“It’s Not Sodding Level!”

23/6/17. That was Christine’s thought on today which the guidebook said was ”rather level” when our experience was a road that was full of undulations for a good 50 km! She was not impressed. And to make matters worse, more than 20 km was on an unpaved road which she is very wary of since her accident in Serbia almost exactly 2 years ago. She was not a happy bunny.

Returning to Wednesday which was the day it snowed (Stephen would call it sleet but Christine insists it was snow!), we stayed in the cabin all day apart from Stephen venturing out to the supermarket 2 km down the road for food and beer. The snow (and at times sleet) was only sporadic and never settled but the day was bitterly cold.

Thursday appeared better (I.e. no white stuff was falling) so Christine agreed that we should make a move. As our destination of Kuusamo was only 25 km down the road we did not rush to leave but still made it by lunchtime. For what appeared to be quite a large place, the centre of Kuusamo appeared pretty “dead” (we were to discover that most of the shopping, including the first two international brands we have seen since arriving in Scandinavia, Lidl and Subway, is located in a large shipping centre on the ring road).

What appeared to be the only hotel in town was closed and not opening until 26 June so we were staying to reconcile ourselves to cycling 5 km back the way we had come to a campsite which we had dismissed because we wanted to be closer to the town. Then we happened upon another large hotel which was open. Christine played a blinder in negotiating the rate down – she is normally rubbish at asking for a discount, and we were in!

In the afternoon Stephen borrowed a “ shopping bike” from the hotel to cycle round the lake by the town in “honour” of the book he is reading by Tim Moore who cycled through these parts on an East German shopping bike. Christine remained inside as the weather hadn’t really warmed up!

This brings us to today with the undulating “level” road. The first 20 km were on the main road (up and down!) on which many of the drivers seemed to pass more closely than previously in Finland. We could only attribute this to the road being a little wider which encouraged them to squeeze through when a vehicle was coming the other way. As a result we were pleased to turn off it, although Christine quickly changed her mind because of the gravel surface.

By the time we returned to a paved road she was seriously unimpressed and Stephen was keeping his head firmly below the parapet! Her mood improved with the surface and a slightly flatter profile and we bowled along at a reasonable (for us) lick until reaching a campsite in a village called Hossa. We were excited to realise that this means we are on the 11th map in the guidebook out of 21 in the Norway/Finland section – so halfway in numbers of maps, and nearing the mid point in distance as we have completed almost 800 km out of an estimated 1,700. We’re feeling quite pleased with ourselves!

While sitting in the cafe at the campsite we were surprised to hear “Where are you from?” in a soft, lilting accent. It turned out that it is run by an Irishman and his (Finnish) wife. We had an interesting conversation hearing his take on the long, cold winters (he has experienced two) and reminiscing about our one holiday in Ireland when he was two years old.

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