The first rule of the bicycle traveler: dress warmly

December 26, 2015

The great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen trained himself since the childhood to get used to rough polar environment, sleeping outside and, by that, preparing himself for the career of the Great Polar Explorer. I wasn’t going to replicate his feats, though I’d always admired such persistent action.

Continuing Amundsen’s lifework, we ignored chances to overnight in hostels and camped in frail nylon tent at tough Swedish and Danish parks. Strong winds brought the smell of autumn in the mornings, while feeling slight cold gave a light flavor of barefoot childhood.

First thing to do in journey, that my experience had taught me, is to get used to be without roof over head. Chattering teeth due to the cold, seeking for camping place in north darkness, I remembered old fellow Amundsen and scolded myself for the weakness and wishing to turn up into a shelter and to boil hot cocoa and to go to bed, listening the wind howling outside.

We came to Copenhagen after a couple of days of minibuses, ferries, and trains. By the water and by the ground is easy to come to the starting point of your journey, even if you’re not pleased with planning trip carefully.

In Turku, where we waited the morning ferry to Stockholm, the campsite we had found thanks to Helmsman. That’s it, the first night on the road. The building with shower cabins and washbasins, already emptied. Took a shower and walked being still wet in SPD shoes towards the tent. Wrapped up in a sleeping bag with the music of Finnish owls’ hooting.

The smell of the humid morning, the dewed grass, the early wake-up, coffee on a market square, a harbor, the loading to ferry, Toblerone chocolate from a duty-free shop. It’s such a pleasure to sleep on white ferry cabin’s sheets. I wish I’d sent to hell all polar explorers’ rules.

In Stockholm we followed familiar route from the harbor to the city center, ate hotdogs at 7-eleven, planed a trip through OruxMaps into a suburb where we could pick up a sim-card with free internet connection – a gift from company which I’d knew.

We talked, argued, felt cold, laughed — it was strange to be with someone on the road. Much fun, felt not so lonely to ride through night empty streets. But I felt so responsible for the companion, for him experiencing my way to travel — without knowing where to stay for a night and planning for tomorrow.

Back to Stockholm from the sleepy suburb at night — only bars-n-clubs center was alive, though kebab shops still opened. Ate kebab and leaved the center, seeking for camping place. Getting colder. Found the campsite for motorhomes and auto campers, not for travellers with tents. We stayed closer to the city park, on distance from vans. We had a WC, a cold shower, and the grass for our tent – required minimum for comfort overnight. Took off our backpacks and fallen asleep under cover of cold Swedish night.

Next morning I woke up alone in the tent. Suddenly Helmsman appeared from somewhere with two paper cups of coffee. Under the eyes of surprised motorhomes dwellers we packed up and headed to a train station.

Rode there and bought tickets to Malmö. We had been seating in the warm comfortable train, watching heavy rain clouds, when decided to move further — through Øresund strait to the point of our start.

So we ended up in rapidly falling dusk to Copenhagen. Rough Danish reality greeted us with the rain, trash around, and sickness I felt. We had read in the Internet that it was formally forbidden to camp with a tent outside special campsites in Denmark, and we fairly tried to find a room at hostels. But it was Saturday night, everything overbooked, and slightly creepy on the streets for an untrained bicycle tourist.

There wasn’t free WiFi at 7-eleven. Black girl with a breast pump on her breasts sat on the ground nearby McDonalds, talking with her girlfriends — all of them wore pungent pink wigs. We saw for the first time a double decker bike parking with rusty chaos on it. All these things occurred on the background of the widest network of cycle routes I’d ever seen.

We spent that night in a humid park, quite far from a city center this time, dreaming about waking up with flashing police lights and writing online report from a Danish jail. My immune system didn’t get used to being on the road and felt myself sick and miserable.

Next morning the sun rose, we had pancakes with maple syrup and eggs with bacon for breakfast. All of these boosted my spirit. We spent the day riding slowly around tourist attractions and looking for cheap cycling nutrition. At night we leaved the city to look closer at wind turbines and find a campsite to overnight.

And again we rode through the darkness of northern evening, the wind pressed down the long grass, and on empty bike paths we met rare locals, walking with dogs before bedtime. I felt guilty since I could plan our trip more carefully and we had to ride at night instead of sleeping. The Helmsman kept silent.

We woke up accompanied by the strong north wind that blew south the black clouds, where our way lay down. The air and colors around were truly Scandinavian, like the autumn weather. We ate our breakfast, staying in the camping kitchen without chairs, only long tables with stoves and sinks around. The Danish coffee was steaming in aluminium mug. We still had a few kilos of Toblerone chocolate in our pack. Thunderclouds outside warm camp kitchen were full of cold Danish rain. Screw it! It was the time to spin the pedals.

My trip became real thanks to support of IZI.Travel company that makes cool audioguide OPAS.

This post is also available in: Russian