Trip to Åland with borrowed bike, wild camping kit and no plan.
Forgot to pack coffee.
On Wednesday, I started contemplating on a bikepacking trip for the weekend. Borrowed a bike from a friend on Thursday. Friday was spent packing and fitting my bags on the bike. Saturday morning I’m speeding on the motorway heading west from Helsinki. Bike and kit in the back of the car.
I have no idea where to go though. Just need some time on my own. Some time outdoors.
Friend of mine lives on the west coast of Finland. I decide to give him a call. We discuss a trip around the islands of Turku archipelago. Ferry schedules sound like a mess and too complicated to comprehend while driving. Idea of getting off the mainland sounds inviting though.
Almost like going abroad. This pandemic has kept me from traveling for too long already.
Åland is a group of Finnish islands halfway across the sea between Finland and Sweden. With population of less than 30 000 it sounds quiet enough for my attempt to stay isolated. The main island is a sizeable one after all. And no hassle with smaller ferries scooting around the archipelago – there’s a direct ship to Åland from Turku and one happens to be departing later today.
I know I shouldn’t be buying boat tickets while driving.
Ship arrives to Åland after midnight. It’s a small harbor of Långnäshamn on the eastern edge of the island. Only myself, another cyclist, and one car exit the boat. The rest seem to be bound to Sweden.
It gets completely dark as soon as I exit the harbor area. I try to remember which pannier is the one containing my headtorch. Not much luck. It’s warm and quiet. Crickets everywhere. Feels abroad already.
Main part of my plan is to have no plan. Now I just need to find a place to sleep. Any quiet spot with size of a tent will do. Seaside preferred. I zoom around the Google Maps satellite view on small mobile phone screen trying to find an inhabited area. Head up north, hour of cycling, quiet cliff overlooking the sea.
I set up my camp in darkness.
Around 4 AM I wake up to the sound of someone screaming right outside my tent. First I think it’s a dream and close my eyes again. Screaming continues. It’s really close.
I climb out of the tent forgetting my pants inside. Find myself staring at a deer, close range. We both look equally surprised. Myself, somewhat embarrassed with the lack of pants. Screaming stops. I go back to sleep.
The next morning I realise I forgot to pack coffee. Grumpy. Town of Maarianhamina is at least two hours away.
I meet other cyclists on the road between Långnäshamn and Maarianhamina. They go faster than me. Doesn’t help on grumpiness. I blame it on the wide tires of my borrowed bike to make myself feel better.
It’s hot. +34C according to weather forecast. I can carry four litres of water on the bike and cycle through roughly two sets a day. Some of it for cooking, most for drinking. Rarely need to pee. Sweat a lot.
Lucky I brought sunscreen.
After visiting Maarianhamina, the biggest town around, I start cycling north. The further I go, the quieter it gets. I decide I’ll spend the next night on the northern shore. Lots of vacant seashore according to my map.
Not sure how and why it’s headwind again. I thought it was headwind while I was cycling westward this morning. Now it’s the same thing going north. Mysteries of cycle travel.
I find an isolated peninsula on the northern edge of the island with no one around. Leave my tent door open for ventilation and watch the sea before falling asleep.
Only hear the waves, birds, and wind. I sleep like a baby.
It’s now been close to 1,5 years since the beginning of the pandemic, and this short weekender to Åland in June 2021 was my first chance to spend some quality time completely alone surrounded by nature. It made me realize how much I really need it.