Crossing The Arctic Circle!!!
The feeling of fear was all over my mind when I left Lulea towards the Arctic Circle. After Lulea, I rode towards the interior part of Sweden, riding through the Swedish Lapland, where the temperature is colder by a few degrees compared to the coastal areas. But at the same time it was balanced with the feelings of excitement. From Lulea, it was only some 2 days of cycling to cross into the Arctic world. On the first day of my ride, it was pleasant. For the first time, the wind was with me. The wind became my ally and pushing me forward towards the inland. I reached a small town called Boden some 35km northwest of Lulea for a quick lunch. It was a very small town and when I was there, I quickly became an attraction. People from inside the restaurant were watching me from the glass window, probably shocked to see a cyclist with heavy luggage at the really wrong time of the year, during winter! I had lunch in a small café, probably owned by some Middle Eastern guy serving pizza and kebab, and people inside the café were asking me so many things about my trip. They were all shocked to know that Im a Malaysian. They said that it makes a bit of sense if a Finnish or Norwegian man cycling here during winter but a man coming from Malaysia is totally shocking to them.
Surprising, the ride was really pleasant. Tail wind was blowing me constantly and I rode almost 80km putting me very close to Harads. I could go further but I stopped cycling early at around 4pm, since I found a very nice spot to camp. After for hundreds of kilometres riding through the thick Swedish forest, I finally get to see some hills, something different so I decided to camp and enjoy the view instead of pushing further north. As usual, I spent more than an hour setting up my tent. I dug some trench and cut some tree branches before pitching my tent. After I had my dinner, I quickly got inside my sleeping bag and as usual it took some half an hour for my sleeping bag to get warm before I finally can sleep. This time, I tried a new strategy. Every morning, I feel pain on my feet everytime I put on my shoes. My shoes often get frozen solid in the morning. So this time, I put my shoes together inside my sleeping bag so it will stay warm. I fell asleep as early 7pm. I woke up 4 times in the middle of the night, I felt really cold even from inside my sleeping bag. God knows what was the temperature like that night. But this time I think it must be really cold since even my badass sleeping bag couldn’t hold it. I woke up every few hours struggling in the cold and forced myself to keep sleeping and wait till the sun is out.
When I woke up the next morning, I was shocked to see that it was nearly 10 am in the morning. I slept for more than 12 hours and it was snowing lightly outside and still very cold. I was struggling even to unzip my tent. The zip was completely frozen! I realized that I sleep much longer than usual and can easily get tired when its very cold. My fingers were really painful without wearing my mitten even for less than 2 minutes. Every single inches of my skin cannot be exposed. I had to cover each part of my body from top to bottom. Basically it was hell. I then had a quick breakfast and cycled fast to Harads to get some food and drinks. Even I was feeling really cold, I wore only 2 layers while cycling, afraid to sweat. With this extreme cold, if I sweat, I die. Whenever I stopped cycling to take a quick rest, I will start to shiver only after a few seconds of standing still. After Harads, the road became icy and very slippery. Cycling on the snow powder is not a problem for me even though it slowed me down by a lot. But cycling on ice, I really had to be careful, my eyes were constantly on the road and I held my handlebar tight. After hours of cycling, I found a small village called Vuollerim. It was still quite early and I can get to the Arctic Circle on the same day, but I think I will cross it early tomorrow morning instead. There was a sign of camping ground there, I went inside the village to ask around if its open or if they have any cheap hostels around here. It would be nice for me to get indoor now, I couldn’t stand the cold anymore. After a few minutes of searching, I found a hotel and went in to ask. There was a nice lady telling me that there are no cheap hostels around here… only hotels. And the cheapest room they have here is 600Kr, similar to RM300!
I then told the lady that maybe I just pitch my tent nearby the hotel and get breakfast early in the morning. She pity me and she made me some delicious rice for dinner. She asked me where do I sleep most of the time and I simply said I sleep in the forest. She was shocked to know that I slept in the forest and told me that it was -31 celcius last night. I was shocked myself and now I know why I woke up 4 times in the middle of the night. I even felt cold from inside my sleeping bag and slept for over 12 hours. I was actually surviving outdoor at -31c without even realizing it. While having my dinner, I was thinking to ask her if I can get a discount price in the hotel, I was feeling desperate to sleep indoor tonight. She then told me that she will try to contact her boss to ask whether I can get a good price to stay 1 night here. I then park my bike at the hotel and get indoor. For the first time since Im in Sweden, I stayed in a hotel hehe, I really couldn’t take the cold for too long now. I then took a good long hot shower and slept really well in the warm and didn’t care whats the temperature outside. The next morning, the lady owner were really pity me and I got a very good discount, they let me pay only half the price hehe. Lucky me…
After Vuollerim, I then keep pressing north and finally, after some 30km of smooth riding, I have crossed the Arctic Circle, into the realm of Arctic! I felt really great, after days and days of riding and camping in the extreme cold, I finally made it to the Arctic Region! I almost crossed into the Arctic Circle while I was in the northern part of Westfjords in Iceland some 8 months ago, I was a few kilometres away but there were no road to cross it. It was at the end of the fjords and I had to swim to cross the Arctic Circle. Now finally in the Swedish Lapland, I crossed it successfully… with a bicycle!!! I then spent some time there taking photos and videos hehe, for memories, so that I can still remember it 20-30 years from now, where I made a history to myself, coming all the way from the Equator line crossing into the Arctic Circle!
After spending sometime in the Arctic Circle, I rode further, more north beyond the Arctic Circle. It feels great to finally ride in the world of Arctic. After an hour of cruising the icy road, I finally made it to a small town called Jokkmokk, a town of Sami People, the people of the Scandinavian Arctic. Similar to the Eskimos in Greenland and Alaska or the Siberian in Russia, these people were once living the Nomadic life. But today I witness that they have adapt the modern way of living. Yet they still become reindeer herder, especially during summer. Upon reaching Jokkmokk, I was greeted by Lena, Hugo’s mother, the local guy that I met while my stay in Umea some weeks ago. Shes a very very nice and friendly lady and invited me to the house and make myself at home.