No place for a Clumsy Man!
I left Skelleftea quite late, nearly noon since I was having coffee with Frida and family. Riding out of Skelleftea was quite easy since its just a small town. Once I hit the empty road outside of the town, there were not so many cars so I decided to put on my music and find my rhythm. The first 25 kilometers was quite heavy since I was riding towards the inland on the west, it was an easy climb but the wind was blowing from the west, slowing me down. After some 25km, I turned right towards the north heading towards Pitea. Once I turned right and ride north, the wind no longer bothered me. I was going faster and the road seems going up and down. The snow was quite thick which of course slowing me down, but I feel good cruising through the snow with my studded tyres, hearing the sound of it sliding through the snow.
It seems that the more north you go in Sweden, the less populated it becomes, less cars passed by and less houses. I was surrounded only by forest, nothing else. I find it impossible to keep dry, no matter what I do, I will always sweat here. I felt really warm and sweating especially on big climbs, even wearing only the base layer! Whenever I stopped to take a rest, I really felt cold… very cold! The temperature is always somewhere between -10 to -20 celcius even in the bright sunshine. I didn’t get very far the first day of cycling out of Skelleftea, I have to camp as early as 5pm, as I need to pitch my tent in the forest before the darkness comes in. I stopped somewhere 20km before Fallfors to camp for the night. The snow was really really thick and I had to really struggle to push my bike through the forest. I had to take my bags one by one, the heavier I carry… the deeper I will sink in the deep snow. I was tired and it took me an hour to dig the snow with my shovel before I can pitch my tent. I also need to cut some tree branches in order to make my tent to stand, the tent pegs are totally useless, the snow was too powdery.
I became clumsy since I was too tired, I simply let the snow to get into my shoes and didn’t care about it. I even took off my gloves and just threw it in the snow. All I think was to get my tent up, cook my dinner and quickly go to sleep. The only thing in my mind was to get inside my sleeping bag. And there u go, when I was waiting for my dinner to be ready, my feet felt reeaaaally painful, my shoes became frozen and hard as a stone and my gloves feel like it is made from ice! Once I had my quick dinner, when I took off my shoes, I discovered that my stockings were filled with ice! I just didn’t care anymore, my fingers were so painful, I just use my blade to take off the ice away. I then slowly enjoy my hot tea from inside my tent, half my body is inside my sleeping bag. The first 20 minutes, my sleeping bag feels like in a freezer, but after a while it got warmed by my body warmth and I finally fell asleep.
The next morning, as usual, the hardest part of the day, to get out from the sleeping bag and cooking breakfast took forever. My feet were really painful and I had to jog around my tent while waiting for my breakfast to be ready so that I will feel warm. I just couldn’t stand still, I realized my thermometer was reading at -27 celcius. I even felt hard to bend the fingers of my feet, my shoes were really frozen, it was really like a rock! And everytime I checked, the snow inside my cooking pot was still in a snow form… in this condition, it really feels like forever for the snow to boil. As soon as the water boiled, I quickly take my breakfast, pack everything and get out to the road. The nightmare ended everytime when I start pedalling. There were like 2 voices inside my head. While I was struggling, one voice keeps telling me, what the hell am I doing to myself? Why I choose to struggle like this? Why choose this, I can always go to a warmer place and enjoy the beach! Then another voice replied, “Take it easy dude. You’re exactly where u have to be and youre doing exactly what u have to do.” And once I’m out of the struggle… on my bike cycling and feeling warm, I started to laugh at it whenever I think about the struggle part. I felt satisfied, that I experienced it and still breathing.
There are sooo many things that I learned in this journey. I should really stop complaining to myself. I still remember that I used to complain how cold it is when I was in northern Scotland to my friends, where at the same time I was actually enjoying my ice cream from inside my tent hehe. How can I complain that it is cold in Scotland where the temperature was only somewhere between 5 to 10 celcius. And now, I really experience the meaning of cold… and freezing… here at -27c. And being on the road… alone… I always feel vulnerable… always in danger. It made me realized that I’m just a very weak… vulnerable… human. There are just soo many possibilities. Im riding slowly on my bicycle alone, I could easily get hit by fast vehicles, get robbed and many other danger, doesn’t matter if Im camping in the wild, or on the road, or even in the city. And being constantly open to danger, it teaches me to be humble. I realized that Im just human, made out of the most vulnerable material called flesh, easily to get cut or torn, I can get tired after only a few hours of struggling, get weaker only after a few hours without food and water. I cant even survive in the cold by myself without my thick clothes… I would freeze to death maybe only after a few minutes without it. We don’t need to feel so proud to ourselves whenever we achieve something, because we don’t do it alone. There are always someone who are actually helping us to achieve it, whether we realize it or not. Even if I can make it through this journey, I don’t do it alone. People are helping me everywhere. We are actually doing it together, we are actually working as a team, its just that we don’t realize that we are all teammates, everything… everything is connected to each other.
And the feeling of fear… fear is a good thing. I don’t believe it when people say they overcome their fear. To me that is just nonsense. If you don’t have fear.. there is something wrong with you. Its just that how we use the feeling of fear to make things better. With the presence of fear… it alerts us.. and forces us to carefully plan our strategy to overcome a problem. To me, being brave is not the complete absence of fear. The feeling of braveness comes after fear. When we fear, we plan things carefully until we feel really confident that it will work. When we are strongly feeling confident on something, that’s when the feeling of braveness comes in. There is one very… very powerful thing that I never take lightly which is called the mind power. I believe everything that our mind speaks is heard by something from the source of the universe… something that connects us all. When we keep mentioning it in our mind repeatedly, slowly we start to believe in it, our subconscious mind starts to work together and without realizing, our whole body is working on it. This thing is used since long ago where warriors often train their mind power… their subconscious mind to feel confident and strongly believe that they will win everytime before going to battle. It also quite similar to what the Muslims refer as Du’a where it includes communicating with the Creator of the universe, but with the same technique, saying it repeatedly and to me, it is a very powerful thing.
On the second day of cycling, again I had problem with my food and drinks. I finished my hot tea inside my thermos only in few minutes and all my other drinks were frozen solid. I had some chocolate with me, also the same problem… everything was frozen. I tried to eat it but I felt like I was biting a stone. So I kept cycling in hunger, I should have bring some bread instead. There were nothing in between along the way, only some empty houses. I kept pressing until I was near Pitea, a small town to get some food and drinks. While taking a quick rest some 5km before Pitea, I was stopped by a curious local journalist, Emma who interviewed me for a local newspaper in Pitea. It didn’t take too long since we were both freezing, so we quickly exchanged contacts. After I bought some food and drinks in the small town near Pitea, I camped in the forest again. But I felt good that now im near the town, so I don’t need to cook breakfast the next morning, I can just pack and go right after I wake up since I can have breakfast in the town instead. It was much easier without the need to prepare breakfast. I just need to struggle to get out of my sleeping bag and the rest was easy. I got up early and went for a heavy breakfast in a fast food restaurant in Pitea before riding another 60km to Lulea.
The 60km ride to Lulea from Pitea is quite unpleasant. From Pitea, I found a smaller road towards Lulea where it is perfect to ride a bicycle. But after half way through, the road leads back towards the motorway and I couldn’t find any other smaller road that leads to Lulea. I had no other choice but to get into the motorway. And there you go, I felt like Im riding a bicycle in a F1 circuit. Sometimes cars were honking at me, fast monsters passed by me all the time. The road was busy, unpleasant ride and it was scary! I rode along the motorway for some 15 km before I finally found a smaller road again that leads towards Lulea. Lulea seems like a big town and the road is quite complicated, especially to find the bicycle road. It is a nice small town surrounded by lakes… frozen lakes. The sky is so blue, theres no clouds at all which means it is very cold! It is constantly below -15c here. I really need the motivation now, im already struggling in the cold but Im heading more and more north day by day, which means Im heading to a much colder place!