Our first day riding in beautiful Finland! We woke to really good weather and although it was partly cloudy for much of the day we were really happy to see the sun and also blue sky for at least some of the day! It was quite a feat getting ourselves and bikes out of our lovely lavuu campsite first thing, but we managed by first carrying our panniers and bags up the steep hill, and then Mike brought the bikes through. We packed them up top and then rode off. We had a coffee break after 20km at a lovely rest area and then another coffee break 20km further on as there was a sign which advertised coffee and a doughnut for 50c! Who could resist? The coffee was suprisingly good, proper brewed coffee and we appreciated the donut! It was a large souvenier/everything-you-want-to-buy type shop. I got my Sami flag for a third of the price that I saw it for at Jokkmokk. We also got another pack of mozzie coils. The pack we have doesn't seem to burn very well; maybe it got damp? We sat down to have our coffee and donut and then were on our way.
Riding in Finland is pretty easy. You just seem to roll through forest without much effort. Each time we came to a village or settlement we had a fabulous bitumen cycle path. At one of these villages we had the company of a dog who appeared galloping along beside me and would not be dropped even by Mike, pushing out 30kph speeds. The dog just ran alongside, faster and faster. This continued for over five kilometres until we hit a slight downhill and just pushed as hard as we could and left him behind. Muonio was the town of the day where we would buy food. It was a pleasure spending Euro again, the numbers are easier to deal with!
After Muonio we had a slight climb past some ski fields and about 15km further on we found a good camp spot. There was quite a busy rest stop with toilets and benches by the lake and just before it in the forest we could pitch our tent, so we have the benefit of the facilities, and peace and quiet! Around 17:00 the peace was shattered by a huge thunderstorm with very heavy rain. What is with this place?! Anyhow, the next few days look to be good weather!
Today we also passed the 8,000 km mark of the trip!
We have been continually lucky with the weather, until today! The rain started about 7km in and rained quite heavily off and on until lunchtime. The route was brilliant though. We turned off the road we camped on (the 79) after 5km onto a minor road (930) which was actually a single track road with passing places, to our surprise. Brought back memories of the Scottish Isles, except there was about one-thousandth of the number of cars! After some way we turned onto an even more minor road (9305) also single track, all bitumen. Both roads were deep in the forest, so we saw quite a few reindeer. The 9305 passed through a National Park which was lovely and we stopped at a fabulous kota (see pic). It was fully-enclosed with windows and beautifully clean inside with indoor cooking area. Such a pity we had only cycled 40km or we would have stayed! We decided to keep an eye out for other kota's as our laavu map showed the river route we were on was littered with them. We stopped at two but they had just vanished! The sites looked disused. Funnily enough this happened once in Sweden too just before Karesuando. We had even seen the photo on Google Street view that time but "whoosh" it had gone. It's a mystery. We were hacked off as well as the second one we stopped for entailed a bit of a ride off the road on gravel and a massive mound of dirt that Mike manhandled both bikes up and over and then again on the way back! Not Finland's fault though, just the laavu sites need updating on the website we used.
We continued and rejoined the 79 to the big town of the day, Kittäne. We stopped to shop and bought a delicious warm lunch at the K-Supermarket. I suddenly remembered that many of the supermarkets sell warm food so we had delicious potato bake and roast chicken. After this we had 15km to go to our "keeping the faith and all our fingers crossed" laavu. It was shown on an information map by the roadside also so we were optimistic. We turned down at the shooting range on a gravel track and then rode through the shooting range (open air!) to the river where a brilliant site awaited us. Perfect laavu, pretty new pit toilet (you know it's new when you look inside and can't see the bottom!) and massive wood store. You feel so looked after on a trip when you come across this sort of thing! We had a cold river swim and got a fire going. It turned out to be a very sunny afternoon which was good for charging some things with our solar panels (they have been out of work lately). We were driven into the tent in the early evening by the damn sand flies again. They are a total pain, but you can't do much about it.
We had two morning visitors whilst having brekky, large bull reindeer, a white one and a brown one . We admired their impressive antlers as they grazed on the other side of the river (see pic). It was a misty start to the day, but cleared quickly and we had wonderful blue skies and sunshine all day. It was a short day today as we will reach Rovaniemi tomorrow and have booked a hotel from tomorrow night, so not much point in rushing with only 135km to Rovaniemi over two days! What a beautiful road route 79 is to ride! Quick and smooth! We saw another herd of reindeer walking alongside the road (see pic), and even a fox later on too. The reindeer are very curious about us but don't care about the cars. One stared at us with his back to an oncoming ambulance until it almost right on top of him. The speed limit is 100km an hour!
We stopped to food shop and then for a rest at a laavu on the Ounasjoki. This river joins the Kemijoki at Rovaniemi The laavus are amazing, such a brilliant facility on the river. A few kilometers on we reached our laavu for the night. The was a pleasant breeze all afternoon which kept us bug free so it gets bonus points! The weather was gorgeous and we lay and read and relaxed for the afternoon. We really felt this was one of the most relaxing days of the trip so far.
Quite a cool morning so the bugs were still asleep by the time we left. We continued following the Ounasjoki and stopped at a laavu for our coffee break after 20km. These laavu rest stops on the river are amazing and we got to thinking how it would be to canoe down these large rivers. Each laavu here is at a veneenlaskupaikka (boat ramp) and the signage faces the water so it is perfect for water travel! When we got back onto Road 79 the wind had come up and the weather felt like it was turning. It had been overcast all morning and there was rain forecast for late afternoon but with the headwind we wondered if it would arrive sooner. Going to a hotel you don't want to have wet bikes and gear as you never know where the bikes will be stored, dripping all over a fancy meeting room carpet for example! Anyway, with this in mind we put foot and more or less just steamed on to Rovaniemi as fast as we could.
The last 20km would be a repeat of our route on midsummer day 8 years ago and when we reached the spot we found we could not remember anything other than the large sign with a photo of Father Christmas advertising his village just outside the town. It looked a little faded! We turned off the 79 onto a cycle path that took us into the town and to our hotel. We arrived dry at 13:00 and could check in right away which was good. We were a bit disappointed as although we had requested bicycle storage when we made the booking and had received two e-mails confirming this would be their pleasure, Mike was told on checking in that we could leave them in the lobby or take them up to our room! The former was not acceptable as we are here for three nights, so we decided to take them up. Our room was on the 2nd floor. Then the guy who checked us in came out and said we are actually on the 3rd floor and changed our keycards. Mike went up first to check if the bikes would fit in the lift. Of course they would not, so we would be carrying them up 3 flights of stairs. Then we found that it was a spiral staircase! Could it get any more complicated? At least we don't have a BOB (bike trailer on the back)! Our room is fine, but not shall we say, adequate in size for bike storage! It does come with a fluffy toy reindeer though! We opened the double glazed window wide for fresh air, no aircon here as was the case in Sweden. It is great being in a hotel for three nights though. Hot shower, first in 10 days! I could get a much needed haircut at the walk-in salon next door. The rain arrived later in the afternoon and it was a wet weekend so we are pleased to be indoors. I tried out the sauna in the hotel which was great, very big and very empty! Mike doesn't believe in Saunas as living in Perth in summer is like living in a sauna.
We left our hotel in broad sunshine around 11:00 and were so pleased that we had all the rain over the two days that we safely inside our hotel room! We had a short day today and it was an easy one. Effortless riding through forests and on good roads along the Kemijoki. We stopped for coffee at a laavu and passed a few more before reaching ours. All the laavus along this river are signposted along with their boatramps, as they were on the Ounasjoki. The laavu area was beautiful with a great view of the river. Unfortunately we were met by a plague of blackfly and although we managed to swim and filter water, we were driven into the tent. The spot was popular for fishermen who came and fished off boats. A couple also came to cook their sausages at the laavu. They made a big fire and to our surprise, once they had eaten then got in the car and drove off leaving two large logs still burning, flames leaping from the top!
We had an early night as we got up in the early hours to try to see the aurora, it was a little cloudy though and we could not see much.
We had a steep climb out of the laavu area on the river and then another climb up to the supermarket on the main road! Wow, we were quite puffed when we arrived! One way to wake up. We did the shopping for the day and set off. The road was quite hilly, lots of ups and downs and we turned off it onto the road to Ranua after 10km or so. It was a good road but with not much happening. We are no longer in Lapland so farming is more and more noticeable, but there is still a lot of forest and open countryside. We also saw a few reindeers, making their usual nuisance on the road and refusing to get off when trucks and cars bear down on them. We both felt a bit "under the weather today" and for some reason it felt like a bit of an effort. It could be that now that we have reached our "goal" at Karesuando and have had the hotel stay in Rovaniemi, it feels like we haven't much to look forward to? We have experienced this before. We are both feeling annoyed about the bugs as an added problem that just does not go away! Hopefully as we move south they will. The trip still has a way to go though, over 2 weeks of cycling left. We are currently in a line to the top of the Gulf of Bothnia and will go to the coast in a few days, so that will be some variety!
We got to our laavu before Ranua and as it was a way from the water we rode down there first to have a swim and then came back. We met a man collecting berries. He showed us his haul which looked good to us but he seemed disappointed. The laavu does not have the usual bells and whistles i.e. wood store and toilet. It is small and looks to be just for locals on the nature walk that passes here. Good enough for us though! We were both exhausted and pitched the tent and had a sleep for over an hour. As we woke up a couple came walking past and gave us the thumbs up! We hope we feel better tomorrow.
Beautiful clear morning. We left our forest campspot and rushed down the little path straight into Ranua and the K-Supermarket. Very convenient! We shopped for some extra food for the day and off we went, hoping that we feel better today on the bike than yesterday. We were tired this morning. We stuck to the main road out of Ranua which was a good road. We stopped for our coffee at a bus stop on the road just before turning off to Asmunti. We saw many reindeer on the road, following their usual pattern of standing around in the middle of the road and then reluctantly clearing off when a car or truck almost parks in front of them. As soon as the vehicle passes on, they then resume their position in the middle of thhe road again. We are the only moving objects they are afraid of and after looking at us for a few seconds they will dash off, clippety-clop, clippety-clop on their wide hooves. There was even a baby reindeer in a chilldren's playpark which was cute.The road to Asumenti was a dirt road but is perfect condition and very smooth. After 15km of this we turned off onto another minor road and had 3km solid of almost unrideable, quite deep gravel which had been chucked over the whole thing. Thereafter we had 12km of some gravel, some smooth. So it was a mixed bag as far as road surface and luckily we do not have that much gravel road riding planned for Finland. Also lucky that today was mostly flat to downhill so easy riding. We rode through alot of farmland and some very beautifully kept farms.
We stopped for lunch at an impressive laavu location (see pic) which even had folded wooden deck chairs for your use! It was a great spot and about 15km from our planned overnight spot. We really enjoyed the last 25km of the ride, the road was beautiful and quiet. Our campspot is at a laavu very close to the road with a small swimming beach on the river. The sun was out all day which was fantastic, and we took the opportunity of washing our socks, etc. which all dried. The sun is very weak though, amazing how quickly autumn is arriving here! It feels no warmer at midday than it did at 08:00. We were both still tired, but felt better than yesterday.
We woke after 06:00 to the clippety-clop of reindeer hooves tripping down the path to the laavu and then halting abruptly at our heads and veering off into the bush. When we got out of the tent there were clear hoofprints right at the tent. Time to get up! We had a great ride today, the weather was perfect, if a little too warm for this time of year; it got to 23 degrees C today which is probably warm for this area at the end of August. There is rain forecast for tomorrow so the weather may be a little unsettled. We knew that today's route would be downhill and it certainly was effortless. The roads were quiet and good to ride. We stopped for flask coffee in a small town and saw a road sign warning of roadworks on the main road to Oulu; luckily that was not our route. Big town of the day was Ii and we didn't stop there. We did however stop just before to admire a massive piece of dredging apparatus!
We find we are bored of the food we have been eating but also cannot think of what we actually would like to eat. After Ii (town on west coast) we had a great cycleway which runs all the way to Oulu. It went right passed an American-style Diner so we pulled in there for burgers and drinks which were very good. We also filled up with water for our shower later as the laavu where we were going to camp did not have water access. After this it was 25km to the laavu, most of it on a road with a very good shoulder. We are now at the coast, but have not seen it yet! We turned off onto some dirt track to the laavu which is in a beautiful forest carpetted with reindeer moss and berry bushes full of lingonberries (or cranberries, I can't tell the difference!). Should be a peaceful night.
We rode in quite heavy rain today, for quite a few hours. The good thing about the rain was that when it arrived the headwind disappeared. The best thing about the day were the cycle paths we rode on. The entire area around Oula has a dedicated, sealed cycle path network. It has been the find of the trip! The infrastructure looks new, possibly some of it this year. The routes are very well signposted and took us through Oulu which looks a great city. It was so effortless on the cycleways and they are well used. As usual everywhere you go which is flat, you see people on bikes! Oulu makes good use of it's riverfront position with boats galore and a lot of recreational facilities. There was an amazing cycling educational centre which had mini streets laid out with road signs and traffic lights and so on, and small children were being taught how to ride a bike safely and follow road rules.
We were amazed when the cycleways continued through the next few towns beyond Oulu, so that overall we were on a dedicated cycle paths for what must have been over 50km, hardly ever needing to stop! The whole ride today was as flat as the Netherlands and also in farming areas. We shopped for food and ate lunch at Liminka. We sat and ate outside the supermarket as it was undercover and dry. An old lady came up to us and started speaking to us enthusiastically. We said, as usual, "We speak English", but that did not seem to deter her. She carried on jabbering away in Finnish and even laughing and giggling. Not sure what about. She was pointing at my peak cap and nodding and laughing. It was infectious, when she moved on we were laughing too!
Eventually with about 25km to go we were back on the road, but it was quite quiet and we were not on it long before turning onto a minor road. We are right at the coast now, the Gulf of Bothnia. We decided not to use a laavu tonight but camp in the forest which is lovely.
Late in the night someone was driving a motorcycle or quadbike with high-revs deep in the forest. It was far away from us but just back and forth, back and forth. Then just before dawn the shooting began. It sounded as if perhaps the biker was disturbing game for the hunters to shoot? Perhaps hare or grouse or something. The shots were fired also deep in the forest but in quick succession followed by a long break. No idea really, but we realise it is best to be aware of hunting now. The moose season starts tomorrow. We pushed our bikes from the forest this morning and as I hopped on mine I knew I had a rear wheel puncture. It was upsetting but it was also our first puncture of the trip. You can't really complain after 8,644km! Of course the bike had to be unpacked then and it took us ages to find the hole and fix it. We ended up starting the day at 08:40. We knew there would be a headwind today and there was, right from the start.
The big town of the day was Raahe, on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. We got a peak at the sea for the first time, but as the Gulf is so full of islands it looked more like a lake. We had 40km of cycleways again today, much of them along the E8 which was terrific. Being on the cycleway provided some shelter from the headwind, but it was tiring. We shopped in Raahe for snacks to have on our coffee break, which we enjoyed outside Lidl! The first Lidl we had seen since the day we left Gothenburg (18 July). The riding was good because the cycleways were good and it was flat, but we are starting to wonder if the headwind will be our constant companion as we head south.
We stopped to shop for dinner just before our end point. We are camped at some rapids on the river. There is a kota here but it is not weather tight so it does not feel like a good shelter, and anyway, we can't be bothered making a fire. There isn't place to pitch our tent at the kota so we are camped in the gravel carpark area which is quite good. It feels like an afternoon for being in the tent, so that is what we are doing! We shouldn't have rain until Wednesday so are thinking that we will probably keep riding until then and see what happens! It is amazing how quickly the scenery has changed. There is not much forest around now, mainly all farming and it is great to have the bigger towns with decent shops. We are eating many sugary doughnuts and custard tarts, which clearly cannot continue once this cycle is over!
We woke up at 02:00 as it was a good forecast for Aurora, the sky was completely clear and star-studded but alas, no Aurora to be seen. Luckily it was not as cold we remember on 01 September 2017 when we had our amazing Aurora display at Walker Fork Campground, Alaska. I struggled to get up at 06:00 but we were on the road by 08:00. We had the same headwind today, but slightly less strong. We stopped at a lovely swimming hole (see pic) for a rest and then continued to Kalajoki where we stopped for our coffee break and sugary treats. The joki was beautiful and as we sat on it's banks, the skies cleared and the sun came out.
Our route grows evermore agricultural. We are seeing the autumn harvest rush with wheatfields everywhere being harvested and everyone must be pleased about the good weather. Today we had a good quality gravel road for about 15km and passed many chicken farms. Poor chickens crammed into tiny hutches. We stopped again to shop just before the end of the day. It was a good day's ride and you wouldn't know that you were so near the coast. We headed along to our planned laavu but it was very overgrown and difficult to get to, so we had a swim there at the river and rode on another kilometre to another laavu in a pine forest which was a very pleasant and relaxing end to the day.
We no longer have any mosquitoes or sandflies (big and small and in between), but we do have normal house-flies now that we are back into farmland. They also like to plague you now and then, and will give you a nip here and there. We were due a rest day today but as it is scheduled to rain by Monday afternoon we have decided to head to Kokkola Campsite tomorrow night for a hot shower!
It was a short day today to Kokkola! The campsite is open all year but the reception closed for winter yesterday, but the website advised to call after 10:00 (which we did) to enquire about camping. We were told it was all okay, we could pitch and they would see us later. We were relieved about that as you never know how this sort of thing will go. Most places may not be bothered about tenters at this time of year, not much money to be made! So that was a load off! The ride was good, we did have a dirt road stretch which went down the route of "let's throw a heap of gravel over everything, the deeper the better" here and there but overall it was okay. It's a bit nerve-wracking as this is often the time of year that gravel gets thrown at dirt roads and you never know where and when it's going to be. So a smooth-as-silk road that you are stuck on for 25km could have this bad surface after the first 10km. It's a lottery! Anyway, after that the road was great and wound it's way through pretty forests and farmland. We reached the campsite early and waited around 'til 14:00 to check in. We decided to have a rest day here tomorrow too. The facilities were fabulous! Firstly, there were only a handful of campervans/caravans and we had the whole tent area to ourselves. Then there were fully equipped mini-kitchen rooms with kettle, toaster, oven etc and even little fridges! There was a laundry room which cost 4 EU for the key and you could use washer and drier to your heart's content! Wow!
We had very heavy rain from about 15:00 for a couple of hours. At the time we were in one of the kitchens and the campsite was just overflowing with water. It stood in pools by the end of it. Luckily our tent was in a well-drained spot under pine trees. The campsite is quite open and right on the coast and at a marina so there is lots to look at, including a competitive frisbee golf tournament which got underway over the canal after the rain. You see frisbee golf courses everywhere in Finland and people get quite serious about the game, to the point of carrying a backpack with MANY discs, in the same way as actual golfers carry clubs.
We had great weather on our rest day and spent it doing the laundry, sitting in the kitchen charging things, reading lots, and resting. Just what we needed to get our motivation up for our last 10 days of riding. When I say doing the laundry, I mean we washed EVERYTHING.... we had been feeling a little grimy! Last time we did laundry was in Jokkmokk! It is these little things you appreciate on tour. When we get home having our own washing machine that you can just use whenever you want to feels like a real treat! Not so much the ironing though...
It was a cloudy day and rain was forecast. We had a great route today, close to the coast until Jakobstad and then inland. There is so much variety in the scenery, coastal views, forest views with floors covered in berries, and farmland. The farms are getting bigger now. The wheat harvest looks to be over, just bare wheatfields everywhere and many bales of hay. You wouldn'y guess this was Finland, it's so different as you move south. We had a dedicated cycleway again today for 40km which was brilliant. When the rain came this morning, we were on the cycleway and that is much easier for riding in the rain. By the time we joined the road, the rain had stopped.
We had some dirt road riding today but no thick gravel to contend with and they were good quality. We had many oppurtunities to shop along the way for food and it was all in all a great day's ride. We had planned to camp at either a fishing spot or a swimming hole about 2km further on. The fishing spot had a really good shelter (see pic) and although the pond it was on was not suited to swimming in, Mike filtered water for a shower. We were able to eat in the shelter when the rain came bucketting down later in the afternoon. We pitched the tent just at the pond (see pic).
Bug update: now that the mozzies, sandflies and houseflies are gone (or almost gone as is the case with the latter) we have a new bug appearance which is the MOOSE BUG. They started jumping on us this afternoon at this camp spot. We know what they are as when we were in Estonia in 2014 (after leaving Finland 5 September, so same time of year) we encountered these at a National Park and were so mystified by them we had to ask a conservation officer what they were. They are completely harmless and totally CREEPY. They are sort of like a spider, or like "monkey beetles" that we remember as children. They have fat legs and a fat body and little wings and they crawl into your hair or under the collar of your top and just crawl around on you. It is completely gross but they don't bite or anything. Perhaps now that the moose have been shot to pieces since 1 September they are turning to humans? Anyway, at least they don't bite.
Our campsite last night was completely silent. The silence was deafening! We were woken this morning by a pair of trumpeter swans on the pond. At least I think they were trumpeter swans; they looked like swans and they sounded like trumpets! Mike checked his watch and said, "5 to 6? why so dark, is it overcast?". He put his head out the tent, "No, it is completely clear!". I mumbled something about getting up in a little bit, but he was keen so we were up at normal time, just after 6. To see the sunrise! Appparently it is now rising at 06:30. Quite a change. Must be autumn! We set off at 08:00 and by 10:00 were putting on wet weather gear. We had heavy rain today for the bulk of the ride. We also had our ever-present southerly wind which makes the going tough. The route itself was great. We aren't following the main cycle route along the coast as we want to make use of inland laavu's and of course the coast presents problems with water. We like our route though, the smaller roads cross farming areas and forests and small villages. It is interesting that in the western part of Finland almost everything has a Finnish and a Swedish name, that is even the street names sometimes. We stopped for shopping at an S-Market, about 20km from the end of our day. The S-Market is good for us as it always has tap water available to fill up. We filled up our shower bag as well as we weren't sure whether to stop at the first laavu which did not have water, or the second kota which was on a lake. The first option was not all that great as the laavu was right at a communal building or cottage of some sort. We pressed on along the little forest track to the kota which was wonderful. So well-built and clean and all the firewood you could want. We made a fire and spent the afternoon in the kota warming up and drying out. The rain stopped during the afternoon and we hope for a sunny day tomorrow. According to the weather forecast there is more rain on the way over the weekend. We clocked a total trip distance of 9,000 km today.
We had a sunny day on the bike today which we appreciated! We had the usual mix of dedicated cycleway (we were surprised again by how generous these are even in these areas), gravel road and other sealed roads. Still plenty of farmland and we had two small towns en route, one with a Lidl and K-City Market which are big stores! We took advantage of the sunshine to continue drying out wet gear from the two rain days we had and also charging using solar power when we took breaks. We still had a southerly wind to make things challenging, otherwise the route was flat and good. The farmlands were lovely in the autumn sunshine. We were headed for a lake laavu and had about 10km on a busier road to get there, turning off onto gravel for the last 7km or so. The laavu was on a lake so clear and cold we couldn't believe it. We had not had such a cold swim in ages. There were a few buildings around the laavu (which was really just a cooking spot, see pic), one was a lodge of some sort, and we later found out it was a hunting lodge. It probably would have been fine to pitch the tent but it felt a bit weird so we backtracked to the forest we had cycled through and found a great place to pitch the tent on the reindeer moss. The forest is quite open here as it is new growth, having been cleared a couple of years ago it would appear. We had a relaxing few hours sitting out in the sunshine on the soft mossy forest floor. It was a tiring day. We have decided that as we have time on our hands, we will rest here tomorrow. Rain is forecast and tomorrow's ride is over 90km so we don't want the pressure of chasing the rain. We have only about 350 km to Turku now and excluding the rest day we have 6 days to ride that in, so we are going to treat ourselves to sleeping in a bit now and taking it easy!
Today was a brilliant day, no rain, quite warm at times in the sun and hardly any wind! Whoo hoo! Also, it is the longest day of riding that we have left; from here on all days are under 70km! Sounds like a holiday to me... We decided as it was a Sunday and we had an 08:00 start that we would throw caution to the wind and stick to the main drag as much as we could. This is the E44 road, but to look at it you would just think it was any of the the sealed roads we had been on. Hardly any cars and the scenery was pretty much the same as always, farmlands and forest. The riding was quick, as it always is on a well-graded main route and we deviated off it for about 10km going into Kankaanpää. That part was on a gravel road but good quality and then we rejoined the E44 but on a cycleway. It was great going into a big town, we stopped at S-Market to buy some things and fill up our water bottles and shower bag. The supermarkets that have "pant" machines (machines that gobble up plastic bottles and tin cans and give you your deposit in the form of a voucher receipt to spend in store) always have a basin and water available. This is for people to wash their hands after they have returned 428 beer cans so that they don't smell like they have been on the turps when they go to church afterwards. We love this facility as an option to get water easily without having to filter. I also make use of the opportunity to wash my grubby little hands with soap and warm water and sometimes even my grubby face. It has crossed my mind to wash out a pair of undies or socks as well, but that may be crossing a line!
After the S-Market we went to a diner and had fabulous hamburgers and chips for lunch. Then it was only 13km to our campspot. We rode slowly to digest our lunch! In the end the road to the laavu we planned on camping at went right through a beautiful forest so we juast decided to camp there. It was so similiar to last night's camping, reindeer moss, red berries all over, and the new plague bug - lady birds! There are so many of these cute little beetles and they like to climb onto our things. Of all the bugs we have encountered on this trip, they are the nicest!
Short day today as we have time enough to split a 90km day in half! There was a laavu we could stop at after 48km so that's what we did! We left our campsite and although our planned route avoided the E44 here and there, we stayed on it and it was not busy at all. The ride was okay, to Lavia, a small town with the shop of the day. It is getting harder and harder to think of what to eat. We had some briquettes left, very few though, and although we were going to a laavu, you can't really depend on there being firewood provided. So although you can take a risk and buy meat to bbq, if there is no wood, it's a waste. Hot dogs it is! We sat around the side of the supermarket having our coffee and biscuits, and decided that what we should do was get to Turku a day early and have an extra night in the hotel/hostel there. We are booked in for Friday night at a convent which offers accomodation. Simple double room and continental breakfast. We were looking forward to staying there. We had been plannning on riding to Turku via Naantali which would mean an extra day's ride, but looking at the weather forecast it seems that it will be raining by Thursday, so that would not be in our interests. I called the convent and we booked in for Thursday night as well.
After our break we had 25 km to the campspot, along a road that was a bit uppy-downy. We turned off it into the forest and to this little lake with a lovely laavu where we could relax. A couple of hikers walked through during the afternoon and chatted to us. We had a fire with the wood provided (Murphy's Law) and used up our extra briquettes to roast marshmallows (you can always eat them raw!). We must mentiion the MUSHROOMS. Of course berry season and mushroom season are both on the go now and we see mushroooms of every type and description, some as large as dinner plates. It is not unusual to camp and wake up in the morning to newly popped out mushrooms. Today though we saw our first actual red toadstools with white spots as in the fairy stories. When we saw the first few at someone's front gate, I thought they were ornaments! Then we saw more in the forest. Will try and get a pic tomorrow morning on the way out.
It rained quite a bit overnight and we had a bit of a sleep in, but were still on the road by 09:00. We stopped on our way out of the forest campsite to take a picture of the red toadstools with white spots. We saw a lot more of them during the day. We had lovely roads to ride today and good weather, warm and a little overcast. No wind! The town of Harjavalta was our stop of the day. It was a lovely little town and we shopped at K-Market, where we also filled up with water at the (you guessed it) "pant" machine. The shop had a great warm foood section and the guy behind the counter found the amount that we bought quite amusing. We went to a grassy patch near the church to eat. We had potato bake, vegetables wiith chicken and creamed coconut sauce, meatballs in gravy, roast honey chicken and black sausage. Yum! Delicious. A man came walking along and chatted to us for a while. He was very interesting as he spoke about the Nickle and Copper processing plants which are big employers in this town. They used to be in East Finland near Russia and then they were moved here to West Finland, because no Finn wants such powerful raw materials so close to Russia, and now the plants are owned by a Russian! We only had 10 km to our campspot which was a wonderful laavu in a lovely forest area. We had a lovely clean, cold swim in the lake and then decided that as we could sleep in the laavu tonight we would clean the tent and pack it in readiness for air travel. There is rain scheduled for the tomorrow and the next day, and this is such a load off as usually you are just begging the skies not to rain for the last night or so as a wet tent is an added complication. After tonight we have only one more night of camping and we know that tomorrow night we willl have the same type of laavu which is deep enough to sleep in. The forest here is quite a busy area, wih many people out berry and mushroom picking. A couple who were at the laavu when we arrived gave us some apples and doughnuts, and then a group of people arrived later with a boot full of berries that they had picked. They gave us apples, plums and tarts they had baked for tea! Such friendly people! We are relaxing in our laavu with a great lake view! Only two more short days to ride to Turku!
After the sunny warmth yesterday, we had a wet day today on the bikes. We slept well in the laavu and woke at first light (now 06:48!) as we wanted to limit our time in the wet. We had a quick 26km to Eura, our town of the day. We had a few km's riding on the E43 before Eura and then a good cycleway out of Eura. We made it to the shelter of the K-Market before the rain arrived which was a relief! We did some shopping for food and then sat inside at a little table and had our coffee and bickies. As we sat looking through the window at the heavy rain our thoughts turned to wonder, "Can we make it to Turku today?". The thought of hunkering down in a laavu for the afternoon while the rain poured down made an extra night with the nuns seem attractive. We worked out that it would mean a 116km day to get all the way to Turku. We decided to make our final decision at the turn off to our laavu in about 26km. We put on our wet weather gear after our break and the showers came through on and off. It was pretty wet. We rejoined an actual cycle route which we have not been on for a long time. This took us onto a gravel road for a stretch. When we turned off the gravel road we stopped in a bus shelter to have something to eat. We had 3km to our planned laavu, so had to make a decision. Looking at the weather radar online, we could see that there would be some very heavy rain this afternoon and that the weather actually looked better tomorrow, with the rain clearing by 09:00. We decided to stick with our original plan for the day of 55km, staying in the laavu and then the last 67 km into Turku tomorrow. The laavu is in a nature reserve and very well-built, like last night's one, but smaller. Finnish laavu's are always 100% watertight as they use waterproof material on the roof, unlike our experience of Swedish laavu's which leaked like sieves in the rain! We set ourselves up in the laavu after our last cold swim of the tour! It is quite snug in here sitting in our sleeping bags watching the heavy rain fall. It feels like the right end to the tour.
We had a fair bit of rain last night but it cleared later on. Sunrise at just before 07:00 brought more heavy rain though. We were really pleased that we had spent the night in the laavu as the tent remained dry in the dry bag. The weather forecast looked dismal, it actually looked like we would be better off staying put for the morning and only leaving around 12:00. We were keen to get going though and the headwind was a worry. We set off around 09:00 and admired the thick lichen growing on the tree trunks and forest floor as we left the state park that we had camped in. The ride was pretty good for the first 30km. We had no rain, the wind was manageable as we were on twisty forest roads for much of it which give you quite a bit of shelter, and we were focussed on getting the job done! I must say that we were more interested in getting back to civilisation than in admiring the forest! We sheltered in a cycle underpass for our coffee break and wiith 35km to go we were motivated to get to Turku dry, but did not really believe that we would!
We threw away some things on the way in bins/recycling places wherever appropriate. One thing that would interest the "greenies" reading is that in Finland every teeny village or farming community has a clump of large recycling bins in a central area, but you have to stop to check what you can recycle, it is different in each state or region. Here we found we could deposit our dented alluminium fuel bottle, but not our plastic tent undersheet. With 20km to go we hit a major dedicated cycleway to Turku and we also hit the headwind proper so it was hardwork getting into town. The cycleway runs parallel to the freeway and was good. In a fitting end to the tour we said "hi" to a road skier coming towards us.
We arrived at our guest house which is at Bridgettine Convent at around 13:30, and we were dry! We are calling it a miracle! The guest house is an absolute gem; spotlessly clean, polished wooden floors and hard little beds - One of the best places we've ever stayed. It is VERY peaceful and absolutely silent overnight. We were pretty tired, but our thoughts did start turning to what our next touring destination would be... watch this space!
Total distance for this tour is 9,400 km.