25 Oct Return to Finland: about blood sucking encounters, trees and more trees, and mysterious trainstations
Back in Finland, we stop at the first gas station with an attached grocery store we encounter and treat ourselves to a pastry, hot chocolate, and a chocolate snack. Although, the prices are still steep, we feel like we got a bargain on the few items. I guess everything is relative!
Again, we are faced with more headwind and the scenery of the day consists of more rolling hills covered in trees. Occasionally, we spot another reindeer, but they seem to become less in numbers although we are still officially in reindeer territory.
After another long day of uneventful riding through wooded hills and encountering masses of bloodsucking mosquitoes, we find ourselves at another wild camp spot next to the road. Although there are no toilets, it is wooded and right next to a boat ramp, so we should have enough privacy and we have water. However it is also crawling with mosquitoes. Since the mosquitoes are relentless, we decide to set up our tent and eat another boring salami sandwich inside before calling it a day.
We did not get a whole lot of sleep that night. Apparently, it was a good night to go fishing, and we had a few people stop at the parking lot and trotting through the woods , right by our tent, to their boats in the middle of the night.
Because the mosquitoes suck our blood faster than we are able to replenish it with breakfast and coffee in the morning, we pack up camp quickly before going on another day of cycling.
It feels a little bit like ground hog day, we hit more hills, fight more headwind, ride through more trees and get bit by more mosquitoes every time we stop riding. Actually, we are getting a little bit tired of the headwind and we get even more tired of constantly fighting bloodsucking mosquitoes. This is definitely not fun anymore…but it is all part of the cycle-touring-experience!
At times I catch myself thinking: the heck with the experience, this sucks! I can’t stop riding without becoming a human flyswatter or pincushion, I can’t eat anything in peace without worrying about swallowing a stinging insect, I can hardly see and think while wearing the midge-net and swatting at the little pests while setting up the tent or preparing a meal… and I can’t stop itching anywhere on my body–and I mean anywhere! Going potty in this mosquito infested strip of land is a whole other story. Being a guy would definitely come in handy by now, because having to squat with my pants around my ankles in the woods just to go pee while getting surrounded by a cloud of blood hungry mosquitoes, really puts the icing on the cake for being a girl!
Luckily, I am not the only one getting tired of the situation. Ron is also contemplating a way to quickly make it out of the area.
We thought about riding back to Germany through Sweden, but after doing the math and figuring that it would easily take 24 days of riding through trees, trees and more mosquito infested trees as well, just to make it to Copenhagen, we decided against it. Also, with all the headwind and hills we have encountered lately, our knees are starting to bother us more again. We did some research in case we’d need to take a train should our knees get too bad and found out that bicycles are not allowed on trains in Sweden. So we are pretty much stuck heading South through Finland for now. Unless, we take a train toward Helsinki.
So we decide to check the trains in Kolari, pretty much the most northern train station in Finland. As we get to the lonesome, inconspicuous train station, we notice mounds of lumber along the tracks waiting to be transported away. It almost looks like this train station is solely meant for cargo. The station itself is closed, but we do find a small ticket machine. According to the schedule posted on the door, trains only run Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays…Today is Tuesday!
We find it a little bit odd, that the only train station in this fairly big town only runs 3 times a week. We head to the grocery store, buy ourselves a huge amount of sweet chunk food and ask a couple of other customers, whether there is another train station in town.
Apparently, this is the only train station, the next bigger one would be in Tornio, at the Baltic Sea.
Oh well, we decide to keep riding and check another train station further South. There clearly must be another station somewhere!
As we get to the next town, we find another small sign leading to a train-station; however, once we make it up the short steep climb, we are unable to find it. We see train tracks, but nothing that would resemble a proper station, not even a ticket machine is in sight. We consult our map and decide to keep riding. There is supposed to be another station several miles down the road. Near that town there is a hiking trail with a parking lot marked on the map. This looks like it would be a good place to stay the night. After a very long day of riding, we finally make it to where this trail is supposed to be. We can’t find a parking lot, instead we find a spot near the top of a hill that looks like a good camp area. We are hoping that there might be a breeze to help fight off the mosquitoes. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky. The mosquito coils and spray seem to help a little bit to fight the pesky insects off, but we still prefer to crawl into the tent as quickly as possible to avoid getting eaten up. In the morning, we notice a couple of mountain bikers riding past our tent, so we hurry to pack up our camp. However, we did not leave before picking a bowl full of blueberries, which were growing all around us.
Today starts out like another groundhog day: long riding day, hills, trees, more trees, mosquitoes, but today we also get a good dose of rain to mix it up a little bit.
Toward the afternoon though, we notice more and more houses. We are following the river, which makes up the natural border between Finland and Sweden. Maybe it is because of the river or because we are slowly working our way out of the arctic circle. Either way, we feel like we have entered civilization again and is it difficult to even spot a good location for wild camping.
After a long day of getting rained on, drying out, and getting drenched again, we finally find a small area between farms, that might be suitable to pitch a tent. There is a farm house nearby across the road, but we are tired and push our bikes off the road, into a small patch of trees between two fields. The ground is wet, uneven, bumpy, and rocky. It is starting to rain again, and the mosquitoes are absurd!
We hurry up, set up camp, throw all the important bags in the vestibule, and jump into the tent to munch on another salami sandwich.
There should definitely be a welcoming committee at the Finish border, that issues every cycle tourist a mosquito net, spray, coils, and midge-net! In the morning, we have a difficult time packing up. We try to hurry, but fending off the bloodsuckers takes time. Even with the spray, we are still getting attacked.
Today we only have a short ride to Torneo. We were told, that the biggest train-station is in Torneo. Tired of getting eaten up every time we stop, we are eager to make it there. After getting drenched one more time and fighting more headwind, we finally arrive in the city just as the weather clears up. We find a train-station, but it seems abandoned: all the doors and windows are locked. We ask a man in a neighboring house, whether this is the main train-station and are told, no, the regular station is about a mile up the road.
We follow the directions and make it to what looks like an industrial area in town. We find train tracks and what looks like a small bus-station shelter. There is no official building and no ticket machine. However, there is a train schedule hanging up in the shelter. Now what! We can’t believe that this city does not have a proper station either, nor a ticket machine! Where do people get their tickets? We do not even know whether we can take our bikes on the train, nor whether we have to reserve a spot for our bikes like we have to do in so many other countries.
We decide to go back into town, find the tourist information and see whether we can use their internet to reserve or buy a ticket online. It takes us a while to find the Finish tourist information office…apparently it is about 2 miles from the train-station on the Swedish side of the river. To our delight though, we are informed, that we can buy the tickets right there at the office.
Happy, with our tickets in our pockets, we hang out at the tourist office while chatting with other travelers. We have a cup of Joe and eat yummy cookies while checking the internet and head to the store to get some supplies before catching the night train to Helskinki.
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