As you might have discovered, as well as I did, during my trip the personal encounters are the main theme.
A few days ago, when I decided to kayak on the Ounasjoki river, I put an Instagram post out to find some company for this kayak trip. There were some reactions, but none of them had a kayak and/or the time to join. Obviously, I didn’t let that spoil the plan.
To kayak the river, the plan was to cycle south alongside the river to Rovaniemi, leave my bicycle and hitchhike back up north with my kayak.
To leave my bicycle safely I went to the very nice -but a bit overpriced- campsite in the centre of the city, next to the river.
Hitchhiking is an art
The hitchhiking went as expected. Which means that the first few kilometres were dreadful. I was on the wrong side of the town. An experienced hitchhiker knows that’s trouble! Firstly, for the drivers, entering a city is always more stressing, denser traffic, roads and cars going in all different locations. So the drivers are less paying attention to the hitchhiker. Secondly most of the cars that pass you, are not going where you want to be. So after 50 minutes an old camper-van stopped, who was going to somewhere else then I, but he could let me out at the other side of the city, were the road leads to my kayaking adventure.
Once going out the city, the logic reverses to the advantage of the hitchhiker: Traffic becomes calmer and unidirectional, so everyone that passes you, heads in the right direction. So the excuses become scarce. There it took me no more then a few minutes when about the 10th car stopped and picked me up. As it happened, my driver was a kayak enthusiast!
She let me out at my requested stop and my kayaking could begin. The great river ran peacefully south. A bit too peacefully, or have I been too ambitious? I was dropped of about 30 km away, I counted 5km/h current and 5 km/h paddling, and 3 hours later I could start dinner! The river decided differently, the current wasn’t that strong. It took me a few hours more.
Nearly 5 hours after dipping in the water, a welcoming committee arose. About 6 km before the finish, I came upon a few local kayakers, who were so very friendly to accompany me for my last effort. My power was already fading, so this motivation came as a great gift. There was even more, as they guided me through some small canals I wouldn’t even have found myself.
We are 2 days later, a beautiful sunny day and a road in perfect condition pushes me forward quickly. I get 80 km before lunch, so I treat myself with the biggest hamburger in town. Njomnjomnjom! As I leave the place, a Belgian guy accompanied by a Latvian girl, recognises the Belgian flag on my bike and that drew a conversation.
They just participated in an hitchhiking contest from Helsinki to Kemi and were so kind to share some beers they won. They both live in the south of the country ( we’re in Finland) and I got their phone numbers together with an invitations to stay there. Around thee time, we went our own way and I decided that a mere 20km would do for the day.
Halfway that distance, I saw in the distance a road cyclist, well equipped in the typical fashionable Lycra matching the colors of his horse. Of course I couldn’t resist, so I geared up, pushed some magical buttons on my control panel and started overtaking him. He, well trained triathlete, with 7 kg bike. Me solar powered with 130kg gear, having a conversation at 30km/h.
As I told him I was coming to the end of my day trip, he helped me find a location for the night. As his Finnish was better then mine😝, we found an awesome place near a small marina. This was his birth area, but it was long since he came here, so he was as curious as me to find something lovely!
When I was reflecting on this great day, in this beautiful shelter, one of the skippers came from the marina to inspect my vehicle, although he spoke almost no English, he invited me to do a little tour on the water, for I couldn’t refuse that offer! I thought I was the one who was happy with that Offer, but he seemed as happy as me, just exercising his English!
This post could easily be trice as long, for there are daily similar encounters. But I’ll leave it here, because you’ll have some WhatsApp’s to answer and some professional emails to reply to.