Viewing entries tagged
hardship

It's Not All Good

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It's Not All Good

I’ve been quiet lately so here’s a bit of a recap post. I’ve continued to meet many awesome and inspiring people in Slovenia and Croatia, of whom I could’ve written several posts. But I really dislike interrupting conversations and meetings by taking out the camera. It usually makes everyone uncomfortable and disrupts the entire flow of the meeting. So I haven’t really been taking photos lately.

Also the nature hasn’t been quite so inspiring. The beautiful and perfectly clear Sava river turned into dark slimy mud somewhere after Ljubljana, after which it wasn’t even okay for swimming in. “We used to swim there as kids, but now…” is a phrase I heard many times. In Croatia there have been some nice places, but the world famous Plitvice lakes were just a huge expensive tourist trap. (Mass tourism is a topic I’ve been thinking about every day recently, and I’ll probably talk more about that later.) I took zero photos while there. And I don’t like to make blog posts with only text.

The Sava river back near Bled where it was still clean. Before “the incident”.

In addition to that, I was battling 30 degree weather with humidity, which really makes it hard to concentrate on anything. Heat dulls the mind and dries up any creativity. Whenever I ducked under some trees for a rest in the shade, I was chased back onto the road by vicious tiger mosquitoes.

The trip has felt a little too routine lately, which is worrying. After all, routine is what I was originally trying to get away from, in search of adventure and excitement. But after 15 months on the road, touring can sometimes feel even mundane. Wake up, breakfast, pack up, cycle, find food and water, take breaks, locate a campsite, sleep. Instead of adventure, it’s just my regular life, the normal way of things. I still enjoy many aspects of traveling, but enthusiasm for cycling itself has been lost recently.

Waiting for the ferry to leave in Zadar.

So what to do? Firstly, a change of scenery. I returned to the seashore for the first time since Italy. Outside the Croatian city of Zadar, I boarded a ferry to the island Dugi Otok, and camped on a small beach on the northernmost corner, based on a tip I’d received from a Decathlon employee. It turned out to be a nudist beach. To me nudism is a lot like dancing: I don’t mind other people doing it, but I really prefer to be an outside observer at the most. I tried to shoot a few sunset photos without cocks and balls wandering into the frame.

Okay, so there were only a couple naked people at this part of the tourist season, but still.

Darkness arrived, and brought with it a number of rats. They were highly interested in my campsite. I had to hang my food pannier between two trees, after they tried to gnaw through the fabric. My sleep was interrupted many times by them rustling the leaves around me, and even climbing up the inner mosquito net to the top of my tent. Rats climbing right above your head is too disgusting and disorienting to just easily fall back asleep. At least sometimes there was a satisfying thumping sound of them falling off the clothesline that I tied my food supply from.

In the morning I surveyed the damage. One Ortlieb bag had gotten a small hole from the initial attack, and the tent’s mesh had been chewed through in a couple places. Nothing major, but annoying nevertheless.

Lake Fusine back in Italy. Because I’m low on usable photos.

I packed up and continued towards the nearest grocery store. In a tiny residential area I saw a small cat, still a kitten really, rolling on the road ahead in the sunshine. Except it wasn’t rolling, but twitching in a weird way. To my horror, I realised it had been hit by a car and was dying. Fuck. I caught the attention of a woman on her porch. She explained it was one of the numerous strays of the area. No, there were no vets. There wasn’t even a human doctor on the whole island. But it wouldn’t have mattered, there was clearly no hope for the poor thing. So there was only one option.

Now, let me just explain how much I like cats. Because it’s a lot. As an example, there was one occasion in Corsica where we were staying at someone’s home, and their beautiful long-haired kitty sat on my lap and purred so cutely that my eyes actually teared up quite a bit. Look, the cat was soft and cuddly and I’m an emotional guy, alright? Anyway, to say that I like cats would be an understatement. Of course I still agree dogs are clearly better people, but cats will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Having to kill a kitten was the worst thing I’ve ever had to do, even though it would’ve been cruel to let it suffer. I spent the rest of the day drinking red wine and crying.

So yeah. As great as the bike trip is overall, it’s not all good. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes disgusting, and occasionally it’s downright awful.

There’s a storm brewin’.

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Frazzled

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Frazzled

Even slowing down in the Alps didn’t really do wonders for my mood. The whole thing with Isabelle has left me a little unravelled. Compared to any challenges that bicycle touring across Europe for a year can throw at me, relationship and friendship woes are 100 times more difficult to deal with.

Plus I seem to have picked up some of her bad habits. Very unlike her, I’ve kind of prided myself with never losing or breaking things, because I tend to be careful with my stuff. For example, there’s this little black plastic thing that I need to cover my camera’s viewfinder with when shooting time-lapse. I just keep it in my right pocket, where it’s free to fall out when I’m sleeping, or while taking various other items from my pocket a dozen times a day.

So I’ve told myself that if I haven’t even lost that little piece of plastic, I’ll never lose anything.

Random valley between the mountains.

Well, in Carisolo I was packing my bags after eating dinner, and noticed that my towel wasn’t in the pannier it’s normally in. I mentally traced my steps back to the shower I’d had the previous afternoon at a camping ground, but I was sure I took it with me from there. Afterwards I’d dried it on the back of a picnic table chair while eating, which is where I must’ve left it. A quick calculation of the odds of it still being there the following day, the amount of uphill required to check, as well as the price of towels, made me give up on seeing it again.

Weird, though. I never lose anything. Let alone a big fluffy highly visible towel on a picnic chair.

The next morning I continued from a forest camping spot to discover a campground called Fae 100 meters away from my tent. I nonchalantly rolled in to bargain for another shower, except with paper towels for drying this time. The receptionist said showers are only for overnight guests, but had a change of heart when he saw me walk out with the heavy steps of a man who had suffered losses and had really been looking forward to being clean again. Four euros would cover the use of the facilities, after all.

When I was handwashing my laundry, I noticed something in the bottom of my foldable sink. Oh yep, that's my phone.

Crap.

I didn’t even bother taking it out of the water right away. The screen had cracked a few weeks earlier to the point where it had huge gaping holes in it, so I knew the entire device was already full of soapy water. So much for being careful with my stuff. The price of the shower shot up another couple hundred euros.

But never mind. I had 700 meters of climbing to Madonna di Campiglio, where I could maybe buy a new phone. With all my gear and no muscles it took most of the day. The sun was shining, but at least past 1000m the temperature wasn’t too hot. I still stopped what felt like every 50-100 meters to catch my breath. And I’m not talking about vertical meters. Countless passing road cyclists with their carbon bikes and spandex either waved encouragingly, or tried not to laugh at my struggles.

Easy does it.

I got to Campiglio eventually. There was one shop with a selection of four phones, all of them mysteriously in the same price range. I used a bar’s wifi to research the options, and none of them seemed worth buying. Which meant that the next day I would have to go back down almost 1000m to Pinzolo, where there were more phone shops. That’s too much unnecessary up and down with the bike, but I could take a bus. And a bike rental mechanic promised to watch over my stuff the next day while I was gone. Great. It was time to find a campsite.

Except I realized I didn't have my glasses with me. Fucking hell, I lost those too? Yes, of course. I vividly recalled putting them on the windowsill of the bathroom of Fae camping to put on my contact lenses. I even remembered thinking “better not forget them there”.

Ossana looking disapproving.

What the hell was happening to me? My mind was completely non-functional, it seemed. My vision is -4.00, and the contacts are dailies, so there was not much choice but to roll back down the mountain I just spent all day climbing. Which took about 10 minutes in the other direction. At least my glasses were still there on the windowsill.

I ended up back in the same forest spot where I stayed the previous night. No progress was made, and I was minus one phone.

This was not a good day.

This is pretty much what everything looks like in the Alps.

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Solo Trip, From Dusk ’til Dawn

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Solo Trip, From Dusk ’til Dawn

Look, I know many of you have been curious about me and Isabelle. And I’m aware I haven’t been talking much about her or the situation between us. For many reasons. Partly because I’m shy to discuss private feelings openly, and partly because it’s been such an on/off rollercoaster at times that whatever I said one day would've changed by next week anyway. Plus some attempts to write about things were not met with grace.

For some reason this picnic spot was provided by the Sri Lankan Association.

Now I can say with certainty that I will be continuing this tour alone. Beyond that, I don’t really have very much to discuss this time either. The idea of writing about things seems kind of exhausting. Let’s just say that the good thing about having your heart broken is discovering that at least there is a heart in there.

On the plus side, touring alone has its benefits. First of all, I no longer need to slow down and constantly adjust my speed or schedule. This means I don’t have to spend much time in uninteresting areas (the landscape has been very inhabited lately) and can stay longer in the nice photogenic parts. Just like in the beginning of the trip. The next great destination: the mountains in North Italy.

Also, June has been quite hot and it's only getting worse next month. So the experience of cycling during the day varies somewhere between uncomfortable and terrible. Which is also the scale range for Italian traffic. To fix these issues, I can now choose to cycle throughout the night on nice empty roads in cool weather, then sleep during the day somewhere in the shade. This sounded like a fitting plan.

A quaint restaurant in an old castle.

So I continued north along the Via Francigena, mostly through farmland, small villages and bigger towns. From Pietrasanta I followed the sea, only to discover a ridiculous 20km stretch of straight road dedicated almost entirely to night clubs. And of course it happened to be around midnight on a weekend. The dedicated bicycle path was often entirely blocked by a horde of drunken party people. Girls in their skimpy dresses and guys with their equivalent peacock feather displays. Modern humans with their strange mating rituals. I couldn’t wait to get to the Dolomites.

I want mountains, untouched nature and solitude. A night club is my idea of hell.

Whenever there were big hills or mountains ahead, I would make sure to climb them by sunrise and camp somewhere near the top. In the late afternoon or evening I could just roll downhill to the next village for breakfast and to stock up on supplies and enjoy the non-sweaty pedalling for the rest of the night.

I still met a few people here and there. A nice cafe owner interested in my journey and bicycle. A lovely lady who let me shower in her home, when I stopped at a bar to ask for a place to swim or bathe. In another cafe a man was so impressed with my trip that he wanted to pay for the cappuccino I was drinking - I had to decline because his friend had already paid for it. Everyone had the same reaction to my plans: “You are crazy!"

Silhouette of a villa and hill against the lights of some city I forgot. Maybe Parma?
A valley of light.

One meeting was more worrying. While resting halfway through a 1000 meter climb at 1am, I was scared by footsteps in the dark. A guy was walking on the mountain road without a headlight or backpack. He said he'd missed the bus some hours earlier. For a moment I was worried he was eyeing my bike, but it turned out he had no bad intentions. When leaving, he told me to be careful with the wild animals - he had seen two wolves following him at sunset. “But the pigs are even more dangerous.”

Wild animals and humans aside, cycling in the dark can be a relaxing cathartic experience, allowing time for thinking. Exactly what I needed. Navigating was easy when I didn’t even have to avoid the main roads.

And if I got lost, I would just let the fireflies show me the way.

It's a long exposure, so one blinking firefly makes quite a few dots, but there were still many of them.

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One-Year Bike Trip

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One-Year Bike Trip

Time flies. Today marks a year since I started this trip. It has been quite a ride, and I’m very happy to have made it thus far. 365 days of homelessness at 20km per day across Europe has been a wonderful and life-changing experience. But I won’t do a recap of the whole year - instead I’ll bring you somewhat up to speed on recent events.

After a brief visit to Sardinia we took the ferry to near Rome in Italy. On the very first day we met a man who had sailed around the world on his own. He and his wife hosted us in their home, where we had a dip in their scalding 45C thermal bath in the backyard. In the evening all the neighbours gathered for a lively 10-person dinner delicious food and plenty of wine. Welcome to Italy, it's just like in the movies!

This photo is actually from Corsica. But still.

In Trevignano I stopped in an AirBnB for a couple weeks to wait for a visit from a friend. We started an outdoor website together this spring, which is admittedly part of the reason I’ve been quiet lately. It’s in Finnish, but you can take a look here if you want. During this time my photography career reached a nice milestone, when National Geographic Traveller in Italy featured me and some of my earlier photos from Norway.

Car headlights in Trollstigen.

Italians are very warm and friendly people. Until you put them in a car. That’s when far too many of them temporarily become idiots with a speed addiction and no regard for road safety. Which is probably why many cars here seem to have enough dents on them to look like retired bumper cars from an old carnival ride. So to avoid the crazy traffic, we’ve been riding north along Via Francigena, a pilgrimage road from England to Rome. It mostly follows tiny gravel roads along picturesque farmland.

The going has been somewhat challenging lately, despite great food and an easy bike path. First I was woken up by a wild pig scavenging a meter or two away from my tent. Fortunately it had no interest in me and continued along its way into the forest. The next day I drank from a questionable water fountain and got sick. Then I thought I caught bed bugs from a hostel bed, when a bunch of red spots appeared in my arms and multiplied during the following days. After a few terror-filled days, these turned out to actually be hives, probably from a virus in the same water. I never thought I would be thrilled to find out I have hives, but there you go.

The next day we slept in a barn to escape a storm, and it turned out the place was swarming with ticks. We took out over 20 of the disgusting little creatures from each other, most of them crawling on Kira. A couple days later I met two large angry porcupines when cycling at night along the farms of Tuscany. They already had their spikes up and can be quite aggressive, but luckily chose to scamper away into the wheat fields.

Lighthouse back in Bonifaccio.

On top of all this the weather has been hot and sunny, which is not ideal for cyclists from the far North. Our brains begin a meltdown process at 25C, so we’ve suffered some mild heatstrokes already, before the worst summer has even begun. I’ve learned the importance of having a full siesta in the shade during the hottest hours of noon. Preferably from around 10am to 6pm.

Sometimes the siesta lasts all day. Just to be safe.

Step 1: Find tree. Step 2: Lay down under tree. Step 3: Repeat.
The limestone cliffs of Bonifaccio at sunset.

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A Disappointing Return

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A Disappointing Return

Actually, no. Returning to the road did not feel "amazing" this time.

Our wonderful host Emmanuel returned to his house on the same day that Isabelle had to fly out of the country to take care of some business. So I took Kira and planned to do a loop around the mountains for a week until her return. But less than a tenth into the first uphill I just wasn’t feeling it at all.

Partly due to an extra 35kg on top of my own stuff (a 14kg Cocker Spaniel in a 14kg trailer with other assorted dog-related things like food). But on top of that, I felt exhausted in general. Far from the kind of result I was expecting from a month’s rest. Then a headache arose to make things worse. Abandoning the plan, I turned downhill towards the sea instead.

Usually a decent night’s sleep fixes these issues, but the next day I still felt sick and tired. To the point where for the first time I was actually forgetting what the point of being on a bike trip even was. We both stayed horizontal for two days at our luckily well-hidden campsite.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but will just relax and wait for it to pass. On the plus side, at least my travel partner is equally lazy:

She is definitely not a morning person.

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No Roads Lead to Marseille

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No Roads Lead to Marseille

Having reached the Mediterranean Sea, our plan was to take a ferry from Marseille to the island of Corsica. Storm Eleanor had already cancelled some ferry crossings, but weather on the mainland seemed to be fine for the next two days. After that the forecast warned about horrible headwinds and crazy amounts of rain for three days. We decided to get to Corsica to avoid getting stranded in the downpour. With two days, tail wind, and 100km to Marseille, it sounded easy enough.

We left the Camargue along a gravel road in the sea dike. The 11m/s wind pushing our backs was helpful, but also meant that there was no way to turn back if there were any problems. I called the tourism office to make sure the path was cyclable and there’d be no issues with flooding or tides. “The Mediterranean Sea doesn’t have tides, monsieur.” Even over the phone I heard eyes being rolled.

This looks almost as fun as cycling.

We made decent headway despite the path being blocked by occasional sand dunes. Until the trouble began in the afternoon. In the first village the grocery store was closed for siesta, forcing us to wait. Then what Google Maps said was a bridge turned out to be a ferry, which slowed us down again. Then a bicycle path became another bumpy gravel road. We stopped to eat. At least the sunset was so vibrant the colours barely seemed realistic.

Would you like a sunset with your tea and sandwiches?

Under the darkening sky, the gravel road quickly turned so bad that we had to push our bikes. I was getting a headache. The shaky road and the unnerving noise of a long row of wind turbines right next to us wasn’t making me feel any better. After an hour of struggling we were back on asphalt, only to discover that the road to Marseille was blocked due to construction. By then I felt too sick to go any further, so we camped right there behind some trees. Marseille was still 60km away.

Wind turbines are best enjoyed from afar.

The following day was the most challenging I’ve had in a long while of touring. Surrounded by an industrial hell, it wasn’t easy to find an area we were allowed in. 2km away from the blocked road we found a detour, but it was a difficult gravel road. Only a couple hundred meters in, the road was blocked by a fence. Then a few hundred meters to another detour, another fence. We kept going on another even further detour, which suddenly went over a railway, also blocked by a fence. Giving up, we returned to square one to the original blocked road and went over and around the barricades. We didn’t see any construction, and maybe it was possible to get the bikes around.

There were no workers or machines anywhere, or in fact anything wrong with the road at all. It turned out to be by far the best 3km stretch all day. At the end of it we turned towards the coast, which Google Maps recommended as a bicycle route. We’d wasted a lot of time with the morning detours, but still had a theoretical chance to make the ferry in the evening. Until suddenly a driver was waving us to stop - the way we were heading went through a dangerous iron factory and was not accessible on a bicycle.

We turned back, ended up on a highway, exited at the first opportunity, just to find out that the exit went nowhere, got back on the road, ended up on an even bigger highway, finally found a nice quiet paved road and felt better, until that soon deteriorated into an uncyclable nothingness, where again we had to push the bikes, and did I mention it was somehow a hot day with scorching sun in goddamn January? Factories in every direction pumped out their probably toxic fumes.

Roads? Where we're going, we need.. roads.

We had to turn back again, got instructions from a stoner on his way to work, ended up walking on another rocky footpath by the highway to avoid the dangerous traffic, to ask drivers at a truck stop for a lift to somewhere sane, walked back empty-handed on the same rocky path to get to a gas station, just to find that no, we can’t cross the highway there and should just return again to the earlier truck stop and then join the cars on The Roundabout of Complete Chaos.

By this time the sun was setting and we’d spent the entire day getting less than 5km from our campsite. In a couple hours the ferry would leave without us. What a shitty day overall. After one more brief visit to the highway, we simply gave up and started hitchhiking. There was no safe way to continue forward on the bikes.

We stood by the road with thumbs raised for only two minutes, when a truck stopped. The Tunisian driver was friendly, spoke English, and happened to have an empty trailer. Which he was taking to the Port of Marseille, right next to our ferry stop.

Unbelievable.

I’ve felt lucky many times before on this tour, but this was something on a completely different level. I’m very sceptical about concepts like fate, but it’s almost tempting to think that something wanted us to make it to Corsica after all. And now I’m curious to see why.

Tomorrow is going to be another great day.
 

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Tears in Luxembourg

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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.
 

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Xavier

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Xavier

It’s always been a difficult thing for me to ask for help in most situations. Accepting help that gets offered has gradually gotten easier, especially thanks to bicycle touring and the countless wonderful people I’ve met during them. But asking a stranger for something that hasn’t been offered feels like a very different thing. When I hitchhiked through the tunnel in Norway, my heart was beating every time I raised my thumb. Of course I’m glad I get out of my comfort zone and do things that scare me, but they’re still scary at the time.

I was eating breakfast under a bus stop in Bremerhaven after my rude awakening in the last update. I had dried my laptop, camera and hard drives with tissues as best I could, and moved them into a dry pannier. It looked like I may have avoided permanent damage. I’d even managed to nap a couple more hours, during which the tent and sleeping bag of course had taken in even more water. When I exited out into the rain, I poured out so much water from the bottom of the tent that I could’ve filled a coffee pot with it.

So under this bus stop, for the first time so far, I checked my phone for Warmshowers hosts nearby (basically Couchsurfing for cyclists). If hitchhiking is challenging, asking someone I’ve never met online if I could come over for a night, is several zones outside of comfort. It took me 45 minutes to send a message. Of course I tried to make it cool and casual. Like 'Germany hates me and my life’s work is underwater, would be kinda nice to meet though. No biggie if it’s any inconvenience at all. I do this kind of thing all the time.'

Achtung - possible flooding.

While waiting for an answer I continued very slowly onwards. At one point I met a cycle touring couple on their way north. Which was weird, because I was going south and yet they were headed in the same direction. I pointed this out, and the man kind of frowned for a moment, but rallied and decided they were on the right path. I pointed out their location in Google Maps, which wasn’t where he expected to be, but still he insisted to keep going. I pointed out that the harbour, which was right there to the right, should really be on their left when going north. He wasn’t having any of it.

I shrugged and quietly pedalled with them for a couple blocks, until they stopped to ask a harbour custom’s officer for instructions. Looking behind me, I saw her pointing in the direction we came from. Accepting new information can be difficult too, I suppose.

My plan B, the next camping ground, was across the river in Nordenham. There were no bridges because of the boat traffic to Bremen. I went to check out the ferry stop and there were two Swiss cyclists heading to Amsterdam. They seemed more reasonable people, and I couldn’t wait for a reply from Warmshowers much longer, so I hopped on the next ferry with them for a chat. It’s getting late in the season for bicycle touring, so these meetings are getting rare compared to summer in Norway. And I could use a bit of cheering up right then.

I made it to the camping ground and it was like I’d gone through the gates of heaven. Very helpful owner who even spoke English, the sun came out, I dried my gear, found out the electronics had survived, had a shower, ate well… finally a place to take it easy. I knew I’d require at least two nights of rest. It wasn’t crowded like the previous places, there were city rabbits munching on the grass, and the first night a small hedgehog woke me up by trying to squeeze under my tent a few inches from my face. I shoo’d it off as too spiky of a companion.

There wasn't a lot to take pictures of during this time.

I felt rested after a couple days, but the weather just kept getting worse. Looking at 9m/s headwinds, I made an easy decision to stay another night. Surely the conditions would improve soon, I thought. The fourth day of my stay was when storm Xavier hit Germany… Hurricane level winds that exceeded 100km/h flooded streets and caused a lot of damage. Several people died from falling trees. It was the strongest storm I’ve ever experienced.

The owners invited me indoors for safety. There was just enough shelter for my tent that it wasn’t at too much risk of getting blown away, but a large branch flying through could’ve been a disaster. One of the caravans had its front porch tossed above its roof with the tarp and metal pipes in a tangled mess.

The aftermath made me realise that not only was the previous weather actually not that bad in comparison, but I was fortunate to have had the slight trouble with rain, because it had brought me to this place. If I had been camping on the shore by the dike, out in the open, I don’t know what would’ve happened.

Pier under water in Nordenham.
I tried my hand at macro shots at the camping ground.
 

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Germany is a Cruel Mistress

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Germany is a Cruel Mistress

After the great experience at the lighthouse, challenges started piling up again. I had a hard time coming to grips with Germany. It wasn’t anything major, just many small things adding together. The near-continuous headwind set the mood, and everything else made it worse.

I would wake up before joggers and dog walkers found my campsite, and look for a camping ground with a shower. 3G connection in rural areas was surprisingly awful for such an advanced first world country. This meant no Google Maps or info on routes or destinations, so I’d cycle the wrong way just to return empty-handed.

Yep, still going along the dike.

Asking people for directions didn't work, because in the German countryside, very few speak English. People are usually friendly - often saying hello when cycling by, or stopping to ask something about me or my bike. But when I say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak German?', 90% of conversations end right there.

Although not everyone is friendly. Some people respond to my ‘hello' by looking at me with such disdain that I may as well be literally poop in human form.

Which also reminds me - businesses are not so helpful to passing travellers looking for a toilet. But you can use the disgusting public bathroom without a seat three kilometres that way. Oh and no, the showers are only for overnight guests.

Although one particular morning brought nice conditions with autumn morning light.

Camping grounds can be hideous as well. After crossing the Elbe on a ferry to Cuxhaven, it was late and raining and I tried to find a place to sleep. Two other camping grounds were either full or closed, until I found one where the owner was a tough-as-nails old lady. She looked at me like some idiot. Trying to find a tent place, in late September, without a reservation? Shaking her head she looked for a free spot among a thousand white caravans parked inches from each other.

She pointed her flashlight at a bit of grass surrounded by caravans. From her gesturing I understood that it was the only available place. The grass squelched from the rainwater. And I didn’t see how my neighbours wouldn’t stumble over my tent when they’d wake up. I basically would’ve had to put some of my stakes under their cars. Why do people stay in these overcrowded trailer parks? I genuinely don’t comprehend the appeal of them. "We have a home on wheels that we can drive practically anywhere on Earth - let’s park it in a Tetris block of mobile homes until the holiday is over."

Even while tired and frustrated, I preferred to return to the rain and darkness rather than take that spot. After examining satellite images under a bus stop I rode another few kilometres to a forest behind a hospital and camped there. It was midnight, but I had to set the alarm to after six to leave early, because I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I'll take a horror movie forest over a shitty camping ground any day.

It continued like this. Too little sleep, back into the demoralising headwind, rear brakes start dragging on the disc and need adjusting, nope - you can’t use the toilets here either, now the front shifter isn’t shifting, and the chain is rusting from all the rain... nothing went my way.

Oh, you want to have a rest day? Nein, das kamping ground ist closed. No good news anywhere. Finally in Bremerhaven I camped in the only place I could find, by the shore near a massive cargo harbour. It was a windy spot, and it rained hard during the night. I slept uneasily in the storm. The wind forced the outer fly of my tent against the inner mesh, which sometimes causes a few drops of water to seep through.

At 4am I woke up to a strange sensation. My sleeping bag was wet, as well as the backpack with my electronics. There was a puddle around me. For the first time in about 400 nights of camping, my tent had failed me.

Fucking hell.

To expand my time-lapse horizons, I started a new series of cityscapes with this scene.
"The day does shine on a pile of twigs as well", as the wise old saying in Finland goes.
 

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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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Vadehavet National Park

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Vadehavet National Park

All of Denmark is pretty flat, but especially the west side. It was almost eerie to not see any hills or elevation. Just perfectly level farmland, far into the distance. The only things blocking the view were buildings and occasional trees. And lots of massive wind turbines, which provide almost half of Denmark’s energy.

I’d felt a slight headache all day, and when I reached the shore of the Vadehavet National Park, it got worse. Suddenly I felt completely out of it and was barely able to pitch my tent on some grass by the sea. Skipping all my usual evening routines, I went straight to bed to sleep it off. This kind of thing seems to happen to me a couple times a year. Headache accompanied by nausea, and for the rest of the day I can’t function at all. Some kind of ‘mangraine', I suppose.

I love wind power in theory, but that constant wooshing sound can get a little annoying.
Is flat.

The next day I felt fine again. I backtracked a couple kilometres to visit the nearby Nature Centre, but it would’ve cost 14€ just to get in the building. That’s an unreasonable price tag for information that ought to be free. I dried my tent and clothes in the sun outside while muttering about how Finnish national parks are better.

Vadehavet (or the Wadden Sea) is a huge national park and another UNESCO World Heritage site. It spans 10000km2 off the coasts of Denmark and Germany. I assumed (probably incorrectly) that the name means something like “The Wading Sea”, because it’s so shallow that you could walk into it for miles, especially during low tide. Even the sea was flat here.

I was about to continue towards Germany, when an older gentleman suggested I visit the island of Mandø. It was connected to the mainland by five kilometres of rocky road, which was inaccessible every 12 hours or so, because it got submerged during high tide! This sounded like a fun place to visit. At the start of the road there were warning signs saying “Tide Race” and “No crossing without knowledge of the tides”. The old man had said it was several hours until the water would rise. I googled to double check, and then crossed the sea like some bicycle touring Moses.

This road looks fine for cycling!
This sight would become all too familiar soon enough.

Mandø was surrounded by a three-meter tall dike, a sloping seawall, covered in grass. It kept the water away during storms and also provided grazing ground for a lot of sheep. The mainland had the same kind of dike. (And it continued very, very far, as I would later find out.)

The island was a few kilometres across, with some farms, houses, summer cabins, and a small village centre. There was a camping ground, a shop, a couple restaurants and a very nice-looking windmill. I figured I’d stay at least until the next low tide. I showered at the campsite, took some photos, ate dinner, and chatted with a couple bird spotters. There were many different migratory birds in the nature reserve and subsequently also many enthusiastic people with binoculars and telescopes.

There's nothing quite like a sunset by the sea.

When the stars came out I returned to the windmill. The village had quieted down. I took a few still photos and then set a time-lapse of the scene below. This gave me an hour and a half to lie down and look at the stars while waiting for the camera. I really enjoy these moments of doing nothing while the camera’s shutter clicks away, recording movement where I see stillness.

I’ve been hooked on time-lapse since the first clip I ever shot, three years ago in Finland. It was the second week of my photography studies at the Kuusamo College, and I had a new camera with a timer to play with. The northern lights were expected to appear, and I had recently moved there from South Finland so had never seen them before. I cycled out at night to a lake by a forest, and waited until there was a hint of green in the sky.

I set the tripod and shot a sequence over something like half an hour, with stars and auroras reflecting off the water. Even now I remember thinking how cool it was, and I couldn’t wait to see the video. Of course it was out of focus, and unstable because I kept touching the camera's buttons. I even composed the shot vertically, which really shows how clueless I was.

But I loved it, and kept doing it. And here I am now, traveling the world and shooting time-lapses semi-professionally.

Funny how one night can change the course of your whole life.

I got lucky and there were no cars with headlights ruining the 90-minute shot.
 

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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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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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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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Never Thought I’d be Happy to See a Tunnel

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Never Thought I’d be Happy to See a Tunnel

What kind of circumstances does it require to make a 2.5 kilometer tunnel, all of it an uphill climb, look appealing to a cyclist? Cold, rain, and a laptop water damage emergency.

Let me paint a picture to those of you who have never cycled through a tunnel:

Imagine it’s summer. You’re on a bicycle tour. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You couldn’t be happier. Until you turn around a bend and your heart sinks. The road continues into blackness through a mountain.

So far I've also had to "imagine" summer.

All of a sudden, you’re banished from The Shire into the Mines of Moria. The temperature drops 20 degrees to near zero. Drops of icy water fall from the cracks in the rock onto your skin. The floor is wet and slippery. Strange echoes and creepy unidentifiable tunnel sounds, almost like whispers, slither into your ears.

You turn your head to try to light up every nook and crevice with your headlamp to look for monsters. Every two seconds your breath fogs up and hits the beam of light, essentially blinding you.

And then you hear the rumbling. They are coming.

One does not simply pedal into Mordor.

You start to cycle more frantically, trying to figure out if the sound is coming from the front or back. Then you see headlights behind you on the same lane. Shit. The rumbling builds into a deafening cascade of sound. The two bright dots in your rear view mirror fuse into one ball of pure light that burns your retinas. All the while you’re trying to cycle as straight as you can, which is not easy with a heavy bicycle in an uphill tunnel with an icy floor and severely compromised eyesight.

But there’s nowhere else to go. You can only hope the car passes safely.

And that's what tunnels are like.

This one's okay.

I try to avoid going through them whenever possible, but on Senja there usually aren’t alternative routes. So at the very least I make an effort to cycle through tunnels during very low traffic hours.

Hence, I never thought I’d be happy at the sight of the 2.5km Skaland tunnel. It had been raining for a while and I’d realized the rain cover of my backpack was leaking. That’s the one that contains the laptop and other important electronics, so water seeping into it was a huge problem. And there was no shelter anywhere. Until I spotted the tunnel. I could stay there by the side of the gate, safe from rain.

This looks like a fine place to camp!

I stayed there for a few hours until the weather cleared. There was little traffic, and it was split about evenly between drivers with a "best of luck with the weather!" kind of smile and wave, and the "what the hell is this guy doing?" stare.

Luckily no damage was done. But until I can find a more waterproof backpack, I need to figure out a whole new system of protecting my valuables.

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Fog, Frozen Fingers, and to Hell with Kilpisjärvi

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Fog, Frozen Fingers, and to Hell with Kilpisjärvi

While still on the aforementioned hill, I considered setting up camp. It was late and the day had been somewhat tiring.

Then fog started rising from the lakes and the river down below me. This surprised me, because this type of fog forms when the air temperature is colder than the water. The river water couldn’t have been warmer than +5C, and that was generous. So the valley must’ve cooled down considerably to near freezing point, which I didn't feel on higher ground.

I was comfortable up on my hilltop. And yet - a foggy sunrise (or in this case foggy midnight sun) is the holy grail of photography conditions. And if I want to become a professional photographer… I packed up and rolled down the hill, gripping the brakes with white knuckles on the steep descent.

Unfortunately the fog only lasted an hour, and while it was very pretty, I couldn’t really find a great location to shoot from. Eventually I pitched my tent among the downy birch trees with numb fingers. If I want to be a professional photographer, I need to buy warmer gloves.

The end of the road.

These power lines wanted to be in every photo, the way power lines often do.

When I reached Kilpisjärvi, the weather got from bad to worse. That was my last stop in Finland before the Norwegian border. As a going away present, I was awarded freezing weather, rain and sleet, and a devastating headwind. They even had ice on the lake - at midsummer! Kilpisjärvi has some of the best views in Finland and I wanted to take photos, but couldn’t feel my fingers up to the elbow and was afraid the wind would blow my tripod over anyway. This was all just unacceptable. It was the first time I wasn’t enjoying myself on this trip.

The highest point in Finland's highways is only 565m, which goes to show how flat Finland really is.

I knew Skibotn in Norway would be considerably warmer. It was only 50km north, but also 500m down to sea level, which meant a different climate. I stocked up on food and said goodbye to Finland.

Or so I thought. It took me more than an hour to cycle the first 5km from Kilpisjärvi. I simply had to give up. There was no sense trying to pedal into the strong headwind. Completely useless. In any case, one of the main reasons I have this much time for my trip is exactly so that I can wait out the bad weather, so why struggle? Norway wasn’t going anywhere.

I camped at the nearest bit of even land that wasn’t pummeled by the excruciating north wind.

There’s nothing quite like the Finnish summer.

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