Day 75 – Helsinki to Pitkäjärvi

My campsite was a good way out from centre of Helsinki. A good 20 km to be precise. The network of cycle routes around Helsinki are by far the best I’ve seen anywhere. It’s like the cyclists have their own little road system with warning signs, painted white lines and sing posts.

Helsinki doesn’t particularly boast any historical monuments or attractions, it’s just a cool place to be, to hang out at the bars by the port. It has a lot of museums but I’m not really into that kind of thing, so relaxing around the port sounded good to me.

After I had arrived in Helsinki I made my to the tourist information office to find a map of the city, a list of campsites throughout Finland and a place where I could use the internet. I locked my bike up outside the train station where it was busy, thinking this would be a deterrent to any thief, but once leaving my bike I just couldn’t relax. So after getting the information I required I went back to get my bike and made my way to the port.

On the way back I popped into a bike shop where I had my brooks leather saddle tightened and bought some dry lube for the chain. I also stopped at a supermarket and bought some essentials for the next day’s ride as well as a book. I’ve found I’ve missed a book more than anything. Their English selection wasn’t great but I went for Hunter S. Thompson, Ancient Gonzo Wisdom, a book containing interviews with Hunter S. Thompson.

Incidentally, one thing I’ve noticed in Finland is not one supermarkets sells wine. I’m not sure if they have to go to a s special shop for wine but I haven’t seen any. I also had my first (albeit brief) conversation with a finnish? Checkout lady today. She asked where I was from, then the second question was “Is Finland more expensive than England”, to which I replied that it was depending on what you wanted to buy, it just seemed a bizarre question to me.

I didn’t sleep well that night due to some people getting trashed at the campsite all night long. In the end I gave up trying to sleep and got up an hour earlier and complained to the girl on reception that the security guard had not told them to quieten down all night.

I left feeling tired. The original route was to head towards Turku but I decided to go inland slightly to get away from the traffic and into the countryside. This was a good decision as I was almost alone on the road. I like the feeling of isolation you get when you’ve out on the road and nobody is about. There are houses dotted around but hardly any people, it’s like they’re all in hiding. The roads are also very up-and-down, hardly any flats but that doesn’t bother me.

Arrived at the campsite in time for dinner and spent the afternoon recouping some of the sleep I’d lost the night before. Tomorrow I head to Turku to catch a ferry to Stockholm (if it’s not too busy).

Day 74 – Tallinn to Helsinki

Unknown to me you had to book at least a day in advance for the ferry as it appear to be a popular route from Tallinn to Helsinki. I arrived at the ferry port to catch the 14:00 but was told it was full, but if someone dropped out I could have their place. For this I had to wait until 20 mins before the gate closed. I waited but unfortunately they couldn’t squeeze me on. So I went back and booked myself in at the campsite for yet another night.

I spent Thursday walking around Tallinn and taking a few pictures. It’s all setup with a medieval theme, even the people are dressed up too. How authentic this really is I’m not sure but it certainly gave it a medieval atmosphere. One thing I realised though is Estonia is a lot more expensive than the eastern European countries that preceded it. It also has the Euro so perhaps this is something to do with it.

I had met up with Rene again as we were travelling in the same direcimg_1140tion up to this point. We were chatting in the evening when we were joined by yet another cycle tourer with at least 10 years’ experience of European cycle touring. I didn’t get his name, but he was slightly eccentric and could talk for Denmark.

One thing I have noticed about being this far north is it doesn’t actually get very dark in the evenings and its getting light around 3am. Nnot much further north and its daylight 24/7.

Anyway, today I actually got the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki. It was only a two hour trip. Once I had arrived I made my way to a campsite that is 10 miles out of the city. I’ll cycle in to the centre tomorrow and have a look around. I also need to buy some oil for my bike chain and tighten my brooks saddle.

Day 73 – Parnu to Tallinn

I woke up feeling a little rough. I had met a lovely welsh couple called Carys and Moogan on the campsite, we spent much of the afternoon drinking and talking. We all headed into Parnu to the sunset beach bar and watched the sun go down before going for a meal. It was nice to have some company, and its people like this who really make the trip even more worthwhile.

In the morning I also met a swiss cyclist called Rene. He was cycling from Switzerland up the North Cape. Strange thing was, we both had a Surly Long Haul trucker frame and sharimg_1138ed many of the same kit. We even had red t-shirts on! We had our pictures taken before I left for Tallinn.

The route was a little monotonous and the traffic was quite busy, but I was in good spirits and the ride didn’t seem to take too long. I got to Tallinn at 2:30pm and went straight to the port to find the times of the ferries.

I’ve decided to get up early tomorrow, have breakfast in Tallinn and take a look around before catching the 12:30 ferry to Helsinki. The trip only takes two hours so it will give me plenty of time to find a decent campsite to have a rest day and look at the attractions.

Day 72 – Salacgriva to Parnu

On the evening of the night before I spent my last few Latvian coins on a meal before spending the remaining evening watching the sun go down on the beach. The experience would have been far more pleasurable if it wasn’t for the flies that wouldn’t seem to leave me alone.

I img_1123 left early the next day heading continuing north on the A1. The route is still flat and the road lined with trees and dense woodland. It wasn’t long before I crossed the border into Estonia where I took a detour off the main road and onto a smaller road marked for bicycles. Again, this continued through dense woodlands but at least the roads were quite being away from the traffic. Another 20km and I was back on the noisy A1.

I finally reached Parnu where I had planned to have dinner. I noticed a sign for Tallinn was img_1129132km. After checking with the Tourist Information office I figured that it was just as far from Parnu to Tallinn as it was from my destination. So rather than carry on for another 40km I decided to camp in Parnu and take the E67 north the next day.

Day 71 – Riga to Salacgriva

I had a lovely weekend in Riga. I went out on the Saturday and got a little tipsy. I was expecting to see lots of drunken stags. An English guy who lives there also confirmed it was quite for stags for some reason. Perhaps people aren’t getting married anymore.

The attractions feature mainly in the old town. I took the lift to img_1117the top of St Peters cathedral and wandered around the old town. It’s very pretty. I have added a few photos.

In my hotel room I had a sauna and I figured out how to get it working. This was lucky because my clothes weren’t drying in the room. They soon dried in the sauna. I think the hotel was called Augustine, it was very nice and cheap and the breakfast I had in the morning was perfect for the ride ahead.

There isn’t much to say about today’s ride, it was over as soon as it had started. I got slightly lost in Riga but once I was on A1 going north along the coast I was img_1118flying. I had the wind behind me slightly too I think and the roads were flat, cutting through forests all the way to Salacgriva, my destination for the day. Well, about 4km below it to be precise where the campsite is.

Today was only 100km but I had an extra 40 to do tomorrow when I make my way up the coast into Estonia.

Day 70 – Siauliai to Riga

I had to pack away a wet tent once again as it had been raining all night. Plus I didn’t sleep too well as there were a group of loud idiots partying all night in one of the outdoor cabins. I was up before them so I went in and stole a can of their beer. Although the last laugh was on them as I discovered later it was on 1.5% vol.

The campsite was on the road I needed to Riga, and the sign read 125km. The first town I’d reach was called Joniskis and was only 30km. The road I was on was so straight and so boring. In fact this road would have continued absolutely perfectly straight and flat all the way to Jelgava in Latvia, if it wasn’t for the town getting in the way that is.

Stopped for lunch in Jelgava and then continued to Riga. The sun was out now and I could hear seagulls, I’m finally on the coast again, the Gulf of Riga to precise in the Baltic Sea. It’s good to be on the coast again. I will stick to the coast for some time now.

I should be camping in Riga but it turns out the campsite has closed down. I had to search for a hotel but they all appeared booked. Lucky for me one hotel stuck me in the basement apartment and it has to be the best room in the hotel. Ok, my clothes might not dry very quickly but there’s a hair drier.

Day 69 – Kaunas to Siauliai

I slept like a log. I much prefer it in the tent than any hotel. I left early, heading towards Siauliai. This would leave in me in a perfect position to get to Riga for Saturday where I can rest. One of the good things about Lithuania is cyclists can pretty much go wherever they like. So off I headed on one of the A roads to get me out of Kaunas.img_1106

Luckily for me the headwind I had had the previous day had gone and the weather remained overcast. It rained a little but nothing to get me too wet.

The route seemed to go quite quickly. There were only miner climbs but it was mainly flat fields. When I got to Siauliai a massive thunderstorm struck so I took shelter. The rain was torrential; it wasn’t long before the roads were rivers.

At the tourist information office they pointed me in the direction of a campsite about 4km out of town. The campsite wasn’t really a campsite as such, just a restaurant that would accept tents and campers for the night, but it was adequate for the one night I needed it and the meal I had there was lovely.

Day 68 – Suwalki to Kaunas

Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve paid more for a hotel than the norm and got less for my money. My room was like a prison cell high up by the ceiling, the whole hotel was like being in a converted school. Doesn’t matter too much, I won’t be there again.

The further north I travel through Poland the nicer it becomes although I’m afraid I won’t be sad to see the back of the country. The ride takes me through thick forests of evergreens up until the border.

When you reach the border there appears to be a section of road which is “no man’s land”, where neither one country will accept responsibility who owns it. Therefore the pot holes are cavernous, I saw one guy with his car on its jack and a wheel missing.

Carrying on I follow signs to Kaunas, my destination for the day. It wasn’t a pleasant ride. I had a strong headwind, added with the long straight roads, blistering hot sun and steady flow of trucks.

When I finally reach Kaunas I made my way to the tourist information office where I met two cycle tourers from Australia. They were travelling from Helsinki to Rome, exactly the opposite way I had come. We agreed to meet later for a drink but they never turned up at the campsite. I think they had seen the storm closing in and opted for a hotel.

The campsite was a long way out of town and resembled a car park with a grass edge for tents. My rest day is looming and I’d like to reach Riga by Saturday.

Day 67 – Lomza to Suwalki

I woke to the sound of heavy rain and thunder. Peering out of my bedroom window the sky looked apocalyptic and it looked like it was still night. I reluctantly got my stuff together and went down for breakfast.

No more than a minute after I’d left the hotel the rain came down even heavier. I darted into the doorway of a shop and stayed there for a good three quarters of an hour before the rain had slowed from torrential downpour to just downpour. I couldn’t stay in that shop front all day, I had to get a move on.

The original plan was to cycle north to Poland’s answer to the Lake District. Although the rain was so bad I could hardly see a few kilometres ahead of me, so I knocked this idea on the head and carried on towards Augustow on the 61.

I stopped in a layby a few hours later to rinse out my socks and the insoles of my shoes. This was not pleasant riding. My t-shirt had also got went under my jacket somehow. I had to keep moving just to stay warm.

Eventually it stopped raining and brightened up. I was only 30km away from Augustow at this point. I wanted to go a little further so the ride to Kuanas would be less. So when I reach Augustow I carried on another 30km to Suwalki.

At Suwalki there was a campsite signposted. It looked nice but said it was private and there weren’t many people around. So I booked myself into yet another hotel. At least they are relatively cheap out here.

Day 66 – Warsaw to Lomza

After what I’d seen of Poland so far and what I’d heard I wasn’t expecting much from Warsaw but was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t get as much time sightseeing as I’d have liked due to the weather. After returning to my drying clothes once a nice couple from New Zealand said they would get my washing in if it rained so into the centre I headed onimg_1098ce again.

I was surprised at how modern the centre was, tall glass sky scrapers and huge shopping complexes. I headed for the Tourist Info to get a map and then made my way towards the old town taking a scenic walk past the university.

The old town was destroyed by the Germans after they left during the war, but since then it has been rebuilt based on how it used to be. They did a good job but it is more geared up for the tourist than any other purpose now with lots of ice cream shops, bars and restaurants.

I returned to the campsite to find my clothes had disappeared off the washing line and were locked away in the New Zealand couples camper van. When they returned they invited me in and made me a lovely cup of tea with a biscuit. They were a really nice couple and I never got their names.

I left early the next morning and made my way through Warsaw’s rush hour traffic. Once I’d navigated all the no cycling signs I managed to escape and made my way north east on the 61 towards Lomza.

The road was busy but gradually calmed as I got further away from Warsaw. It also had a steady incline and never seemed to descend. I stopped at a bar on the side of the road and had two dishes. A kind of bubble and squeak with veggies and diced sausages named Hunter something or other, and some ravioli stuffed with some spicy vegetables. Both were very tasty but the ravioli filled me up and I found it difficult cycling the remaining distance.img_1102

I stopped for a toilet break in a bush on the side of the road. A few seconds later I was legging it out whilst being attacked by lots of mosquitoes. I escaped with several bites and got out of there as quickly as possible.

I made It to Lomza and checked into a hotel for a night as there are no campsites.