A Tale of Survival

9/7/17. After a grim start on Friday when we survived the “14” for about 10 km we have had a lovely time passing through pastoral countryside on mainly quiet roads, combined with a rest day.

Leaving the campsite at Savonlinna we had a few km on a cycle path beside the main road but then had to take our chances with the traffic. All that can be said is that we lived to tell the tale! Christine was not far off a gibbering wreck, reduced to dismounting whenever she heard a vehicle approaching from behind (which was a frequent occurrence and made for sssssllllloooowww progress), while Stephen was reduced to gesticulating wildly (and fruitlessly) at just about every second car that passed for coming too close. It was not a pleasant experience and has confirmed our reduced opinion of southern Finnish drivers – they are definitely on a par with New Zealanders for their inability to turn the steering wheel enough to pass a cyclist at a safe distance. And yet, like the Kiwis, they are lovely people when not behind the wheel!

The plan had been to follow the 14 all the way to Juva, some 50 km from Savonlinna, but we were both unequivocal in our desire to take the first turning off that presented itself. It added more than 20 km to the trip but it increased our chances of living to see Juva many fold! That is not to say that we didn’t experience some crap driving on that road (cue more gesticulations and heart palpitations) but it was far less frequent and we had the opportunity to enjoy the country we were passing through.

Arriving in Juva in the early evening we felt a great relief and were surprisingly tired from the emotional strain of the early part of the day. With the campsite being in a beautiful location on the shore of a lake

it was not a difficult decision to take Saturday as a pill/rest day and a chance to recharge our batteries (literally and figuratively). Stephen suffered from a temporary panic when his tablet started to malfunction raising fears that he would not be able to listen to podcasts (He is downloading 4 regarding the Tour de France every day at the moment!) but he managed to sort it out (hallelujah!). This freed him up to take his statutory ”rest day” bike ride while Christine mooched into town and generally took things easy once the period of no movement post pill swallowing had passed.

Sunday’s route was from Juva to the town of Mikkeli, only 40 km away – but that was via the “14” and the “5” (which looked as though it could be even worse). However, there were minor roads that, although wiggly, went in broadly the same direction and only involved a km or so on the 5. They added about 10 km to the route and, being mainly gravel, were much slower but they had the major advantage of not being lethal. It was a lovely relaxing ride through countryside that is much more pastoral. Interestingly it is almost exclusively grass/hay that is being grown which can only be to feed animals (?) and yet we have seen very little evidence of them. Perhaps they live inside all year round. Anyway, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, particularly when we contemplated the alternative.
Just realised that the weather hasn’t been mentioned! Thursday had been really cold and the forecast that we saw said that Friday and Saturday would be the same with the possibility of some rain thrown in. So when it was chilly on Friday morning we were not surprised and donned our warm weather gear (Stephen even put on his woolly bobble hat). However, the sun soon broke through and we were stripping off like there was no tomorrow! And it has been glorious (low twenties and wall to wall sunshine) ever since. Much more like it!

Although we have left the Land of the Midnight Sun far behind we still have not seen real darkness in Finland. While we are turning in early (generally between 8 and 10 o’clock, but sometimes by 6 if we are wild camping in Mosquito City) we have woken at, say, 11.30 or 1.00 and it has been more what we would call “twilight” than “night”. It is an indication of how far north we still are even though we have cycled almost 1,500 km since leaving Kirkenes. We were surprised to learn that Helsinki is on the same latitude as the Shetlands.

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