Here is a bit of paper that must have fallen out of something when I was moving. It is one of my notes for email addresses in Estonia and Finland. In the end I ended up doing a bicycle ride around the islands of the south west coast of Finland. It was one of the best things I have ever done. I cycled alone. I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped I would meet some others. But it turned out I had picked a major holiday period. On the way I got a flat tyre. I went up and asked some potato farmers, who were loading their truck, for some assistance. This farmer took me into his house. Took the bike to his shed and fixed it. They gave me rhubarb soup with fresh wild berries. It was on of the best soups I have ever had. Though I was not such a fan of the cheese or bread. I will always remember this family and the kind generous assistance. I suspect I would never get that kind of help here in Australia where were are bred to fear and distrust strangers.
According to my notes (I still have my original map in Finnish, but it is probably too big to scan in), I travelled: Turku ➜ Näfsby ➜ Kustavi ➜ Taattiutontilla ➜ Turku. This is part of the Åland Islands and apparently is called the Archipelago Ring Road. It is approximately 160-190 kilometres of public roads and 30-50 kilometres of waterways. So you can see why it was a very easy 4 day ride.
I travelled by a ferry trip of a few hours. Normally I do not stay up late, but I had dinner with a Dutch girl the night before and stayed up late. I went to sleep on the ferry. I was supposed to get off at the second stop. The ferry only ran a few times a week. When we reached an island I woke up, decided we were in the right place (even though all the signs were in Finnish) and hopped off without even speaking to anyone. There was no time. As it turned out, it was the right stop.
On my first day, I stopped to go up to a lookout. One thing to watch out for. When I was at the start the terrain was quite marshy and the mosquitoes were fierce. When I got to the top it was sunny and there were no mosquitoes. So I stopped for a longer break enjoying the scenery. I could hear people laughing and talking in the distance. I expected the whole time that any moment they would come around the corner and up to the lookout. But they never did. They never seemed to get closer of further away. I could not hear what they were saying. It may have been because they were too far away, or maybe it was in Swedish.
Now that I have written this post, I have discovered a soft spot in my heart for Näfsby. I remember eating in this 4 or 5 star restaurant by the water. I remember it being dark, but that must have been because of the cloud. The sun was going down around midnight. All of the accommodation I had was excellent and a class above what I had been using on the tour.
My flat tyre had been caused by a hole in the tyre, so the tube was stick out. Just before my last ferry trip, I bumped into the man I had hired the bike from back in Helsinki. He was going the other way. He organised a replacement tyre to be shipped out to my next stop. It was quite a drama as the bike had an unusual size for the tyre. He did take this photo of me and post it back home to Sydney.
From a riding point of view, it was incredibly easy. The islands were small and flat. I think the longest ride was less than 30 km. Then at each end there was a ferry trip. One ferry, a particularly large one even had a Romanian folk band playing on the top deck behind the cafe.
On my last day, I met a local couple form Turku who were riding in my direction. They had ridden out the day before for an overnight stay in the country side. We had lunch. I do not remember the name of the place. But it was outside, again near the water. There were a lot of Japanese tourists in buses on that day. We rode as a group back to Turku.
Also on this trip I was trying to sort out my stolen credit card, which had been stolen in Tokyo. So I visited a post office on one of these small islands, in the late morning and sent a fax to the bank of my various Japanese receipts. I also visited a local library as they had internet access. The woman had to kick her son off the terminal to let me use it for half an hour.