More Great People Along My Way!
After a few days staying in Umea, I finally make my way north, heading towards the very north of Sweden. My first destination is Skelleftea, then to Lulea. I feel really excited, I’m getting more and more north day by day. Everyday Im getting closer to the Arctic Circle. But it gets colder too day by day. Winter is at the end and spring is coming to most parts of the world. The snow in Kyrgyzstan is melting away and its getting warmer there everyday. But not here, here in the north of Scandinavia, its still in the middle of deep winter. Winter is very long up here! The temperature here is still far below zero and it can be anything between 0 celcius to -30 celcius!
Before leaving, I spent some time having tea with Ova, the Indonesian student here with another friend of her, also from Indonesia. I then left Umea late in the afternoon and knew that I won’t make it so far that day, since I usually need to find a camping spot somewhere around 4.30pm before it gets really dark. And I never cycle like 4 hours straight because that’s tedious, I usually take 5-10 minutes break for every hour of cycling. It was quite a bad start, I got lost for around half an hour, roaming around Umea to find my way out. There were 2 roads, the highway which is easy to find but not suitable for a bicycle. The hard part is to find the small narrow road for the bicycle. I then was stopped by many curious locals, who keep asking me the same questions, which country I came from and why I choose to bike here during winter. Most of them seems not satisfied with my answer and pity me. Hehe… surely most people don’t understand. I didn’t get so far the first day, only some 40km from Umea. I took the small road through the forest and it was really quiet. Maybe only 1 car passes by for every 10 minutes.
One big problem is that I keep sweating while riding, no matter what I do. Its nice that I keep my body warm and feeling really comfortable while riding. The problem came when I stopped cycling. It only took around 3 minutes before I felt cold, really cold! The sweat will never get dry! I simply couldnt stand still, need to keep moving. So I kept working, cut some tree branches to hold my tent, dig the snow to make a trench for my camp, had to keep moving and do something until I get inside my sleeping bag. Once I get inside my sleeping bag, it took some 20 minutes before it gets warm. And once my toes and fingers didn’t hurt anymore after a few minutes, I fell asleep instantly. I slept really well since I was tired and woke up only around 7 am the next morning. As usual, I discovered that my tent turned into ice and the snow was all over outside my tent. It took me a lot of motivation just to get outside my sleeping bag to the cold. My pants, shoes, balaclava, gloves, all became frozen like a cardboard. It took a lot of effort and it feels like forever doing anything while it is really cold! Even to tie my shoelace, took me some 5 minutes because it got frozen bad and my fingers move slower too when freezing. I just think simple, one at a time, cook breakfast, pack and go! I will get warm again when I start cycling!
It took me more than 2 hours from the moment I wake up to the time when I hit the road with my bike. Everything is really slow, even to cook breakfast. My fingers and toes usually will hurt from the moment I woke up until I had my hot breakfast. After I had my breakfast, usually pasta with meatballs or muesli and hot tea, my body became warm again and I felt much better. The one that I hate to do most is to pack my bulky sleeping bag. Its so huge and uses a lot of energy to compress it inside the bag and my fingers really reaaally hurt when compressing this frozen sleeping bag. Taking my bike and my heavy luggage from my campsite to the road is another tedious thing to do. Walking in the deep snow requires much more energy. Sometimes its as deep as my knee and by the time I reached the road and packed all my stuff on my bike, Im already feeling quite tired but always looking forward to start cycling, simply because I will get warm again.
Once im on the road and found my rhythm, everything feels good. I just enjoy cruising slowly through the Swedish forest and let the cold wind to blow the snow to my face and felt fresh. After a few hours of cycling, I reached a small village called Robertsfors. I found a small pizza shop and decided to take my lunch there. While having my lunch, a guy came to me and started asking me about my trip. He asked me where do I sleep everynight. I gave a short answer… in the forest. Then he started mumbling and asked me if I want to sleep in his house tonight. At least I can wash myself and get warm for a night, and can continue my journey tomorrow. Ahaa why not… I accepted the offer. He then led me to his house nearby. His name is Michael, originally from Sri Lanka, used to work in many countries including the Middle East and Norway and now been living in Sweden for 15 years. He speaks excellent Swedish and it seems that he knows everyone in this small village. Again, people are nice to me here. He cooked for me while I took a long hot shower and let me to sleep in a proper bed. He told me about his life in the Sri Lanka and how he managed to get here in Sweden and many other stories about his whole family. We basically chat for almost the whole evening. And he was really worried about me doing this trip, and he just couldn’t stop mumbling at me, telling me that its dangerous riding bicycle in this kind of weather, theres many wolves in the forest, I might die in the forest and nobody will know about it and many many more. He was sooo negative but I’m touched because he cared about me. The next morning, he prepared breakfast for me and right before I left, he offered me so many things, wanted to give me his hiking shoes, his jacket, scarf and almost everything that he has. Hehe… I had to reject all of it saying that I can’t carry so many things on my bike! I felt kinda teary when I was about to leave, he was a good man to help a stranger and he treated me like his own son.