6/7/17. Again we were left to our own devices for breakfast in the hotel. The fridge was well stocked with cheese, cold meats, yoghurts, hard boiled eggs, etc. and the coffee machine just needed the button to be pressed so it was not a problem – just a little unusual!
With the inner man & woman satisfied, it was time to hit the road again. Unfortunately the fairly quiet one that we had been following the previous day had joined with a busier one but was no wider. The traffic fairly raced along and a significant proportion of drivers seemed to be reluctant to move out to pass. It reminded us of many roads in New Zealand – which is not a flattering comparison!
We endured this “excitement” for upwards of 10 km until we noticed a gravel road running parallel. The Garmin showed that, while it was less straight than the main road, it went in the same direction and was clearly the old superseded route. We took it and it was a great relief – even for Christine and her dislike of loose surfaces since her accident near Belgrade.
After another 10 km we reached a junction on the edge of suburban Joensuu – a city with a population of 74,000 according to Wikipedia (although this may include outlying villages in the metropolitan area). Here we joined a “proper” cycle path (shared with pedestrians but there were few of those until we reached the centre) and it was bliss.
The campsite was only about a km from the centre and was amazing value at €12 a night, including decent loos & showers and a substantial kitchen/dining area. There was also a morning sauna which Stephen would have used if we had stayed a second night (we were tempted but feel the need to press on towards Helsinki). Walking into the centre once we had made camp, it felt strange to be in such a large city after all the tiny “one horse” towns we have passed through since leaving the UK.
It was a cloudless sky when we woke and so we were slapping on the sunscreen before we left. This had the obvious effect and the clouds started to roll in. Soon we were getting the raincoats out as we headed southwest into the wind.
On the plus side our route was along cycle paths for almost 30 km but these ended as we left the town of Liperi and we were back on a narrow road which was surprisingly busy and fast. With the occasional rain showers, it did not make for pleasant cycling.
However, as we got past lunch and further out into the “wilds” again (the countryside has been much more inhabited and pastoral for the past 2½ days) the traffic thinned and was less intimidating. An initial look at the map showed that we were heading into an area that looked to be as much water as land so we were anticipating a picturesque and relatively flat ride. A closer inspection, however, showed that the road we were on went across the only large land mass in the area so we had only limited sights of water and encountered more than the expected number of climbs. It felt very much as though we were back in the countryside that we had become a little fed up with and which the South Africans had been complaining about so vociferously.
It was also sparsely populated and lacking in campsites so after 80 km and 500 metres of climbing we found a spot for wild camping. Although we had not been bothered by insects for much of the day as soon as we started putting up the tent clouds of mosquitoes and midges descended. We scurried into the tent and forewent a hot meal in favour of bread and cheese munched in the insect free zone of the inner tent. We also restricted our liquid intake to avoid trips into the bushes in the middle of the night!
Thursday morning saw us up and on the road before breakfast in order to avoid our flying tormentors. A 12 km ride took us down to the lake shore to a ferry which was really a floating bridge – the gap was a couple of hundred metres and it operated “on demand”. We rode straight on and it set off with us as the only passengers. We had got about 5 feet when the operator noticed a car coming down the hill so we went into reverse to allow it to join us.
Once across the other side we sat down to eat and were munching away when a lady waiting for the ferry called us over to her car to offer us a pastry each from a large basket full on the back seat. We were more than happy to accept!
Leaving the little ferry crossing we were back on an undulating road passing through lots of trees with little view of the water. It was however the reverse of the previous afternoon as, overall, it was downhill but the road gradually became busier as we neared “civilisation” again.
We could see that we were coming to a major road, the “14”, but thankfully just before we reached it a cycle path appeared which took us into the city of Savonlinna. The campsite here was not as conveniently located as the one in Joensuu, being on top of a hill a few km the other side of town, but we took the opportunity to stop in town for coffee/chocolate, an ATM and to stock up on supplies.