Tour report: South from Lapland

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So I am back home! Here’s a short report of the solo tour I made from Rovaniemi, Lapland to Jyväskylä, Central Finland. In short it was a success: 9 days of mostly glorious weather, good views, nice roads and very few mishaps.

The Route

I had planned two possible routes beforehand: 1) Rovaniemi to Jyväskylä (about 650km) and 2) Rovaniemi to my hometown Turku (about 1000km). But as the only actual restriction regarding the route was the train ticket on my way north, I had room for improvisation for the riding.

And some improvisation did indeed happen. In the end I did ride to Jyväskylä, but with a longer route of about 800km. This took me 9 days including one rest day, and the route looks like this:

Created with RideWithGPS. Image links to route details.

Before the start I was pretty focused on the cycling, wanting to just do the miles and spend hours in the saddle. The plan was simply to head out riding and aim for places I’ve never been in, taking things as they come. So no real sightseeing planned as such, just roads and campsites marked on the GPS before I left, but I counted on my luck that interesting things would pop up and that the riding itself would be a memorable experience.

Day 1: Rovaniemi – Ranua (93km)

After a reasonably well-slept night on the train from Turku I woke up in Rovaniemi at eight in the morning. I did not spend a long time in the city, just got a quick coffee and a sandwich in the railway station cafe.

After breakfast it was time to point the nose of my Vaya southwards and start riding down from the Arctic Circle. The route to Ranua is just a straight road with very little traffic during the day. This was a nice start as it allowed me to fall into the riding routine pretty easily. Only the occasional reindeers surprised me from time to time.

I reached Ranua at about 5pm, went shopping for groceries in the town centre and rode to the small lakeside campsite I had chosen for my first night – only to find out that it was closed. I had to ride to the local wildlife zoo that has a caravan site and pitched camp there. Not the greatest campsite but good enough. As I got my tent up it started raining heavily, and kept raining through the night. That turned out to be the only bit of bad weather during the whole trip.

Day 2: Ranua – Pudasjärvi (91km)

The second leg towards Pudasjärvi was on the same road as the day before, with pretty much the same scenery. Low hills, lots of forests and some nice marshlands. Very few villages and I saw more reindeers than people. I crossed from the Lapland district to Northern Ostrobothnia during the day and arrived in Livojoki camping grounds in Pudasjärvi at about 6pm. I rented a small log cabin for the night and booked an hour in the campsite sauna – bliss.

Originally I had planned a route straight southwards to Puolanka as the next leg but that would have meant a third day on the same road with the same sights, so I decided to change my plans for the next day and head for the city of Oulu instead. This meant a southwestern detour to the coast of the Baltic sea.

Day 3: Pudasjärvi – Oulu (106km)

This leg was the biggest and busiest road of the whole tour. Some coffee stops and a lunch at a nice rest area, the rest was just about the riding. Open views and sunshine. I arrived in Oulu at about 6pm and pitched my tent in a campsite on an island next to the city, with nice views of the Baltic.

Day 4: Rest in Oulu

This was my only rest day, spent relaxing in a hotel’s sauna and pool. I did some shopping and sightseeing in the city.

Day 5: Oulu – Manamansalo (154km)

This was a long day. Most of it was spent on a small road following a riverside, excellent for cycling. I made the most of it, enjoying the quiet northern roads and views. I crossed from Northern Ostrobothnia to Kainuu during the day. My target, Manamansalo, is an island on a large lake. It has a very nice campground where I arrived at about 9pm.

Day 6: Manamansalo – Iisalmi (120km)

The theme of the day was hills, gravel and a scorching sun. I navigated via the shortest route, which included a long stretch on a gravel road that crossed dense forests. Amazing, but I was glad when it was over and I had no flats or other problems, and that I had packed enough water for the day. I crossed from Kainuu to Northern Savo during the day, arriving at a campsite in Iisalmi at about 5pm.

Day 7: Iisalmi – Keitele (85km)

This was a nice lake district leg with plenty of hills and sunshine all the day. Great views, quiet roads and the riding felt fine just like on other days. I rented a room and sauna for the night from a sort of a motel in Lossisaari, Keitele.

Day 8: Keitele – Kuusaankoski (113km)

The last longer leg of the tour, crossing from Northern Savo to Central Finland. Lake views, hills, plenty of sunshine and mostly solitary roads. I had not chosen a public campsite for the night as I wanted to camp out at least one night of the tour, and in the end I did not even need to pitch my tent as I found a nice lean-to at Kuusaankoski just next to gorgeous rapids.

Day 9: Kuusaankoski – Jyväskylä (51km)

The final day. The morning opened with a beautiful misty sunrise on the river. I took my time admiring the views and making my last breakfast. The distance to Jyväskylä was only about 30km but I wanted to stop by the prehistoric rock paintings in Saraakallio which meant a short detour to the last leg. In the end I had some trouble finding most of the paintings but the views were nice anyway.

I arrived in Jyväskylä at about 1pm in good spirits, got tickets for a train later in the evening and headed to the local public swimming pool for a shower and a sauna. After that I had some time to kill in the city before taking the bike and myself on the train bound home to Turku.

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