Since leaving Sweden in the snow I’ve had one dry day in Finland!
I’ve also lost three hours light in the evenings in just two weeks; how? Crossing the border I lost one hour due to the time zone change, one week later the clocks went back another hour. This far north we lose five to six minutes light per day, every day. It takes some getting used to when one day it’s dark just before 7pm and less than a fortnight later it’s dark just after 4pm!
The worst day came at the beginning of last week when it snowed heavily all night. When camping, you need to monitor the amount of snow building up on top of your tent and remove it periodically throughout the night. This is to prevent waking up in claustrophobic panic, while you frantically tear your tent to pieces trying to throw the weighted plastic off your face! That’s just a long winded way of saying, you just don’t sleep in a tent while it’s snowing!
The snow abated at around 6am when I mistakenly thought I’d grab an hour’s shut eye before striking camp, how wrong I was. It began raining instead, which then continued for sixdays straight!
Running in the rain is miserable. It’s too warm to run in full waterproofs, you become almost as wet from sweat as you would if you weren’t wearing waterproofs! There’s also no way to dry your clothes, which means you can become dangerously cold when outside for days on end.
This means striking a fine balance between pulling waterproof layers on and off as the rain intensity varies from deluge to misty drizzle, the dreaded ‘mizzle’, and constantly changing your effort to stop soaking your clothes through with sweat when the layers are on.
It leaves you looking somewhat bedraggled and with the best of wills you probably look sorry for yourself after back to back days of ‘half sleeping’ through the noise of rain on your tent, being awake as the alarm goes off and it’s still raining, knowing you have to leave the warmth of your sleeping bag and then stand in the rain packing your kit and tent away, here’s where determination and willpower are truly tested!
Proof of it making you appear less than your best came on the fourth day of almost no sleep and constant rain, where upon asking an elderly gentleman for directions to the post office where I was collecting a parcel of kit, he looked me up and down, then proceeded to find his wallet and empty out every last coin to give to me! He was quite upset when I refused his cash!
I suppose it just doesn’t cross people’s minds that someone would voluntarily be pushing their life around in a cart and camping in the rain and snow… they just see a homeless guy!
Still come rain or shine, the only real thing to do is keep running on. Finland will be complete within the next couple of days and that’s another milestone to be proud of.
It’s not all bad though, the roads are far safer than Sweden, with adequate hard shoulders clearly marked off on the busy roads, and you know as you approach a town that you’re almost certain to be greeted with a few kilometres of cycle path leading in and then out of town.
The reindeer have eluded me, and the Finnish elk seem just as shy of runners as their Swedish cousins!
So Western Europe and now Scandinavia crossed, next week I will be entering Eastern Europe and I should hit the border with the Middle East, the Black Sea and Istanbul around Christmas time…yes, Turkey for Christmas!