Monday, July 23, 2012

Last night

We thought yesterday was going to be all about fighting the pain and just push on but it turned out to be pretty magic. We woke up yesterday to the rain pounding our tent again. We had no urge to rush things and start the day getting soaked so we decided to wait it out. It resulted in that we didn't leave the camp spot until after 2.30pm and when you have a plan to make it at least 100km, 2.30pm is seriously late. We were lucky at first though. The weather seemed to be clearing up and we were making good progress. We are now riding through the northern Swedish forests. The landscape is alternating between low growing pine forests and open marshlands. We also spotted our first family of raindeer as they crossed the road in front of us just a little bit too fast for us to get our cameras up. Then a couple of hours into the ride the sky suddenly changed color. A huge rain cloud came over us and in minutes we had gone from sun to one of the worst rains of the trip so far. Lucky for us it didn't last for more than about 30 minutes but it was 30 minutes without shelter and enough to drench us completely. Now also remember that we are only about 200km from the Arctic Circle so when things get wet, it also tends to get cold. Our rain clothes kept our bodies dry enough but our feet and hands were freezing. Eventually we got to a town where we could light our camping stove and cook some food and make coffee. By now it was close to 9pm and of course nothing was open. Our feet were like icicles. The first local we met realized how frozen we were so he went home and packed up a bag of freshly made cinnamon buns his wife had just baked and brought them back down to us. The next couple we met parked their camper van next to us, filled up our water bottles and when we had finally decided to get going again, they opened the door to the camper van and passed out a bottle of nice red vine for us to enjoy on later occasion. We have said it before and it is worth saying again, the people we meet are so awesome and helpful! When we got on the bikes again it was way past 10.30pm. We had made a goal to make it at least another 20km, about 1-1,5hrs more before call it a night. We were pretty set to spend the next hour in pain and cold and the first few minutes were just that. But we pretty quickly forgot about the pain when we saw how beautiful everything was. Up here the sun doesn't fully set at night at this time of the year, so the evenings are almost like a never ending sunset. The sky was glowing in a beautiful pink color and in addition, the cold air had covered every lake, every pond and marshland in a mist. It was magical. We gained new energy and instead of just wanting to lay down and sleep whenever it felt like we could ride forever. At about 30 minutes past midnight, still light enough to ride without strong lights, we did decide to find a camping spot and get some sleep. These are the nights you sleep the best. Knowing that you had to fight a little to get somewhere but when the reward is so incredibly worth it. //Jonas

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First half of Sweden

Over the last week we have traveled from Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast, up past Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden and northeast through the forests of Värmland and Dalarna. First of all, this particular region has had one of the worst summers in a long time in terms of rain. And holy crap have we had to deal with it… It started raining already the second day as we traveled up the coast. And we have been rained on every day since then. Since we sleep in a tent it didn’t take long until pretty much everything we had to wear was wet. Or, it got wet, we managed to dry it, but then instead traded the moisture for that musky smell you would otherwise only associate with the male changing room after a football game. You know the situation is starting to get really out of hand when the dirty clothes you had put aside at the bottom of the trailer suddenly again becomes the “cleaner” set of clothes in comparison to everything else you have available. We decided to find a camp spot with a washing machine to fix things but only to get hit by another rainstorm the following morning. If this wasn’t bad enough, we have also left the world where humans are the top predator and entered one ruled by little annoying biting mosquitoes and their allies, if possible even more annoying, the gnats. Any moment of relief from the rain and they will find you. And when they find you they call on their whole families to come and join the party. The only way to get a good break is to put a fine mesh bag over your head so they can’t get in your eyes and ears. Our sleeping routine has also changed slightly and now includes a 10 minute hunting session before light out. When all the flying bugs inside the tent have been exterminated you can see how their friends on the outside are trying their best to find a way to get through the tent wall. It reminds me of that scene in ‘Jurassic Park’ when the little blood thirsty dinosaurs are trying to get into the kitchen and you can see them on the outside through the window. It may sound like I’m complaining but honestly, life is pretty sweet. We get to see so many places I have never seen before, meet so many interesting people and experience nature in what I think is one of the best ways, although I could live without the bug bites. We also know that the best is yet to come as we continue north towards the Arctic tundra and the mountains. Yes, there will likely be even more mosquitoes up there and yes, the weather forecast is still looking very uncertain but it doesn’t matter. We are still having fun, we are in good spirit, our bodies are holding up good even though we have covered about 3000km on our bikes. The only problem is that it is hard to shoot video when it is raining but I will try to figure something out. Hoping to get some video and more pictures up soon if we get more internet time. J.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

We have arrived!

Now if someone asks us how far it is from Sweden to Italy we can finally say: "Not too bad, you can go by bike." I have been waiting so long to be able to say that!

Late last night we finally made it to Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast. This is the destination we had set as our goal to reach together and the fact that we actually made it in time is pretty crazy. It has been a really fun experience. Hard work of course and some days better than others but that is how it always is. We knew from the start that we had set a very optimistic time goal. Especially since we had more than one goal to fulfill along the way. Get here in time, shoot video along the way and then try to share the experiences as we progressed. The idea was also to be able to take a day off every now and then. So now with three weeks and about 2100km behind us we can say that we at least managed to sort of tick all boxes but maybe not completely how we initially planned. To begin with, an average of 100km per day may not sound like that much and fully reasonable to think that we would be able to do and take some days of at least a few times. Well, our first (and ONLY) day off was two days before we reached our final destination. Ie. two days ago... Besides that we were on our bikes every day from morning to night. Our next priority was to shoot video along the way, which we have except that there hasn't been a whole lot of time to edit and upload along the way. In fact, Internet access has been more rare than we expected and it is not always easy to plug in computers to charge batteries when you are sleeping in a tent. But with that said, the idea now is that we will take the footage that we have and release a series of short video updates from the trip now instead. Kind of like a roadside Field Guide in the form of short videos to plants and animals that we found along the way.
But even if it right now feels like it is over and we have all the time in the world, the rest will be short.

Early tomorrow morning Rob and Haley return to the US to prepare for a new expedition that I will keep a secret for now and let them explain more on later. Louise and I will instead stay in Sweden complete the bike journey through Europe. Our plan is to continue north past the Arctic circle and up to the Arctic Tundra of northern Sweden. This means that the comfortable couches we now sit in and solid roof over our heads is only going to be temporary. In about 4 days time we hit the road again. And even if we won't cross any more national borders we are actually only half done with the trip. Sweden is seriously one long country...

So how far it is to the north of Sweden? Hopefully soon we can say that it is biking distance but give us another 4 weeks first.

We will keep the updates coming as much as we can. Please also check out the Untamed Science Facebook page for more pictures and updates.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Starting to get a hang of it

That is what it feels like. Get up in the morning. Pack up the tent. Get on the bike and ride. We have already gone through northern Italy, straight through Switzerland over Swiss Alps and are now making our way up Germany.
It is kind of funny how things have changed. The first few days it was a bit of an effort to get going. A 10 hr day on the bike seemed pretty ridiculously long and hard. Now it almost feels natural in some kind of weird and twisted way. I actually look forward to getting back on the bike in the morning, despite aching knees, swollen eyes from all the bugs that apparently have made bets on who can make me blind, not to mention the blisters from my new ”office chair” (my saddle…)
If I was to pick one day that has been my favorite so far it would without a doubt have been the day we went over the Swiss Alps and through Saint Gotthard’s pass - absolutely amazing and a crazy workout.
Here’s to give you an idea of what it is about.  The actual pass is at an elevation of 2106m above sea level. It connects the northern German speaking part of Switzerland with the Italian speaking side bordering Italy. To facilitate traveling between the two regions a 17km tunnel was built through the pass in 1980. We went through it by car on the way down to Italy and it seriously felt like it took forever to go through. Apparently the tunnel even has its own radio stations to make sure people have something to listen to and prevent them from falling asleep while driving!
The point of me telling you that is to give you an idea of what we had to go OVER, because we could obviously not go through the tunnel with our bikes. Even if we could, what’s the fun in that?! Instead we had to ride over it which meant starting early in the town of Airolo on the Italian speaking side, ride with our bike trailers on a steep uphill of winding roads, switchback after switchback, for about 4 hrs straight. And to make things more fun, add cobblestone roads.  But, the scenery is absolutely stunning. It is beautiful already when you start and it only gets better the whole way up. When you reach the top of the pass you are surrounded by snow-covered mountains all around. The second reward you get is when it is time to go down the other side. I think we had almost 45 km of continuous downhill and I’m not even going to say how fast we got up to. It’s better to keep our families at home a little less worried. We ended the day in Altdorf with a great view from below of the mountains that we had just made friends with.
This was just one of the many good days so far. Tomorrow we continue our ride through Germany, which so far has been completely flat. That’s kind of nice but we do miss the mountains.
For more pictures of the ride so far you can also check out our Facebook page.
More soon,