B(v)iking Scandinavia: Part 1

I am writing this from a boat, somewhere in the  Baltic sea on route from Finland to Sweden. It’s going on hour 11 of our accidental cruise, packed full of the standard VLT machines and terrible music. Like, knockoff songs that you totally recognise, or, WOULD recognise if it weren’t for the auto-tune and backround chorus of “Sex! Shots! Sex!”.

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But the views.

Our little tour started in Helsinki. Well, actually, it started in the airport shit show where I assume every international bike trip starts (“Bikes…? You had best talk to…anyone but me…” *closes gate*). Once we made it to Helsinki, we did the standard airport bike shop thing and then cycled the 18km to our couchsurf. It was 11pm when we arrived, but still light because the sun never sets here tabernac. Which, while great for cycling late, means we fall asleep to birdsong and I can read without a flashlight in the midnight glow.

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Rainbows in the mist

We made it into Helsinki for Pride and Metal Fest weekend, so we were inundated with beautiful freaks everywhere we went. In my mind, Helsinki is always this way.

We ate, drank and sauna-ed with friendly Fins. I did my very best to avert my eyes (in the most non-awkward way possible) in the saunas and swear that the skin nearly peeled off my face as the temperature rose over 80 degrees celcius.

And then we cycled west. We stuck to a minor highway and were stoked to find bike paths a good part of the way. Also, we swore that we had just somehow travelled through time and space right back to Ontario. Until people started speaking Finnish, obvs.

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Lupins fer daaaayz
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So dangerous.

Apparently Finland has this rule that allows all people to camp publicly as long as you aren’t being a total asshole. Something like that; you can look it up! So we camped in a half plowed farmer’s field. And by a bunch of stacked trees on a logging road. It’s real hard to sneaky-camp when the sun never sets, but no one seemed to mind.

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Thank you farmers!!!

Helsinki to Turku was just under 200km, but the uppy-downy was enough to make our legs swol and instill fear in our hearts for the mountains to come. Please send us your thoughts of tailwinds and mechanical quads.

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On a boattt

Lots of love

Mal and Jon

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Fingerbanging along the Gaspé peninsula PART TWO: Some things we did on the way to Rimouski, IN PICTURES!

Pssst, guys.

Wanna hear a bike touring secret?

I had no idea until this last trip, but if you tour in the fall everything belongs to you.

I shit you not. We had our own private beaches. Our own private no-charge camp site behind a microbrewery (on multiple occasions). Our own private parks. Sometimes even our own private roads.

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My own private meat counter.

So yes. We very stylishly left Quebec City in a boat which delivered us back to the south shore of the St. Laurent. Here we jumped on and off the TransCanada until about Rimouski, about another 300km.

It was not uneventful. For instance, we met this man, who is old enough to be my grandfather, yet disappeared over the horizon while we very much did not disappear over the horizon.

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We also found this thing. Omen or artwork, we weren’t sure. But it spun okay.

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And we took shelter from the rain in this barn.

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We were assholes in Trois-Pistoles.

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And we watched seals in Le Bic

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Oh, also I walked my bike up this mean hill.

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And then, 300ishkm later, ta-da RIMOUSKI.

If memory serves me correctly, Rimouski was the last place I remember before the hills  really started. It’s a cute enough town by the water. We visited a local microbrewery, stayed in the ‘burbs with our lovely warmshowers host and terrorized the local Walmart (because by this point we were feral cycletourists and you couldn’t take us anywhere).

We will return to the past in my next post, BUT GUESS WHAT. We are presently gearing up for a three month tour through Scandinavia and northern Europe. Quit our jobs? Check. Buy new rain gear? Check. Dehydrate EVERYTHING? Check.

For the first time EVER I am going to attempt to keep this blog updated in real-time. So you (is anyone out there?) can bare witness to our flats and sunburns and stroopwafles. Fingers and toes crossed.

 

Breathe in, breathe out.

Anyone who knows me a little more than a little knows that I have a very attainable dream of cycling from Montreal to Gaspésie.

The dream.
The dream.

Beautiful coastline cycling through some of Quebec’s most scenic spots. (Psst. I also heard whispers that there are tailwinds the whole way).

Magical, right?

Unfortunately my plans last summer were botched following a break-up and a real fear of setting out solo. On the bright side, it was replaced with this fabulous adventure to the far reaches of our east coast. This summer’s trip was also redirected following a long-distance relationship shuffle, and again I was stuck with the prospect of striking out on my own. I’m sure there’s a moral in here somewhere about trip-planning with lovers, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Then again, maybe not.

ANYWAY. That combined with THIS:

Yes, THAT'S a broken foot.
Yes, THAT’S a broken foot.

And I was all “Well to hell with any fun this summer.” So I applied for a Vipassana (because 100 hours of meditation and 10 days of silence is anything but fun). However, as you might be surprised to hear, Vipassana spots are booked solid until something like November, so that was a no-go.

So I did a lot of sitting, a lot of breathing and played a lot of chess.

But lo and behold the universe works in mysterious ways because my lovely sister (and newbie cyclist) was like:

“Let’s bike England.”

And I was all:

“When do we leave?”

Get ready England.
Get ready England.

Stay tuned for the adventures of Malorie and Audrey in Return to the motherland: Which way to the pub, mate?

***

**England is not by real-true definition our motherland, but we lived there long ago for some pretty formative years of our lives. We even developed accents and started using words like rubbish and fancies. We also have a squishy spot for British comedy**

Exploring the Laurentians: Montreal to Mont. Tremblant

Biking mountains (not to be confused with mountain biking) is sweaty and beautiful work.  As last-minute preparation for my big, hilly trip, a cycling companion and I took three full days to trek north-west off of the island and up to Mont Tremblant.  This was also an opportunity for me to break in my new, shiny bicycle, sadly leaving Slimer home (and likely feeling abandoned), propped up against my bedroom wall.

Our Route

We left early Sunday morning and made our way off of the island, getting lost only a few times due to my superior navigation skills. Once we made it through the hustle and bustle of Laval we picked up Le P’tit Train Du Nord, an old railway turned bike path that would take us the rest of the way to Tremblant.  Unlike the previously
traveled Water Front Trail, this route rarely took us by busy roads, and we (arguably) even saw more water.

Onward to Tremblant.

The first day we made it through a handful of scenic, so-cute-it-hurts little towns, including St. Jerome, Prevost, St. Adele and Val David.  It was a steamy day, and unbeknownst to us we were traveling the entire time at a slight incline, which made things a little slow.  While we did not reach our target of 140km to Tremblant the first day, it was totally worth it because we found a cosy camping spot near St. Agathe des Monts:

Worth it.

The next morning panic struck when we realized at breakfast that we had mistakenly picked up low-fat instant cappuccino, instead of regular full-fat goodness.  After risking a taste we decided that it would not do and, as hurriedly as two un-caffeinated coffee-addicts could (very slowly), we packed up our stuff and ventured onward in search of java.  Fortunately for us, the town of St Agathe des Monts was a short bike ride away, so we lazed around town, refueling until early afternoon.  Eventually we pulled ourselves together and set out the rest of the way to Mont. Tremblant.

Proof that we made it.

We returned the second night to our first home by the stream and woke up to heavy rain.  Lucky for us, the rain subsided before we had to pack up our gear and we were only hit once with a blinding downpour on the way home.  Despite multiple stops for food, coffee and berry picking, we made it home before dark (ie in record time).

Misty mountains!

Number of deer spotted: 4

Number of poutines eaten: 3

Number of kilometres traveled (off-route wandering excluded): 290