XXVI -Bicycling Through Finland, Prologue
Well well, hello everybody!
So, for those who don't know what's going on, ooh boi, let me explain. I will tell you what's going on! Just last week I accomplished the greatest athletic feat of my life! That's right, (you cheated it from the title) I rode my bicycle through Finland, from far north to south end. That's 1 360 kilometers right there, baby! I can hear all of the professional bikers chuckling at this:
"That's elementary, boy.“
I beg to differ. I'm no one special, just your average-Joe. A Joe with a women's bicycle older than the owner himself. Shiny white, creaky beauty with a 3-speed hub shifter. A befitting bike for it’s owner. The two are practically alike. My vehicle of choice alone pierced my credibility as I excitedly announced the plan to all my friends and family. Everyone kept gasping and laughing to the claim.
But I know different! People used to ride mules across the country (I think?) without hassle. When the seal of trust between you and your partner cherish, you become capable of accomplishing great things together! And I knew by heart that my loyal Romeo & Julia (bike model manufactured by Tunturi) wouldn't let me down. That's true love right there!
Add a two week deadline to the plan script and the recipe for Ultimate Pain & Mental Strain is complete! With such a tight schedule, I had to ration 1 360 kilometers between 11 days and drop a rest period between every two or three days. So, there's three days of rest in midst of 11 days of bicycling. That's 123,6 kilometers per day on average. Sweet.
A huge shoutout to my father, who took care of me and other matters during the whole journey. Stuff like store visits, cooking and handling the carriage, so I didn't have to. The aid was much appreciated for I had no *chuckles* fucking clue what the hell I was doing. The car he drove served as our headquarters, basically. He writes a blog of his own and just recently began dressing his own perspectives into words. Unlike me, he's writing in Finnish. If you speak the language, go check it out. If you don't, still go check it out. Use Google Translate or something, I don't know.
Now, here's for a Tl;dr:
To turn the whole plan into a handy summary:
I, Miko Lankinen, a hobbyist who's been doing average length bicycling (at least 40 kilometers) for five years, dreamed of aiming higher. I decided two years ago to take my 3-speed women's city bike to Nuorgam, the northernmost municipality in Finland and in the timespan of two weeks, ride to Helsinki, the south coast. This 1 360 kilometer journey would contain three days of rest and eleven days of progressing. Each day different, I would have differing distances to cover depending on the location of convenient campsites, where each day would wrap up. Each day would vary between 70 and 160 kilometers. I would have my father act as the maintenance, driving his car for specific intervals to supply me with food and water. The top estimate on expenses would be 1 500€ in total. On July 23rd we would drive to Nuorgam and spend two nights there. Ultimately, the main event itself would begin on July 25th, finalizing in Helsinki on August 7th somewhere afternoon.
That was the plan, right?
July 23rd, Monday:
I slept for like, what, six hours or so? The building tension is making it difficult for my mind to calm down and clear up. It's such a difficult thing to imagine, starting to drive a little past 7AM and estimating an arrival at 9PM. That's full 14 hours of travel in one day, just to cover 1 000 kilometers. Crazy, if you ask me. Still in planning, I remember my father being insistent that we split the journey into two separate days. I mean, sure it's a huge amount of driving in one day but nothing that we can't accomplish.
"It's just simply not possible for one man to drive for 1 000 kilometers in one day."
"What if there's two? I mean, I have a license, too."
"Ooooh yeah! Forgot about that. In that case we'll do it no sweat!"
So yeah, switching drivers to equalize the distance, we made it up there. It's my first time in Lapland as well. I've heard claims of our family visiting the border sometime in the past, but at least this is the first time me being aware of it. For the longest time, the scenery remained mostly the same. It's the northernmost Lapland that makes you realize the difference. For one, there's shit-ton of forests in Finland and we have no mountains. Up there it's different.
Sure, everything besides what you're used to can look either beautiful and/or shocking. I've always wondered what makes the scenery so unique and mesmerizing to my eyes whenever I'm going abroad and stuff like that. Today I discovered the true meaning behind it. Being surrounded by forests and living on such a flat surface keeps you near-sighted. Denmark was a great example of the exact opposite. The country being mostly fields (as far as I'm concerned). It felt so uncanny to be able to gaze so far ahead. That's something I'm not used to, unless I climb high up. It's amazing.
I'm moving to another province right after we're done with the journey; south from where I've lived all my life. There's no deeper reason behind it, but I like the idea of being "closer to the open world". The city I'm moving to has such great connections to everywhere, even abroad, which is one of the main reasons for the choice. In contrast, as we progressed towards the north, all I could think of was how far away we were from everything. I felt really isolated. The fact that we were moving away from home at such a hasty speed must be to blame.
In open-world video games, there is always the edge of the map that you cannot cross. You can look to the other side and feel the world beyond the limits, but never cross the border. Somehow, the area beyond always gives me the chills; perhaps because the area is dead and empty. Unfinished. Now that we were going so up north, I wanted to see "the edge-of-the-world". Tomorrow would be my chance to see the Barents Sea for the first time. As ordinary as it would be to locals and travelers, it reminded me of the edge of the map in open-world video games.
July 24th, Tuesday:
I've slept less than seven nights in a tent during my life. Ahead of us lies almost two weeks of continuous camping, excluding two nights of complimentary lodging in a cabin and two nights at my new apartment. Thankfully I'm already used to sleep on a hard surface and enjoy the unpretentious conditions of a cramped tent that might not even hold rain. I'm sometimes strange like that.
Where I live, durations between sunrise and sunset (during Summer) might be something like [04:08 – 22:18]. However due to Earth's rotation, in Nuorgam the sun rose on May 16th and set on 27th of July. I slept like a log most nights, but my father told me how it was shining bright at 3AM. When you form a bubble around yourself, the world just outside of it can be a stranger. Almost like a culture-shock in your own country. You just need to get off your ass and travel more.
I always kind of wondered about that really. How the Earth spins. It's likely common knowledge, but I never got around how seasons work. Asked my ever-so-wise father about it and believe it or not; came as a surprise that people in the south are currently experiencing Winter. Suddenly everything makes so much more sense. So basically, we have it the opposite ways, huh..
We drove to Vardø, Norway. It's a small-ish island on the coast of Norway with population of about 2 000 people. The municipality itself consists of two parallel islands, connected by a bridge. (I think?) The Vardøya island stretches out about three kilometers from town. We visited the peak of the island and I must say, the view from there was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. That was the edge-of-the-world I was talking about. If I ventured straight ahead, I would have eventually hit somewhere between Alaska and Eastern-Russia. With extreme luck, I might've bumped into the north pole, too.
The first thing that caught us off-guard was the Vardø Tunnel that connected Vardøya with the mainland. It continued for a total 2,9 kilometers and descended almost 100 meters deep under the Barents Sea. Vardøya also has the world's northmost fortress, the Vardøhus Fortress. Other than that and the U.S. Russia-spying-radar, there's not much to say about the place. It's a charming town with a calm atmosphere that I just must visit again for a longer while someday.
And you know me! The place provoked lots and lots of thoughts. Some of which we discussed on our way back. When a member of modern-society visits places like these, it can feel underwhelming. Like time has stopped. Here, it's likely that everyone knows each other. They greet each other when passing by and the social circles are small. I bet there's a job for everyone who needs one. A larger proportion of the population owns a business, just to keep the community from falling apart. My point is, life is different than in cities. But that's common knowledge. There's lots more but I might just dedicate a separate Entry to this topic.
On our way back we missed our turn by 40 kilometers. I mean, how would you know, haha. **nervous laughter** I thought it was due to me talking (and driving) that I missed the sign. I can't stand silence, so I'm always trying to babble something to pass the time. Even if it's just me talking and the counterperson doesn't mind, I can keep on going forever. As long as there's stimulations to work with. Maybe I should start a podcast, heh.
Back in Nuorgam I loosened my grip on the steering wheel and elegantly handed him the keys, stating: "I never want to drive again." I've never driven a car for so long in such a short timespan. I'll gladly pass the reigns and grip the handlebar instead. Time to get nervous about tomorrow...
Part 1 of 5 in the on-going series: Bicycling through Finland.
"You stand on this spot and admire the views. Then you realize that you might never influence the same spot again and feel hollow." -Me at the peak of Vardøya.
What you should listen to right now to feel me: Birdback – Devics
August 16th, 2018