snow white 18
Kiruna - Kautokeino - Alta - Tromso
28. January 2018 to 13. February 2018 - a wintertour
I started in Kiruna with my city bike and a lot of luggage for a three week bike tour from Kiruna, Kautokeino, Alta to Tromso.
The first day I travelled only 20km out of Kiruna to begin the ride near the safety of the city and for getting used to riding in winter conditions. I was a bit nervous and apprehensive whether it is going to work and if I will be able to manage the challenge.
The goal was to witness the Nordic lights at my birthday (5.2.18) and experience a real winter experience in solitude in the north of Europe.
The magic lights did show up the evening prior to my birthday just outside of Kautokeino in a most impressive fashion. There was plenty of snow, 35C below freezing and no civilisation around for miles in all directions.
The lights looked like walking trees and dancing curtains, just like heaven was enjoying to show me a little of its glory – just on time for my birthday wish. I was almost blown away by the dimensions of the amazing display.
It was the highlight of the journey.
The ride was almost 900km in 16 days on the move. The daily distance for getting to Tromso on time was 55km. Not so far for biking (in warm seasons it is about three times that distance) but during the short window of daylight enough to manage. I planned to start early in the morning for setting up camp in daylight after 3pm. But getting going in the morning was a challenge and I got on the road not much before nine am. So I rode later into the evening and the lack of light was not a problem for finding a spot for camping. Moon, stars and snow were helping to navigate in the wintery conditions.
During the day I wore three pairs of socks, four pants and five tops. For the night I kept everything on, except adding two more tops . Inside the sleeping bag I used a VBL (vapour barrier liner) to preserve the body heat and stopping the body moisture to make the insulation wet of the sleeping bag.
I gathered a few frost problems on hands and face but after 4 weeks later I have no more visible scars.
My feet are still a bit numb (asleep), but are getting better day by day.
Looking at the temperatures: the body starts to work like a heater within one day of outdoor of activity. It wants to be fed a snack every hour like a bit of chocolate or snack bar to work the body heating system. At -15C I felt like riding in spring and rode sometimes without gloves, at -20C I seemed like "now we have winter", at -25C it was like fresh winter, at -30C more like seriours winter, at -35C "please look out for all your body parts and make sure all is in operating condition and not getting cold".
If any body part signaled uncomfortable feelings I stopped my present activity and changed either clothing or got of the bike/out of the sleeping bag and walked until I was warm again. Even in the middle of cooking a meal I had to take those signals serious and walk to warm up before finishing the cooking.
The preparation of such a trip is very important and the person must understand that nature gives you no other option but to respected the conditions (35C minus). Everything freezes if not kept in your pockets next to the skin, a challenge for riding, eating, camping, cooking, taking care of all your body parts. I kept batteries and oil for the bike chain in the pockets of my pants.
For refilling the thermosflask with drinking water I had to stop, get the camping stove out of the luggage, stick some snow into the pot and start melting snow. That excercice was hard work seeing the luggage was very stiff, my hands clumsy and sore. So it took quite a bit of mental conviction.
I felt never totally alone, even in the most remote places far away from warm houses and comfortable beds.
I loved this trip from beginning to the end and I could finish it at the pace I was expecting. Everyday living was very hard but full of lovely experiences meeting local people, strangers and getting to petrol stations or village shops at the right time for warm food, power socket for charging camera and phone, a toilet to sit down and one hour of the comfort to sit down on a chair inside a building.
The trucks were never a problem. The drivers left me plenty of room in passing, although a lot of snow dust like a sand storm followed behind each vehicle. I felt even more safe riding in the dark because the head lights of all the vehicles approaching and the sound of their engines gave me plenty of warning. My luggage had reflectors and I added the high vis reflector for school children from the daughter of my neighbour. Good lights were fitted and used at all times. For protection and better vision I wore ski goggles.
The landscape was absolutely amazing with the white blanket of powdery snow. Travelling in solitude has given me memories to an extend words fail to express. Scandinavia is a wonderful place to explore.
A glorious experience overall.
I shall choose some pictures and add them to this short report.
Thank you for your interest.
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