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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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No Man's Right

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No Man's Right

I’ve passed the 100-day mark, so it’s time to take stock. My National Park tour took 102 days, so from tomorrow onwards, this will be the longest bicycle tour I’ve ever done. Although that one required 5250 kilometres, so I’m still way behind at 3500km for this trip. But I feel like distance cycled is far less important of a number than time spent. Hence the project’s title, I suppose.

Of the first 100 so far I’ve spent every night sleeping outside. Mostly in my tent, except for a few occasions under other shelters where I felt that even a tent was unnecessary. I’ve only slept in three different camping grounds. All the rest were stealth camping in forests and other secluded places. Well.. plus a number of distinctly unstealthy spots out in the open when I was too tired to find anything better.

Throwback to a lake in Norway.

So far I’ve taken full advantage of Everyman’s Right of Finland, Sweden and Norway. It ensures that every person, no matter who they are, has the right to enjoy nature. That includes hiking, cycling, swimming, picking berries and mushrooms, among other activities. Most importantly of all, camping. The ability to camp anywhere, even privately owned forests as long as I’m a reasonable distance away from anyone’s home, is a fantastic priviledge. And in Scandinavia there are plenty of forests and other uninhabited nature available for doing so.

That’s all about to change, however. I’ve just crossed into Denmark by ferry, and unfortunately they don’t have similar outdoor camping priviledges - just a select few spots where pitching a tent is acceptable, and an additional handful of places offered privately by farmers. It could take some getting used to after all the freedom in the north.

On a beautiful morning in North Norway.

I’m not even sure whether Denmark has any actual nature, for that matter. My only previous experience of the country is driving through it in about one hour during a road trip a few years ago. Looking at the satellite images in Google Maps it looks depressingly full of farmland, towns and cities. Whatever forests I can locate seem to be tiny.

From what I understand, much of Germany, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg (the route I’m considering at the moment) will look similar. Which means I don’t expect untouched nature and solitude for the next few weeks. Photography-wise, I'll get to practice shooting subjects and genres outside my usual landscapes. Even in South Sweden I found it very difficult to find places and photos where man-made structures weren’t visible, and that won’t get easier in much of Europe.

Sweden uses a lot of electricity.
Autumn weather isn't great but the colours can get beautiful.

Oh, and regarding Sweden: There’s not much to report of my stay there. I spent about ten days cycling through, most of which were exceptionally windy and rainy. Autumn has clearly arrived. Camping spots were often poor, especially when on two separate occasions laavus on the map turned out to not be laavus. The last place I visited was indeed a shelter, but kind of dirty and spray-painted with graffiti. Also the roof was leaking, which I found out when it began to rain again in the middle of the night and water started dripping onto my sleeping bag.

So overall, there aren’t many photos from that leg of the journey. (In fact a couple of the images in this update are actually from earlier in Norway. Namely the ones where the weather looks pleasant.) Sorry to any fans of Sweden out there.

All that aside, I feel great. There's about another 1700 days and 47000km left, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in store!

It was a dark and stormy night...
 

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5-Year Horse Trip

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5-Year Horse Trip

I followed the turquoise-coloured river Otta southeast. During the day I rode on hilly small roads on the quiet side of the river, and at night I sometimes switched to pedaling on the speedier E6 when there was no traffic. There was about a week of Norway left before I'd the border into Sweden.

Most of the way was farmland and habitation, and the camera rarely came out of the bag. At least at night the world can look more interesting. I saw auroras in the horizon again. Although the light pollution ruined almost all photo attempts, it was nice to cycle under the green lights in the Norwegian farmlands. Later one of my campsites had a great view of the lights of Lillehammer:

You can see the 1994 Winter Olympics ski jump tower to the left.
Where there was no light pollution, they were blocked by trees.

Between Hamar and Elverum I was camping in a forest behind a rest stop. I had arrived very late in the cover of darkness, as was often the case. Highway 3 had been pleasant to cycle at night, but the afternoon showed a very different side to it. The traffic was absolutely crazy. I can’t remember ever cycling with so many cars. It was Friday at 3pm, so the rush was caused by everyone from Oslo and other cities heading towards the country for the weekend.

The road was narrow and both lanes were full, so there weren’t safe places to pass me. I had to cycle in short bursts. First a few hundred meters of frantic pedalling, then quickly getting off the road when my mirror showed a dangerous amount of cars behind. When I eventually made it to the beginning of a bicycle lane, it was on the other side of the road. It took me 15 minutes of waiting for enough of a gap to cross the damn road! If this is a taste of what’s to come in Germany and the rest of Europe, I really need to start planning my routes more carefully.

River Otta really was this turquoise.

One morning began with a surprise when two teenage girls on horses rode past my campsite. That doesn’t happen often. And before they’d even disappeared from view, my mind started to wander. What would it be like to do a trip on a horse, like in the old days? Maybe one day I should take a break from cycling and ride a horse around Kazakhstan. Or Mongolia.

For some reason thoughts like these always arise automatically. Even though I know nothing about Kazakhstan or Mongolia. Or horses for that matter. I wonder if there’s some gene that is responsible for this kind of adventure mentality that tries to take everything towards the extremes? I can barely heard the word 'boat' without immediately thinking about sailing around the world.

There must be some kind of source for this mindset. Whatever gene or gut bacteria causes such ideas, I have it.

I forget where this was, but it's the opening frame of a sunset time-lapse.
 

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It’s All Downhill to Sweden

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It’s All Downhill to Sweden

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

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

Spot the yellow bus in this photo:

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

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

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

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

Sun setting over the Otta river.

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

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

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

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

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

The video would've been really nice.
 

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A Day to Forget

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A Day to Forget

On the Atlantic Road I had found a place to camp on a small mound. Surrounded only by weeds and grass, there was no shelter from the sun, which woke me up at noon - earlier than I would’ve liked.

The plan was to stay in the area for two or three days, relaxing and taking pictures. After breakfast and general morning laziness, I went for a cup of tea in a nearby cafe. Or tried to. Inside two construction guys were tearing open a metal plated wall with a circular saw, with the purpose of installing a new fireplace. The noise was hellish, so I aborted the mission. Instead I found a picnic table elsewhere for lunch.

The weather forecast suspected nothing but grey clouds in my near future, so I changed my thoughts of spending another night there. Good photos would be unavailable in those conditions, so may as well keep cycling. I don’t know where all the time went, considering I hadn’t done anything all day, but it was late afternoon or early evening when I hit the road.

Bus stop somewhere west of Trondheim.

On the bike there was a nagging feeling of something being wrong. I felt low on energy. I mentally rounded up the usual suspects: too little food the previous day, not enough sleep the previous night, too much sunshine in the morning, or insufficient rest days lately? Perhaps any or all of them. I decided to go extra slowly and listen to any further messages from my body. After the first 20km it started raining, so I ducked into a store for an hour to recharge batteries and eat ice cream.

By the evening I felt better and found my stride, cycling south towards Molde. Except soon enough, when it was already dark, I somehow got sidetracked off the main road without noticing. Only after several kilometres came the realisation that I’d been headed in the wrong direction. The road I was on added another 30km compared to the direct path. But I’d already started, so I resigned to the detour. Frankly it didn’t really make sense to take a scenic route, because there were no views beyond whatever was within the radius of my headlamp. On the other hand, turning back always seems demoralising, senseless - almost inhuman.

Post-sunset sky by the ocean in Middle-Norway.

I’ve never listened to anything on headphones while cycling. It always seemed better to actually experience my surroundings. But on this particular occasion I felt that a podcast in one ear was warranted. The rest of the night was spent pedalling with the help of Revisionist History, by Malcolm Gladwell. In case you’re not familiar, he’s an excellent storyteller who always finds a fascinating angle to almost any topic. Highly recommended.

In Molde I came across another surprise. What I had assumed to be a bridge towards Røvika actually turned out to be another tunnel where cyclists weren’t welcome. Oops. Sometimes I wish I spent a little time planning my route ahead, instead of just glancing at Google Maps haphazardly. The alternative was a 45km road all around Fannefjord. Having already cycled so many extra kilometres, I wasn’t eager for a second detour on the same day.

The bus was an option again, but it was the night or early morning, so they weren’t running yet. I was tired and not in the mood for.. anything, really. Most of all I didn’t want to stay in Molde, which was a much bigger city than I had anticipated to see in this area.

Village.jpg

Camping and making decisions only after sleeping would’ve been the best choice, but finding a campsite that close to a city isn’t always easy. Especially if you’re planning on sleeping until 4pm and have to deal with daytime traffic. There was a camping ground nearby, but those typically want you out by noon. Paying for a piece of lawn is bad enough, but I draw the line at also setting my alarm to wake up early for it. That would be ridiculous.

I just wanted out of the city. So instead of waiting for the tunnel bus, I called a taxi. On the other side morning was beginning to arrive and I felt exhausted. Soon enough I found a small spruce forest to sleep in.

All in all, this was a rather forgettable day with zero photos taken - all the photos here are previously unused frames from elsewhere in the trip. Since the blog is updated every three days, I could easily just leave out the less interesting parts from these posts (ie. all of the above). But I just wanted to show that some days are not so special - even when living your dream.

4/10 stars - and even that's only thanks to ice cream and Malcolm Gladwell.

Early morning in Norway.
 

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Trondheim and Entering West Norway

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Trondheim and Entering West Norway

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

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

Ocean view on the way to Trondheim.

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

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

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

Panorama of riverside buildings in Trondheim.

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

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

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

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

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

City lights reflecting in the water.
 

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Sven The Biking Viking Bagpipe Player

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Sven The Biking Viking Bagpipe Player

While getting ready to eat on a rest stop south of Innhavet, a smiling young cyclist rolled in. Despite a name like Sven and the bushy red beard, he wasn’t a viking, but actually German. Usually all the fellow bicycle tourers I meet on the road are going in the opposite direction, but this was a rare exception, as we shared the same route. After a chat we agreed to pedal together for a while.

Having just finished school in Germany, Sven had three months to spend on cycling in the Nordic countries before starting new studies. He had begun his journey at about the same time as I, and had crossed into Norway only a few days earlier via Finland and Sweden. We were both glad to experience better weather finally. His attitude to life seemed happy and optimistic: “Everything is better in the end. And if it isn’t, it’s not the end."

Sven climbing up the mountain pass.

Soon after starting we hit a vertical climb of 400 meters. One of the highest of the trip thus far, since the roads in North Norway are comparatively flat. I had to make frequent stops to catch my breath. A passing caravan driver gave us a honking serenade, while the woman in the passenger seat applauded wholeheartedly. After at least an hour of climbing we finally reached the top. Silver-lined clouds twirled above the surrounding peaks, with occasional beams of light penetrating the green valley floor.

The way down only took a few minutes, but it was one of the most exciting riding experiences I can remember. Descending on a wide highway with perfect asfalt, we hardly used our brakes at all. The sheer speed on the slightly twisting mountain road was exhilarating. I was grinning like a madman the entire way down. When we reached the fjord Sven checked his odometer for the top speed - 53km/h. We stopped to bask in the adrenaline.

After Mørsvikbotn we took a detour off the busy E6 to a beautiful side road with practically no cars. I stopped to take a time-lapse, so Sven played a bagless bagpipe. Apparently in order to become a bagpipe player, you need to first practice with just the pipe, which he had brought with him. Forlorn medieval music and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack felt fitting to our surroundings.

Mountains and clouds reflecting off the fjord.

Not long after we found a great secluded communal barbeque pit shelter by a clear mountain stream. It was an easy decision to camp early.

Shelter by the mountain stream.
Checking the day's route.

Checking the day's route.

The next day we continued together, but it was becoming obvious our styles of touring weren’t very compatible. Even not taking photography into account, Sven was probably twice as fast as I was. He would wait on top of a hill, while I lagged behind, pushing my bike up the steepest parts, muttering profanities under my breath. He preferred to do most of the day’s cycling before I typically get out of bed. And he wanted to continue much further and stay at a camping ground, while I was just hoping to visit a hotel shower to wash off the sweat from all the climbing, so I could just wild camp anywhere.

So we agreed to split up. It was great to have some company for a change, but there wasn’t much choice. After exchanging contact information and well-wishes, he continued south towards Fauske unimpeded.

I proceeded to enjoy a hot shower so long it probably violated the Paris accord.

Long exposure shot of a foggy lake.

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Lofoten, Kind of

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Lofoten, Kind of

Lofoten seems to be widely considered as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Understandably so - it is indeed gorgeous. But I already ended my tour there last summer, and the year before that we drove there in a van with a bunch of other photography students from Kuusamo. So I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go this time.

I knew there would be plenty more to see and experience, but the same was true of all of Norway. Visiting completely new locations felt more appealing than repeating some of the same routes as previously. Seeing new places with fresh eyes is so satisfying, and a major part of the reason why I like to travel so much in the first place.

Apparently Norway isn't all mountains! I saw miles of flatlands like this in Andøya. This must've been the old sea floor thousands of years ago.

So this time I simply cycled from the northernmost tip in Andenes, to the southern Lødingen in a few days. The route may or may not have gone through Lofoten - I’ve never really been sure exactly which islands it officially consists of.

In addition to wanting to avoid repetition, I was becoming eager to enter the more comfortable climate in the south. North Norway had been really cold for the vast majority of my stay. Obviously, as an aurora photographer, I’m not a stranger to freezing temperatures. Chilly nights are perfectly fine on tour if they are followed by warm (at least +10C) days. It’s only when the cold continues without relief for days and weeks that it begins to wear you down.

Somewhere on the way, while having a brief moment to rest, drink, and absorb the beautiful and quiet early morning views, an otter surfaced from the fjord right below me. I froze, hoping it wouldn’t spot me. It had caught something white in its mouth, and proceeded to eat it. Otters usually eat fish, but this meal made such a loud crunching sound that it must’ve been something with a hard shell.

You might be tempted to call an otter that lives in the sea a “sea otter”, but that’s actually an entirely different species living in the Pacific Ocean. The Eurasian otters are very common in Norway and live quite happily in the salt water of the fjords, as long as they have a stream of fresh water available for washing their fur and the only reason I know any of this is because it was raining the next day so I had some time to google otters while hiding under a bus stop.

Everything is bigger in Norway.

I'm really starting to love my ND 1000 filter.

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Finnish Business Acuity

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Finnish Business Acuity

After Kautokeino in Norway the next stop was Hetta, so I found myself back in Finland. This is because the border zigzags a little in the north. I could've gone north to Alta, but then I would've been on the same road I cycled last year, and I prefer to avoid repetition. (Click here for a test version of my route map.)

While hungrily waiting for a hamburger in Hetta I met Benedict, a gray-bearded German cyclist on his way back from Nordkapp. He kindly loaned me some tools I needed to adjust my front panniers to a lower position to improve my bike’s balance.

I mentioned potentially sailing across oceans, so he gave me some advice against seasickness. Apparently it’s best to remain out on deck, keeping your eyes on the horizon. This may come in handy eventually on this trip. Turned out he’d done a fair bit of sailing in his time. These days he travels six months of the year and spends the other six back home with the wife.

At least I think that's what he said. There was a bit of a language barrier. Even though it was somewhat reduced by this magic app in a magic box you can speak into, that speaks back more or less the same thing in whatever language you choose. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Google Translate can do that, but sometimes it feels like the future has arrived so early.

"Google, tell this youngster to get with the times, bitte schön."

I had a hard time deciding whether to continue in the evening or just take the whole day off, but a visit to the local camping ground settled the matter. I asked if I could purchase the use of shower facilities, and the answer was no. No service to outsiders. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this answer, and I've yet to hear it abroad.

What is it with Finns and their lack of business sense? If someone wants to buy only a part of your service, don’t say no and send them away - set a price you’re happy selling the service with instead. That’s how an “outsider” becomes a “customer”. If you think that the usual 3€ shower is too cheap and may reduce the sales of your 17€ tent packages, just increase the price of showering to 5€, 10€ or even 15€. Let the customer decide if he or she wants to pay, instead of just declining outright and losing out on potential income.

I understand if you’re so busy that there are simply not enough showers for even your regular customers, but that was certainly not the case here.

So that's my free tip for all camping ground owners. Especially the ones along my future route. Also please register your business on Google Maps so I can actually find it. Thank you for reading and please come again.

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Change of Plans

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Change of Plans

Right away from the start I stayed true to my principle of allowing last minute route changes, as only a few kilometers into my trip I already decided to make the first adjustment.

I had decided to cycle through Karigasniemi, but there are two ways to get there from Inari. One is an easy paved road that had been my main choice, while the other was a quieter gravel option. Just when I was about to pass the junction with the latter, I remembered that’s the one that passes through a portion of Lemmenjoki - Finland’s largest national park!

For the first few legs of my journey, these guys will be a common sight.

You see, somewhere in all the fuss and kebabble of finishing my studies, starting a business, hanging out with friends, packing and moving out, and all the other preparations, I’d forgotten what the trip was actually about: Nature - especially national parks and other nature destinations and reserves. How could I not visit the nearest one?

So I took an early exit off the main road.

From past experience I know it will take a few days to get mentally adjusted to a life outdoors. At home I honestly spend too much time online or at the computer, and it becomes a powerful habit to break. Therefore in the beginning of a tour the mind still wants to check email and Facebook messages and other such nonsense. I don’t actively miss those things, it’s just a habit.

So to steer my mind I found it helpful to focus on my surroundings instead, I tuned in to the sound of birds, tried to spot reindeer in the forests, looked for the occasional cloud on an otherwise clear sky, or the way sunlight fell between the trees.

Staying a little more present will become easier quickly, but for now it requires some work as I get fully comfortable with my new life.

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Around the World by Bicycle

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Around the World by Bicycle

So my dream is to cycle around the world.

This has been my life's biggest goal for at least a couple years now. Of course I could've packed my bags and set off almost as soon as I got the idea. But I wanted to get a couple things sorted first. Mainly, to learn photography to the point where I can somewhat confidently take high quality images along the way. Somehow I felt I wouldn't want to pedal for five years in truly amazing landscapes and end up with mediocre holiday photos. And secondly, sort my finances enough so that I wouldn't need to rely on the kindness of strangers just to get by.

The current idea for an approximate route is this: North Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, East Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, North America. After that, I don't know. Whether the oceans will be crossed by plane or boat is also still undecided.

The world record for circumnavigating the globe is 123 days. Most people do this in a year or two or three. I have no interest in trying to set any records. Not that I could even if I wanted to - my athletic prowess is somewhere on the level of a wet baby koala. But more importantly, the point of the trip is to enjoy the adventure and take as much time as I want. Trying to go fast would miss the entire purpose of the journey. Nothing kills enjoyment as easily as hurry. So I've set aside at least five years.

But who knows, it might take longer.

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