I woke up very early. Up here the sun stays up for most of the night so it was blazing from high up already. I tossed and turned for a while before deciding to pack it in and break camp. I still had no plans, but this was the end of the road. The only way forward would be with a ship. I had to ride the 160 km back to Varangerbotn and make a decision there.
I hate the feeling of turning back. The final decision of going no further. You’re still on the bike but in your gut you know that it’s over. Every kilometer you ride takes you closer to home, away from the adventure. I love the feeling of motion and progress. I do train in enduro and MX tracks but for me that’s just preparation for these trips. I absolutely love being on the bike, with all my kit packed up and ready to go. But the headlight needs to point to “Far Away”. Packing up this morning I had a growing feeling that this would all end soon.
I took off at 0615 still undecided. The ride to Vadsö was uneventful and I refueled and bought breakfast. The decision was made. .
It was all over and I headed towards Finland. I wanted to take a new route and decided to ride on the banks of the mighty Teno. The great salmon river that works as the border between Norway and Finland. I rode to Skippegurra and didn’t cross the river to the main road on the Norwegian side. I instead took the smaller road to Utsjoki via Polmak.
I refueled in Utsjoki and continued to Karasjoki on the southern bank. From there I rode down to Inari on the small roads via Angeli. It was the first proper gravel I had seen for a few days and I was happy. Great to be back in Finland!
I refueled in Inari and thought about what to do. I decided to take the smaller road towards Kittilä as it gave me a chance to try to find some tracks. After all, I had no rush yet to get back home. With a bit of luck I would find some nice stuff.
It all turned out pretty pathetic though. I took a wrong turn and had to get back on bigger roads, because I was getting low on fuel. I made it back to Kittilä and refueled. I also had a look at the weather. It seemed that the long spell of perfect weather was coming to an end. Instead a huge storm front was racing north to meet me. I decided to try to get as far south as I could and then find a place to spend the night.
I took off and rode to Ranua via Rovaniemi. I refueled in Ranua and decided to push on. I made it to Pudasjärvi, which looked like some weird camper van meet. It was one of the largest religious freak fests in Finland with 60000 participants. I got out of there fast and made it to Puolanka to refuel and have something to eat. I had been on the bike for over 17 hours with 1070 km of riding done.
The weather was getting worse and after Puolanka I got the first taste of rain. I got drenched but pushed on. The OEM headlight on the 690 is a joke. I was still keeping speed but finding a reindeer or a moose parked on the road would have been a disaster.
The weather cleared up after a while and I dried up. I was back on having a great time, buzzing through the dormant countryside. I felt surprisingly fresh and was thoroughly enjoying myself. I ended up riding the small roads all the way to Kärsämäki, where I hit the miserable “Number Four”. It’s a real pig of a road. Wide, straight and boring with plenty of speed cams. The weather was still looking OK so I pushed on and refueled at Vaskikello with 1270 km and just under twenty hours on the bike. After a while I noticed that the horizon was getting lighter. I was going to make it through the night. That’s what I thought anyway.
The rain came to greet me maybe a hundred kilometers north of Jyväskylä. I knew it would at some point, but I had no idea of the ferocity it had. The lovely light in the horizon was gone. Replaced by a menacing black front that flickered with lightning. I felt extremely small riding into and under it. The the rain fell. In buckets. I was absolutely drenched in minutes. The rain kept on and on for ten or twenty kilometers before letting me pass. Then there would be another cell, and another. Maybe four or five altogether before Jyväskylä. I was absolutely freezing and exhausted. I stopped to refuel myself at Hirvaskangas. Getting off the bike I noticed that I was feeling a bit dizzy. I drank Red Bull, coffee and soda to get some liquids and carbs in. Also a roll and a danish. I felt better and put on every single garment I had before getting back on the road.
At this point I was starting to have doubts. I had kind of gotten into the feeling that I might actually make it all the way to Helsinki in one go. It was a crazy goal, but during the dry section it felt doable. Being wet, hypothermic and exhausted, the reality was starting to sink in. I might not make it and would have to camp.
I stopped to refuel in Jyväskylä and headed for Heinola. This would be the worst part, 133 km of utter boredom. I was beyond exhausted and struggling to keep the throttle on. I kept realizing that I was going too slow, twist the throttle again and soon realize I’m slow all over. I knew that I was getting way too exhausted to continue safely so I stopped at a bus stop to do some exercise. I think anyone passing by would have been wondering why the idiot in with the 690 was doing push ups and running around a bus stop. Luckily traffic was scarce.
The rain faded and I made it to Heinola. Another 130 km to. All on motorway. I knew it would be another hour and a half, but I felt that I would make it. It was light and the rain had passed. I would make it. I pinned it and by the time I made it Lahti, with another 100 km to go, I felt a lot better. Throttle on and towards Helsinki. I had to stop to refuel with maybe 40-50 km to go.
In the end I made it to Helsinki. My spirits were high and I thought that the city had never looked so beautiful. I had to make a quick stop home to pick up the keys to my garage and then I was done. I had made it. The ride I never meant to take.
Here it is, back in the garage. My trusty KTM 690 war horse. We had done 1728 km in 25:09 hours. I had refueled nine times and drank about three liters of coffee.
I changed into dry clothes and opened up the panniers and tank bag. I set everything to dry and had a last look. I felt safe with the bike and myself in the garage. What a great ten days we had had. I took another look before turning off the lights and locking up the garage. I then hobbled home, brushed my teeth, took a shower and crashed on my bed.