Thoughts before starting
It is now late at night and only a few hours of sleep before it’s time to go. The bikes are ready and we have packed so many times before so we can do it blindfolded by now. But still it is a big mess with stuff on the floor all over our apartment.
This makes me remember the night of March 12th 1987. It was a Thursday night and I was nervously packing my bags in order to one day later (Friday 13th…) fly to Thailand to spend a year as an exchange student. I got very few hours of sleep that night and I remember my mind was focusing on everything but packing those bags. I enjoyed my year in Banglen and all the people I got to know and I guess I never really left Thailand which I now reckon to be one of my two home countries.
Over the years Wej and I have done so many flights to Bangkok that we have completely lost count. I can’t say that going to Thailand for vacation makes me excited anymore, but tomorrow I am going again and this time it is different.
These last 2-3 days resemble very much the days preceding my departure in 1987. We have been working hard to prepare everything, but our minds have been elsewhere. It’s true that I am leaving for Bangkok tomorrow, but this time it won’t take 10-11 hours to go there. This time it is not reaching the destination and spend some time there that is the goal. This time it is the journey itself that is the goal and that makes me just as excited as I was back in 1987.
Day 1 (Göteborg – Säro)
We had an extremely busy day today. My dream was that the day before the departure day would be a lazy day and then the departure day itself would be a harmonious experience with a nice and orderly take off. Unfortunately it was all but like in my dreams. We had struggled to move out our belongings from the apartment, clean it, pack our stuff and do many other things. Yesterday we went to bed far too late and I still woke up at 5.30 this morning and immediately started to do things.
Our plan was to leave between noon and 1 pm, but we ended up leaving at 3.30. Things were rushed and our mood was far from what we would have wanted to. We made a brief stop at Fjällsport which we believe is Göteborg’s best place to shop outdoor gear and our main supplier. Then we continued to make a social call at Veloform which is a small but rather different kind of cycle shop where you never leave before having had a cup of coffee and an interesting chat with the owner and the other customers visiting. Unfortunately we had to rush that good bye meeting and start pedaling south.
The goal of today was Särö where our friends Elin and Peter live. Elin rode her own bike through the snow and ice out to meet us but since we were delayed she got cold and started to return before we finally caught up with her. She waited for us some 25 minutes from home. When at her house we were offered a nice dinner followed by a few beers in the sauna. Could any journey start better than that….?
When riding out from the street where we live we didn’t feel that we left for Bangkok. We felt that we left for Särö to see our friends. I have cycled parts of today’s distance many times before and it was difficult to convince myself that we were actually on our way out in the big world and not only heading for the southern suburbs of Göteborg. We discussed our feelings and we both agreed that we probably won’t feel that we are on the way to on a big adventure until we leave Sweden.
Statistics for cycling day 1
Distance: 29.5 km
Traveling time 2.30 hours
Cycling time 1.51 hours
Average speed 15.9 km/h
Top speed 32.5 km/h
Altitude gain 179 m
Altitude lost 235 m
Day 2 (Särö – Väröbacka)
We had a nice long breakfast with Elin and Peter’s family and started to cycle around 2 pm. Elin joined us all the way to Wej’s friends who live north of Varberg. We believe it is better to make a careful start of this trip so today we only biked around 45 km and at a rather slow pace
The weather was far from nice. Snow, rain or a mix of them all the day and to spice it up a bit some headwind was added too. We have certainly biked in better weather but I guess this is not the worst we will experience before spring arrives somewhere after we exit Poland.
Thank you Elin and Peter for the nice wild boar dinner followed by sauna and beer. We needed that after the hectic start of the trip.
Statistics cycling day 2
Distance: 43.9 km
Traveling time 2.51 hours
Cycling time 4.04 hours
Average speed 15.4 km/h
Top speed 33.7 km/h
Altitude gaine 187 m
Altitude lost 219 m
Day 3 (Väröbacka – Halmstad)
Yesterday we had a lovely Thai dinner with Wej’s former collegue P’Yu. Pla Nin Yang, chili paste, panaeng and a lot more. Wonderful – we will have to cycle 16.000 km before we can have that again so thank you P’Yu and Micke for hosting us and providing such a delicious dinner.
We left P’Yu and her family at 9.00 sharp. It was foggy, light rain and wind from the side. Soon we were out on the big road which is long and rather straight. The fog made it feel like we were cycling in a glass of milk. Fortunately the road had wide shoulders so it never felt scary when the trucks overtook us.
W knew from the start that this day would be our first day with a more normal distance, i.e. +90 km. The local radio station back in Göteborg also had expressed interest in making an telephone interview with us in the afternoon. All this made us speed up a bit, and another reason was that there was nothing to see along the road due to that compact fog. We were later informed that the interview was postponed to another day.
We had lunch at a local kebab/pizzeria in Falkenberg and we had a very interesting and inspiring conversation with the owners. I will tell more about this experience when there is more time.
Close to Getinge I suddenly noticed that I had almost no braking power left. My brake pads were completely worn out and it had come fast, which isn’t all strange due to the conditions we ride in. The road was flat, the shoulder wide and very little traffic so we decided to ride on to the next gas station a couple of kilometers away.
Changing brake pads normally takes a few minutes. 3 of the 4 took went just fine but the 4th got stuck and damaged. Instead of just throwing it away and take a new one I tried and tried to make it fit. When my fingers were completely numb I threw in the towel and took a new one which immediately fit. I think I wasted 40 minutes getting both cold fingers and feet to save the value of less than a take away pizza. Sometimes things has to be seen in the right perspective.
Entering Halmstad was simple. Our GPS brought us almost right on spot. We had used the www.warmshowers.org network for long distance cyclist to contact a local cycle traveler who were happy to host us for the night. We quickly discovered that our host Erik Olofsson had been to the same places in Tajikistan as we so we had plenty of topics for discussions. Thank you Erik for being so kind to host two wet cyclists AND their bikes IN your apartment.
Now when dry again we look forward for an even longer distance tomorrow.
Number of people who gave us thumbs up from their cars: 2
Number of autographs signed: 1 for each of us
Number of batteries consumed for our electrically heated inner soles: 2 batteries, two times each = 8
Statistics cycling day 3
Distance: 92.6 km
Traveling time 9.19 hours
Cycling time 5.34 hours
Average speed 16.7 km/h
Top speed 39.5 km/h
Altitude gained 361 m
Altitude lost 356 m
Day 4 (Halmstad – Älmhult)
Today was our fourth day on the road and the coldest this far. It was -2 when we got out from our wonderful host Erik’s apartment. Our chains were dry from yesterday’s rain and we started the day by giving them a good treat of lubricant.
We soon got tailwind and it was a smooth ride until 3 km before the first village (Veinge). I discovered that my front derailleur struck the big chainring. This problem occured the first time last Thursday which was 3 days prior to departure when I had absolutely no time to deal with it and handed the bike over to Marcus at our local bike shop (Sportson). He had no replacement derailleur of the right size available in the shop and did his best to fix the problem by simply bending the derailleur back a little. It worked well until today.
The simple solution to this problem was to disconnect the chain, move the derailleur away, re-connect the chain and then only use the middle chainring. Since there was new and fresh oil on the chain it was a rather dirty and super cold job. Why couldn’t this have happened in the morning when the chain was still dry?
It got colder and colder the longer into the day we got and when we left Veinge village we turned on our electrically heated inner soles. It is incorrect to say that it kept our feet warm, they were still cold, but at a level that we could tolerate. The only problem is that a set of batteries last only for some 1.5-2 hours and we used three sets each yesterday. Our biggest budget post so far is batteries. We might get ourselves a charger and a few sets of re-chargeble batteries.
When we rode out of Halmstad we rode to the southeast, but in Veinge where I fixed my derailleur we finally turned east towards Bangkok….. At the same moment the tailwind we had enjoyed so far turned to a biting ice cold side wind.
I have commuted with car on this road so many times so I know all the bends and hills, but when driving the bends seem to be closer to each other and the hills are far less steep than when cycling. I knew it would be an uphill struggle, but I didn’t know it was this much uphill.
After a while we were cold and hungry and I knew that there was a little gas station in Knäred. I had never stopped there before but now we found out that this was not an ordinary gas station. It was indeed a gas station but it was also a bakery, handicraft centre, garage and importer of exclusive Ethiopian coffee. We had some sandwiches, hotdogs and lovely coffee while talking to the owner for almost an hour. I have passed that place hundreds of times but only when we cycled past it did we really discover this little pearl. This is one of the reasons for traveling slowly by bicycle.
Salt is spread on bigger roads to get rid of ice. This makes the road slightly wet and dirt mixed with oil, sand and all other sorts of things on the road makes up a black messy liquid that sprays from the back wheel right into the face of the person who rides behind. We were both dotted with stains on our jackets and in our faces. We will attach some extensions to our mudguards to reduce this problem.
Later in the day we left the big main road and went onto a local road through the forest. No salt was spread on this road and it was dry, icy and very slippery. Our speed was significantly reduced and we had to concentrate not to fall.
After riding on that road for an hour it was time to become famous. A colleague of Wej had informed the local radio station in Göteborg about our cycling trip and they wanted to make an telephone interview. We had to find a spot with decent GSM signal, wait for them to call and talk 3-4 minutes before we could go on.
The goal of today’s ride was Älmhult where I used to work for IKEA. We will stay here for a couple of days to meet friends and former collegues, fix things with our equipment and get some rest.
This was all for this time. Now we won’t cycle anything until Sunday 24/2. A nasty cold spell seems to be coming our way and who knows, we might need to spend some extra time here.
Statistics cycling day 4
Distance: 98.1 km
Traveling time 8.47 hours
Cycling time 6.11 hours
Average speed 15.9 km/h
Top speed 39.4 km/h
Altitude gained 603 m
Altitude lost 470 m
Resting days in Älmhult
We arrived to Älmhult one day earlier than we had expected which made us stay here for a total of 4 days. The rushed situation prior to our departure stressed us somewhat and these four days have been good for us. We have dealt with issues we had no time to deal with before departure and now we feel we are prepared to go for real.
I have visited my former office to say hello to former colleagues. It was nice to see them all again and they all look excited, but that was probably more due to the fact the it was a late Friday afternoon rather than me dropping by 😉 🙂
I have also met friends from Elmhult Sport Club. We went out to have a carbohydrate dinner and a few beers. They also gave us insulated drink bottles with a picture of our cycling team printed on it. It will keep our drinks warm now or cold later in the deserts. We will be proud to carry that towards Bangkok.
We have also looked after our bikes. Apart from the normal cleaning of the drive train I have changed to a new front derailleur. Not a new one to be correct, but to a second hand one that used to be on an old bike that my friend Peter has but never uses. We tried to fit it on the bike standing outside in the freezing afternoon. It didn’t really fit so today I rode the 10 km to see Master Jürgen who can fix anything on a bike.
Now my bike can use the two big chainrings and since it is still a long way to go until we run in to big hills I still have lot of time to find a derailleur that will allow me to change between all three chainrings. Thanks a lot Peter for the derailleur and thanks a lot Jürgen for attaching it and adjusting it for me.
I have also paid a visit to the brand new IKEA store here in Älmhult. I didn’t buy any furniture, but I bought three plastic canisters to store food in. We won’t keep any food in them though – we will have tool and spare parts in one, cables and chargers in the other and we haven’t figured out what to keep in the third one yet.
I also bought batteries – lots of them. Both rechargable and ordinary batteries. We now hope we will have enough power to keep our feet warm for many days to come.
When I am writing these lines Wej is busy packing. We have had a couple of wonderful days here in Älmhult when we have got things done and seen lots of friends.
We have lived with our long time friends Amporn and Henrik and their children Ninah and Jonah during our time here in Älmhult. We are so happy and grateful for being able to stay in their house and a nice time together. Jonah deserves a little extra thank you, since he gave up his room for us during our stay.
Day 5 (Älmhult – Bräkne Hoby)
After four rest days seeing friends in Älmhult it was time to ride on. I have previously worked in Älmhult for five years and been active in the cycling section of Elmhults Sport Club. I guess I have been training on the roads around Älmhult hundreds of times and when going with the ESC team we always start cycling from the K-house, which doesn’t mean “club house” but the “kommunhuset” which is the building where the local government has its offices. Since all proper ESC cycle rides from Älmhult start from the K-house, I thought that this one too has to start from there. We are now 100 km from Älmhult and I just want to say to my team mates:
You are only one day behind. If you try really hard you may still be able to catch up… 😉
We expected headwind and surely got some but the road was really flat and we could move on at a rather high speed. After a while our feet got terribly cold and since it was a Sunday it took ages until we found something that was open, which happened to be once again a pizzeria, this time in Urshult.
After a while we came to an intersection with a this road sign. It is probably the last sign for Göteborg that we will see on this trip. We surely don’t want to go to Göteborg, but the sign didn’t make it quite clear if we should turn left or right when heading for Bangkok.
Our friend Ulrika in Bräkne-Hoby had invited us to stay the night at her house. When there was still 15 km to go it started to snow, heavily too. The road got all white and it was hard to see anything in front of us. When arriving in Bräkne-Hoby Ulrika and her children Tanya and Nicolai offered us hot tea and a lovely and spicy soup dinner. We sat up late in the evening and had lots of very interesting discussions while Ulrika baked bread for us to bring along today.
One thing I really appreciate with slow travel is that there is no need to hurry to something else and instead focus of who or what is in front of you. So Ulrika, Tanya and Nicolai – thanks a lot for a nice evening and a nice dinner.
Statistics cycling day 5
Distance: 99.2 km
Traveling time 5.25 hours
Cycling time 7.35 hours
Average speed 18.3 km/h
Top speed 39.8 km/h
Altitude gained 378 m
Altitude lost 502 m
Day 6 (Bräkne Hoby – Karlskrona)
I have been coughing for a a few days now and it worries me a bit because I don’t want it to get any worse than it already is. Yesterday’s ride was long and when I woke up this morning I felt weak and I coughed even more so we were happy that we only had a short ride today.
Our host Ulrika left early and we had breakfast with her children, then we went back to bed to sleep some more before leaving. I don’t feel sick but I am quite sure it is a good idea to not push the cycling too hard and risk getting sick for real. We have plenty of time and there is absolutely no need to rush anything so we cycled really slow today.
Today we chose the boring short road rather than the longer and more beautiful one. This meant riding beside the highway with lots of noisy traffic. It also meant going on cycling paths were the snow had not been swept away yet. We had headwind most of the time but it was not as cold as yesterday. The only problem today was the seemingly endless little hills. Once we got up on one, we could see the slope down and the uphill section to the next hill. It was like some sort of roller coaster.
Statistics cycling day 6
Distance: 42.3 km
Traveling time 3.57 hours
Cycling time 2.48 hours
Average speed 15.1 km/h
Top speed 33.6 km/h
Altitude gained 319 m
Altitude lost 539 m
Day 7 (moving within Karlskrona)
I have worked in Karlskrona so we have many friends here. Today we moved from one friend´s house to another. We discussed whether this should count as a cycling day or not. Since we realizied we actually moved a little closer to Bangkok we decided to count it in.
Statistics cycling day 7
Distance: 3.6 km
Traveling time 0.18 hours
Cycling time 0.15 hours
Average speed 15.0 km/h
Top speed 27.1 km/h
Altitude gained 11 m
Altitude lost 25 m
Day 8 (part 1, downtown Karlskrona – ferry terminal)
My coughing and the nice company of Paula, Sten-Olov, Björn and Johan made us decide to postpone our departure from Sweden. So once again a big big big thank you to all of you for letting us stay at your house and enjoy your company.
When I woke up this morning I found out that my dry coughing was a lot better so I guess it was a good decision to stay an extra day. Paula’s son Johan spent hours to teach me a lot of the basics about how to set up blogs. He will see what he can do to improve this blog to both look better and get the functions we want to have. So I didn’t only recover from my coughing, I also learnt a lot.
Yesterday Sten-Olov offered, or perphaps I should say, insisted on driving us the 10 km to the ferry terminal. I must say it was really tempting and although it is not a matter of principles for us to ride with an unbroken wheel track all the way to Bangkok, we decided to decline the offer. It was only 10 km to the terminal, the check in time was 8.00 and it took us 37 minutes to ride there in a wonderful morning sunshine. So it was another good decision, but we really appreciated Stens kind offer.
On the way to the ferry terminal we met a cyclist who yelled “good luck” to us and a car that sounded its horns and made thumbs up. We guess this was thanks to our newly acquired fame from the article in yesterdays newspaper 🙂
When boarding the ferry the guy in the crew on car deck who took care of our bikes said something about “wrong month to go on cycle holiday”. We replied “isn’t this the ferry to Bangkok”, and he laughed and said “sure, in my dreams….”
There are very few passengers on the ferry today. Not all restaurants are open and those that are open only keep a small section open. I guess it looks completely different during the high season period. It has however been a calm journey over the Baltic sea with no waves, a good breakfast and wifi onboard.
We have used the internet connection to select and memorize the best road from Gdynia ferry terminal to our next hosts and now we look forward to night ride through Gdynia.
Statistics cycling day 8 – part 1 exit Sweden
Distance: 11.6 km
Traveling time 0.42 hours
Cycling time 0.39 hours
Average speed 18.0 km/h
Top speed 32.0 km/h
Altitude gained 39 m
Altitude lost 47 m