Bicycle Touring Blog: Cycling to Finland – Cold and Wet

My journey began when I came to St.Petersburg, Russia by the bus. When I got off the bus, I began to assemble my bicycle and attach panniers to it. When the bike was finally assembled, I began my journey towards Finland. At first, the trip was comfortable, and the weather was sunny.

However, a lot of tourists from different countries walked around St.Petersburg and because of this, getting out from the city was a hard task, as it was necessary to go slowly to avoid accidents.

Bicycle Touring Blog: Russia, St.Piterburg

Bicycle Touring Blog: Russia, St.Piterburg - 2

An hour later, I finally drove the busiest streets with tourists and an almost empty road waited for me, but this situation was overshadowed by clouds that had tightened the sky. And a little later the wind rose and it began to rain. Well, it seems that it’s time to test my cycling rain jacket from DHB, which I bought a couple of years ago and still could not test it, because for some reasons the previous cycling trip did not take place.

Finally, no more people, just a beautiful and empty road leading me to Finland.

Bicycle Touring Blog: Road to Finland

On the way, there were a few turns to the Gulf of Finland, which I ignored at first, but then I decided to turn and look at the Gulf of Finland. The view was very beautiful, but it was difficult to get out of this place later. My heavy bike was stuck in the wet sand and constantly tried to fall. The sand from the wheels poured into all moving parts of the bike, so when I finally got out, my bicycle began to creak like an old rusty cart. Disk brakes were particularly annoying with their noise.

Gulf of Finland - St Petersburg

Gulf of Finland - St Petersburg - Beautiful View

Cycling to Finland: It’s Always Sunny Rainy in St.Petersburg ?

As soon as I started moving on my creaky bike, the weather apparently decided it was time to show me what a “real bike trip” is. It began to rain hard and my “waterproof jacket” was not waterproof at all. My fleece jacket under the rainjacket began to get wet, and there was also a strong and chilly headwind, so I began to freeze. I did not just feel cold, I started to shiver from the cold.

There was no good place to wait until rain is over and apparently, the rain was not going to end today. Sometimes I stopped and hid under bus stops to wait for the strongest gusts of rain, but it only got worse for me. Without movement, it became even colder. Unfortunately, in such conditions there was no mood for taking photos, all I wanted was to be warm and dry.

As soon as the rain subsided a little, I had to get on a bicycle and go on. I was planning to get to the railway station, from which I had to go by train to the station “Vyborg”. I reached the station somewhere at 5 pm and was completely wet at that time. Fortunately, the train arrived just at the moment when I was at the station and I quickly got on the train with my bicycle and went to the final goal for today.

When I got on the train, a conductor came up to me a minute later and when she saw me, she said: “You chose the wrong time for traveling”

“Yes, inappropriate,” I replied. When I bought the ticket, the conductor told me to leave the bicycle here, and go to the car to warm up.

Finally, it became a little warmer, but I was still cold and I was shaking. An hour later the train arrived at the terminal station. This station was supposed to be the end point of the route for today, so I can say that I fulfilled my plan for the day.

Having reached this station, I planned to move a little from the city center and spend the night in the nearest park. However, when I finally reached the station “Vyborg” and started to leave the train, I realized that it seems that my plans will not come true.

Cycling to Finland: The Night in the Vyborg Railway Station

It was still raining heavily, and since this is a small railway station when I come out of the train, I had to walk 300 meters to the main hall. While I was walking towards the Vyborg’s Railway Station main hall, I again felt damp and cold.

At last, I was inside the Vybord Railway Station and there was no rain and wind and it was possible to sit and dry. Initially, I planned to sit at this station, warm up, wait for the end of the rain and go to the park to sleep there peacefully.

However, despite the fact that I drank hot tea and coffee from the nearest coffee/tea machine, and even changed some clothes, I could not get warm, I still felt some discomfort and cold. And it was still raining.

Looking at this whole situation, I began to hope that this station works 24 hours and I can sit here and sleep on this bench until tomorrow morning. Time passed, the rain did not end, but I kept sitting on the bench and was in no hurry.

There were fewer people at the railway station, and the guards began to look at me suspiciously. They could not understand why this guy was sitting in the same place with his bicycle for 4 hours.

At 11 pm the station was almost empty, there were almost no people and I was almost alone there, among all these guards. Suddenly a man came in, looking like a homeless man and sat down near me. I asked the man: “Is the station closed at night?”, To which the man replied: “No”. This is good, then I can sit here until the morning I thought.

A little later the guard of the station approached me and asked what I was doing and asked what train I was waiting for. I explained the situation to him, told him that I was frozen and I would like to sit here until morning. The guard listened to my story and said: “No problem. You can stay here!”.

Cycling to Finland: Where to sleep for free during the travel?

So, I’ll sleep here on the bench at the Vyborg Railway Station until the morning, and in the morning I’ll start to cycling to Finland to which I need to cycle only 40 km. Railway stations are a good place to sleep for free during the trip.

Suddenly, two men in black came to me. “Security Service! Your documents!” -said one of the men and showed me his ID. At that moment, I felt like I was homeless and a criminal. But fortunately, they checked my documents, listened to my story and left.

Since then, no one bothered me and I was dozing on the bench. By the way, if you have never slept at the station, then I advise you to try it once, there is some kind of romance in it.

I slept there until 4 am and decided that it was time to go, and I promised the guard that I would stay here until 5 am. And although if I stayed still, no one would say anything to me, I must keep my word. Before going out I drank a cup of delicious coffee from the vending machine, took my bike and went outside. It is worth mentioning that it was difficult to determine from the station whether there was still a rain outside or not. But one thing I knew for sure – there is no more a HEAVY rain.

Cycling to Finland: Finding a Hostel or “Sorry, no bikes”

When I went outside, it turned out that there was still rain, but very weak. Well, something needs to be done, I thought. Having driven away from the station, I took refuge under a bus stop and began to think about what to do next. To go in such weather to Finland, it would not be desirable. So I have 2 options, to find a hostel and there to have a quiet sleep and get warm or get to the park and have a rest there. I was not sure if I could keep warm and relax if I went to the park for wild camping.

And although I had not yet gotten wet, I still trembled for some reason. I no longer felt a strong cold, but still trembling from time to time, like a leaf on a tree. In the end, I decided to try to get to the hostel, although there was little hope because the city is small, and who will let me in into the hostel at 5 am?

I got on my bike and drove to the side of the hostel along completely empty streets. At that time, there were no cars or people on the street. The sky was gray and the mist was spread over the city and I felt like I was in Silent Hill. The first hostel was empty, but I saw a sign that it was working from 8 AM. In the second hostel, too, there was no one, but judging by its type and location, there certainly would not be a place for a bicycle.

So I went back to the first hostel, sat down on the bench near him under a canopy and waited for the opening time of the hostel. I really wanted to sleep, so I closed my eyes and began to doze, periodically waking up. At the same time, I began to tremble again, I put on another sweater, but it did not help. Apparently, I was so cold that I could not even warm up.

I began to think about how I was going to travel further if on the first day I have such difficulties? However, there was no turning back, I dreamed so much about this trip and everything for what? To return home in 2 days? No. I must continue my journey. I tried to convince myself that this is just a test that I must pass from the very beginning and then it will be easier.

After sitting on the bench until 8 am, through a dream, I suddenly heard a woman’s voice: “Are you going to sit here like this?”. Opening my eyes, I saw a woman standing next to me. She was very surprised by the fact that some “homeless” cyclist sits here on the bench at such an early time and sleeps.

I started telling her that I was waiting for the hostel to open. “I came, it’s already open,” the woman answered. For a second I was glad that at last, I would settle down and be in a warm bed very soon. However, I was disappointed. The woman said that there was no place for my bicycle inside the hostel, so I have to leave my bicycle outside.

Well, no, I will not leave a bicycle on the street, it can be stolen here. In the end, having received a “refusal”, I went to another hostel, in the hope that someone had already arrived there and that there might be a place for a bicycle, although there was little hope.

When I reached the second hostel, as expected, the hostel was closed. Now is not a high tourist season and the owners come only when people call them on the phone or book through a booking. I got tired of it all, I was not going to wait for a few hours or to look for the hostel’s phone and ask about the bicycle, and as I said, the second hostel was in some unfortunate place and there’s probably no place for a bicycle.

Today I was planning to be in Finland but decided to change my plans. It was necessary to dry and sleep well, in this form, there is no desire to go somewhere. So I decided to finally get to a large park, which was 5 kilometers away. There I wanted to hang my hammock and climb into my sleeping bag. The weather was not going to pity me, so as soon as I sat down and drove off, a couple of minutes later it started to rain heavily. I began to get wet again, mentally, I cursed my cycling rainjacket from DHB. Is it possible to call this “rain jacket” when it does not protect against rain?

Cycling to Finland: Hammock Camping

Finally reaching the park, after going into the depths of the park “Monrepo”, I found the perfect place to camp and sleep. I hung my hammock and tarp and climbed into my sleeping bag. “Oh my god it’s so good”, I thought. This was the first time I tested my hammock and sleeping bag in real conditions. It was so comfortable that I glad, that I did not manage to settle in the hostel. The first I saved money, and secondly, I’m completely alone here and can safely sleep under the sound of rain.

Bicycle Touring: Hammock Camping

Literally, in a few minutes, I began to warm up, it was dry, warm and comfortable. Raindrops rustled on the roof of the tent, and the rocking of the hammock lulled me. “But cycling is not so bad,” I thought. A couple of minutes later I fell asleep. And it was just a beautiful dream, even better than at home on the bed. It seems that the journey is getting a little better, and the mood is getting better and most importantly – I’m not trembling anymore. After 6 hours I woke up, it was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the rain had passed and even the sun had appeared.

I did not plan to go to Finland today, so I decided to stay at this place. I took out some candy and nuts and ate them, I had nothing more with me at that moment, only oatmeal, which I was too lazy to cook, and I had very little water. Yesterday I bought 1 bottle of water and it is very little left, and the nearest store I can see only tomorrow and most likely it will already be in Finland.

While the sun was shining, I drained my things by laying them on a large stone that was next to my camp.

Bicycle Touring: Hammock Wild Camping

Bicycle Touring: Hammock Wild Camping 2

This is what I call real “stealth camping”. The hammock provides an excellent opportunity for stealth camping, and most importantly, even if a tent camping is banned in some countries, then in most cases this does not apply to hammocks and bivouac bags.

Bicycle Touring: Stealth Camping

However, soon there were clouds again and it began to rain. But it did not scare me anymore since I was already warm and I had my ideal “home”, so I climbed into my warm sleeping bag and started to sleep, it was very comfortable. The rain pounded on the surface of my tarp, but I really like the sound of raindrops. And sometimes some birds sang, it added “romance”. So, in such pleasant conditions for my ears, I slept from evening till morning.

Cycling to Finland: The Best Pies in the World

At 4 am I woke up and started to gather. I do not like this time of day as high humidity and the air is not yet warmed up and therefore at this time, it can be cold. Therefore, I began to tremble again from the cold, since I had already taken off the dry and warm things that I needed for a comfortable sleep. I also wore a bicycle jersey, and it was cold and a little wet. But while I was collecting things, active body movements started to warm me and after a few minutes, it became warmer.

I ate nuts and sweets and drank some water, but there was not enough water and I still wanted to drink. I need to find water. When I got ready, I started leaving this park. Having left on an empty road, I began my journey towards Finland, to which there were about 40 km.

After 15 km, I was thirsty or thirsty and hungry, because I had not eaten anything normal for 2 days? I hardly pedaled. I turned on my Garmin eTrex 20 and found among the POI’s – a gas station, which was only 5 km away. However, in my condition, the 5 km was very difficult to ride. Finally, I reached this gas station, took myself a bottle of water and a couple of hot pies with cabbage.

I started eating pies and drinking water like this is the last and first meal in my life. Such delicious pies I have never eaten or I was just so hungry that they seemed to me the most delicious in the world? In any case, the forces immediately returned to me. I do not know whether the pies gave me strength or water, but the pedals began to spin with ease and the speed increased. I was like a car, which reached the gasoline vapor before refueling, and then abruptly returned to its normal state, as if nothing had happened. But 10 minutes ago I could not pedal at all.

Cycling in Finland: Finally a Good Weather

The remaining distance to the border with Finland was given to me with ease, so I soon passed the border and ended up in Finland. I rode and was happy that here it is – the real beginning of my trip, after all, I am already in Finland and there are many interesting and new things waiting for me.

Bicycle Touring: Cycling in Finland

Fortunately, the weather was good, there was no rain, so I rode and enjoyed the beautiful landscape and the warming sun.

Bicycle Touring: Cycling in Finland - Image 2

Bicycle Touring: Cycling in Finland - Image 3

Approaching Lappeenranta, I finally found a store and ran to buy myself some food.

I don’t know why I took just this, but my body wanted just that – chips, bread, cheese and instant ramen. Leaving the store, I found a secluded place, sat down on a rock and began eating sandwiches with cheese and chips. What a pleasure it was, for the first time, for 2 days to eat such a high-calorie meal. While I was sitting on the stone and ate, a woman with a dog passed by me, the dog looked at me and wagged its tail.

The woman also turned head in my direction and smiled, probably from the side it looked funny – in some “bushes” a cyclist is sitting on a rock and eating chips with sandwiches.

Bicycle Touring: Cycling in Finland

After I finished eating, I took a bicycle and went to inspect the city. I planned to spend this day in Lappeenranta and spend the night in the nearest forest.

Bicycle Touring in Finland: Lappeenranta

It’s so nice to ride on empty streets and roads. At this time, many people still slept.

Bicycle Touring in Finland: Lappeenranta - Image 2

In the nearest park, I found a free map of the Lappeenranta. This is very encouraging.

Bicycle Touring in Finland: Lappeenranta - Free Map of the City

I walked around the city until the evening and enjoyed the views.

Bicycle Touring in Finland: Lappeenranta Lakes

Bicycle Touring in Finland: Lappeenranta City

In the evening I began to look for a good place to stay overnight. Fortunately, after half an hour I found a very hidden place, which was on the slope. It was impossible to place a tent in this place. But since I had a hammock, I did not need to look for a better place. For a hammock, this place suited perfectly.

I hung my hammock, climbed into the sleeping bag and began to listen to the sounds. I did not hear anything suspicious, all the sounds were somewhere far away from me. And who will climb at night on the slope making his way through bushes and trees? That’s right, no one. So I fell asleep.

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