Today was one of those days – it started off quite ordinary but soon changed into absolutely perfect.
I had a rough night. It was quite windy, the tent was flapping and carrying on but I fell asleep anyway only to be woken at 2am by someone tugging at my guy ropes and banging on the tent pegs with a rock. I don’t know who it was but I suppose I should be grateful. I was woken again at 6am by the screaming toddler in the next tent. This kid never babbles or chats toddler speak, she just screams, yells and carries on – constantly! As she did this morning for the next two hours.
I dragged myself out of my cocoon at 7.45 and checked my tent. Some critter had bitten or clawed two holes into my tent inner just where the guy rope is that the mysterious person tightened last night – suspicious! The same critter, or maybe another one, nabbed my rubbish bag and scoffed all the old bread and food scraps in there. Critter then spread my plastic rubbish far and wide for me so my first job this morning was to clean up the campsite.
From then on, it got much better. I rode off into strong winds which settled to a slight breeze during the day. The sun came out and all was well with the world. I found alternative roads to the E8 and spent the day cycling about 45 km on small country roads, winding through the fields and the forest. Much of the time I was on a fairly new cycle path, three metres wide, smooth black asphalt with no cracks, bumps or potholes – beautiful! As I rode, I pondered how it is the small things which I see which are so enjoyable – the bicycle decorated with flowers ...
... the long line of mailboxes indicating there’s a community hidden in the trees ...
... a boat pulled to shore on the river bank, the smell of freshly cut grass drying for hay, the way the farmers plough and sow their fields in straight lines while those same fields have such sinuous edges, winding around piles of rocks and patches of trees.
I zipped past an elderly gentleman on his bike. I smiled and said ‘Hello.’ He just looked astonished. When I stopped a kilometre further on to check my map, he pulled up next to me to help me out. (in Finnish) I crested a hill to see a local lady slogging up the other side. I waved, she smiled and waved back. A young man on a weird bike with super fat tyres sped past me. Those tyres must make the bike so hard to peddle but he was going like a bat out of hell.
Then there were the signs. The 196 sign was popular, it kept telling me I was on the right road ...
... but even better were the ‘elk’ signs, just at the right angle and height so they were incredibly difficult to photograph because of the bright sun which told me that I was definitely heading SOUTH! One sign warned of elk for the next 1.9 km. Why 1.9? Why not 2 km? What happens at the 1.9 mark so that no elk are found further along? There was no elk fence there, merely another sign warning of elk for the next 600 metres.
A mid-afternoon pick-me-up of coffee and cake (with a long name with lots of k’s) in Uusikaupunki set me up for a visit to the tourist information place to get info about the Åland Islands. I needed a map with camp grounds and ferries. The lass there spoke excellent English and armed me with so much stuff that it took me hours to sort through it all. The main objective was to work out a route from Finland to Sweden, island hopping all the way. I needed to identify where the camp grounds are and what times the different ferries go. Some need to be booked in advance, others don’t.
I headed off to the camp ground which is a pleasantly treed, grassy spot next to the bay. It’s very quiet here, only two campervans and no other tents – yet.
After all that heavy brain work I headed in to town, stopped at the first bar/restaurant which just happened to be on a riverbank with numerous small boats moored alongside. The waiter gave me some crispbreads with butter as a snack. I devoured it all with the butter smeared on as thick as it would go. Butter is in short supply in my diet as it’s not very transportable on a bike in warm weather. Dinner was chicken breast with goat’s cheese, wedges and beans.
Cycling back to camp was one of those precious moments when I know the way and don’t have to stop constantly to check where I am and where I need to go.
Back at camp, I noticed that I’m still the only person in a tent. One more campervan has pulled up and there is a couple in one of the cabins which makes five sets of visitors in total – no babies!
Some people wandering through camp spoke to me in Finnish and when I replied in English one lady perked up and came over for a chat. She’s from Finland but emigrated to Canada 50 years ago and is now on a four week trip around Finland with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson. When the daughter heard I’m from Australia with my bike, she immediately came over too to find out all about my trip. It was lovely to have an uninhibited conversation with a native speaker. We chatted for about an hour, comparing notes about healthy fast food options in different countries (you can always buy soup in Germany but Denmark only has pizzas and hamburgers while Finland has the most wonderful hot buffets for only 9€), discussing my bike, my route and camping gear.
After they left, I realised with a shock that it was already past 10 pm. There was a beautiful sunset happening over the water so I took a few snaps and went to bed.