On Sunday 8th August our first bicycle tour began from Nuorgam. It is the northernmost point of Finland and of the European Union.
It has been a great start and despite some tough climbing and unpredictable weather, has whet our appetite for more.
Day 1 – Nuorgam to Utsjoki
Nuorgam, the starting point for our ride since COVID stopped us from entering Norway, is a village on the Finnish border with Norway. It is a village with only one shop and about 200 people call it their home. It is the northernmost point of Finland and of the European Union and therefore a good substitute for Nordkapp.
We didn’t want to go crazy on the first day of riding, so decided that getting to Utsjoki would be enough of a warmup. The route took us 45.9 kilometres along the River Teno that runs between Finland and Norway.
It has been a beautiful sunny day, and the riding felt good. It was less hilly than we expected. Maybe because the road follows the river.
I’d told Justin we can drink water from the streams in the north and we found a perfect spot to refill our bottles straight from natures’s tap. He agreed that water from the source tastes so much better than tap water or any bottled water.
When we reached Utsjoki, we both felt we could have gone further. However, we thought it best to stick to the plan and stop at Utsjoki. My mum and dad took the caravan there ahead of us – they are our maintenance grew for the first week – then my dad rode to meet us.
We are both buzzing after the day and ready to cover some more ground on day two.
Day 2 – Utsjoki to Kaamanen
If day one was a warmup, then day two threw us straight into the deep end. Google maps says the road from Utsjoki to Kaamanen is mainly flat. We say that’s total BS. There was so much climbing. Not necessarily steep climbs, but constant gradual uphill.
Every time we saw a climb ahead of us, we thought now we’re getting a nice downhill, but no. Each time, it might flatten out a bit and then go up again.
The gradual uphill (struggle 🤦♀️😂) started just after 25 kilometers and did not stop for the rest of the 93 kilometre ride. Combine that with a strong headwind and we were in for a hard slog. It was days like these I was dreading before we began the ride, but despite the physical challenge, it still felt great. Or maybe it was because of the challenge and being able to get through it that left us exhilarated.
One highlight of the day was the great spot we found to have lunch and fill our water bottles. It was on the bank of a stream and as a bonus the area was full of blueberries. We had some wholemeal pasta with tuna and followed it with freshly picked blueberries. The perfect combo.
We learnt a lesson about water today. We carry five bottles of water with us and today, with the warm weather and all the climbing we would have ran out had we not found the stream to fill them.
When we are cycling through sparsely populated areas, we need to make sure we have plenty of water. We also need buy a water purifier once we find a shop that sells them.
Here in Lapland it’s fine to drink water from the streams, but further south and in other countries we can’t do that. That’s where the water purifier comes in handy. And of course, in populated areas, we can always stop at a shop or a service station and fill our bottles there.
Day 3 – Kaamanen to Ivalo
Today was a bliss compared to yesterday. We still faced several uphill cycles, but there were also downhills. When we looked at the stats from the ride, there was more descent than ascent.
Initially, day three was going to be an easy 45 kilometre ride, but it felt too short. It’s like we are now in the zone and want to keep going. We are going to have a rest day when we reach Ruka on the seventh day.
Today’s ride was cloudier, and we also had some rain about halfway through the route. But it didn’t dampen our spirits as we enjoyed the downhills so much. When day two felt like gradual uphill most of the way, today felt like mostly down hill. Even though the stats said it was pretty even on the descends and ascends. Strange what a few good downhills can do to you.
We saw more stunning scenery again today, but the highlight was a reindeer at the parking lot of a small food shop in Inari. It just stood there when everyone, including us, gawped at it and took pictures.
We saw some other cyclists today who were going the other way. They were on a cycling challenge – one of these ultimate challenge things – and had started from Italy. Apparently, one of the cyclists doing the approximately 4000 km challenge had finished it in ten days! That is absolutely mental. And a feast we have no wish to replicate.
At the end of today’s ride, we stayed at a campsite so could have a sauna. After three days of riding, the old muscles were getting a bit sore, so a sauna with a dip into the cold river water was exactly what was needed.
Day 4 Ivalo to Kiveliön Kala Camping Site
Today’s ride was a pain in the bum. And I mean that in the literal, not metaphorical sense. Both of us had very tender backsides, but we expected it to happen at some point. In fact, I expected it sooner than day four.
Luckily, we both found that the pain eased after a while. For me, it was about the halfway point of our 92 kilometre ride.
But it was not just about the butt today. It was also about tackling the biggest climb of the ride so far. A few kilometres before a resort called Saariselkä is a section of road known as The Magnet (Magneettimäki in Finnish).
It’s known as the Magnet because drivers say there is a magnet at the bottom that keeps pulling you down. I don’t know about a magnet, but it certainly felt never ending. At least we were rewarded with a great downhill on the other side.
The sore bums, the Magnet plus several other smaller climbs and a strong headwind made today’s ride the hardest so far. But despite all that, it was still strangely enjoyable. Especially the moment we reached the top of the Magnet.
At the end of the day, we could once again relax in the sauna. We stayed at the same campsite as we did on the way up and slept in the tipi again. I’d love to say that it was romantic watching the fire together, but I’d be telling a lie. Justin was asleep and snoring within seconds of putting his head down, leaving me to watch the fire alone. Not that my eyes stayed open much longer either!
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