15/7/17. Having been unsuccessful in locating a Warmshowers host in Helsinki for the last two nights, it made sense to stay at the campsite in Kouvola and catch the train to Helsinki on Sunday morning in plenty of time for the ferry to Germany at 17.00 – or so we thought!
That was until we had the thought, on Friday evening, that it would make sense to check where the ferry port was in relation to the main station in Helsinki. It was a bit of a shock to find that it was 15-20 km away and we started to have doubts about the wisdom of staying in Kouvola on Saturday night given that trains were not very frequent and, in addition, some of them did not allow bikes on board.
To make the decision to move even easier we discovered that there was a campsite only about 5 km from the port. The only fly in the ointment was that we had already paid at the Kouvola campsite and they operate a strict “no refunds” policy. Still, an extra night’s camping fee was a small price to pay for Christine’s peace of mind – she gets extremely nervous if she is not at the station or airport or ferry or bus stop well in advance of the scheduled departure.
On Friday Stephen had taken the train into Helsinki. The bottom seams on both of his rear panniers had split during the journey through Finland and they were held together with a mixture of super glue and duct tape. He had emailed the manufacturers, Ortlieb, in Germany as the bags were less than two years old and have an excellent reputation with touring cyclists for being hardy and waterproof. They had made arrangements for an exchange to be made at their main dealer in Helsinki but would have sent replacements to any address specified, only asking for photos showing that the old ones had been destroyed. That’s impressive customer service! He is very pleased to have some smart new bags as the old ones had become quite scruffy even before the addition of the tape and glue! When the dealer pulled at the seams they split further easily – a sign that the material was not welded properly and he expressed done surprise that they had lasted as long as they had!
In an attempt to extract some value from the wasted campsite fee, Stephen had a sauna before we left on Saturday morning. Then we climbed the steep hill to the ridge overlooking the lake and campsite and made our way to the station. We had more than an hour and a half to wait as the first train was one of those which did not carry bikes. We were puzzled by this as we had checked this previously but then noticed that on Mondays to Saturdays it was a Pendolino train (no bikes) while on Sunday (which was the Shanghai we had checked) it was an Inter City train (bikes allowed)!
The next one, an hour later, was an Inter City so we waited in the main hall using the free Kouvola City Wi-Fi (excellent quality!). Christine was excited to see a train for St Petersburg arrive at the next platform just before ours pulled in. The journey into Helsinki took almost an hour and a half but was very comfortable on a smart double-decker train onto which we could roll the bikes straight from the platform. No lifting meant that we did not have to unload the bags before the train arrived and then rush around throwing 12 bags onto the train after the bikes!
As Helsinki was the final destination we also had a relaxed time unloading the bikes before setting off on the short but very pleasant ride (bike paths all the way!) through the city to the campsite in the suburb of Vuosaari.