Adventure Needed but Denied by Andrei Turró

Adventure Needed but Denied by Andrei Turró

A story of a long-planned and waited adventure denied and the emotional struggle from disappointment to acceptance.

As a person who works a full-time job I have always kept a kinda timetable of adventures and places I want to visit and when to visit them. I check the upcoming year how many extra public holiday days it has and how to combine them with the 6 days of winter vacation days or the 24 summer vacation days I get from my full-time job. Even tho my work week is from Monday-Friday my vacation days also count in the Saturdays of my vacation time. In Finland, where I work, a year can have from seven to eleven public holidays. Those mostly switch around the public holidays around the end of December, but Easter always has that free Friday and Monday so it’s always a guaranteed long weekend or perfect to be combined with my winter vacation days to enjoy a 11-12 day trip. Especially if it’s a late Easter it’s the perfect time to go ride bikes around the Mediterranean Sea. So I normally tend to do a longer adventure during Easter time and then another one later in the summer somewhere above the Arctic Circle. As a person who doesn’t own a car or have a driving license I tend to use public transportation or fly if I am on a strict schedule.


Me joining the Arctic by Cycle launch from a bird tower while riding on whe routes back in 2022.

Around midsummer of 2022 launched their Arctic By Cycle bikepacking route network located above the Arctic Circle, mostly in the Finnish Lapland. For the launch I was riding two gravel loops under the midnight sun in Eastern Finnish Lapland for 5 days, but there was one route that had awoken the burning desire of adventure in my mind and soul. The Arctic Post Road Mtb route, a 430 km 8-10 day singletrack heavy route starting from Kolari, Finland (the most northern train station in Finland) and passing thru Arctic National Parks and Wilderness areas to the border with Norway where it follows the centuries old Norwegian post road all the way to the shores of Arctic Sea in the town of Alta, Norway. I have always enjoyed traversing the Arctic Wilderness by bike ever since my first trip from Ivalo thru the Kaldoaivi wilderness to the small island of Vardo, Norway in the Arctic Sea back in 2016. After that my Arctic adventures have become an annual thing since 2020, under the adventure of #fjellorfall taking me to Eastern and Western Finnish Lapland wilderness areas. The Arctic Post Road MTB route felt like it ticked all my boxes.

So in autumn of 2022 I started planning on doing the route in late August of 2023, as it should be the most optimal time to do it. In the middle of the summer the Arctic is the Kingdom of Rääkkä for 4-6 weeks, a time when the air is black with mosquitos, horse-flies and black flies and the summer is normally at its warmest, so wearing fully covering clothing to protect yourself against the Rääkkä isn’t the most enjoyable thing. Of course Rääkkä tends to be worst in moist areas, like bogs or near rivers but in the treeless fells where the wind blows you might enjoy your stay. Early in the summer can be a bit tricky, as the snow is still melting in the start of June and by midsummer the rivers might still be flowing with all the melting snow and the ground will be wet and muddy. Besides these factors, going at the end of August or start of September means getting a mostly insect free trip but the midnight sun of the Arctic Summer is gone too and instead you have darker nights. With darker nights also arrive the growing changes of seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. The day temperatures are also quite pleasant for bikepacking and the nights might dip close to 0°C, but winter normally arrives in October.

January of 2023 arrived and I booked my vacation days from work. A 6 vacation day trip during Easter to go bikepacking the Montsec Bikepacking route in Catalonia, 13 vacation days around midsummer to do a 5 day backpacking trip in Käsivarsi Wilderness area in Finnish Lapland and 8 vacations days to do the Arctic Postal Road Mtn route and then saved a few to add for the next winter vacation. 

Easter came, I flew to Catalonia, rode the route, had fun and enjoyed riding my father’s homeland for the first time. No problems at all, it went perfect, Then midsummer arrived and we spend 5 days in the Wilderness mostly under the never ending sun that that doesn’t go down even for the night. A fun trip and came out with a really good tan. No problems, just good times. Spring and summer also saw some weekend adventures, so it wasn’t like I didn’t get to enjoy spending time outdoors in 2023. But at the start of 2023 I got news that made me need my adventure on the Arctic Post Road.

Even if one adventure was denied in 2023, I still spent 8 days bikepacking the Montsec area in Catalunya and hiking 5 days in the Arctic Käsivarsi Wilderness in Finnnish Lapland. 

At the start of the year my mom was diagnosed with terminal stage lung cancer. Doctors said that if the treatment worked she would have 12-24 months to live. If the treatment didn’t work she would have 5-12 months to live. She started the treatments and all was fine until May, when her body just could not handle the treatment and her condition got worse. Finland celebrates Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May and I saw my mum after the treatments in the garden at her place. The treatment had left her with baby hair and she looked so fragile. It was the moment that the reality of the situation hit me really hard, that my mum won’t probably see another Mother’s Day or even Christmas. 

For me going on adventures into the Arctic wilderness had always been about a few things. Experiencing nature as pure as possible and feeling the joy of adventure, the challenges that the terrain would bring me and maybe most importantly just being there with my thoughts and emotions. To lay on the ground and hear no sound made by mankind, only the wind blowing and watching the world go by. Forgetting even for a small moment the stress of life and the rules that people make to control other people. A place to have conversations with myself about the good and bad things and to let nature heal me. To charge up my batteries and find joy in the small things. With the situation of my mum, this trip to the Arctic Post Road had become from an adventure to a needed nature therapy session.

The route is a one-way route. Getting to Kolari from Helsinki was easy, just hop on a night train with the bike. Getting back from Alta to Kolari was trickier. No straight public transportation or taxi services, but Alta does have an airport. I thought that it would make sense to fly first to Alta, ride the route in reverse and then take a train back home from Kolari. Sounds like a solid plan, so I bought tickets. To get from Helsinki to Alta I had to first fly to Stockholm, Sweden. From there to Oslo, Norway and then to Alta. So I bought flights for the 1st of September and paid extra to bring my bike with me. Nothing I haven’t done before. The idea was to pack the bike in a cardboard box and take all my bikepacking bags and gear in a 50 liter drybag as luggage. The plan was to arrive in Alta, pack the bike and recycle the cardboard box at the airport and start riding the route, stopping in Alta to get gas for my stove and spend the first night on route. A solid plan.

Two weeks before my flights I badly bruised three ribs in my back on a cabin trip with my friends, so badly that my partner had to put socks and shoes on my feet for 4 days. I saw the doctor who just said, they will heal in time and If I don’t mind the pain too much I could leave for my adventure. I asked if the doctor would go if he would have been in my situation and he said yes, so I was convinced that a little physical pain will not stop this trip, it would just add to the amount of fun type 2 of the trip.

Just moments before checking my bike in Helsinki and not knowing it will stay in Helsinki.

September 1st arrived. Everything was test packed and packed up. The GPS route was downloaded to my phone and GPS unit. Adventure was in the air. I arrived at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in good time before the flight early in the morning. I checked in my luggage and bike box, went through security and as always I went to the only bar in Finland that can sell you a beer before 9 am, the Oak Barrel inside the terminal. A bit of superstitious preflight tradition of mine. Boarding started and I got inside the plane on my seat. I sat there for 45 minutes, because the planes engine had some mechanical problems. I had 45 minutes in Stockholm before my flight to Oslo would depart, so I had missed my first connection flight to Oslo even before I had left Helsinki.

Arrived to Stockholm missing my connecting flight to Oslo, but got a new one one hour later. Arrived to Oslo 2 hours before my flight to Alta would depart. As I sat at the gate looking at the loading of the plane I saw my bright yellow drybag that contained all my gear. It had to mean by bike was also made it thru the connecting flights. I boarded the last plane, the plane that once landed would mark the start of my adventure. The adventure that challenge me physically and help me go thru all my feelings that involved the the death of mom in the near future. 

The plane landed to the pretty small airport in Alta. I walked to the luggage area and waited and waited. After waiting 30 minutes my drybag arrived, one done one to come. I waited 25 minutes more and the luggage line stopped. No bike, okay maybe it is in the backroom where I saw another passenger pick up their bike. I knocked on the door and asked for my bike. The employee said that there was no bike. Shit I thought to myself, now it happened, the airline lost my bike. I walked to the Lost luggage desk and a nice worker made some calls, said that they have no idea where it is but it might come on the next flight tomorrow. I filled up a lost luggage application on the Scandivian Airlines Service, took my drybag and hopped on the airport bus towards the center of Alta and checked in to the hotel for the night.

The 50 liter drybag with one strap wasn’t the most comfy to carry, but it was meant only to be carried to the plane and of the plane.

The next day I checked out of the hotel, went to the airport with my drybag. My bike hadn’t arrived with that flight either and I hadn’t heard anything from the airline. So back to town, I booked another night at the hotel. Spent a day walking around the town, having a beer at the shoreline and shooting a meme. Came Sunday and again I went to the airport. Still no bike and no word from the SAS airline. This time the person at the service desk said they would call Stockholm and Helsinki Airports to see if they would find the bike. So I booked another night at the hotel, and at this point I had lost 3 out of 9 days that I had to ride the Arctic Post Road route. If the bike would arrive on Monday I would have had only 5 days to ride the route. Not enough time to do it at my pace and my style. So I bought a return flight to Helsinki for the next day.

First evening in Alta. The weather matched my state of mind, grey and cloudy. The beer was okay tho. 

Enjoyed a beer while sitting on the rocky shore and gazing at the fells around the bay. Wasn’t a bad spot for a beer at all.

I met a fellow bike traveller on Sunday as I was walking back from the airport. He had started from Southern Sweden, made it to Alta and now planned on riding thru Finland, hopping over the bond to Tallinn and riding back to Barcelona where he lives, while working remotely. A good way of life in my opinion. 

The next morning I got an email from the Helsinki Airport. They had found the bike. It had never left Helsinki in the first place. I was frustrated, mad and sad at the same time. I had spent 4 days for nothing, trapped in this small town with a narrow minded attitude that everything was ruined. My adventure and healing was denied, just because somebody forgot to put my bike on a plane in the first place. As I was waiting at the airport gate I saw a rainbow and it made me smile a bit. 13 hours later I was back home in Helsinki and the next day my bike was delivered home. 

In the end I had a long expensive weekend in a hotel in a small town on the shores of the Arctic Sea. I watched a lot of movies, I cried and thinked a lot of stuff about my mom. I played different scenarios in my head, like buying a bike and riding the route or buying a backpack and hike the surrounding areas or that I should had put an Airtag or something similar into the bike box so I would have known that the bike was still in Helsinki. I was angry and sad that some stupid megacorporation had denied me an adventure I had waited for so long. I was mad at myself for not getting a driver's license so I could had rented a car and done a roadtrip in northern Norway.

A beer, fells and the Arctic Sea are a good combo to start reflecting on things before jumping on a plane. 

But as I was watching the rainbow and having a beer in the airport in Alta before flying back home, I saw beauty in this place I had hated for the past days. I felt ashamed of my anger and selfishness. In the end all I did lose was the money I spent on the hotel room and the return flights. Didn’t even lose much money, because my travel insurance paid me back for the hotel nights too. The route wasn’t going to vanish, my bike wasn’t lost and still would have more vacation days the next day. I could always return here and try to do it again. I was in a privileged position to have vacation days, to have enough money that I could fly to another country with a bicycle and ride a route for 9 days. I had the most understanding partner who let me use a bulk of my vacation days into a trip by myself. There are many people who don’t have the time, money or a situation in life where they can go and have a multi day adventure away from home. I didn’t even lose any time in the end, because sitting alone in the hotel room and letting tears fall down my cheeks I had started to work on the fact that my mom would pass away soon and there was nothing I could do about it. 

Sunday, 3 days before my mom passed away I was camping on an island in the Baltic Sea with my friends where most of us had done their military service over a decade ago. On that Sunday I got the call to get to the hospital to say goodbye to my mom. As the ferry would had left the island back to the mainland too late, we hired a speedboat so I could make it in time to say goodbye. I did and I was thankful for my friend for it. 

6 weeks after coming home my mom passed away surrounded by loved ones with a peaceful smile on her face in the hospital. After that I saw a therapist that helped me deal with the death of my mom. As I write this I have already booked 3 weeks of my summer 2024 vacation days to do the Arctic Post Road MTB route at the end of August. But I am not flying this time. I will take the night train to Kolari and ride to Alta and back to Kolari, so in total do 860 km of bikepacking above the Arctic Circle. 860 of enjoying challenges and let my emotions run wild. 

2023 denied me the adventure I needed, but it helped to remember how lucky I am even to be able to have adventures…and next time I am flying with a bike I am putting a tracker inside the box. 

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