It may be May and the sun may be shining but icy cold Arctic winds from the north have turned the season back to winter in northern Finland. As we pedal along, we pass people wrapped up in ski suits and winter coats, and the banks of the rivers out of the sun are still frozen under ice and old snow. We ourselves are encased in several layers to try to keep warm for cycling and camping in snow showers and temperatures below zero. But as we cycled into the city of Oulu, our hands and feet felt like blocks of ice.
Oulu is an old city, founded in 1605 and sitting on the mouth of the Oulu River as it empties into the cold waters of the Gulf of Bothnia. It's one of the most northern cities of its size in the world. Oulu's history reached its zenith in the 19th century thanks to trading, mainly in the tar industry. Tar was made from pinewood from the vast inland forests and then shipped down the Oulu River for export. The Oulu River is a great salmon river and that commodity was also traded. The remains of this history can still be seen today in the old waterfront warehouses that these days house trendy cafes.
Bart and I had several reasons for visiting Oulu. Firstly, we wanted to see some of the Finnish coast to vary our journey from pedalling through the endless pine forests. Secondly, we wanted a rest day off the bicycles. And lastly, given the extreme cold weather with more low temperatures forecast, we wanted to do a bit of shopping to upgrade our clothing and kit before we cycle across the Arctic Circle.
All goals were achieved and we're especially happy with our new ice cold-beating hats.
Daylight - 19 hours, 20 minutes
Distance - 1991 miles
Days - 35
Route - north from Kiuruvesi on quiet back roads with not much to see except forests. Followed Oulu River from Muhos to Oulu on the coast to pick up again cycle route 4. Really not been much to see out on the back roads, only the occasional gas station where we get a warming coffee is a highlight. Always good bike paths in towns and cities. Not much charm to the towns and villages in Finland and you wouldn't believe it could be so cold in May.