I wasn’t feeling too great when I first woke up in Turku. I’d already been contemplating having a chill out day around the hostel but as I woke up more I realised I was only tired, not sick. It was sunny, for now at least, and I only had about a week to go of my travels. I still stuffed around for the morning and didn’t get going till lunch time. I packed a few things in my day bag for a two day bicycle ride around the islands of the Archipelago. The person on reception at the hostel said their bikes weren’t that good, especially not for what I had planned, and to try the information centre in town. The information centre wasn’t really that hard to find, but it took me a while. Not only did I walk right past it, but I stood outside it taking a couple of photos and still failed to see it. They had maps and some accommodation information, but again sent me somewhere else for better bikes that also happened to be cheaper. I liked the honesty.
I walked right past the bike hire shop too and stood right next to it while I looked up their street number on my phone. In my defence, they were closed with a little sign on the door saying they’d be back at 2:30. It threatened to rain so I sat on the footpath under the awning of a building across the road, looking like a homeless person again. I’d calculated the ride to the recommended stopover point would take about six hours. I wasn’t afraid of running out of light, but wasn’t sure where I’d be sleeping. I knew there was an expensive hotel in the town, but the information centre brochure had a link for booking bed and breakfast places and cottages. Only thing was, it was restricted to making bookings a week or more in advance. My luck had held pretty well so far, so I decided to push it again and find something when I arrived.
The bike hire shop reopened. As well as a bike, they loaded me up with a repair kit and pump. They also offered panniers but they weren’t waterproof so they helped me strap my bag on the back rack and since it was late in the day only charged me for one day. It was about 3 pm when I set off, not normally a time I’d start a 60 km ride.
For the first 10 or so kilometres there were plenty of other people on the path and around, but leaving the last biggish town in the pouring rain left them behind too. Most of the route was on bitumen bike paths that basically followed the highway towards one of the main islands. It did take back routes through the towns and patches of woods, which was nice. A lone dog barked. Much of the first day’s ride was through pine forest. Moss spilled out of rock ledges and cracks like space filled foam pushed out by the earth. Signs warned of reindeer but they were even harder to find than the information centre and shop – I didn’t spot any. Each bridge signalled a new island, each up, a down, thank goodness! It was good to be out of cities again.
I pulled over on a mossy little clearing beside the path. The pines and bank provided more shelter from the rain than I expected while I ate my bread, goats cheese, tomato and cucumber dinner. I’d picked another dark bread at a shop earlier in the day, and it was even sweeter than the last one. I managed to translate some of the ingredients on my phone. Basically it was molasses bread. I left it behind the next day.
While I ate, a tiny black frog about the size of my little finger nail climbed through the moss. The protection offered by the trees and bank made me think about sleeping in the woods. I was cooling down now that I had stopped riding. The top half of me was dry, but my bottom half was thoroughly wet. Even if it was warmer or drier, I was sure I wouldn’t relax enough to sleep, not knowing what animals and critters might happen upon me in the night. And if I did sleep, I’d probably end up eating a frog.
After my break the path turned to gravel. It was still well made but had ore resistance. A woman passed riding on the road in the opposite direction. At the next rise, when the bike path went up and the road went through a cutting, I said stuff it, and did the same. Give the cars the crap surface and path. Except that’d be bad for their efficiency too. Later the path disappeared altogether. I liked not needing an excuse to be on the better surface of the road and there was less traffic here.
Some of the fields had been harvested, some still had their grain waiting. The sun came out on the fields and made a full rainbow over them in front of dark grey clouds. It meant there was more rain to come. I was glad to arrive on the last island for the night. The hotel had room, the B&B down the road was full of a school excursion, so I went back to the hotel. It looked out over the little bay with a small marina and a medium sized ferry with its bow lifted to let cars on in the morning. The supermarket had close and I didn’t even want to know how expensive the hotel restaurant was. I got inventive because there was no kettle and I didn’t have my thermos with me. I cooked instant noodles in plastic cups full of multiple rounds of hot tap water, drained and flavoured them with some of the remaining goats cheese. Now that might have been a first!
The hotel came with breakfast and a few extras I grabbed for lunch. This ferry was the only paid one for the ride and left three times a day. I needed to be on the first one. Not many other people did. There was a nice view from the top deck of the islands with their rocks and pine trees. One of the three other passengers was also on a bike, but he was out of sight before I was even off the ferry.
The weather for the second day’s ride was better. It didn’t rain. The scenery wasn’t as interesting though. It started well on country roads with pretty farmlands. There was less forest and the towns gradually built up again until back on the main land with was beside a highway smelling of trucks and new bitumen. The most interesting thing for me was what I think were rose hips. They were everywhere and I wondered if I could make my own tea out of them. For lunch this time I steered clear of the bread and got crackers to go with my cheese and tomato. The strangest thing at the little supermarket was the poker machine in the foyer. Back in Turku at a similar shop I realised they had one too, and recalled that the busiest room at Helsinki’s railway station was the pokie room. What’s the thinking there? Don’t feel like going to work today? Spent your fare on the pokies instead. Tired of all that loose change that gathers after each shop? Why not pop it in the pokies on your way out the door instead?