The importance of preparation (Alexander)
Together with Lina, Christian and Markus I participated in the St. Olaf project this year. For us, it was clear from the very beginning that we would test the route from Åbo to Korpo by bike, not by foot. This due to the fact, that both Christian and Markus had walked the same route the year before, and wanted to spice it up a little. Lina and myself haven’t been a part of the project from the beginning, but thought it would be nice to challenge ourselves a bit, and a Tour de Archipelago sounded perfect.
We knew we had a lot to plan and organise before we could head out, and we gave ourselves loads of time by picking a date a couple of months prior to our eventual departure.
First, our gear was scattered all over southern Finland. A bicycle here, a tent and sleeping bags there, proper clothing somewhere else. I am glad we had enough time to gather everything. I should add, that we decided to set up camp in the middle of the forest instead of seeking shelter in a guest house. We all share a love for nature, so it wasn’t a hard decision at all.
Second, it’s ALWAYS more to it than you could ever imagine; it usually is too optimistic to think that everything will go exactly according to plan. In other words, new details you must address will emerge as your planning progresses. You will realize you need this tool for the bike in case of… What if the weather isn’t what you hoped it would be? What do we need if we get blisters? A flat tyre? Careful planning will see to it, that you will get most of it sorted out.
I said “most of it”, because sometimes life just gives you unexpected lemons. Take our journey as an example: Markus’ pedal broke after roughly 15 kilometres. We laughed about it because it was so tragicomic. He has had that bike for a couple of years now, ridden it almost every day. Never before has he had problems with it; it has run as smoothly as clockwork. But, obviously, when he least expected it, and at a time when he need it to work with him, it broke down. Fortunately for us we were only 8 kilometres from Pargas, our first snack break, so we managed to get him to a bicycle service without bigger problems. It was irritating of course, and it slowed us down, but it could’ve been much worse.
Another thing that happened was rain. About a week before our departure it became clear to us that we had to prepare for heavy rainfall. According to the forecast, it was set to rain from five in the afternoon ‘til three the next morning. This was unfortunate, but it was not the end of the world. It simply meant we had to do some additional planning. Proper clothing, as well as extra dry clothing, became the key. We headed out early in the morning, hoping to arrive in Korpo before the rain. Due to some complications along the way we didn’t make it. It didn’t rain too much, but the tent got wet while we were setting it up. We had arranged an additional plastic sheet to cover the tent with, to keep most of the water out, which it did. What we didn’t consider was condensation. Although we managed to keep most of the rain outside, droplets of water started forming on the inside of our tent, which made everything we had stacked along the inner edges of the tent wet. Our phones, snacks, magazines, dry clothes, our hair and our sleeping bags. This was not too comfortable, but we learned our lesson; see to it, that you take bags of different sizes with you where you can put your clothes and valuables, and where they’ll be safe from water and humidity. Cold weather is not your enemy, water is. I would much rather sleep in a tent in 10 degrees below freezing than in much warmer, but wet, conditions.
Lastly I would like to say a few words about what you could call “motivators”. In times of both physical and mental exhaustion, you learn to appreciate the littlest of things. In such moments of distress and despair, the so called motivators will come in handy. For some people, it might be a chocolate bar, for others a raspberry flavoured soda. Some may appreciate a cinnamon roll, or maybe something as simple as a cigarette. Whatever your guilty pleasure may be, it will play an important role in keeping your mood up and your self-pity at bay. Allow yourself a treat every now and then, and I’m sure you will overcome your discomfort, no question about it.
Day 1 (Markus)
On April 20, we started our day by getting assembled at Turku Cathedral by 09:00 in the morning. James Simpson got there and made a small interview that was posted on the facebook fanpage St Olav Waterway Pargas/Parainen. Shortly after that we began our journey towards Korpo. The weather was nice and the temperature just perfect. As we approached the countryside the traffic got calmer and we could enjoy the ride more. We biked in a nice convoy and tried to have a good pace on the velocity. After about 15 kilometers of biking my pedal got totally broken. We tried to fix the bike by many manners, but we did’nt manage. Even though we had a bunch of tools with us, we didn’t unfortunately have the proper tools to fix the pedal. But somehow I managed to bike all the way to Pargas, where we found a bikeshop that could fix the bike.
We had a break at Pargas and bought some snacks from a grocery store. Shortly after that we continued. We had been biking about 23 km at this point, and there was long way ahead us. The wind was getting stronger and it always felt like there was headwind, which made it significantly harder to pedal. We had many short breaks along the way to hydrate ourselves. When we arrived to Nagu we had a simple dinner at the Seo gas station. At this point, Alexander and Lina decided to take the bus to Korpo. They simply loaded their bikes on the bus and continued with the bus. Me and Christian decided to bike the last part from Nagu to Korpo, and the minute after we began to ride it started to rain. It’s not comfortable to ride in the rain, but the temperature wasn’t that cold, so the rain didn’t bother us that much, we also had rain repellent clothing and backpacks that didn’t let the equipment to get wet. After an exhausting ride we finally arrived to Korpo and Alexander and Lina had already chosen a good camping spot and made all the major preparations. Me and Christian had a little trouble finding the camping spot deep inside the forest, but when we arrived there, the locations looked marvellous, it was a really silent and calm place next to a small lake in the middle of Korpo island.
We started to make our camping site comfortable by adding a tarp above our tent to prevent the rain. We swapped our clothes to dry ones before entering the tent and our sleeping bags. It did rain throughout the night, and as earlier mentioned, lots of condensation appeared that made the inside really wet. We all slept good on in our nice sleeping bags, except Christian who had a summer sleeping bag that made the sleeping a little cold for him.
The Budget (Lina)
Usually travelling in Finland can be rather expensive in my opinion. The transport, the food and the accommodation can all together come to cost a small fortune. This wasn`t a problem for us, partly because this project is founded by the EU and partly because we choose the only free way of travelling. Spending little money is harder than spending a lot of money, so we had to plan a lot beforehand to stay on the relatively small budget. All in all the only thing we needed money for was food, the bus and spare something for “what if´s” to be on the safe side witch was fortunate.
The thing that costed me the most was to get my bike in a proper condition for the long road ahead. Beside that everything else was pretty cheap. Since we choose to travel before the summer season our dinner options were limited and we got a proper meal at a gas station for around 10€ plus some small things to eat along the road from a supermarket. The bus cost under 20€ and the bus driver was a decent and nice man.
I´m happy to say that we had a very nice experience for a small sum of money, I proved myself wrong.
Day 2 (Christian)
The night had been awful, but in the morning we had the sweetest wakeup call ever. Birds chirping and the sun is shining, the moss was moist from the rainy night and our sleeping bags were wet. Even tho we had a rainy night the sunshine cleared off our cold. We couldn’t have asked for any better. Once all woke up and had a quick stretch we put our wet clothes on tree branches to dry off and packed our stuff. Once we had packed our stuff we decided to move on to our next destination, to meet the landowners.
We sat on our bikes, legs were stiff, our knees hurt also our buttocks were a bit sore from all the biking. Our next destination was about 6 kilometres ahead of us, but we were so excited what was waiting us. We reached our destination and what was waiting us was a red wooden house up a hill. We chatted a bit with the landowner and had some snacks before we entered the long awaited sauna. Oh how it felt good to sit in a sauna and actually get a slight tingle of life in my toes. After some relaxing in the sauna me and Alexander decided to take a swim in the lake near us. The water was a few degrees warm but it felt so good. After a dip in the water we went back into the sauna to warm ourselves again.
Food time! We had a nice breakfast consisting of bread, eggs, cheese, ham, salami and some vegetables. Oh it was so delicious. After we ate we chilled for a while but then we had to move for our next destination. So we packed our stuff again, thanked the landowners and headed to the bus stop. The bus was on time, and we put our bikes in the bus and entered the bus. We made it. We survived a 100km bike trip.