13 November 2007

Riding until hill freezes over...

North of Gälivare Sweden is so scarcely populated that it becomes difficult to find a shop to buy food or take a rest to warm up. Mostly it is small gas stations that combine shop, post office, pharmacy, bank and liquor store in one location. There are some restaurants but they are only open during the tourist season – and now it is minus 12 celsius. It is NOT tourist season.
After 54km, that is 4 hours of riding on the icy road with wind from the front and heavy snowfall, I am very happy to arrive in the small town of Ovre Soppero in northern Lappland. I am looking forward to a hot coffee and some sweets. But bad luck - the gas station is closed over lunch and only re-opens at 1pm. Now it is only a quarter past twelve!!! Do I manage to wait 45 minutes in the cold?!
I decide to continue cycling – the next possibility for a shop will be in Karesuando. Another 56km!

The wind sometimes becomes quite strong. Then my beard freezes to the woolen face protection. Unfortunately I didn’t bring along any goggles so now a lot of snow gets into my eyes.

The fresh snow makes the road less slippery which is good. But once the snow gets too much, I loose a lot of power pedaling against it. This part of the E45 between Svappavaara and Karesuando is so small and unimportant (I think all in all less than 100 vehicles use this road during the whole day) that the snow cleaner only comes once or twice a day... hard work.

After a while I name this stretch of road „the hill of hell“. I am already riding uphill for more than 6 hours!!! The ascent is slow but steady – for more than 80km (!) – with the wind against me and the heavy snowfall this is an absolute killer for my motivation.
When it gets dark my motivation to keep going is at zero. I am cold and sweaty and it is still 30km until Karesuando at the border to Finland. Suddenly I find this cute little hut at the roadside. I don’t expect it to be open but try it nevertheless out of shear despair. And – it is open!!! Inside I find a little stove and some firewood. What a nice surprise just at the right time. I stay for the night, cook some pasta and tea and manage to get warm and dry again.

I take a break to drink some tea and eat a couple of bisquits. The wind is very cold so I take shelter near a house.
If you would like to know how I feel, this is how you do it: Put a pack of bread, a pack of cheese and a pack of salami into the freezer compartment of your fridge. After 3 hours open the freezer and put your hands inside for 5 minutes. Now you are ready to start making a sandwich out of the frozen ingredients. Bon appetit! Hey – no cheating... keep your fingers inside the freezer while you are chewing.

Would you like to know how it feels to fix your bicycle at minus 15? Put a metal spanner in the freezer with your food and grab it with your left hand while you eat with your right... (careful, don’t panic if it sticks to your skin. Rinse with cold water to get it off...)

My map quickly fills with snow too. But no worries... fort he next 100km there is only ONE road here.

By the way... who said that all roads lead to Rome?

No comments:

Post a Comment