cycling Finland 2020

In the summer of 2020 we cycled over 600 km in Finland.

I was feeling a little unreal when we jumped on our bicycles and started our 300 kilometers long journey from Tampere to Lappeenranta (and back!). Our friend and neighbour was a little bit worried - more than usual - about us and our trip. "If you were my children I wouldn't let you go!" she said, shaking her head, as we were leaving.

I wasn't overly concerned yet myself at that point; the Sun was shining and mostly I was so excited that even my tooth hurting nor headache couldn't ruin my day. (I tend to get all kind of different physical symptoms almost always before I've planned doing something bigger than a trip to the grocery store). I was filled with expectation of the unknown - of a sense of adventure! I almost couldn't believe we were really doing this. The longest we had traveled before that day by bicycle was something around 25 kilometers...

But the best thing of all was being on an adventure together, Xii and I. He tends to get kind of cranky when excited or stressed about something, and this morning was no exception. Luckily those feelings passed right away when we got on the road... besides that, I can say there's no better travel companion than him. He's flexible, adventurous, chill and resourceful, and he doesn't stress about timetables nor schedules.

We had difficulties when the first night we needed to find a place for our tent. We accidentally found a finnish boyscouts' cabin in the woods that was vacant due to the coronavirus situation, so we decided to stay the night on their yard. We quickly realized that the place was swarming with aggressive mosquitos. As finns, we are used to mosquitos, but I had never, ever encountered such aggressive ones and so many at the same time. Never. It was indescribable. We literally ran away the next morning after we packed our tent.

The first two days on the road were quite delightful and full of child-like wonder. We chose secluded roads and rode past the most charming little villages and got a good look of the finnish countryside. The days were really hot and sunny, almost tropical. Air was lovingly fresh, and I was almost intoxicated by the smells of flowers and trees. We stopped by little cafés and solitary beaches to enjoy the atmosphere and cool ourselves down. Needless to say we got some really nice sunburns too.

The third day's evening was a turning point. The roads taken were in really bad shape and mostly dirt. We had planned to camp at Evo, and tired earlier than anticipated. When we arrived at the turn that should've taken us to the campgrounds, there was a sign saying that the road was out of use.

We sighed and started to cook dinner on the roadside, trying to think what we should do next. If we took a different road to the campgrounds it would add 15 km or more, and we were already pretty tired. A man walking a dog when asked about the sign said that it was for cars, and by bike we should be okay. It cheered us up momentarily - only a few kilometers and we could get to sleep!

Easier said than done... that road was the worst. It was in such bad condition it's an exaggeration to even call it a "road". And the best part of the next 2-3 kilometers was an excruciatingly neverending uphill battle. When we finally reached the camp Xii was so tired he fell on his bike while walking it. Twice. Split open his knee and sprang his wrist, unable to ride any further for two days. So we camped.

Midsummer's Day. Evo was bustling with activity.

It was nice to take a break and stay for those few days. We met a lot of different people celebrating Midsummer's Eve. It was nice talking with others, while cooking and drinking by campfire. This group who shared the fireplace with us had arrived by car. Hence they had plenty of food and drink, so they offered us dinner. Though it was nice to get to know other people, I started craving the silence and peace of nature at some point, because every group of people had their own music systems, and our tent-neighbours even brought a freezer and a portable generator.

After leaving Evo, we took the course towards Asikkala. There really wasn't much more than forests and fields before then. We stopped by some houses, asking the people living there if they could fill our water bottles. We did this several times on our trip, in the middle of nowhere, and every time people were so nice and interested about our trip. There was even this one guy who appeared in the middle of the forest and, without even asking, told us of a fountain of cold water nearby.

The same theme continued when we arrived to Asikkala. It was a charming city, and it would have been a pleasure staying there for much longer than we did. We had a little trouble finding a lean-to in the middle of the night. Out of nowhere these wonderful people one after another came and told us the exact information we were looking for at the time.

At some point of our trip signs appeared on the roadside with a giant picture of an ostrich. "Kilkkilä's farm, 80km", the sign said. I immediately insisted we absolutely NEEDED to go there as soon as we arrived at Vuolenkoski. "There are ostriches! And alpacas as well! Can you imagine that!" I chattered enthusiastically the rest of the day.

Finally, my wish came true. We slept overnight close to the farm, and the next day we visited there. The ostriches were HUGE, funny-looking, and kind of dinosaur-like animals. I didn't know if it even was possible, but the weather was still getting hotter and hotter every day. Goats and sheep laid down in shade, and I got to pet them while they were chilling out. The alpacas enjoyed the cool water sprinkling all over their pen. We also saw reindeer, chickens, peacocks, and horses.

Well, I was right about the weather - it got hotter and hotter every day on the road. Despite that I really enjoyed the ride; after passing the midpoint of our journey, the rest of the trip felt like a piece of cake. The biggest challenge was keeping cool and not getting burnt by the Sun. We stopped to swim whenever possible. We even asked one nice lady if we could use her beach at Savitaipale - it was so full of cabins that it was impossible to get to the lake without storming someone's backyard.

The last day on the road was amazing; we made it to Lappeenranta after 90km of cycling. We were surprised - normally we averaged 30-50km per day.

It was good being in Lappeenranta once again. We spent quality time with my old, dear friends and siblings, and even made one new friend as well. And we drank a lot of alcohol while there (lol, doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has ever visited or lived there - it's kind of a Lappeenranta-way of doing things). Anyhow, that ain't a habit of ours in everyday life anymore, but hey, who wouldn't enjoy these great conversations and cold ciders in the middle of the summer with all these great folks? Cheers!