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Old 08-31-2012, 10:16 AM   #31
Blader54
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Really digging this ride report! I'm definitely along for the whole ride! Keep posting!!
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Old 08-31-2012, 03:55 PM   #32
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Loving the report! No chick pics tho.
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Old 09-06-2012, 01:43 AM   #33
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I really wish I could be there Look across the river, it remained me a bit of "her"

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Old 09-08-2012, 03:12 PM   #34
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More Like Snoreway (Not Really!)

I’m not sure I ever really appreciated just how much there is to Norway. Looking at it on the map it’s just a thin sliver of non-EU land off the border of Sweden – kinda like the strip of fat on the edge of a piece of bacon. Although I’d seen pictures and heard how good it was, I didn’t really appreciate how different this skinny little country’s landscape (and prices) would be to its nearest neighbour, let alone how much it could change in the roughly 2000km I rode from the bottom to the top.



Or how much the weather could change in 2000km either


Having left Joseph in Saffle, I rode over some pretty nice Swedish roads over the border, and a few not so nice Norwegian roads (some of the few in the whole country) brought me to Oslo. A problem I’ve repeatedly had in countries that get a lot of snow is that during summer they rush to get all their roadworks done – tearing up half the town in the process. This is a real problem if you’ve got a GPS that thinks a town looks one way, and a government that’s decided to make it look another. Finding my hostel in Oslo was such a frustrating process that I was tempted to turn around and go back to Sweden.



I guess it's a good thing that I didn't


Oddly, Oslo reminded me quite a bit of home back in Sydney. It helped that the weather was 30 degrees (celcius) and sunny, but mainly in the vibe of the city and the way that it was nestled around the harbour. They even have an Opera house with funny architecture with cheap last-minute tickets every night. As I was hanging around at 7pm, curiosity got the better of me and I was treated to this odd puppet-show-cum-ballet focussed around a heinously stereotypical old asian man teaching ping pong… mainly the show just consisted of puppet sex though. Horrible horrible puppet sex. Guess I should’ve checked the reviews first :-/. Oslo also taught me the value of putting the cover on my bike every time I park it overnight. Because I was in an underground carpark under my hostel I thought it was unnecessary, but returned to it the next day to find that someone had decided to steal the micro-USB cable that charges my phone via the cigarette lighter socket, in the process cutting up all the cable ties holding my ghetto-GPS-setup together and breaking the cigarette-lighter-to-usb-socket adapter. All for a cable that I bought in Australia for less than a beer costs in Norway. Sigh.



This was what I felt like... except imagine that the babies are Norway


No matter – for some reason I had spares for everything broken or stolen, so it was on the road to Bergen soon enough. Didn’t take long for my anti-Norway fervour to wear off, as I got my first taste of what makes Norway such an amazing country to ride. I swept along fjords, up mountains, through tunnels, past snow banks. It was amazing just how much you can see in less than a day of riding here. The weather’s crazy – you can go into a tunnel squinting because it’s so sunny, then emerge to find yourself being drenched with rain.



Water in Norway really only has two modes - impossibly glassy or impossibly glittery

Bergen was a whole world away from Oslo – much more of a country town feel. Once again assisted by some sunny days, the town actually reminded me a lot of San Francisco (at least what I’ve seen from pictures)… steep streets and neighbourhoods built on nearly vertical hillsides. As far as I can see Bergen gets a bit of traffic from the cruise lines that go along the Norwegian fjords, resulting in a town that has crowds of tourists but is lacking a bit for things to see… this is really the only explanation I have for how a town comes to have a leprosy museum.



Seriously. Did you know that there's two different types of leprosy caused by the same sort of bacteria? I do now.


The other interesting bit about Bergen was that I booked into the cheapest hostel in town, and something about the whole atmosphere seemed a bit odd. Later I realised that it was actually the Christian hostel, but they didn’t really mention anything about it on the hostel booking websites. I’d never stayed in one before – I think they’re not so much about worshiping, more to provide a place free from the debauchery that normally goes on in backpacker hostels. No wonder I overheard someone complaining about a bunch of us drinking some of the cheap(er) scotch I’d been carrying around since Denmark the previous night. Sorry for party rocking :-/.



I don't know what this waterfall is called, nor even really where it is. Norway is just the sort of place where you pass a waterfall like this when you weren't even trying to find it.

Next day I retraced some of my steps to do the hike up to Trolltunga. Trolltunga (or Troll’s Tongue, in the much more boring English translation) is basically a big rock overhanging a fjord that takes 5 hours of hiking to reach and 5 hours to get back from… with the first (and hence last) kilometre being nonstop steep hill. You can either climb a loose dirt trail for this kilometer, or cheat and go on the the furnicular railway tracks (I cheated both ways). For some reason I thought it’d be cool to camp at the top of the hike, and although it was admittedly pretty cool it also meant that I had to carry my tent, sleeping bag, stove etc all the way up and all the way down, resulting in unbelievable pain whenever I went down stairs for weeks afterwards.



Imagine this, all the way to where the water is in the background.


It is a spectacular hike though – getting to the end late in the day and finding barely anyone around with just me and this beautiful view was completely amazing. Too bad my proper camera hadn’t worked since France, but I made do with my phone one.



That's my tent!


When I got back to the bike the next day I found a makeshift parking ticket warning me that my number plate had been recorded because I hadn’t paid for parking – apparently it costs 200 norwegian kronor (27 euros) to park overnight at the base of the hike… which goes to maintainance. I’m not sure whether it goes to maintaining the trail, which is a rough mudbath that disappears in sections, or the furnicular railway that doesn’t run, but while I was packing up an employee of the tourist centre came and found me. Fine then, I’ll pay. Stupid Norway.



Well, I *guess* it was worth it


Touring in Norway is no cheap business – although the fjords were beautiful, I began to dread seeing one up ahead because that could mean only one thing…



Arggh!


…another frickin’ ferry ride! One day I had 5 ferry crossings in a day, each costing me 50 NOK and making me anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour later than I was planning. I guess given that fjords are generally pretty deep so it’s not exactly simple to just build a bridge across one? Either way, at one point I wouldn’t bother stopping to eat because I figured it was easier to just wait until the inevitable ferry crossing and buy a hot dog on board. It is stupid to go to Norway and complain about the prices though – in a lot of ways it’s just premium Europe… sure it’s expensive, but you’re hard pressed to find a country more beautiful. Plus no matter how remote the location, everyone seems to speak English – I think it’s actually easier for an English speaker than Scotland.



The fog in Norway doesn't just sit there, it rolls across the horizon as you watch. Pretty.


At this point the journey really started to feel like an adventure – every day I’d wake up, hit the road until it got dark or I got too tired, stop, sleep and repeat the process the next day. The further north I went the longer the days lasted too – in Oslo it got dark at about 11pm, by the time I was at the Arctic Circle it just didn’t get dark at all. I actually really enjoyed it too – the loneliness of London seemed a mile away as I barely spoke a word but never felt anything but bliss. There’s something ethereal about riding in Norway… you never run out of curvy road, you never run out of daylight, it’s like being in some kind of motorcycle heaven. As I carved my way through the countryside I couldn’t help but think that maybe when I do shuffle off this mortal coil, I’ll walk towards the light at the end of the tunnel to find myself with Os beneath me once again, threading our way alongside the fjords, forever.



Something like this...


Along the way up I made a bit of a detour to check out the Atlantic Road, which looked amazing – I even used it as the background of my blog. Having ridden over it, I was confused as to whether I’d even found the right road. To be honest it’s like 3 sort-of interesting bridges, one of which has a curve in it and looks sort-of cool. If you’ve ever ridden from the north of Sydney into the city avoiding the harbour bridge, it’s pretty much the same experience. This was contrasted with the rest of Norway, in which nearly every single road is completely fanastic. I was a tad disappointed.



Looks good in photos though. Deceptively so.


About halfway up I stopped for a day in Trondheim in order to get an oil change and give myself a bit of a rest. Shamefully I just turned up at the local bike dealership and got the mechanic to change the oil and filter – it’s embarassing but I didn’t want to deal with obtaining the filters, figuring out an oil pan, figuring out where to take the old oil, getting a filter changing tool (which I cunningly didn’t bring) etc. Trondheim is a student city which at the time had no students, leaving it feeling a tad empty. What was awesome about this situation, however, was that the student federation’s building was being used as a massive backpacker hostel. Trondheim has this giant student union (unaffiliated with the actual university) which dates back god-knows-how-long, and at one point a very long time ago (think pre-World-War-1) they decided to get themselves a building. Which isn’t to say they rented out a house… rather they got the student architects to design them a giant round red building that has over 40 levels on the inside, despite only being 4 or 5 storeys tall. No one knows exactly how many rooms there are, attempts to model the building on computers have all failed and the guy who gave me a tour reckoned that he still occasionally got lost. It’s incredible.



Apparently the Nazis thought it looked like a circus, so they put a circus in it. With elephants. Why the hell not?


Having got my shameful dose of 10W-40 SAE, I continued north, going through the Arctic Circle…



It was colder here in summer than in an Australian winter


… getting the ferry over to the Lofoten Islands and up towards Nordkapp. Where the Atlantic Road failed to live up to its hype, Lofoten more than delivered. It is a beautiful place indeed. The funny thing about Norway though, is that it’s all so beautiful that by the time you get to Lofoten a sort of wow-fatigue sets in. At the start you see a fjord and think “WOW, THAT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I’VE *EVER SEEN*”. A week later you’re still thinking “that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”, but you’re painfully aware that the last time you thought that was only about 10 minutes ago. First world problems, huh?



There are a lot of these boats left floating in lakes around Lofoten. They look very nice but I can't help but wonder how the hell one actually gets to it. Swimming?


Once I’d got to Lofoten I was damn close – I was wearing full rain gear, my bike gear and a jumper just to keep warm while I rode, and the idea of stopping when it got dark was getting pretty silly because it just didn’t get dark anymore. Nordkapp had to be getting close.



Not hard to pick the right road up here


Nordkapp isn’t actually being the northernmost part of Europe – you have to go on a hike to go there and my calves were still completely non-functional after Trolltunga. That isn’t really the point though – I mean, obviously the point is to get a sticker to put on your panniers, but besides that it’s just one of those places that makes you feel… something? As someone who deals with computers at work and motorcycles on holiday it’s all a bit beyond my comprehension, but it is palpable. The Lonely Planet says that it was a spiritual place for the indigenous Sami people, so I guess it’s not just me. You definitely feel an idea that you want to take something away from this place that’s affected you so… which I guess is why the Norwegians decided to build a gift shop there.



In fairness, it is clever


Once you get near to it the whole landscape changes – there’s no trees, no mountains – just rolling hills covered with grass. It’s an oddly alien landscape and you really are acutely aware that you’ve reached the end of the world. When I looked out at the sea to the north, I knew in my head that somewhere out there was the North Pole, and Canada beyond that, but it wouldn’t have taken much effort to convince me that the world was actually flat and that the sea in front of me was infinite.



I mean, if the north pole's out there where the hell are the polar bears?!


Most importantly though, I’d made it. The biggest goal I’d had while sitting around in Edinburgh with ice on my knee was to heap up and make it to Nordkapp, and here I was with my pilgrimage for the motorcycle gods complete. Oh yeah!



The other guys in the globe were kind enough to take my photo for me, so now they get to guest star in this post


So now what? Time to go south I guess. Next stop Finland… then Sweden again… then Finland again. It was to be a confused journey south, but I think this posts’s got long enough for now :).
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Old 09-08-2012, 04:31 PM   #35
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Great stuff mate, that guy you met that runs a hostel in Derry. I stayed in his hostel in February... small world hey, and I sat in the front room with him while he explained how he made money on the races to this other girl that was staying there.

The great adventure will only get better once you head into Eastern Europe... you will save heaps of money down there and there is awesome riding in Romania/Bulgaria. Be sure to check out RTWDougs motocamp - google motosapiens bulgaria. When you are there, ask him about the spaceship monument, called Bazludja, or something, it's the coolest thing I have seen in all of Europe. Shipka pass and the Transfagarasan roads are must do's IMO.
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:56 PM   #36
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Awesome RR.

Really enjoy your writing style.

Thanks.

JM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:20 PM   #37
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One of the unique things about your report is how you bring culture and people into it; I enjoy flogging a motorcycle just as much as the next guy, but part of traveling on a bike is/are the smells, the feel, and finally creating a more accurate worldview (which includes learning people). "The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of people, who have not viewed the world." -(Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), German naturalist and explorer)

Btw, you may have a crappy camera situation now, but your pictures are still great because you have good composition IMO. The eye and framing of a picture will often do more than a 2500 euro DSLR..

Looking forward to Europe and your homeland by motorcycle myself, and keep it coming!

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Old 09-09-2012, 02:20 PM   #38
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Great stuff mate, that guy you met that runs a hostel in Derry. I stayed in his hostel in February... small world hey, and I sat in the front room with him while he explained how he made money on the races to this other girl that was staying there.

The great adventure will only get better once you head into Eastern Europe... you will save heaps of money down there and there is awesome riding in Romania/Bulgaria. Be sure to check out RTWDougs motocamp - google motosapiens bulgaria. When you are there, ask him about the spaceship monument, called Bazludja, or something, it's the coolest thing I have seen in all of Europe. Shipka pass and the Transfagarasan roads are must do's IMO.
I was actually going to turn around in Romania (time's ticking away :() but I might give Bulgaria a go if the roads are good - been doing too much touring and not enough riding lately as I'm in Budapest, which is right next to Vienna, which is right next to Prague etc. Apparently rtwdoug is in America riding around at the moment though :(. The spaceship thing is pretty cool...
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Old 09-10-2012, 12:17 PM   #39
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So time or money is your biggest constraint??

We will be in Spain until end of October, picking grapes on a vineyard and generally chilling out, then making our way back up the west of France into Belgium before heading back to London. Maybe we will cross paths? Anyway, just saw you there on FB so added you.

Roads in Bulgaria can be good, Transalpina/Transfagarasan are both great in Romania if you can get a chance. Those roads are great too because they are free... when you get to Switzerland and Austria then you have to start paying... 22 Euros it cost to ride up to Grossglockner in Austria... worth it though.

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Old 09-10-2012, 02:17 PM   #40
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So time or money is your biggest constraint??
Time - although if time wasn't a constraint I guess money would be. Gotta be back at work on October 26. To be honest I'm sorta glad to be going home... while I've had an amazing time the whole idea of just riding around until time runs out wears on me a bit. Next time I think I'll go with a definite start and end destination so it feels a it more like a proper journey :).

Just saw your post in the other thread by the way - I totally didn't realise who you are. I remember when I was planning (dreaming) this you were just starting, and here I am nearly at the end of my trip (although the RR is only about halfway through) and you've seemingly covered most of Europe and you're getting tweeted by BMW. Fun how time flies :).
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Old 09-12-2012, 08:11 AM   #41
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I've really enjoyed your ride report! Thanks! It is also interesting to hear what you have to say about journeying itself. There are some riders out there who seem to have found their passion in the nomadic life (see Lightcycle's ride report, for example) and revel in the idea of motorcycling without end, and there are others who like a definite end-point. Some of these latter folks seem to re-integrate fairly easily with living a more conventional, shall I say, static, life, when the ride is over, while others find the readjustment very difficult. It would be great to hear more of your thoughts about motorcycling and travel....how they fit together, which one drives the other, if at all, and so on. For some, the idea of having to "get back" makes the trip seem pressured and rushed at the end, and can even make the second half of the trip kind of a downer, along the lines of the old saying: "how far can you walk into a forest? Half-way." Did it feel that way for you once you passed the half-way point of your trip? Would you have preferred to have made the trip with a GF or BF? Not as independent with a companion, but then there's someone to share experiences with. Or maybe the longer stops you made provided you with the opportunity for social interaction?
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Old 09-19-2012, 03:33 PM   #42
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I've really enjoyed your ride report! Thanks! It is also interesting to hear what you have to say about journeying itself. There are some riders out there who seem to have found their passion in the nomadic life (see Lightcycle's ride report, for example) and revel in the idea of motorcycling without end, and there are others who like a definite end-point. Some of these latter folks seem to re-integrate fairly easily with living a more conventional, shall I say, static, life, when the ride is over, while others find the readjustment very difficult. It would be great to hear more of your thoughts about motorcycling and travel....how they fit together, which one drives the other, if at all, and so on. For some, the idea of having to "get back" makes the trip seem pressured and rushed at the end, and can even make the second half of the trip kind of a downer, along the lines of the old saying: "how far can you walk into a forest? Half-way." Did it feel that way for you once you passed the half-way point of your trip? Would you have preferred to have made the trip with a GF or BF? Not as independent with a companion, but then there's someone to share experiences with. Or maybe the longer stops you made provided you with the opportunity for social interaction?
The reason the title of this thread is "Panniering Around Europe" was that it's supposed to be backpacking with pannier bags - hence panniering... I really wanted to do the backpacker circuit around Europe while I was still young and I also wanted to do a big bike trip, so I sorta combined them, not really knowing what kind of a traveller I was or what I'd enjoy. I've found that to be honest I'm not really a backpacker, but I'm definitely a motorcyclist, and as such in the future I'd rather be doing trips that are more riding and less fucking about in cities trying to soak up the culture.

The reason I'd ideally like to have an end-point is that it seems to frame the whole trip in my mind a bit better and give the whole motorcycling aspect of it a bit more meaning. For instance, Lord of the Rings is about a bunch of guys going to a volcano, but the bit at the volcano isn't the important part, the important part is all the unexpected stuff that happens along the way. If it was about a bunch of guys drifting about with no real aim it'd be a bunch less interesting.

That said, to be honest I've only recently (as in, recent enough that the RR's not even close to it) hit my stride with travelling. I've come to realise that hitting every tourist city for a few days and seeing all the sites isn't actually all that much fun - I've been plagued by this attitude that I've got to go slow and soak up the culture of the country. But it's crap - what I really want to do is be constantly on the move, going to places that I find interesting and if I'm bored pulling as many long riding days as I need to to get to somewhere better. I think next time I go on a trip like this (god willing) I'll be more inclined to pick a start point, an end point, no schedule and no real plan for what's supposed to happen in between - when I find interesting places on the way I'll stop there, otherwise I'll keep riding in the general direction of where I'm supposed to be going. As I type this (from Greece) I have to be back in England in a month, and far from being pressured to get back, I feel happy to have a goal and to know that I have to be covering ground rapidly in order to get there.

In terms of being alone vs travelling with a girl... well, if I could find a girl who I could put up with being with 24/7 then that'd be lovely, but if I've ever met such a creature I'm not aware. To be honest when I'm riding I really enjoy the solitude and the independence - if I want to go to some random city on a whim there's no one to tell me it's a stupid idea. Staying in hostels as I have, being alone also really gives you a push to meet people, and I've met a really lot of amazing and interesting people on this trip as a result. The flip side is that for every amazing/interesting person I've met, there's been like 10 boring ones that I didn't get along with - when you find yourself at a hostel dominated by people like that, then you start feeling lonely. Ideally I'd quite like to be travelling with a bigger group (like 4+) people - that means that wherever you go you've got a decent amount of company, and there's enough people that no one's getting in anyone else's grill to too great of an extent.
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:31 PM   #43
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Coming out of the Cold

By the time I was done buying stickers at Nordkapp it was already 2pm. The next place I wanted to be was Rovaniemi – on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Finland. Getting from the Arctic Circle in Norway to Nordkapp had taken me 3 days. I punched it into my phone, and George reckoned 11 hours to get there. Next time I looked, it was 24. Restarted and back to 11 again. I decided to believe the more optimistic estimate and started riding. Embarking on a 11 hour ride at 2pm anywhere else would be completely retarded, but I had a number of things on my side:
  • My supply of daylight was infinite
  • One of those hours was actually a pretend hour stolen from my life by time-zone-black-magic
  • Most importantly, George gives me no credit for my Rossi-like riding skills and tends to underestimate how quickly I can get down empty roads. And roads up here are pretty empty, given that there’s not a whole lot of people around.


HURRRRYYYYYY


The road back from Nordkapp was just as lovely as it’d been on the way up, except that every moose or reindeer in Norway seemed to have come out of the woodwork to see me off. I’d never even seen a moose until I got this far north – Joseph had even driven me around in Sweden just so that I could see one but to no avail. Now, however, they were around every single blind corner, and this continued all the way to Rovaniemi. My only consolation was that I had my GoPro on and I was going to get some sweet reindeer shots… except that I later found that a raindrop had landed exactly on the lens and stayed there the entire time I’d been recording, ruining every single photo. Sigh. Please accept this artist’s impression instead.



Screw you, I'm a moose!


I’d always considered reindeer to be some kind of exotic, nearly mythical animal known for pulling Santa’s sleigh about and little else. On the road to Finland I got to know them as the road pest they are though – what the kangaroo is to Australian drivers, the reindeer is to the Finns. To be honest that’s not even a fair comparison, seeing how a kangaroo moves around a ridiculous amount and as a result is quite visible – through some miracle of either evolution or intelligent design (read: god messing with me) reindeer are impossible to see until you’re right next to them, even if they’re standing on open ground. You’ll be riding along happily and then suddenly there’ll be a reindeer standing right in the road, 5 metres away looking straight at you. You can practically hear it saying “Sup bro!” as you panic-lock your rear wheel. I’m completely confused as to why people hunt these things – how hard can it be to kill something that willingly runs in front of moving vehicles? I came out of a tunnel in Norway only to find the exit blocked by a whole gang of loitering moose – I half expected them to be spraying graffiti or something.



I considered drawing some moose on this one too but I guess the joke is wearing thin


Around the Finnish border I lost my magic hour and the road stopped curving left and right and started curving up and down instead – miles and miles of dead straight road consisting of millions of elevation changes. I amused myself by trying to get some air off them but wasn’t successful. Mainly I was just happy to be gaining ground so quickly. Around about 9pm I was only 80km from Rovaniemi, but needed some petrol and figured I’d better get some food too. After some pasta and frankfurters I came back to my bike and had a look at the rear tire.



The Pirelli Scorpion Trail's soft nougat centre


Ahhhh shit. I’d realised my rear was looking a bit bald but I hadn’t seen a motorcycle shop since I rode past Tromso, Norway… over 1000km ago. I realised that the safest thing to do here would be to find some other way into town and come back with a tow truck for the bike later. Obviously what I actually did was put my helmet back on and limped the last 80km into town, every second expecting the rear to blow out and send me sliding across the wet road. Fortunately the closest place that had a tire turned out to be Rovaniemi, so the next day I limped out again, found the only motorcycle dealership for 100km and got a new tire. Unfortunately all they had in Os’ size was a stinking sport-touring tire, making my pretend-adventure-tourer even more of a pretender. :(.



As soon as I went inside the dealership the heavens opened... just check out all the water landing on that mower.


Once I’d figured out my tire issues I had the rest of the day to explore Rovaniemi. I had a quick look at the museum there, which is supposed to be one of the best in Finland. Says a lot about Finland’s museums I guess… I was far from impressed. Rovaniemi’s claim to fame, however, has nothing to do with museums and everything to do with Santa Claus. I’m not sure how exactly it came to be, but somehow Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Claus during the off-season. I thought he was supposed to live on the North Pole rather than the very edge of where the arctic circle used to be, but maybe I’m just a purist. The result is that on the main road there’s a Santa’s workshop where you can get your picture taken with the man himself, surrounded by a metropolis of dodgy Christmas-themed souvenir shops.



Damnit, I just couldn't resist


I just couldn’t abide being in Lapland and not going to meet Santa Claus. He’s actually a very talkative fellow – I almost felt bad for the elves trying to get him to shut up so they could take a photo and usher me out of there. Upon me saying I was from Sydney, he said “ah yes, near Turramurra?”… which is two suburbs over from where I actually live. I was pretty impressed. Rovaniemi also has the world’s most northerly McDonalds – fans of will be happy to know that this one too is surrounded by dodgy teenagers getting into fights on a Saturday night, just like every McDonalds in Australia.



One side cold, one side hot



I’d had just about enough of freezing my arse off in literally arctic conditions though – it was time to head south. Because my retarded plan hadn’t taken me to Stockholm when I was in Sweden, I stayed on the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothina, had an uneventful stop in Umea and found myself in Stockholm the next day. It was a nice little town that I probably should’ve stayed in for a bit longer. It was the first one on my trip to have a specific “Old Town” with narrow streets and cobblestones and so on – a pattern that would become very very familiar as I made my way down through Eastern Europe. The best thing I saw in Stockholm was easily the changing of the guard. Unlike boring old Buckingham Palace, the guards at Sweden’s palace wear shiny spike helmets and they have a full marching band mounted on horses that whirls around playing music. It’s pretty cool.



THAT HORSE HAS DRUMS


Although I do love Sweden, it quickly came time to move on. I planned to take the 7:30am ferry across to Helsinki and enjoy a day of watching the islands go by and writing my blog. Cleverly, after failing to obey my alarm and taking way too long for breakfast, I turned up to the port at 7:25am, to find the gate firmly closed and the ferry pulling away. Damnit. Forced with the choice between a more expensive overnight ferry ticket or an equally expensive extra night in Stockholm, I chose the overnight ferry. Never been on one before, might be fun. The ferries between Stockholm and Helsinki have massive reputations as party boats – sailing between the two countries allows for duty free alcohol to be sold on board, so it’s bought, consumed in the rooms and then there’s a big party later. Or so I’m told – I barely saw another person my age on board, it mostly looked like families and pensioners. After going to the bar and seeing a lot of middle aged people dancing to Boney M (not that Boney M isn’t awesome) I decided to take advantage of the fact that no one else was in my room and enjoy a rare night in private quarters.



Goodbye Sweden!


Rolling off the ferry in the morning, I met up with Ahmed, a guy from couchsurfing who’d kindly offered to host me – I didn’t even send him a request, he just saw that I was looking in Helsinki and said I could come along. The fact that he didn’t have any information on his profile at the time made me a bit suspicious, but he turned out to not only not be a serial killer, but also one of the most interesting people I met while travelling. Ahmed was from Iraq, of all places, and had come to Finland because he’d worked as an interpreter for the coalition forces there, and when the insurgency found out he and his family were threatened. As a fluent English speaker with an IT background he tried to make it to the UK to apply for asylum, and figured the easiest place to enter the EU would be in Finland, miles away from the Middle East or Africa. While changing planes in Finland, he lost his passport during the flight, thwarting his plans to get through the border unnoticed – his only choices were to apply for asylum in Finland or go back home.



I have a *massive cannon* between my legs, if you know what I mean


Ahmed was a really good host – he took me around some of the sights and some of the bars at night, as well as for a walk around the area where he lives. Helsinki wasn’t what I expected at all – it’s the capital of Finland, but it’s *quiet*. Oddly the city it reminded me most of was Canberra, the capital of Australia and regarded by most Australians as one of the most boring cities on the planet. Which isn’t to say that Helsinki (or indeed Canberra) is boring, they just both have this empty feeling – you can walk for an hour and only see a few people. The night-life in Helsinki seems very similar, with small, not particularly special places gaining massive amounts of significance just because there’s not that many people or that many places to go.



This part of Helsinki looks *exactly the same* as a suburb of Canberra called Kingston. Freaks me out


That said, Helsinki’s saving grace is that it is basically a factory for beautiful people. Have you ever watched a video clip for a song that shows some street scene where every pedestrian just walking by is impossibly attractive, and you’re thinking “well that’s just silly, no street anywhere looks like that”. That is what Helsinki is like. Going out on a Saturday night there poses a danger of spinal injury as your neck twists left and right – it’s not even a voluntary, you can’t help yourself.



Unfortunately I don't have any pictures related to this, so have a picture of some water instead. Sorry lads!


The journey down from Nordkapp had been a blast, but it was time to kiss goodbye to the brutal prices of the Nordic nations and say hello to Eastern Europe and being able to afford something other than sandwiches. Next stop Estonia!
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Old 09-24-2012, 04:17 PM   #44
Kurro
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Ride safe, Im waiting for you in South Spain.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:54 PM   #45
Blader54
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Thanks for the thoughtful, well-written reply. It's interesting to me to get a feeling for an author's "sense" of the ride. Thanks again -- hope your'e having a blast wherever you are....and keep the rubber side down!
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