overlooking a flat calm lake. Two men in a small rowing boat going through the motions of fishing, although they don’t seem very interested in what they are doing. It is four o’clock and I have pulled over to find this almost deserted campsite with a very erratic WiFi connection. Tents appear to go free so all is fine. A neat little dining room with flowers at each table in one cabin, next to the reception and showers. I can hear the rain patterning on the roof as I type this. An imprisoned group of insects bang uselessly against the dusty window.
Yesterday was all about rain. The town I aimed for, eventually, numb soaked, was Tornio. I crossed the bridge and checked into the first hotel I saw. I make this a rule, if I am really drenched and cold I will pay for a room with a warm shower and a real bed. Also, somewhere I can put my soaking clothes and boots into the nearest tumble drier. The short blonde woman in reception welcomed me with a proper smile and did not bat an eyelid when I asked her if a drier was available as my feet squelched in my icy boots. She wanted to tell me about her daughter, her brightly coloured arms were tattood densely, she was from Gothenburg but you have to leave the motorbike in basement, 12 Euro. “OK OK” I thought… 200 miles in heavy cold rain. Two hours earlier I began to drift off to sleep, yes, at 110 kph in battering rain. This is really a problem on a bike, one of the hazards riding long distances day after day. I pull to the gravel verge. Lorries spray thundering past. I lean on my tankbag fall asleep for a few minutes, the rain still beating down on my back and gloves. My hands and feet were frozen, omitting to do the feet in plastic bags trick. However, this journey would not have been possible without my new waterproof over jacket and trusty old waterproof trousers.
I sat reading my Karl Ove in the laundry room in the basement next to the thump thump of the drier for two hours. The concrete floor had an open drain with a greasy grey puddle, I guess to let out water if the washing machine flooded. In. E end, I decide to leave my clothes turning for another one hour twenty minutes and go and look for something to eat. The town on the Tuesday evening pretty dead with dull uninspiring buildings. The pharmacy had two windows, each dedicated to one drug of choice, posters of a woman with her head leaning into her upright hand as he before shot, the after shot, her grinning at (her) children. The sales rep must have taken the pharmacist outta lunch across the road to the Greek restaurant with Finnish menus I could not understand. In the end I sat down in the clinical shiny enormous Turkish pizza restaurant and was served the most enormous revolting slab of cheese big enough to poison a family of four. The cheese, like orange chewing gum with the occasional slice of pepperoni and half a tin of pineapple chucked over it. Mexican.
The room, deliciously comfortable and the experience heightened by contrasting it with eleven days of sleeping on hard ground, pestered my midges. I watched an American film with subtitles and fell into a deep dreamless sleep. Enormous delicious breakfast and off to pack. The smily pretty morning receptionist said motorbike parking is free when I offered to pay the 12 EUR.
I aimed to get to Dorotea on the sat nav; not the fastest route, to take me down little country roads in peace and at a modest pace. By four o’clock I had only travelled three quarters of the plotted journey but I am in no hurry, I will have days to spare if dove home now. I stop. Yet another delightful lake and empty place, a few buildings and I whittle a stick, cleaning off the bark with my knife. I learned from the eccentric Buddhist place I stopped off on my travels in British Colombia that you can use a stick as a meditation aid. Balance the stick on the section between thumb and forefinger and close eyes gently. If you doze off, the stick falls away and you wake to catch it. I scribed along the stick “meditation stick” with my ballpoint pen and left it balanced on the pile of stones at the edge of the little bonfire area with facing wooden benches.
A few miles on, it starts to drizzle, I pull into Rannuddens Campsite and set up the tent. Industrial mosquitoes in vicious swarms bombarding me as I fumbled with the tent poles. It’s OK I mutter, it’s free… wearing my green head net.