After 26 days (22 days of cycling, 3 days of rest and 1 day of bicycle troubles) and 1980km I made it across Sweden. It was challenging and frustrating at times, but the natural beauty and surprisingly nice weather definitely made up for that. There’s no denying that it’s a breathtaking country, but to be honest I have been looking forward to something new for a few days. Nonetheless I’m really proud to have cycled the entire length of one the biggest countries in Europe.
I’m in Finland right now! There are some incredibly exciting things ahead of me, but first things first. Let’s look back at the past five days, shall we?
Day 37 (May 7): Skellefteå, Sweden
18.41h. The reason I put the distance in brackets is as follows. That’s how far I got before my rear derailleur broke off. It was completely twisted and stuck in my wheel. I’ve never seen anything that looked so bad before. Couldn’t even move the bike anymore… I was stuck and had to hitchhike back into town.
Two hours and 300 SEK later it was kind of fixed. I could cycle again, but I could clearly feel something was different. I’m really worried now, because this is only a temporary solution. The cycle shop didn’t have the specific part that broke and couldn’t order it either. So I don’t really have a choice but to move on. Tomorrow that is. I’m back where I was last night. The weather was absolutely perfect for cycling again. I’m extremely annoyed right now, I lost a potentially great day.
On the plus side, I’m unbelievably surprised that none of my spokes broke. Those wheels are so strong!
I was thinking… Remember last week when my bike fell on the ground? Back then I said that luckily there wasn’t any damage, but that actually could be the main reason for what happened today. The stupidest thing. Ugh…
Day 38 (May 8): Skellefteå – Piteå, Sweden
18.38h. Made it to Piteå and it was surprisingly easy. Such an enormous relief. My bike seems to be running pretty well, but I’m still really careful when shifting gears. I definitely need some time to gain confidence in the bike again.
Amazing weather once again, but it looks like that’s going to change soon.
I cycled on the E4 for a short distance. It’s not the most comfortable place to cycle, but it’s allowed and definitely doable.
The camp ground I found is awesome, with lots of boat houses around. Might be the last time I’m camping for a while.
Spaghetti and 25 Swedish meatballs for dinner again. They’re so good!
Day 39 (May 9): Piteå –Luleå, Sweden
18.30h. I slept relatively well in my tent last night, but it was incredibly cold in the morning. My feet were practically frozen when I woke up and stayed that way until noon, when I went into a gas station for a cup of coffee. It was a dull and really cold day. It’s at least ten degrees colder when there’s no sun. 3-4°C all day. Started raining and the wind picked up in the afternoon too.
Cycled on the E4 again today. That’s probably why this day was so short; I anticipated a much longer day of cycling. On some stretches the cycling on that road is fantastic, with really wide bike paths, but on other parts it’s almost frightening. The space you’ve got to cycle on varies between just a white line on the road, a foot or sometimes even more than a metre. Got to stay focused though. I wouldn’t say there’s more traffic on that highway than on the minor roads, but it’s definitely way faster. Luckily there are no massive log trucks. On the smaller roads a truck like that would pass me every fifteen minutes or so and, believe me, they can blow you straight off of the road and they stop for nothing. Kind of remind me of the gigantic road trains in Australia.
I’m absolutely staying on or at least close to the E4 until the Finnish border. It’s just way faster cycling and at this point I cannot wait to get to Finland. There I will have a couple of days off and I’m going to explore Lapland by public transport for a few days. More on that later!
These 60km I did today may just be the easiest I have ever done. I wasn’t even slightly tired when I got here (early, at 15.20h). My legs feel amazing right now. I actually enjoyed cycling three kilometres back into town to the supermarket this afternoon.
I’m making myself an enormous fish and chips dinner tonight. Enormous means: sixteen fish sticks and almost a kilo of potatoes. Probably something sweet for dessert afterwards as well. I love being able to eat as much as I want now. I won’t be gaining any weight, that’s for sure!
The bicycle is running nicely. Let’s hope it stays that way…
Day 40 (May 10): Luleå – Kalix, Sweden
17.05h. Extremely cold. It rained constantly and I got totally soaked. My feet were really wet and freezing cold for most of the day. There was no way to warm them up, it was terrible. Cold headwind in the afternoon surely did not help either.
I cycled on the E4 again, 60km today. It’s such a fast road and actually a joy to be on on days like these. You have to stay alert and focused, so there’s not really time to think about how miserably cold you are. First you concentrate on the road and traffic. Unpleasant things like cold and wetness are second and saddle sores, painful wrists and a stiff neck come third, if you notice them at all.
There’s nothing fun about a day like this. No pictures today.
While my feet were getting wetter and even colder, I could feel sweat running down my back. Note to self: next time, buy a rain jacket that breathes. It was as wet on the inside as it was on the outside. It sucks, but it does keep me warm.
I didn’t eat much on the road today. I barely even took breaks, I just wanted to get this day behind me. So after arriving I took a long shower, went to the supermarket (I do that practically every evening) and now I’m going to spend the evening eating. There will be at least three dinners tonight. I bought half a liter of ice cream for 5 SEK! Didn’t have to think twice about that.
Day 41 (May 11): Kalix, Sweden – Rovaniemi, Finland
90.34km by bicycle and 120km by train.
19.58h. Finland! Finally! It was incredibly cold again (0-2°C) and very wet. The first fifty kilometres to Haparanda it rained non-stop. I cycled all the way without stopping too. It was just too damn cold to even take a short break. It was not fun.
Tried to get warm and dry in some fast food joint, but that didn’t exactly work out. Luckily it stopped raining, so I could cycle on semi-dry. It was freezing cold though. The bike paths in Finland are amazing so far and finally there are signs to the next towns and cities, including distances, again. That’s something that could be done a lot better in Sweden.
It’s a crazy language. This is the first in my life I’m in a country where I don’t recognize any words at all. Took me a while to find the train station too. Railway station in Finnish is ‘Rautatieasema’. Yeah, I didn’t know that. There’s a +1h time difference here as well and I didn’t realize. I almost missed my train because of that. Luckily it was ten minutes late!
Today I passed another milestone. I have cycled more than 3000km now and I’m happy to be exploring Finland by public transport for a few days now. It doesn’t look like the weather is going to improve anytime soon.
A lot of stuff is happening next week. I’m crossing the Arctic circle, visiting Santa Claus in his ‘official’ home (according to the Finns) and I should reach the North Cape on Sunday!
So stay tuned!