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heat

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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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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