Saturday, 15 June 2013

So the story so far, 1200 miles covered, some agonising and some unbelievable, some slow and some incredibly fast ( mainly due to epic tail winds), some wet and some blisteringly hot. It's very hard to sum up everything so far but I will do my best.
The beginning of this trip was unreal the scenery from Norway and especially the Nordkapp, it is highly recommended by all of us as a must see in your lifetime, panoramic ocean views, snow capped peaks and 24 hour daylight made the arctic circle and Norway immensely special and somewhere we all want to revisit.
The temperature has also been another big topic of conversation between all of us. After much deliberation before the trip and hours of research we decided to bring cold weather sleeping bags as the average temperature was expected to be 5 degrees from our research, inevitably we managed to travel on the hottest 2 weeks the Nordkapp had seen for years with temperatures soaring to 32 degrees, ( we could not believe it either) this made sleeping and cycling impossibly hard and really took its toll over a couple of the days.
Once out of Norway and the land of expense we were into Finland and what a beautiful country it is still experiencing 24 hour day light but now with an added extra that we had been warned about, Mosquitos ! They were everywhere we must have all been on the menu as soon as we arrived because we all ended up looking like we had chicken pox especially on the back of the legs which seemed to really appeal to their palat. We met a great guy in Finland named Juan who was a couch surfing host and let us stay with him for free for our rest day, he gave us so much information on Finland and what life was like for people who live in condition where you are experiencing such weather extremes including the northern lights, a phenomenon he really could not grasp as being breathtaking like we did.
Leaving Juan we immediately entered Sweden and the e4 this can be best described as a progressive m25 it started quietly in the north and proceeded to get busier and more dangerous the further south we went eventually with all of us at time being forced off the road by huge road trains cruising up and down the country, for most of us (excluding Kinza) we found the e4 a hard monotonous task and had we planned it again I'm sure we would have either travelled in land or through Finland. We again got lucky with couch surfing in Sweden this time, we were lucky enough to meet a great guy named Hakan ( pronounced hawkan) in very short time we managed to find him and he was good enough to house all 6 of us, he lived in Lulea a town in the north of Sweden, it was on our way mere that the troubles with my bike really began with 2 spokes breaking in two days this sadly resulted in the old girl ( my bike ) needing a whole new back wheel, and were it not for Hakan driving me in to the town in the morning we would have been set back a lot further, he was really kind and generous, we recommend him highly to anyone else couch surfing through Lulea.
Eventually after hundred and hundreds of death defying miles spent on the e4 we managed to make it to Gavle this is where finally the gods of cycling turned their attention away from me and onto another member of the group. Kinza was hit with a puncture that we struggled to fix as she was using racing tyres and unfortunately none of us had changed one before this resulted in our 3 rd bike shop visit of the trip. Fixed up in the morning with a new tyre and tube we were ready to roll, however a huge head wind and torrential downpour thwarted our progress again, it started to feel like Stockholm was trying to reject us.
At this point I should mention that we lost Ash for a day and a half, his lack of a working phone and not agreeing on a waiting point inevitably sealed his fate and we lost him not seeing him again until the next day, the 5 of us headed out at 6:20 and hammered out 80 km to meet up with him getting to Ash so early he was still in the middle of his breakfast buffet a food choice he often selects.
Once reunited with Ash we ploughed on to Stockholm against a relentless headwind which did not subside for the days entirety, but through perseverance we made it to Stockholm and our campsite for a well earned rest day. It was here that the group said goodbye to two of its members Mark is now staying with a friend in Stockholm and Kinza the RHF chairwoman got her flight home after an epic 1200 miles through Scandinavia. She is now back in the uk heading up the charity and organising all the other RHF charity events going on this summer and we are looking forward to seeing her again on the ride to Ghana.
So now we are down to 4 Michelle, Tom, Ash and I are ready to go forth together for another 3800 miles all the way to Ghana, wish us luck and good health and I will update you all with the goings on when we get to Copenhagen. Team Arctic2africa