Viewing entries tagged
happiness

On Touring with a Dog

2 Comments

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.

2 Comments

Of Things Frozen and Melted

26 Comments

Of Things Frozen and Melted

In France, the snow fell. Frost covered the branches reaching above the canal. And I was cycling alone.

After meeting Isabelle two months ago, it has been an eventful and tumultuous time. So many things have happened it feels like a year has passed. Perhaps it’s clear that things between us have developed more and earlier than I’ve mentioned. At first I didn’t feel it was right to discuss it here, and recently was more interested in actually living life and seeing what happens, rather than write about it. Nor do I ever want to turn this into a relationship blog. But it’s time for a little recap.

I hope this road will take me somewhere warm.

The first weeks were great. Too good to be true, almost. Normally I take a long time to get to know people, but we clicked right away. It was a whole new experience of openness and honesty, as opposed to the gradual undoing of reservations and distance that I’ve previously had a tendency for.

But then, when feelings get involved, things get more complicated. Especially when we both bring our own emotional baggages. We suddenly became scared that this thing could become serious. Maybe too good to be true was right. And what about our solo trips? There was no room for a relationship in our plans. Each of us took turns running or pushing the other away. Each time it didn’t work, or brought us closer.

Nothing can survive in this barren landscape.
When I stopped the bike for a photo, I realised the road was so slippery I could barely walk on it.

Yet there I was again, alone on an icy cycling path. Few people were interested in being outdoors on such a cold day, with the exception of some hunters yelling in the forest. White cranes glided above the water towards safety.

We had separated for several days. Both hoping to travel south faster on our own, as well as a final test to see whether we could continue together. I certainly needed time to think. My habit of pushing people away was kicking in strong, but at the same time I found myself missing Isabelle already. She hitchhiked a few hundred kilometres ahead, and some days I broke previous distance records for the trip to get to her, and at other times I felt so frustrated and drained that I could barely move forward. The fear of her not waiting was surpassed by the fear of sharing my life with someone. Back and forth.

Cycling around the world is so easy compared to the task of dealing with my own emotions. A frozen heart takes a long time to thaw.

I left home hoping to never experience cold winters and snow again.

After a week of this I was in Chalon, right before the final stretch. Isabelle had eventually decided to wait. She was half a day’s ride away, and I stopped for a coffee with a Warmshowers host, who turned out to be quite an angel. We only spoke briefly, but her energy and presence gave me the last encouragement I needed to get past my fears. I finally knew what I wanted. It really wasn’t all that complicated.

I cycled to Isabelle and told her. Having found courage, but still lacking wisdom, it wasn’t easy nevertheless. We still had fights to go through and problems to sort. I had to open my heart and connect with her in a way I had never had the strength to even consider before.

There are many treasures I expected to find on this journy. Countless beautiful places and photographs, fascinating people, experiences both positive and bad to learn from. One thing I never expected to discover was love. Perhaps now, against all odds, it has found me.

Looks like this will be a two-person trip from now on.

A bridge over cold water.
 

26 Comments

Tears in Luxembourg

15 Comments

Tears in Luxembourg

Back in Senja during the first month of my trip, I met a cyclist called Martin, on his way to Nordkapp. I was on my way to Andenes on the ferry he arrived on. We had less than two minutes to talk, but it was enough for him to invite me to Luxembourg if I would visit it later. He lived in Goesdorf, which was my first stop in the country. Martin and Arlette were incredibly sweet and accommodating, treating us to showers and laundry, food and guided photo tours around the area and in Luxembourg City. 

I was a little preoccupied with thoughts about my future route, and especially whether I would be continuing alone or not. If I wanted to continue via the Black Forest in Germany, I knew Isabelle wouldn’t be able to join me. There were too many mountains and the weather was too cold. Even with her new sleeping bag, she had Kira to think of. And although there is no hurry anywhere, I felt a growing frustration about our slow pace of travel. I wanted to spend more time in special nature areas and cycle faster through the more boring parts in between.

Then again, Isabelle and I had gotten very close during the previous few weeks. We had the same sense of humour, which made every day fun. We had very similar views on almost everything, plus common interests. And when you’re camping and touring with someone like this, you get to know the real person with all their gritty imperfections. As opposed to whatever shining public image people naturally try to display.

Isabelle practicing photography with her 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Sometimes the bikes need alone time.

Despite all the similarities, we were also different enough to keep things interesting. I was learning a lot from her carefree way of approaching life, and my comfort zone was expanding rapidly. Touring with her was undeniably more enjoyable than being alone. And often easier, with less need to leave the bicycle unguarded, and more opportunities to sleep in houses with beds and showers.

But did I really want to share my journey and dreams with someone? In my mind I had this idea of what my trip would look like, and it felt difficult to let go of it. It was a solo tour. Just me against the world. Alone with my camera. Sharing the road only via my photos. I wasn’t built for this kind of travel, for making compromises. The Black Forest was waiting for me.

The Ardennes on the Luxembourg side was quite beautiful.

In a small village called Dillingen, it was a particularly cold day. Only a couple degrees above zero. Our pace was so slow I wasn’t getting warm from the cycling. We needed a shower, but every place was closed for the season. My mood was grim, and it felt like I was sacrificing the very freedom that I was searching for.

We found a cafe and stopped to warm up by two mugs of hot chocolate. I told Isabelle we couldn’t continue together further than this. I had to move faster, see more places, spend more time alone, and focus on my photography. We had to separate here. She understood - she had her own doubts as well.

We hugged. We cried. We kissed.

And then we got back on the road and continued together, in the same direction.

Schiessentümpel cascade with the ND1000 filter.
Sometimes the weather and landscape doesn't have much to offer beyond a few drops of water.
 

15 Comments

It's Always Sunny in the Netherlands

2 Comments

It's Always Sunny in the Netherlands

I’m just gonna go ahead and be honest here: Not all places are equal. There were a lot of good things about Germany (the excellent bicycle lanes for example), but overall I just didn’t enjoy my stay there. Crossing into the Netherlands turned everything around.

Farmland seemed more idyllic, architecture more beautiful, the traffic less hectic. Even the weather improved and the sun came out. People were suddenly much more laid back and helpful, and they spoke English almost everywhere.

Despite being a very densely populated country, there were still some forests and nature to be found. In one tiny forest between two farms Isabelle woke me up because the light was great for photography. Which is one of the very few things I don’t mind waking up early for. There was a thick layer of fog and the sun was about to rise. I packed up my stuff quickly and cycled on alone taking photographs in the misty yellow light. After an hour I found an overgrown pasture with thousands of spiderwebs and I stayed there until Isabelle caught up with me for breakfast.

Cycling without a destination on a morning like this is the best thing in the world.
The entire field was full of spiderwebs everywhere you looked.

Later that day we rode through the Dwingelderveld National Park, with bicycle lanes going through an old forest painted with autumn colours. On the other side of the forest the landscape suddenly turned into something resembling the African savannah.

Here be lions.

Isabelle’s old work friend Ilse joined us in Wittelte on her bicycle. She's a funny Dutch girl who took the role of our local tour guide for four days. My experience of the Netherlands improved even more, with someone showing us around a few of the more hidden places, translating signs and explaining the local history. Mid-October brought a record heatwave and excellent camping weather.

In Giethoorn we cycled in "the Venice of Holland”, a village nestled among small canals with fairytale houses everywhere. It was so quaint and idyllic that the entire village looked like one huge museum or film set. Further evidenced by the signs in Chinese telling tourists not to walk inside the houses, because people actually live in them.

We stopped to sit at the terrace of a nice restaurant, where Ilse ordered lunch and pancakes in Dutch. I found out why she and Isabelle are friends, when my dessert was brought in by a line of smiling waitresses with sparkly fireworks wishing me another happy birthday. It looked like they were about to break into song, but probably thought better of it because I was sinking so far into my chair I almost broke the backrest.

"Act normal", I said.

"Act normal", I said.

Isabelle, Ilse and Kira, all ready to start the day.

After Ilse left us we had an evening of uncharacteristically bad weather. The headwind was awful, it rained horizontally, and we couldn’t find a place to stay. Camping was out of the question, so at sunset we started knocking on doors again. Outside a small village we tried a couple farmhouses without any luck. The neighbourhood seemed to be getting more and more expensive, and we came to one place that was really more of a mansion, probably costing millions. There was a fence around the premise, with a keypad and security camera by the gigantic black metal gate.

Clearly not the kind of place that would welcome two soggy Scandinavian bicycle bums looking for a place to sleep after dark. It would be a waste of time to even try, I thought. I looked around to share my assessment with Isabelle, but she was already ringing the doorbell, fixing her hair, and motioning me to come in front of the camera: “Try to look non-threatening!”

To my astonishment, the gate opened and a grey-haired man in his sixties came to the door. He didn’t speak English, but seemed unafraid and willing to help, and the words “tent”, “rain” and “roof” are universal hand signals. He opened the door to the barn and we were thrilled to have a nice clean dry floor to sleep on.

Then the wife walked in, introducing herself with a smile. She said this won’t do at all, and ordered us inside the house into a spare room, which she used as her painter's atelier. She didn’t speak English either, but chattered away with such bubbly friendliness that we managed to understand most of what she said regardless.

We changed into dry clothes and she returned with tea and an evening snack before we called it a night. In the morning she made us a huge breakfast better than in most of the expensive hotels I’ve been to in my life.

In the end, I still don't know much about the couple, except that they were willing to trust two complete strangers by letting them into their home. And that is a beautiful thing.

Some leaves are more quick to accept change than others.
 

2 Comments

The Strained One

2 Comments

The Strained One

The B&W photos in this update (including the banner image that you can always see by clicking the title of the post) are some of my older work. Only the last colour photo was taken during this trip, in Denmark.


The title refers to a poem I read in the Reinheimen National Park back in Norway. It has stayed with me ever since:

He has no time to stop
And no time to look.
People he meets are none
Of his personal business.

Numerous the things to manage,
Hurry is the way of life,
Obligations around every bend.
The more he does the more there is.

The day is at an end.
Stumbling over his stick
He asks what life has given,
And what after all is left.

Thus he hurried through life
And never reached his end.
The joy that followed his track
Was a shadow lost in his wake.

— Jan-Magnus Bruheim

Taken in 2015 in Pallastunturi, Finland.

While someone who takes five years for a bike trip is surely not the 'target audience' for this poem, there is nevertheless much to learn here for me.

Sometimes I focus too much on photography, blogging, time-lapse videos and other digital activities. Although I love creating all of those and they help to finance the trip, they mustn't come at the cost of stopping to see, feel and experience. It would be a tragedy to cycle around the world with an air of self-centred hurry - never paying attention to the moments, chances, people and life fleeting past.

It’s easier - much easier - to be present for your life during a journey like this, but it still doesn’t happen automatically.

So I do need to pay attention to the balance between doing things and being here. I don’t know what the right balance looks like, it’s just something I will be figuring out along the way. Lately I’ve shot very few time-lapses, and next I may try posting blog updates less often. Don't worry, I won't stop doing either of those entirely. I just need to make sure these things don’t become more important than the actual trip itself.

Taken in 2015 in Repovesi National Park, Finland.

In somewhat related news, I have been joined by a Swedish bicycle tourer called Isabelle who is pedalling south with her Cocker Spaniel Kira. She is a super social and talkative morning person, while I... am not. So we may not endure each other for very long. But on the other hand, she also has plenty of time and travels very slow. She doesn’t care about the destination, only the journey. Which is precisely the right attitude for this kind of travel.

And it could be nice to have some company for a change.

2017 in South Denmark right before crossing the German border.
 

2 Comments

Perfect Morning at Kærskov

Comment

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.
 

Comment

Låvu

Comment

Låvu

One of my favourite things about Sweden is that they have a somewhat similar “laavu culture” as we do in Finland. (A laavu is a camping shelter with firewood, free for anyone to use.) A fellow bicycle tourer had linked me to a map of such wind shelters, which I usually referred to while looking for a place to sleep.

After a few days of cycling in Sweden I was getting tired and there was heavy rainfall on the way. I picked out the promising-looking Sinäset laavu on the map for a possible rest day. Regular camping would've been fine too, but having much more dry space, some firewood, and an outhouse makes things a whole lot more comfortable when staying for two nights.

I found the place in the dark, as always. It was very rare that I camped in daylight. My tendency to sleep until noon and spend the first two to four hours doing nothing much always meant that I had never gotten a great deal of cycling done by sunset. At some point it would be nice to synchronise my sleeping pattern with the sun, but for now I’m not too bothered about it.

The lean-to was at the end of a long forking cape reaching into lake Ånimmen. A lovely place for it. There was no pier, but it was probably visited often in the summer by people with small boats out on the lake. Two firepits, a toilet, enough firewood, a shovel, a couple rusted saws, and an axe without a handle or shaft. More or less standard. Except the roof of the laavu was super low - this was strictly for sleeping, while in Finland you can usually sit inside comfortably. Being both clumsy and a slow learner, I bumped my head on the low rafters about twenty times.

How much wood can a woodless axe chop?
Location shot.

It did end up raining as predicted, so I did end up staying for two nights. There were no insects, so I didn’t need the tent for protection. Instead I just spread the sleeping bag on the wooden floor. Compared to trucks flying by inches from my face, the gentle sound of rain drops on the roof was a beautiful thing to doze through. Both nights I slept almost around the clock.

I even found use for my travel shower, for the second time this trip. Swimming was an option too, but surface waters are getting chilly again. Instead I filled the 10-litre shower bag from the lake, and boiled some of it on my stove for the added luxury of pleasantly warm water. Showering in the open forest may sound daring, but I assure you that on the Standard Scale of 'Hibitionism I am definitely more in than ex. Even though there wasn’t a soul around that I could see, I waited strictly for darkness before this venture.

The rocks by the shore were incredibly slippery.

During my stay I was reconnected with a familiar sense of peace and contentment. I reached that elusive mindset where everything just kind of stops and you end up really enjoying the here and now. I feel like I still don’t stop to smell the roses often enough - the cycling and camping and photography and blogging and all these activities tend to use up much of the day. Being constantly on the move, whether physically or mentally (or both), is taxing in the long run.

Even on a journey like this, being present rarely occurs automatically. Some particularly special surroundings do easily inspire these feelings in me - as you may have noticed from past updates. But even when I’m not on top of a stunning mountain feeling thrilled about life, I still ought to exist in the moment and remember to regularly stop doing stuff and make these moments of peace happen myself.

This should become something I do every day.

I did have one feathery visitor.
Frying sausages by the fire is a practically mandatory Finnish duty.
 

Comment

Trollstigen

4 Comments

Trollstigen

Trollstigen might be the most famous stretch of road in Norway. Even if you don’t recognise the name, you may have seen photos at some point. It rises steeply from the Åndalsnes valley to high up in rugged mountains. It’s a gorgeous rocky landscape, split by rivers that cascade down in high waterfalls, and a serpentine road with thrilling hairpin curves. The climb from sea level is 870 meters, but the café and popular viewpoint are at 700m.

For me, that climb required some planning. My drivetrain was already well oiled after leaving the camping ground, but I had to make some very careful decisions at the grocery store. How long would I stay up the mountain? How many calories would that require? I tried to pick the most calorie dense food and chocolate bars I could find.

It still took me about five hours to climb up. That was alternating between cycling and pushing the bike, to try to use different muscles. With a lot of stops for rest and photography, of course. A number of drivers gave me thumbs ups and other gestures of encouragement, which genuinely does help to give a little extra energy every time.

I have to cycle up this road? I've made a huge mistake.
Wet and slippery hairpin curve.
The Åndalsnes valley far below.

The view from the top was well worth the effort of getting there. I was slightly late for the sunset, but what I really wanted was a night photo of car headlights painting the entire road in one long twisting streak. So I fired up a huge bowl of pasta and waited for darkness. To my surprise, no other photographers showed up, so I had the whole viewing platform to myself. Just me, the mountain, and the stars above.

Only a couple cars went up or down the road per hour during the night, so there weren’t many chances to take this photo. When I eventually figured I was finished at 3am, I found a place to camp up the road nearby.

The next day I checked the results in the café. It was disappointing. My lens at 24mm wasn’t wide enough to capture everything in one shot, so I had missed a tiny slice of the road. Also I had to split the bottom and top halves into separate photos and stitching them into one was clumsy. I scrapped the whole thing. But there would be enough time and food for another attempt the next night.

Night view of the cafe at Trollstigen.

Compared to the solitude during the night, daytime at this tourist attraction was quite a circus. Countless cars, caravans and busloads of guided tours were there at any given time. Hundreds of people were milling about the area. Twice in the men’s room I gestured to confused Chinese tourists how to operate a motion-activated water tap.

After dark I returned for the second round. This time I found a better vantage point where my lens could see everything in one shot. And instead of taking multiple 30 second exposures like the first time, I wanted to take in the whole scene with a single one hour exposure. To stop the lens from fogging up I tied a hand warmer packet underneath it.

The night was freezing and I had to dive into my sleeping bag while waiting despite several layers of warm clothing. After an hour I went to stop the exposure. The photo showed a nice view of the road, but it was dark. Not a single car had been through the whole time! There was no choice but to start over and return to the sleeping bag.

All in all, I probably went through more trouble for this photo than any I’ve taken before. While I felt a sense of achievement at the time, the more I look at it, the less I like it. The angle is wrong and causes parts of the road to not be visible. Plus even if I'll get it right, it’s just a photo that a bunch of other people have taken before me. Usually I tend to avoid “iconic” photos (ie. ones taken a million times by others already), so I’m unsure why this one felt so appealing.

Car headlights painting Trollstigen at night.

Afterwards I was looking for a time-lapse subject and saw something surprising. There was a green glow in the horizon above the lights of Åndalsnes - northern lights! I had said my goodbyes to them when leaving Inari, because I hadn’t expected to see any on this trip. After all, I had assumed I would’ve been much further south, perhaps in Denmark, by this point.

Gazing at auroras felt so good again, after several months of bright nights. And seeing them in Trollstigen, above the stupefyingly beautiful views, made it all the more special. The perfection of it made me both laugh out loud and tear up slightly.

All else aside, I'm very happy that I’ve done one at least thing right by setting off on this journey.

Northern lights over Trollstigen.
 

4 Comments

The Greatest Feeling in the World

4 Comments

The Greatest Feeling in the World

Bicycle touring isn’t always easy, but when everything falls into place, it’s pure bliss.

I had been riding completely in the zone for a while, with my mind at ease and generally feeling thrilled about life. I had the priviledge of cycling in some of the most amazing scenery in the world, taking as many photos and time-lapses as I wanted. If I was a millionaire, this is exactly what I would be doing anyway. There is no use for riches when you're already living your dream.

View of the mountains and sea in Norway.

In this mode, even small temporary obstacles don’t matter. If you can call the longest tunnel in Norway’s Nordland small. Or indeed temporary. The Toven tunnel was a 10km feat of modern engineering right through solid rock. And bicycles weren’t allowed.

I had been previously warned of this tunnel, but a quick look at the map had showed an alternative path via Holandsvika and Kviting. It was a long detour, but 40km of scenic views was still preferable to 10km of horrible darkness. But at the nearby village I learned that that road was closed due to a rock slide. Supposedly with little plans to reopen it. The alternative to that was three days of riding.

So I chose to hitchhike. I stopped at the entrance of the tunnel, and the first car I saw was a small van. I put my thumb up and it stopped! This was easier than I thought.

I was greeted by three immigrants in a cleaning service van on the way back from work. Unfortunately the rear turned out to be too full for even just the bicycle, and the front row was already crowded so there was no room for me either. I thanked them anyway, for stopping without hesitation. They drove off and I continued looking for a ride.

Black and white fjord.

The next several drivers with vans, trailers and caravans weren’t as willing to stop. Which gave me time to ponder.

I haven’t really hitchhiked before, but realized it’s a wonderful learning experience. Even besides the obvious benefit of getting to have a cheap adventure and meeting interesting people, the act itself contains valuable life lessons. Every car that passes is a type of rejection, and you need to learn to just forget about it, move on, and focus on the next car and opportunity. Dealing with a “no” becomes easier fast. There is very obvious benefit from this in many aspects of life.

And then at the end, assuming you are persistent, there is a major boost of faith (in humanity, the universe, or whatever you may have faith in) when you do get picked up by someone.

After half an hour a friendly young guy with a van and a trailer stopped. The trailer was empty so I simply rolled my bike in, hopped on board and got a ride through the tunnel. Soon I was back on two wheels again, feeling happier than ever thanks to this complete stranger’s selfless assistance.

Picking up a hitchhiking bicycle tourer.
Hazy orange sunset by the ocean.

In Sandnessjøen I got on a ferry to Dønna at sunset, and eventually found a campsite by a small quiet beach. To my delight, for the first time all summer the water felt warm enough to go swimming. Not just “splash water on myself quickly and get the hell out of there”, but actually enjoyable. I had been waiting a long time for this moment. There’s no better feeling than a cooling swim after long hot day on the saddle.

It was already past midnight, but the summer night was perfectly warm. I was in a sheltered cove with no-one around for miles. No cars were on the road. The whole island seemed to be asleep. So I went skinny dipping.

Now I don’t know if muscles can literally melt, but that’s exactly what it felt like. All the sweat, dust, and dirt washed off, replaced by total relaxation. I just floated on the surface like I was lying on a gigantic waterbed. The only sound came from a curious little [insert bird knowledge here] flapping around above me. The nights weren’t yet fully dark, but a single star shone in the sky. A taste of the millions that would soon again be visible.

It was another moment of sheer ecstasy. Oh boy. If you’ve never gone swimming naked in the middle of the night in a serene Norwegian fjord after cycling 1500 kilometers, I can’t recommend it enough.

A pier at sunset in a Norwegian fishing village.

4 Comments

Never Pass by a Great Campsite

Comment

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.

Comment

The Importance of Food

Comment

The Importance of Food

While visiting Kautokeino Camping for a shower (and pleasantly surprised about their exceptionally good facilities), I met two other cyclists. Running into fellow bicycle adventurers is always a happy occasion, and they were the first I’d seen, so I was eager to strike up a conversation.

Frank and Martin from Germany were cycling north from Stockholm to Nordkapp. By afternoon they had already cycled their share for the day and were setting up camp, while I had barely eaten breakfast and rolled into town from my nearby campsite to look for food and hot water. How impossible would it be to travel with such early birds, I wondered.

Oh, is it sunrise? Time to go to bed.

One of them had baby almost due back home. Getting to spend a holiday of freedom on a bike before such a life changing event is quite a nice chance to have. And for a wife to let her husband go on a bike trip for a few weeks at the late stages of a pregnancy seems like a sign of a healthy relationship.

We chatted about touring life for an hour, maybe two. Then Martin (the designated chef) started cooking - real food with actual vegetables - and I knew I had to leave to do the same. The most preparation I’d done thus far was adding crushed tomatoes and tuna onto my spaghetti, so I was due a proper meal. I wished the guys well, went to the store, had a quick snack, and cycled onwards to find a place to cook.

This'll do. A rest stop table with a view, and a convenient trash can.

Food is important on tour. And not just because of the much-needed calories. I mean sure, it’s important under any conditions, but there’s something about the simplicity of touring life that really makes you appreciate the basics of life so much more. Just the simple act of cooking and eating something even a little special can make your whole day. Especially if it’s made of fresh real ingredients.

So I chopped up some onions, zucchini and bell peppers and fried them in olive oil on my stove. Really taking my time with everything. Then I boiled some water, used the extra to make a cup of tea while waiting, and added my spaghetti to the rest. When that was done I put in some tomato and my fried veggies to the pot, plus some pre-fried chicken and seasonings.

If only I had put any effort into the photographs.

That was the best meal I’ve had in ages. Not that the food was that special, but in that moment, it was perfect. It made me so happy my eyes watered. A few passing drivers gave me waves or thumbs up at the sight of my travel kitchen. I waved back while finishing the entire huge pot of my gourmet chicken pasta.

After cleaning up it was already late at night. It wasn’t freezing cold this time, so I continued on for a few more hours, taking photographs with the midnight sun lighting the wide open landscapes of North Norway, and smiling at the beauty of everything.

I can’t believe how lucky I am to live this kind of life.

Comment

On The Road - Day 1!

Comment

On The Road - Day 1!

THIS IS IT!

After three years of dreaming about it and almost a year of actual planning, I'm finally on the road!

The first kilometers of a bike tour really are blissful. On the cusp of new adventures, everything appears exciting and full of possibilities. I feel light and happy, but strong and determined. I want to smile at everything. The open road in front of me promises freedom.

It used to be just a dream, and now it's come true. 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.

This is where I truly feel at home.

Comment