The best part of travelling alone is all the people whom I meet.
A few days ago I met Markku, an advertising producer. He is following a woman who is walking down Finland as a charity stunt. Markken’s job is to create enough video footage of her for the charity to be able to use it for fund-raising. he sat with me and went through the best route to travel down to Pori in quite some detail. He lived there for 22 years and was keen to explain where I can try some smoked fish, where there is an old fishing village, which roads are the most scenic etc. He told me the story of the cemetery at Ii which I had ridden past between Merihelmi and Oulu. The cemetery was put on an island to keep the bodies safe from bears and wolves. When the ice was too soft though, it was too dangerous to try to cross over there so any deceased persons had to be put into cold storage until the ice had frozen over properly. Now there’s a bridge and there are no bears or wolves around this area anymore anyway.
Today, I was cycling along the road, coming up to a roadside parking stop when a man stepped onto the road and called me over with ‘It’s coffee time! Would you like a coffee?’ ‘Yes, please!’ He explained that he’s a cyclist too, last year he rode from Alicante in southern Spain to his home in Jakobstad. It took him three months, he usually rode about 70 to 80 km per day but the last day he was so keen to get home that he rode 240 km! His wife poured me a coffee, gave me a delicious triangular donut type cake and was so very proud of him. They both studied my bike and were keen to hear the ‘where from, to where, how long’ etc. He was very positive about cycling through France and is considering a trip in Japan. They gave me a bottle of sparkling mineral water and we went our separate ways. It was lovely! He explained that the Finns are very reclusive and difficult to talk to but that hasn’t been my experience at all.
I found my way to the Tjärlax camp ground and there met an older gentleman who runs the camp ground and speaks quite good English. He said he learnt it in the sixties from listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others. My campsite cost me 10€ for the night, with basic but clean facilities, steaming hot water and a beautiful setting on the shores of a large lake.
The water was quite cold but I went swimming anyway. When else will I get the chance to swim in a lake in Finland?