about the size of a labrador, and quietly standing staring back at me. I made some vague noises and got no reaction, so after some more staring I just started moving towards it. It ran away. I turned off the podcast I’d been listening to and cycled on slowly, hearing rustling and hooves in the dark forest on both sides of the road.

A few minutes later there was another water tank, and this time without a gate! But as soon as I stopped I heard another pig from somewhere very close to the place I would’ve put my tent on. This one wasn’t quiet. It was growling, and sounded monstrously large in the darkness. I got the hell out of there quickly. Fortunately I’d reached the top of the hill and the road turned downwards. Now there was more open ground, but for the next half hour every time I stopped there were pig sounds in the bushes. Great.

At 1am I came to a town called Levie and found a bar that was open. I asked for advice for my predicament, and the owner and several customers said I should go to the football stadium a couple kilometres outside of town. I’d be safe there, and no one would bother me.

So I head there. Upon arrival I see that the “stadium" is just a fenced in field with goal posts. And of course I hear several wild pigs running away. Great, thanks for the advice guys. I scanned the field with my beam and found one still inside, apparently trapped by the fence. It looked scared and I was getting sleepy and frankly tired of all these pigs, so I just entered the field while it went around me in a big circle and exited through the gate.

After some thought I figured I’d be safe enough. In the forest it would be more dangerous, because they might be protecting their own territory. Whereas even a pig would understand that a football field isn’t its home, and when a human enters, visiting hours are over. But mainly I was just too damn tired to care.

I pitched my tent in a corner of the grass and slept without interruptions.

Turned out to be a nice campsite in the end.
Palm trees at the beach.

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Underwater Camping

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Underwater Camping

After Isabelle rejoined me we stayed a few days at my campsite on farmland near the Cargèse beach. Neither of us felt like cycling and it was raining, so we just waited out the weather. On the first sunny morning an old man drove up to our apparently-not-hidden-enough camp. He was the owner of the land and came to politely inform us that camping wasn’t legal around these parts, even if alternative accommodation is practically unavailable during off season.

The timing was fine, since we were about to leave anyway. But to my recollection this is the first time ever I’ve been asked to leave while stealth camping, even if he was rather nice about it. Probably won’t be the last, though.

We spent the day in town charging our devices.

The beaches look nice, but waves are often too much for swimming.

At the next beach we set up our tents between the bushes. Late in the evening it started raining again, so I got up to cover my tent with a tarp. After hundreds of uses during the last five years the outer fly is showing signs of wear and tear. It’s not too serious yet, but it can let a few drops of water seep through in heavy rain. I preferred not waking up to that, so the tarp is a decent extra insurance against the elements. I was glad to have it, because the sound of the rain grew quite heavy as I was falling asleep.

Long exposure shot by the Mediterranean shore.

A couple hours later I woke up to a weird sensation. I was wet, inside the sleeping bag. That was very bad news. Water was still falling outside, and somehow it had gotten into the tent, soaking everything. I opened the door to investigate. The tarp above remained intact, but what used to be grass below me was now four inches of water.

When choosing the campsite I had only paid attention to how visible it was from the few houses near the shore just outside the beach. We wouldn’t want to be thrown out again, after all. I hadn’t stopped to consider that the place was also on a slight depression, and the hills around us collected all the water to run through that exact spot on its way to the sea. So my nice campsite had quickly turned into a small stream.

Oops.

I picked up my tent and carried it to a drier spot, with water sloshing around on the bottom of it. There was no choice but to abandon everything. At least my panniers kept the electronics dry.

In moments like these it's great to not be travelling alone. Isabelle was only a few metres away, but on slightly higher ground and therefore relatively safe. Sometimes I make light fun of her oversized and difficult to pitch tent, but on this occasion it saved me from a very uncomfortable night.

It's her favourite toy - any random stick.
Everything was dry again the next day.

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On Touring with a Dog

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On Touring with a Dog

So besides all the added weight, what’s it like to have a pet on a bike trip? In the case of Kira, quite nice. She is remarkably easy to take care of. If she’s thirsty, she’ll ask for water by pawing at the bottle. She doesn’t run away when off the leash. And if you open the tent door and tell her to go pee, she’ll dutifully do so (or fake it, if necessary) and come right back inside.

She doesn’t really seem like a dog at all. The only time I hear her bark is when she’s feeling extra playful, and then it’s 100% of the time her saying “Throw the fucking stick already!”

Always on the lookout for any dropped food.

The vast majority of the time she’s super chilled. The only things she doesn’t like are children, other dogs near her food cart (trailer), and flying insects. If she’s in the same room with a bug she’ll pace nervously while looking at humans in a kind of “Are you going to do something about this or not?” way.

She loves food, cuddles, and the beach. My headaches and tiredness passed and I needed to bathe, so I took her to the beach. She was so excited she even chased her own tail in an unprecedentedly dogsmanship-like manner. The last time I went swimming was probably in August in Norway, so I was pretty happy too. Not enough to chase any tails, but still.

This is one happy dog.

An off-duty surfer gave us directions to a great campsite nearby, with pine trees. It was a planted forest and doubled as a pasture for cows, but good enough. Pine forests are my favourite camping terrain, and always remind me of home.

There was two days of heavy rain coming, so I set up a tarp above the tent. It had a double purpose - to keep the tent and cooking area extra dry, and to collect the rainwater into my Ortlieb folding bowl. Kira drinks a lot, and if I also use free water for cooking, tea and brushing my teeth, I can cut down my carried water consumption to a third. So we were ready to wait out the weather.

Sometimes it's nice to have a tarp when camping.

If it’s not too cold for her to stay outside the sleeping bag, Kira prefers to roll up by my feet. But when the rain and thunder arrived in the night, she looked scared and it didn’t take much convincing to get her to snuggle up under my arm for safety. She licked my ear gratefully a couple times, and then snored directly into it for the rest of the night, drowning out the sound of the storm. 

Still, a warm fuzzy dog in your sleeping bag is pure happiness. I can definitely see the benefits of travelling with a dog.

A bend in the road in Piana.

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Beach Life

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Beach Life

I don't have much to say today, but here are some photos of our stay on the Bodri beach:

Seaside view.jpg

I really don't miss the snow, cold, and darkness of North Finland right now.

Rest stop with a view.

I gallantly pulled the trailer for a couple weeks, but after this we switched back.

Without anything for scale, the waves and rocks don't look very big, but they were HUGE.

We camped on the beach by a spot sheltered by cliffs. The wind was very strong and creating some of the biggest waves I've ever seen.

I've been waiting to take Milky Way shots, but so far light pollution from towns or the moon have ruined my plans.

So close to L'Île-Rousse there was a little too much light pollution to get many stars in the photo.

Time to sleep.

On the second morning the wind turned and brought the waves almost to our tent, so we had to leave in a hurry.

 

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Hurricane Isabelle

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Hurricane Isabelle

After a number of bike trips almost entirely done solo, I have become accustomed to doing things my way. When traveling alone, there’s no need to wait for anyone or to make compromises. The more this has become a habit, the more hesitant I’ve been to allow others to join me. I would never commit to a long trip with someone without trying it out first. Sharing the road temporarily with a tourer I meet along the way is much easier, because we both have our own gear and can separate again at any time.

I met Isabelle towards the end of my stay in Germany. She's a freckle-faced blue-eyed adventurer who rarely stops talking. Kira is the quieter one, usually sitting behind in her trailer smelling the world go past. Although I had many doubts about whether it would work, we’re getting along quite nicely. We complement each other well. She is fearless in all the ways that I am not, asking people for help and knocking on doors when campsites are unavailable, whereas I’m more at ease with dark forests and some other aspects of touring life.

I made sure there was some forest camping too.

This became evident early on. Close to the town of Papenburg in West Germany, we were surrounded by wide open farmland with animal fences, which isn’t exactly great for camping. We were wet and cold from the rain, and the sun was setting. My strategy of dealing with the situation was to stare at my phone screen looking at Google Maps satellite images for some trees to hide our tents, while Isabelle was looking at the windows of farmhouses for any friendly people returning a smile and a wave.

I was all proud about finding a forest only two kilometres away, but she was already chatting (without a common language) to the family living in the second house we passed. They did seem suspicious at first, but eventually we were led to the empty barn, safe from the weather. We made our beds on the straw and were invited to the house for evening tea before going to sleep.

In all the years I’ve travelled, I have literally never done this kind of thing. Since starting in June I had slept in a tent for four months straight. I was quite impressed.

One squeaky mouse was running around at first, but settled down when we wanted to sleep.

And there was more. A couple days later, on October (cough)th, it happened to be my birthday. I don’t like to be the centre of attention, so rarely tell people when this occurs. But I had to explain why I was in no mood for pasta and tuna, and wanted to eat something special that day. I told my new travel companion not to make a big deal out of it. She said sure, and then proceeded to tell everyone we met.

It may look like a lot for a Cocker Spaniel to pull, but this one's pretty spicy for her size.

In the late afternoon we came to an idyllic little town called Sellingen in the Netherlands. While shopping for barbecue goodies and pancake materials, a man who looked like the owner of the store asked if we are on holiday. Paraphrasing Isabelle's usual cheerful self: “Hi! We are cyclists! We come from Scandinavia! I am so cute! I have a dog! We have no place to camp! It’s his birthday!”

The man made a couple phone calls in Dutch and explained that the camping grounds were closed, but he arranged a place for us in one of them anyway. The owners would pick us up shortly, and we could wait in their son’s bar/cafe in the meanwhile. We went there, heads spinning from the helpfulness, and the bar owner walked over to shake my hand, “First of all, happy birthday!”

Everyone continued to be super friendly and we got free drinks while we waited, and I received a heartwarming video call from my brother and niece back home. So all in all, it was an excellent day already. Then the camping ground owners showed up, a hippy-looking couple with bright eyes and that look of joyful wisdom that people have when they’ve lived right and aged well.

We were led to a quiet place in the woods, a camping ground with plenty of space. The woman explained they could fit 60 people but only took in 15 because everyone deserved their space and privacy in nature. After some of the claustrophobic caravan clusters I saw in Germany, this principle sounded just heavenly. Since we were the only ones there, they gave us the use of a cabin and showers, free of charge. It was my birthday, after all.

Kira contemplating the many duties of a dog's life.

Amazing. We spent the evening high on life, cooking pork steaks and chicken fillet with salad and cheese-stuffed grilled paprikas. We drank wine by the fireplace while sharing stories of our adventures. There were even actual beds to sleep in. Kira snuggled up next to me, then started snoring with the volume of a much larger dog.

I won’t soon forget the generosity of the people in Sellingen. And it turns out that touring with company isn’t so bad either.

Autumn leaves in the morning.
 

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A Night by a Lighthouse

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A Night by a Lighthouse

As soon as I crossed the border into Germany, things started going downhill.

First there was an unrelenting headwind, which has kept blowing pretty much every day since then. I wanted to stay on the coast to follow the national park, and there wasn't really anything to stop the wind in these flatlands. In many places there was a road on both sides of the dike, and I could choose between a view of the farmland to the west, or the sea to the east.

In both cases, every kilometre or less was interrupted by a sheep fence. I had to unmount, open the gate, get the bike across, and close the gate, all the while trying not to step on too much sheep shit. Sometimes there was so much of it that I could barely see the road underneath. That’s because these animals are idiots and tend to congregate by the fences, even when they have tons of land to roam freely on. After a few days I was getting pretty fed up with the sharply stinging smell of sheep crap and urine blown on my face by the strong gales.

The views weren't great on either side of the dike.

The problem with cycling inland was that I couldn’t really see anything resembling a forest or a place to camp. Everything that wasn’t someone’s home or yard had been turned into farmland. On the coast I was at least able to camp on the hidden side of the dike, sometimes even finding a place without sheep. Since this probably wasn’t allowed, I had to pitch my tent at dusk and leave at dawn, to avoid being seen. Feeling like a skulking criminal, just because I want to sleep outside without leaving any trace, made me sad. I now have all the more appreciation for the free camping rights of Scandinavia and Finland.

The air was always covered in a haze. At first I thought it was just fog, but even on a sunny day I couldn't see far into the horizon. There was a smoky smell. I wasn't sure if pollution in Germany really is so visibly bad, or whether this was a remnant of the forest fires in Spain a month or two before.

It didn't look like fog to me.
This pier stretched over 100 meters into the sea.

Through the pedals I started to feel a slight vibration that suggested something might be wrong. The next day it got bad enough to hear, as a slight clicking sound, which soon turned into a horrible metallic grinding. The ball bearings in my bottom bracket were done for. Not the kind of thing you want to happen when pushing hard into headwind. I got off to walk the bike, just in case pedalling would cause wider damage.

Near Husum I found a camping ground for the night. The next day I continued to the city to visit a bike shop. The first place I went to said I'd have to replace the entire bottom bracket, the crankset, front cogs, and probably the chain. Right. Luckily in the second shop the mechanic was happy to fix only what was actually broken, and didn't take long to swap the ball bearings.

I also took the time to thoroughly clean the entire drivetrain: cogs, chain, and cassette. I even took apart the small pulley wheels to get every bit of grime out and oiled anything that needed it. The operation made me feel better and the bike was running smoothly again.

In bad winds, every little bit helps.

At a tourist information office I was given strict orders to not miss the Westerheversand lighthouse. And who am I to disobey a direct mandate? I cycled there to find an almost alien landscape of grassy flatness, with a tall 100-year-old lighthouse sticking out in the middle. It was only a few hundred metres from the sea, but without higher ground, you couldn’t see all the way to the water.

It does look unnecessarily phallic.

While taking photographs at sunset, I met a couple local girls who turned out to be volunteer workers at the national park. They offered me some space to camp by their hut, right underneath the lighthouse! I’d never experienced a campsite like this before, so it was quite a special treat. I took whatever photos I could, before the rain and thunder chased me into my tent.

In the morning I was invited for breakfast. One of the girls, Annika, said that she had gone touring in Europe with some friends and been helped by strangers so much that now she wanted to pay some of it forward. I know that feeling well. After this trip is over, I’m going to have to work very hard to give back even a fraction of the help I’ve received.

I could never witness anything like this back home.
 

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Welcome to Bække

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Welcome to Bække

After a slow breakfast, a shower at a nearby camping ground, and one hour’s cycling, I saw a free camping sign. There was some mowed lawn, a fire pit, a small hut with firewood, a toilet, and a guestbook. The spot was somewhat sheltered by trees, with a boy scout building right next door. The larger landscape consisted of patches of farmland and fenced pastures for horses and a few cows. A village called Bække was less than two kilometres away.

I guess I picked the wrong day to quit eating grass.

It was very early for camping, but I have my rule to never pass great campsites. Perhaps even more importantly, there was a lot of rain on the way. I could already smell it in the air. Staying made much more sense than pedalling in rain and looking for a wet campsite some hours later. I pitched my tent with the tarp on top for extra protection, then cycled to the nearest shop to buy food.

It rained for most of the night. The seams on my inflatable pillow failed, after five years of use. I slept with a towel placed awkwardly under my head.

Yep. That's the moon alright.

In the morning I wiped off the slime trails left by snails on my tent, packed up, wrote my thanks in the guestbook, and rode to Bække again. This time I found an unmanned tourist office. A room with plenty of information and leaflets, a small exhibition, a place to sit at a table, a microwave - even tissues, papers and pens, and various other bits and pieces. Someone clearly had tried to think about things that visitors might need, and then provided those things. The bathroom even had a free shower.

I took the opportunity to recharge my devices, and ended up using the place as a kind of personal office. I don’t get many chances to sit in peace with the laptop plugged in for some time-lapse work and other digital nomad stuff. No one else was there for hours, until the very friendly manager came to say hello and ask me if I needed anything. He explained that during the summer season they have staff present, but at this time of the year the office is just left open for anyone to use. He went out of his way to loan me some super glue for the pillow, but unfortunately it wasn’t strong enough for the job.

Eventually I stayed so long I decided to simply use the same campsite for a second night. In the first 100 days I had only taken 16% rest days. That seemed too few, even considering my otherwise slow pace. It was time to start resting more. I picked up some sausages and veggies to fry by the fire, and had the free shower waiting for me before leaving. All in all, Bække was perhaps the most tourist-friendly place I’ve been to. Everything was provided free of charge.

Beech tree forest path.

While I often talk about how wonderful it is to receive help and kindness from meetings with strangers directly, these kinds of anonymous gifts or services have a special kind of place in the life of an adventurer. Whether it’s a picnic table, a drinking water tap, a shelter, a helpful sign, or anything, in a way it feels like a heartwarming little note saying:

“Dear traveller,

Regardless of your skin colour, sexuality, or financial status, this is for you. We respect your desire to visit new places and are glad that your journey has brought you here. We understand that being on the road isn’t always easy, so hopefully the facilities offered here are of some help.

Yours truly,
Local people”

Hopefully some day I’ll own a patch of land that I can turn into a little oasis for passing travellers.

Average Danish road.
 

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Perfect Morning at Kærskov

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Perfect Morning at Kærskov

On a quiet suburban road with houses on both sides, there was a family hanging out by the curb on one yard. They seemed to be expecting something. When I passed them they were giving me strange looks. Wondering what that was about, I looked for them in my mirror, but instead saw a car and a motorcycle with yellow lights appear behind the corner, then some cyclists.. a LOT of cyclists. It was a race!

I quickly drove into the ditch to let a hundred or two bicycles and support vehicles zoom past me.

Now I understood those weird looks. The people were out there to watch the race pass. They must’ve had a surreal moment when seeing me. “Here they come honey! And in the lead… is a… what the hell?

Later that evening I passed Århus, which looked like a gorgeous city. Lots of cafes, restaurants and bars with cool well-dressed people sitting, eating and drinking outside. A very European feel, further underlined by wine being sold in grocery stores (which is not a thing in other Nordic countries). If I wasn’t an uncool badly-dressed smelly cyclist, I may have stayed longer. But as it was, I continued onwards.

Trees silhouetted against evening clouds.

Although wild camping isn’t allowed in all of Denmark, there are government-sanctioned forests and other places where it’s okay to pitch a tent. I've been mostly following the official national bicycle routes, as well as the map of free camping places.

I thought this limitation would be uncomfortable, but actually I’ve discovered that having less choice makes touring easier. If I have an idea of where I’ll be sleeping it’s a lot easier to plan ahead and leave certain tasks until I reach the campsite. Maybe there is something to be said for a bit of planning, after all.

One of these free tent places was in Kærskov near Horsens. Another old beech forest with hike, bike and horse paths. A small pond offered an excellent campsite. I had plenty of time to examine the area, take photos and cook dinner before sunset. Everything was perfect. (Almost everything.. I opened a box of newly bought Danish cheese and nearly gagged. The smell was disgusting. I don’t understand how it’s even legal to pack such a powerful stench in a bland container without warning signs.) There was some foot traffic, but it died off at dusk and I went to sleep early.

This'll do for a campsite!

Again I was awake for the sunrise. The morning was freezing, so there was a great deal of reluctance in leaving my down feather bed. But I’m glad I did, because it was a stunning sight. Sunlight seeped through the treetops in beams that lit the misty air. Dewdrops clung to leaves and spiderwebs. The surface of the pond was a clear mirror, except where lilies broke the illusion, or birds caused ripples when diving. A squirrel rustled in the branches.

I walked around slowly, took my photos, breathed in the brisk autumn air and chatted with people on their morning walks. Beautiful hurryless days like this are what touring and traveling are all about.

Once again, I couldn't believe my luck that this is what I get to do for the next few years.

There are one million spiders in this photo.
Small island mirrored.
A couple of the trees had autumn colours to boot.
 

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Forest of Finns and the Swedish Border

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Forest of Finns and the Swedish Border

The last place I saw in Norway was Finnskogen, literally meaning “The Forest of Finns". 400 years ago some Finnish people escaped poor conditions and hunger back home. After traveling southwest, they eventually came upon this large forest that spanned an area within both Norway and Sweden. From what I understand they did okay at first, settling down to become farmers.

Then there was a change of power and the new guy in charge had a much stricter immigration policy than his predecessor. He ordered my ancestors to be banished. (Aren’t we just so glad about all this progress we’ve made in 400 years..?)

The bailiff refused to do it, saying they were so poor they likely would've starved to death without their land. So they stayed. While not without some difficulties of course, they eventually assimilated into the Swedish and Norwegian cultures.

Just a backlit pine cone doing its thing.

To this day, Finnskogen remains a vast forest with not much habitation. Naturally I thought it would be a nice place for exploring, photography and camping. That turned out to not be the case, however. It’s not a nature reserve, so everything looked like somewhat recently hacked down young forest. Very bushy and uneven ground - the kind where it’s difficult to find great camping spots. Most of the small side roads were private and blocked from access.

Basically, everything looked exactly like any remote country gravel road through a forest in Finland. Which, to me, is rather boring. “New” and “exotic” are words that inspire photography, while “familiar” and “just like home” do not. Mountains and the ocean are great for wide open landscape images, but forests and lakes (which I’ve seen my whole life) make me focus more in small details and macro shots. As you may see in these next few updates.

Autumn is beginning with the first yellow leaves on the ground.

On the third day through the forest, I came across a small village school. It looked empty except for a couple walking outside. I was glad to overcome my usual shyness to ask for a water refill, because they turned out to be very friendly indeed. After one mention of my habit of showering at camping grounds, I was led to the school's gym. Only minutes after arriving I had the boys’ locker room to myself for a free shower!

As I’ve said before, getting to enjoy a proper wash and a set of clean clothes after some days of touring and camping feels like an oasis in a desert for the thirsty traveller. And doubly so when it’s helpfully offered by generous strangers. I couldn’t thank them enough for this assistance.

I believe this is a berry of some kind.

After two and a half outstanding months of cycling in picturesque Norway, I finally crossed into Sweden. Rather unceremoniously, after sunset and in the rain. There were barely any signs to mark the border along this small road. Sweden looks extremely similar to Finland, so I didn’t have high expectations for my stay. (In fact the general plan was, and is, to go through relatively quickly into the more exciting mainland Europe. Sorry Sweden fans.) Plus it was raining so much that setting up camp would've been tricky.

So I cycled on. I pedalled through Lekvattned and Torsby until it was 3am and I was soaked. On the wide highway 45 I came across a truck stop. It was far from a great place to camp, but they did have a cover from the rain where I could eat and dry some of my stuff. To avoid a wet tent, I pitched it on the concrete under the shelter, and only then carried it over to a grassy spot.

This so-called campsite was hardly more than 10 meters away from the highway. My shoes were wet. My socks were wet. The rain continued on and on. It was cold. I was tired. And I knew that about three hours after falling asleep, the traffic would start with trucks passing right by my ears.

Welcome to Sweden.

How are you even reading these hidden alt texts??
Time-lapse frame of the sunset back in Biri.
 

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It’s All Downhill to Sweden

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It’s All Downhill to Sweden

Examining my route map and the calendar, it was clear I needed to make some decisions. August was turning into September, with temperatures falling towards winter. There was a lot more I wanted to see in Norway - I could easily spend a year or two here. As lovely as it was however, I didn’t want to get stuck in any single place. The rest of the world was still waiting for me. Plus I had to get away from the cold.

It was time to start heading towards Sweden. Google Maps said that from the mountain at Geiranger, the road was several days of mostly gradual downhill, which sounded just lovely. Especially the first part, which was still mountainous and wide open. My eyes were lost in the vastness of the landscape. I stopped often just to look around me and breathe in the views.

Spot the yellow bus in this photo:

Cycling through this makes me feel very small.
Lunchtime rest stop.

The first evening I stopped by a resting area to shoot the sunset. A couple of German guys were cooking sausages and potatoes by a fire behind their camper van. I thought they were avoiding eye contact, which typically means they prefer to be left alone. So I did, and focused on my photos. It turned out my judgement was wrong though, because one of them broke the ice by asking if I would like a potato. Well, I’m not one to turn down food while cycling.

I sat down gladly. They were coming back from Nordkapp towards the end of a long holiday. We ended up having a very nice conversation by the fire, while they kept offering more delicious potatoes and sausages. Eventually I had to depart to look for a campsite before it got dark.

When leaving I was thoughtful. The meeting almost didn’t happen due to my assumption or misread, which makes me wonder how often I miss out on meeting people due to not being open to it or initiating the situations myself. Probably quite a lot. I am much more social while touring than otherwise, but there is still a lot to improve in that regard. It’s certainly something to be mindful of in the future.

Sun setting over the Otta river.

To find a place to sleep I crossed a concrete dam into a quiet pine forest with only one small gravel road and no buildings that I could find. After setting up the tent near the shore of the dammed Otta river I noticed a huge pile of what could only be bear poop just a few meters from my campsite. And two more nearby. I poked the freshest-looking one with a stick. It hadn’t even fully dried yet.

Oh well. They say bears are more afraid of us than we are of them. And I have spent quite a bit of time in forests without ever seeing a glimpse of one, so I didn’t feel concerned. Tiny little ticks worry me more than huge bears with sharp fangs and claws. Which sounds odd, and yet is statistically very sensible. Bears attack something like one person per year in Scandinavia, and most of them are hunters.

The night was clear and full of stars, so I set about to do some astrophotography. There wasn’t much light pollution, and I was south enough to maybe try shooting a Milky Way time-lapse. The centre of the galaxy is below the horizon in North Finland, so this was a rare treat for me. It was the coldest night since June and every breath fogged up. I tried not to breathe on the camera while setting it up, and then paced back and forth to keep warm while waiting for it to finish.

Unfortunately I (again!) stupidly didn't use a hand warmer packet, so the lens fogged up and ruined the sequence. I really ought to stop repeating the same mistakes.

Here's the first shot. You'll just have to imagine the Milky Way behind the trees gliding majestically in the night sky.

The video would've been really nice.
 

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Geiranger and 1000m Above the Sea

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Geiranger and 1000m Above the Sea

There are 206 UNESCO World Heritage Nature sites around the world, and I plan to visit as many of them as I can during this trip. The first one was Geirangerfjord. It’s the famous quintessential Norwegian fjord landscape.

In order to get there from Eidsdal I had to first climb a 620m tall hill as a warmup, then descend down a fun serpentine road with views of the fjord to the village of Geiranger. It was clearly a tourist town, consisting mostly of camping grounds, hotels, restaurants, and trinket shops. And of course masses of tourists everywhere. That aspect doesn't really interest me, so I only stopped for restocking, general maintenance and photos:

Panorama of Geirangerfjord in Norway.
A fully loaded touring bicycle enjoying misty mountain views.

From Geiranger the road continued up, at or near a 10% incline all the way to 1000m above sea level. That’s where I wanted to be. Knowing I’d mostly be walking the bike, I preferred to go up during the night. There would be no traffic, and a comfortably cool temperature. I started somewhere around midnight.

At 700 meters and 4am the visibility suddenly dropped. All I could see with my headlamp were tiny droplets of water floating in the air. I wasn’t sure if this counted as a cloud or just fog. Is there even any difference between the two, when you think about it? I suppose they are basically the same thing.

In any case, I thought if I could get to 1000m and above the fog/cloud, there might be some pretty cool photos and time-lapses available. I’ve always wanted a video of a thick layer of billowing clouds seen from a higher elevation. It was a couple hours until the best light at sunrise, so I picked up the pace a little.

Chebici bike 1000m above sea level.

On the top the conditions cleared only slightly, and another layer of clouds/fog above me was blocking any sunlight. That video would have to wait. But I’d made it to 1000m! The highest point of the journey so far. The landscape had changed quickly into nothing but barren rock, partially covered by a thin carpet of green moss. The snow up on the peaks was still melting even in late August, with many resulting streams and ponds and rivers tumbling down towards the sea.

On the high plateau there was a film crew taking advantage of the first light of morning. Their project had a much higher budget than any I’ve ever taken part in. They had a truck carrying a car, with cameras, lights and actors sitting inside pretending to be driving. A couple support vehicles with walkie-talkies were behind and in front.

It was a commercial shoot, but I didn’t get a chance to ask what for. Certainly not a car commercial, judging by the age of the vehicle they were sitting in. But if anyone in Norway ever sees a TV ad where a brown [insert car knowledge here] is driving in the barren mountains of Geiranger and some dumb cyclist is wandering in the background of the shots looking for a place to camp, do let me know.

It was all rather barren.
The sun was rising, but the cloud made it impossible to see.

The entire plateau was outstanding for camping. Almost anywhere I could just walk off the road and disappear behind a rocky hill into wilderness without well-worn paths or any other signs of humans.

After examining my surroundings I settled down by a small pond that still had one persistent 10m long snow bank to the side. There was no cell phone coverage - so no distractions. Nothing to do but rest, eat, take photos and relish in the freedom I had.

I love places like this. They nourish the soul in a way that isn’t possible in civilization. The bicycle kind of ties me down to near the road, where these experiences aren't usually as easy to obtain. I think I need to figure out a way to combine bicycle touring with overnight hiking so I can enjoy mountains and other deserted places more often. Just a very light backpack in one pannier, I suppose? If any of you have done this and have suggestions, please let me know!

One of the best campsites of the trip. Simple and basic, but beautiful.
One of the many streams in the vicinity.
Stars over mountains is a sight I'll never get tired of.
 

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Trondheim and Entering West Norway

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Trondheim and Entering West Norway

After waking up on a beach in Hommelvik, I continued west towards Trondheim. It was only 25km away, but there was a very uncomfortable headwind. After less than a third of the way I simply gave up and rolled into the nearest camping ground. Pushing through wind is a huge waste of energy when there’s time to wait for better weather.

Plus I needed to process some of the time-lapse sequences I’ve shot along the way. Which requires being plugged in to a wall socket. There are now 22000 RAW files from 90 clips in the first two months. That takes far too much computing time to make even a slight dent to that on battery power. I spent the day editing, stabilizing, exporting, deflickering, cloning, and rendering.

Ocean view on the way to Trondheim.

The next morning I was in Trondheim. First I visited a couple bicycle shops. The gears still felt kind of heavy, but less so than before. Lightening the panniers must have helped. In any case, the mechanics told me it’s not so easy to change the setup. The rear can’t fit a 40t cassette, as I found out in Mo i Rana, and there’s nothing smaller widely available for the front, at least without some digging to order online.

To make some changes the whole system might need to be swapped. Which is expensive and seems somewhat unnecessary now. I’ll be leaving Norway towards Sweden soon, and the landscape is going to be somewhat flat for months. So I’ll just wear out the gears I have, and revisit the issue before the Alps.

To my surprise, Trondheim was actually a very pleasant city! Perhaps due to the dedicated bicycle lanes, or the massive Burger King meal with a milkshake I was high on (probably both). Cycling through unfamiliar city centres is typically an ordeal, but this time I was even thinking I could easily live here for a while some day. Go figure.

Panorama of riverside buildings in Trondheim.

Through an online tip I had heard that the Atlantic Road near Kristiansund was one of the most beautiful cycling routes in Norway. I couldn’t miss that! It was a few days’ ride from Trondheim, and more or less towards Geirangerfjord, which was another major destination for me. So I head west.

After a tiring day in the city, I didn’t get very far. Somewhere before Orkanger I was ripe for some sleep, but no suitable tent places had appeared. I came across a camping ground, but it looked like the only available grass spots were in the middle of caravans. I can’t stand cramped spaces when camping - the whole point of sleeping in a tent is to be out in nature far from crowds. Hot showers and kitchens are nice, but the most important luxury of camping is space.

I was tired however, and still tempted to stay there. But the surrounding area looked promising - lots of pine trees and not too many houses, so I decided to cycle on to have a look around before paying to listen to somebody snoring in a camper van. (Or perhaps impose my own snoring on them...) Only 500 meters away there was a beach surrounded by forest. Perfect. I chose a great sheltered place to camp by the side of a cliff.

No camping ground could ever offer such a spot all to myself. It rained the next day so I stayed for two nights.

I considered camping on the beach itself until I realized the high tide submerges all the sand.

City lights reflecting in the water.
 

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Single Frames - Norway

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Single Frames - Norway

So here’s something a little different.

Usually I try to write about one topic per post. Although I end up taking detours in my text just like with my cycling, that’s the general idea. Which means that when I write down (or form in my head) snippets of text that can’t be stretched to an entire blog post, they end up unused.

Also the photos in every blog post are often of things only vaguely (or not at all) related to the topic and may or may not be from the same day or place as the events in the text. This is out of necessity. If I always put up pictures that are exactly of the things I talk about, the quality of photography would plummet, since it’s impossible to get decent photos of every sight and location.

So to mix it up, this post will only include those small snippets, with no general theme. And the photos are all on topic.

Incredibly colourful sunset in Salsnes, Norway.

Somewhere near Salsnes the evening sky suddenly turned into flames. It was incredible, just fire and brimestone all over. I can’t remember ever seeing such a red sky before in my life. If I’d only seen it in a photo I would’ve said it looks too fake.

I was by the sea, which was great, but the heavy foliage blocked my view. Normally it’s nicer to avoid sweating on the bike, but this was an exception. I started hauling ass up the mountain to get to a photogenic location. Eventually I found a spot where I could get a photo by lifting my camera high above my head.

I took a few quick and shaky handheld shots (like the above). That is the least edited image in all of my blog posts - practically nothing has been done to it, except reducing saturation slightly to make it look more realistic.

Sadly by the time I found a place suitable for a tripod and a time-lapse, the colors had already faded a little. The annoying part about photographing on a bicycle is that it takes far too long to change locations when the light is great. I’ve missed a whole lot of sunsets just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Wind turbines on a hill at sunset.

When I visited Steinkjer, I came out of the grocery store to pouring rain. While waiting for it to stop, I chatted a bit with a Syrian refugee, who offered me a place to sleep in his home. It was late evening already, but with my current sleeping pattern I had only just had breakfast and would stay awake until at least 7am, so had to decline the generosity. I don’t have any expertise on Syrian customs, but it could presumably be considered awkward to hang around at someone’s place while they sleep. Or to wake up at 5pm as a guest.

It ended up raining for six hours, which I spent at the 24-hour gas station, and then at a hotel lobby. I almost never take photos in cities, but on my way out I noticed the rain had created nice puddles, so I made an exception and stopped to shoot this one:

Touring bike reflected at night off water in Steinkjer.

“Sorry, I’m not really religious.”

“But what if Hell is real?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Bridge to hell in Norway.

In Verdal I was tired and wanted to camp. The road looked to be going from town to town with nothing resembling decent camping spots. I made the rare decision to head to the nearest camping ground to sleep, for only the second time on this trip. But just a few hundred meters away from it, I discovered a beautiful forest and quickly changed my plan.

The ground was thick with luscious green moss. Thick spruce trees blocked all but a few beams of bright sunlight. Silvery drops of rain glistened in the branches. It was a gorgeous sight, but sadly marred by the sounds of the terrible industrial area I had passed on the way.

Constant clanking of machinery, whirring of turbines, and metal gnawing and grinding against rock. Whistles and honks and beeps and alarms. An avalanche of dreadful noises symbolising human consumption. The few birds remaining in the forest sounded quiet, tired, departing. There was not much left of their home.

Sometimes I worry our species will destroy everything natural and beautiful.

Camping spot in a spruce forest in Verdal.
 

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Regarding Danger

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Regarding Danger

Now that the last few updates have painted a perfect rosy picture of cycling, it’s a good time to talk about the other side of bicycle touring. You see, I’ve been thinking about the dangers and risks of adventuring lately. And for a reason.

On Leksdalsvatnet south of Steinkjer, I found a fantastic campsite. Probably the best one so far. Right by a lake beach there was a large shelter and barbeque pit, with firewood and a toilet. The water temperature was something like 20C, which felt like a heated swimming pool after the hypothermia-inducing waters of the north. The countryside gravel road that brought me to this place didn’t see too many cars.

There was no need for my rule about great campsites. It was morning and I’d been traveling all night and had already been looking for a place to crash. This was perfect. I pitched my tent on the sand and was almost ready to crawl into the sleeping bag.

And that’s when I found a tick on my leg.

Different shades of mountains disappearing into the distance.

Ticks are a rather disgusting sight. Of all the dangers of bicycle touring, none are as small and insidious as these awful creatures. After biting you, they latch on for days and can spread a variety of nasty diseases.

This one was a nymph tick, which is tiny and hence particularly difficult to spot and remove. I didn’t have a proper tool with me (which I made a note to correct as soon as possible), so I went with the “loop a string around it” method. It was so close to the skin I even had to carefully shave a few hairs around it to stop them from getting in the way of the operation. This was not one of the highlights of my trip so far.

It was finicky business, but the intruder eventually came off. I cleaned up and went to sleep.

Pine tree silhouette at dusk.

When I woke up (at the perfectly normal hour of 7pm), I felt a bit frazzled at the thought of Lyme disease and other possibilities. Not in the mood for continuing yet, I decided to do a small reset. The campsite was excellent after all, and I’d been cycling well above my daily average lately, so I needed rest anyway.

After breakfast I started with the dirty work. I lubed my chain, tightened the breaks and tidied up some mud and dust off the bike. Then I washed my clothes and went for a swim to clean myself.

In the water there was time to think. The sun was setting, bathing the clouds in a deepening orange light. I was gently floating on the surface with my hands behind my head, as I always do. On every exhalation my chest fell below the water, and rose again when I breathed in. Up and down, rise and fall. The tempo gradually slowed down. Floating like this is so relaxing I often wonder if it would be possible to fall asleep on water.

Still water reflecting a sunset.

Okay - yes, many things can happen on a tour. Dangerous animals, accidents and diseases. But a lot can happen at home too. I had to remind myself of the principle behind this trip, which I allude to in my first post from the road, a few hours into the journey:

"Whatever happens from this moment on, the most important thing is that I've chosen to live life my way, without letting fear get in the way of my goals."

A life chained by fear is a life wasted, and that’s the biggest danger of all.

Not to mention the fact that life is fragile, no matter what we do. It can already end any day, so attempting to find safety and security within it is a pointless exercise. Even dying on tour is better than never living at home. Plus the day I decide to forget my dream of a world expedition as too dangerous, can be the day I slip and fall in the shower. Or get hit by a car on my “much safer” home street.

Leksdalsvatnet at night with the moon behind clouds.

By the time I got out of the water, the clouds were dark gray. The lights of farm houses far away on the other side of the lake were reflected off the surface. I made a fire and sat down to watch it.

There is something automatically calming about a campfire. It must be coded in our DNA after aeons of using fire to protect us from the elements and animals. By the flames, our minds stop racing, voices lower, movements slow down. Silence grows.

Yeah. I’d be alright.

 

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The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

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The Polar Circle and Mo i Rana

The fair weather continued for days as I cycled southwards in idyllic Helgeland. Rain quickly became a distant memory. I didn’t even need to protect my gear from water whenever I camped, often leaving out the rain fly on my tent. Instead of camping ground showers, I started bathing in the ocean. The water was still too cold for actual swimming, but dipping in the Norwegian Sea to wash off the sweat after a hot day was extremely refreshing. I was always full of endorphins while drying off.

At one point I realized I had unceremoniously crossed the Arctic Circle in the ferry from Jektvik to Kilboghamn. I guess I can now say I’ve officially reached “The South”. After spending two great years in Inari far in the north, I won’t be coming back to these latitudes for a long time now. Probably for many years. Farewell, land of reindeer, long winters, magical northern lights, and vast open wilderness.

Sunset between mountains by the fjords in Norway.

I took a detour off the Fv17 to visit Mo i Rana. Mostly to find a bicycle shop for some spare parts. I had needed to tighten my brakes so many times due to wear that I figured I should buy spares soon. I wasn’t sure if the pads would last even to Trondheim - the next real city after Helgeland.

I entered the outskirts of Mo i Rana in the middle of the night after a long day of cycling. Just a few kilometers from the city centre, I was getting worried I couldn’t find a camping spot anywhere in the somewhat inhabited country suburbs.

Right then I came across a boathouse by the fjord, where someone had painted a big picture of a bicycle on the wall and some exclamation in Norwegian. I tapped the words into Google Translate and it came out to mean “Go for it!”. Presumably an encouragement for pedalling, but there was also some convenient level ground and grass nearby. I pitched my tent there despite being unusually visible from the road. At least whoever owned that particular boathouse surely wouldn’t mind a quiet and tidy world biking visitor.

Town in Norway at dusk reflected from the fjord.

The next day in Mo i Rana I got my new brake pads. You may remember how I feel about cities, so there’s not much else to report about that visit.

Except that on my way out, while waiting for the afternoon sun to dip lower so I could get on the saddle, I met a lovely old Swedish couple. They were on one of their numerous holidays of driving in Norway. These days even camper vans were no longer comfortable enough, so they traveled by regular car and slept in real hotel beds.

We shared a rest stop table and they generously gave me a huge piece of Danish to go with my cup of tea. We talked about various things, from pastries to taxes. They were both trying to make the world better in their own way through teaching and politics, and seemed to possess the wisdom to succeed.

It wasn’t a very long meeting, but random encounters like this are one of the best parts of bicycle touring. And traveling in general. You get to meet so many friendly, helpful, kind-hearted people that your faith in humanity receives a constant uplifting. While countries and cultures do have many differences, the underlying human nature is still more or less the same. If only more people took the time to see the world, we would have much fewer problems with prejudice and nationalism.

And that’s another way lovely old Swedish couples can change the world - just by being their friendly welcoming selves.

Sun setting behind a mountain on an island.

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In Need of a Reset

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In Need of a Reset

After it had rained for five or six days in a row, I finally caught a break. A morning without rain - even a glimpse of sunshine. Finally I could get back to business! The total amount cycled from Bognes in the preceding week couldn’t have been much more than 30km, with zero photos taken for four days. I packed up, hit the road, and... was immediately slapped in the face with an 8m/s headwind.

That’s it, I thought. I need a reset.

Tent spot with a view by the river.

Sometimes things are difficult on a bicycle tour. When this happens, you go into a mode where you just deal with the basics - finding food and water, getting warm and dry, camping and resting. Everything else, like laundry and bike maintenance becomes secondary.

If this mode lasts for too long, it begins to have an effect on your mood. And the secondary issues pile up and also start to cause problems. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, but when it does, my method of dealing with it is a “reset”.

That means trying to make everything as fresh and new as possible, as if I was starting a new tour. Meaning I eat well, bathe thoroughly, dry everything, wash my clothes and whatever else is dirty, and fix any issues with the bicycle. If it’s a sunny and warm day I lay out everything in the sunshine, because UV radiation is an effective disinfectant.

It was neither sunny nor warm, so I decided to check in to a camping ground. It was the first time I’d done that on this trip, aside from my usual shower visits. Luckily there was a place called Notvann Camping only a few kilometers away, and mostly downhill. I arrived at nine in the morning, which I believe is slightly earlier than most people choose to camp, causing some amusement.

It was a friendly family run place, overlooking a beautiful quiet river that flowed into the nearby fjord, with a mountain view and a few horses doing things that horses do when they’re off-duty.

Like enjoying the view.

Like enjoying the view.

While I may boast about how rarely I need to stay in camping grounds, I really needed it this time. And after two showers, a shave, a machineful of laundry, one lubed bicycle chain, thousands of kilocalories, recharged batteries, hours of time-lapse processing, and a good night’s sleep, I felt like a new man. When I eventually got back on the road the next day, I was smiling again.

Reset successful.

Notvann river view with a mountain in the distance.

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Never Pass by a Great Campsite

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Never Pass by a Great Campsite

(I'm trying something new with the photos - the horizontal pictures should all be full browser window width, and the first vertical photo below should be narrower than the text. Hopefully this will look much better on desktop browsers than previously. Please let me know in comments if either isn't true, or something else looks weird or broken. Thank you!)

Okay, new rule: If I come across a really good campsite, I’m going to stay there. Even if I haven’t cycled much that day and am nowhere close to being tired, it’s practically always better to stay than continue.

Here’s what happens if I don’t stay: I’ll soon see another place to camp, but that one is only okay, and what’s the point of staying there if I just passed a better one a while ago? Then there’s nothing for a while, and then I’ll see a mediocre campsite, and then a bad one, and I’m starting to wish I had stayed in the first or second one.

Then suddenly nature and forest turns into farmland and I get into an inhabited area. I’m getting tired and briefly consider turning back, but the nice places are far behind me already, and nobody likes going back the same way. So I cycle through the village or town, and keep looking. But there’s nothing for miles - the ground is too bushy or swampy or uneven for a tent.

Eventually I get so tired I’ll just put my tent up in the first crappy place I see. Every time this happens I end up wishing I’d just stayed at the first place.

Here’s what happens if I stay at the great spot I saw hours earlier: I’m happier.

Even if I wasn’t tired yet, rest is always useful. I have time and energy to cook better meals and eat more. I can do maintenance and cleanup on the bicycle, my gear, or myself. I may take photographs, or just sit down and enjoy the view. I’m more relaxed and open to meeting other travellers. And if the weather turns bad, I can wait. I’m not in a hurry because I’m already comfortable right there.

A good campsite is one of those things in life that gives you warm fuzzy feelings. Like a kitten or a fluffy blanket or a nice big cup of whatever you prefer to drink in the morning.

And, as I keep reminding myself, there’s no hurry. With my almost unlimited schedule it doesn’t matter if I cycle 5 kilometers or 50 in a particular day. What matters is doing things that put me in a good mood. That’s an easy recipe for happiness.

Which is why, after cycling only 10 kilometers from Storfjord in Bognes, I saw a good campsite and decided to stay. Right by the fjord with a nice view of distant mountains. A fireplace with some wood, which isn’t very common in Norway. Some planks balanced on rocks to function as benches, a place to sit and cook. It was a little too close to the E6 and traffic sounds, but still relatively secluded thanks to the surrounding trees.

So I was content there. Then the weather turned bad and it rained for two days. And I didn’t mind, because I was already home.

PS. It would’ve been nice to end this post there, but unfortunately bicycle touring - and life - isn’t always so easy.

Two days of rain is fine. Then it rained for a third day. And that begins to seep into the “boy, I kinda wish it wasn’t raining anymore” area. I was running out of rations and podcasts. The worst part was that the weather forecast said it would rain another five days almost nonstop.

I had little choice but to break camp and head to the next village to buy food. These next few days would not be easy.

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Aches and Pains

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Aches and Pains

(Spoiler: It’s not as bad as the title sounds.)

Just as the mind needs a few days to get accustomed to bicycle touring life, so does the body.

Barring any injuries or exceptional conditions, the most uncomfortable period of a bike trip is always days 2-4. Probably largely because I don’t tend to practice or train much (or at all) before starting.

The first day is all joy and happiness, with an overoptimistic sense of “nothing can stop me now”. But even an easy start takes its toll. On the second day I always have slight discomfort and ache in the lower back, wrists and ankles. The saddle in particular is not my friend during this time. Basically all of the contact points with the bicycle complain under duress, and this lasts for about three days.

The culprit trying to look casual.

By the fifth day of cycling, all pain and discomfort is gone and stays gone. This has happened on all four of my previous major tours so far, and it happened again exactly the same way on this one. The body simply adapts to the strain.

Is it just me, or does it look like my tent has a monocle and is about to eat my bags?

In the meanwhile, I've crossed the border into Norway. Because the stores were closed on Sunday, I camped for two nights near Karasjok to refill my supplies. When I started towards Kautokeino, I was bathed, rested and well fed. And generally feeling rather good about my life choices.

World, here I come!

Summer is coming! This may seem late to some of you, but here above the Arctic Circle, the birch tree leaves are only just beginning to open.

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Baby Moose Rescue Operation

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Baby Moose Rescue Operation

Day 2 started with a surprise. (Oh and yes, it’s my fourth update from the road and I’m still on the second day. I assure you this won’t be my regular pace - there are just more topics to talk about in the beginning.)

Right. So day 2 started with a surprise:

Kinda looks like a deer from this angle, but it's a moose. Trust me.

A baby moose appeared on the road. I stopped and it didn’t seem scared, so I reached for my camera. Then I realized the inherent risk in the situation and did a panicked look around for the mother, which might trample me to death for getting too close to the calf. Eventually I spotted the mother behind it in the forest and understood what was happening.

You see, the whole road was lined by a fence. In South Finland the purpose of it would’ve been keeping moose off the road to avoid accidents. But in the north it’s almost always a reindeer fence, designed to keep reindeer on their owner’s land. Somehow the baby moose had been separated from its mother by the fence. And now here it was in front of me mewling sadly - probably trying to explain the situation. So what to do?

After I wisely gave up on the idea of simply picking it up and throwing it over the fence, I was stumped. Eventually I decided to just keep going and let nature take its course. However, less than 100 meters away I saw what looked like a very conveniently calf-sized gap in the fence. The youngling was heading in the wrong direction, with the kind of shaky walk that suggested it hadn’t yet read the user manual on hooves. The concerned parent kept an eye on both of us from a distance.

So I turned back, cycled past the calf, stopped again and shoo’d it (in what I was hoping was a gentle and reassuring way) along the fence towards the gap. The mother ran ahead to greet it. While I parked the bike to pick up my camera again, both disappeared from sight. I can only assume this meant the operation was a success.

May they both live long fulfilling lives of leaving droppings around my campsites.

These things are everywhere and I like photographing them, but could someone please tell me what they're called?

After typing all of this from my campsite (which you can see in the banner image if you click the title of the post) many hours later, I went for an evening walk with the camera. And what do I find? Another baby moose! I doubt it was the same one, on account of the distance, and the complete lack of non-stop forlorn bleating. This one also seemed to be completely unaccompanied, with no sign of responsible adults anywhere. After I wisely gave up on the idea of bringing it to my tent, I had to leave that one to fend for itself.

I had no idea moose can be such neglectful parents.

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