6 November 2007

Gälivare, Lappland (now with photos)

Holy cow... finding internet in northern Sweden is more difficult that a needle in a haystack! Well, especially now that the hay is covered with snow.

Lots of things happened between Ostersund and Gälivare, where I am now (2097km).

Ostersund Posten:
By coincidence, I meet a journalist from the local newspaper. They accompany me while I buy new spike tyres. I am expecting to hit snow soon. The tyres I have been using until now are excellent, but without metal spikes (studs?) the roads up here are simply impossible to ride. The next day there is an article about me in the newspaper and lots of people say "hi" or wave as they drive by... nice.

I visit the Hilleberg company in Frösön, close to Ostersund. Hilleberg produces extremely lightweight and durable tents. I am using a Hilleberg tent myself for quite some time now (see my equipment overview) so I thought visiting their company would be nice.
Hilleberg will help me with spare parts and repairs during my trip around the world.

Close to Ostersund in a town called Järpen is the production of a company called Lundhags. Lundhags is very well known for their high quality boots - all shoes are produced in Sweden by highly skilled labour.
Apart from footwear, Lundhags produces very high quality outdoor garments. A focus is on eco-friendliness of the used materials. Lundhags uses for example bamboo fiber in their shirts. Bamboo needs almost no pesticides to grow.
For water resistant garments, Lundhags uses materials that are easier bio-degradable than other synthetic membranes like GoreTex or Sympatex.
After a visit of the production hall, we agree that I will be testing Lundhags materials during my trip around the world.
With a complete new set of clothes I leave Järpen.

As I thought, the first snow hits me right after Ostersund. The road becomes icy and I am relieved to have put on new tyres. The metal spikes allow riding on very slippery roads - sometimes when I stop to drink tea, I almost slip on the road with my feet. But my bicycle stands as if it was a horse with four hoves and catches the fall.

The snow makes the landscape change drastically - how beautiful! The moose must hear my little screams of excitement :)
With the snow the temperature drops as well. Now it is almost always minus 5. But my new clothes are fantastic! I now have jacket and pants made of some down-imitation (primaloft) that keep me so warm in the evenings that it already happened that I fell asleep without my sleepingbag.
(You will soon be able to see all Lundhags garment that I am using in my equipment overview.)

Monkey business:
One evening I am so tired that I decide to sleep in a small bus stop on the roadside. During the night a lot of snow falls and as the bus stop doesn't have a door, in the morning my sleepingbag (and everything else too) is covered with 5cm of snow.
What a cold morning. My fingers freeze because everything is wet and damp.
Just 3km down the road from where i slept, I find traces in the snow that follow the road... hmmm, it's not a moose, it isn't a rabbit either... well, it is actually as big as my own palm and it looks like a human hand too. Just with very sharp claws. I get the shivers... because I know one thing for sure: it wasn't a human and there are no monkeys in Sweden!!!
Later a hunter on the roadside confirms what I already suspect: "It's a bear."

Riding in the dark:
Whooooo!!!! Riding on ice, at minus 5 and in the dark - that is three wishes at once... believe you me: I don't need "The Shining", "Pet cemetery" or "Scary Movie 15" to get my full load of adrenaline!
Sometimes I race with more than 30km/h over the hard icy surface (no worries - no cars for kilometers). How much fun is this?!

Riding on ice and snow is very special though. One false move and you fall. You have to go straight - with a fully loaded bicycle that is EXTREMELY straight. No sudden turns or tricks.
And if you see a steep hill and you think: "How the hell am I going to get up there?" then you see the whole problem from the completely wrong angle! The question has to be: "How the f..(beep).. am I ever going to get down again on the other side?"

Polar circle:
After 1985km I cross the Polar Circle just before the town of Jokkmokk. On the roadside I find a "Lavu", a typical tent-like-structure that the local nomadic population is using - great. But the aeriation isn't great at all. after making a fire in the evening, I now don't smell like a pig anymore after 7 days without a shower... no, now I smell like a smoked ham.

I am now in Gälivare where I will take a day of rest to wash my clothes (and myself). From here to Tromso it is only 5 or 6 days!!!

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