2006 – Scandinavia

Photo Gallery – Scandinavia 2006

This was my first ever motorcycle adventure. I was going with my friend, Minna-Ella, who was from Finland and was going home for the summer. We’d been planning it for months, and now the big day had finally arrived I could barely contain my excitement.

Our ferry was at 5 pm from Newcastle. The furthest either of us had ridden so far was about 200 miles, so riding to Finland seemed like a very long way. We decided to give ourselves plenty of time to get to Newcastle and arranged to meet at 7.30 am. I met Minna-Ella at a petrol station in Glasgow. We filled the bikes with fuel, pumped up the tyres and were on the road for 7.55 am.

It was a clear run all the way down the motorway to the A69 where we turned off towards Newcastle. This was a brilliant road, winding its way through rolling moorlands, deep valleys and quaint little villages. Arriving in Newcastle we took a wrong turn onto the A1 north, had to loop round at the next junction, then find our way onto the A1058 to North Shields where the port was. We missed the turning for the docks so had to do another U-turn round a roundabout to get back on track, finally getting there with several hours to spare.

There’d been a Harley Davidson rally in Northern Ireland, so the ferry was full of bikes which turned out to be a Godsend as neither of us knew how to tie our bikes down and some of the others were able to give us a hand.

Heading up to our cabin we took all our gear with us. If we’d known better, we could have packed overnight bags and left the rest of our luggage on the bikes, but we didn’t, so ended up clamouring up several flights of stairs before collapsing in our somewhat basic cabin.

The next day the ferry docked in Kristiansand in Norway and we started making our way north. We headed up the E18, a charming road which passed through a mixture of fjords and farmlands. Up to Drammen where we stopped for the night in a roadside motel.

In the morning we repacked and continued north on the E18 to Oslo. Entering Oslo was a nightmare. A series of long, steep tunnels takes you into the centre. The traffic was heavy and a couple of times we had to stop in the tunnels when the traffic came to a stand-still. One had a very steep camber and we both had difficulty holding the bikes upright as we waited for the queue to start moving again.

After a quick look round the city centre we rejoined the E18 and started heading east. We stopped at Karlstad, a huge lake, for the night. The plan was to camp as much as possible, but as small, lake-side cabins were available we decided to take one of these instead.

After a quick swim in the morning we were back on the road and heading for Stockholm where we would catch the ferry to Turku in Finland. There was a campsite in the middle of Stockholm so we aimed for that. It was easy to spot from the main road, but finding our way in wasn’t so easy. We tried various routes but none seemed to lead to the entrance. Eventually, we split up and started trying different routes. Just when Minna-Ella phoned me to say she’d found the entrance, I found myself at the pedestrian entrance so, tired and fed-up, I decided just to ride the bike through that instead – through the campground, past all the tents and down to the reception booth. It was like something out of The Great Escape.

We were up early the next morning and headed down to the docks for the next ferry. Leaving the city behind, the ferry took us through the Stockholm archipelago – a series of hundreds of tiny islands. It was a glorious sunny day so it was a beautiful crossing.

The ferry docked in Turku about 10 pm. Minna-Ella’s dad came to greet us, then left us to make our own way to their house. Riding along the E18 during that long, summer night was fabulous. The roads were empty and there was a strange stillness in the air.

No sooner had we arrived in Helsinki than we were off again. The following morning, we joined a massive ride out to Jaala, where the Walkka MC where having their annual rally. It was the first time I’d ever ridden in formation with so many other bikes but, in some ways, it was easier to keep up when you’re sandwiched between a hundred other machines. We went north-west up the E6 motorway to Kouvola, then picked up a back road to Jaala. We made our way to a small farm on a lake and spent the rest of the day and night eating, drinking and being merry with our fellow campers.

After a lazy start, we got back to Helsinki about 6 pm the following day. We spent a few days in Helsinki with Minna-Ella’s parents, then they took us over to Estonia for a day trip. A hydrofoil crosses the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn. From the sea I could see the spires of the old town which looked elegant and artistic, but as we drove through the outer reaches, featureless, concrete apartment blocks lined the pavements and made for a somewhat more utilitarian feel and it was easy to see the influence of the previous Soviet regime.

Heading into the countryside we passed many old farms, again left from the Soviet era, which were now deserted. Apparently, these used to provide jobs for most of the people in the area, but now the new independent state had closed them down, unemployment was becoming prevelant.

We took a road round the coast to the town of Parnu. This was undergoing something of a property boom and rows of luxury apartments had been built overlooking the sea. It seemed Estonia was in the process of transforming between Communism and Capitalism and that there were both winners and losers as a result of this change.

The next day Minna and I rode up to Joutsa to see the Chopper Show. A night camping in a insect-infested field had us running for cover so after a swim in the lake the following morning followed by a tour of the show, we decided to go somewhere else the next night. We ended up in a place called Loyto where a Youth Hostel had a campground by the lake. There were no flies here so it was a much pleasanter experience.

Huttula was our next destination, where one of Minna-Ella’s friends had a summer cottage on yet another lake. Again, it was a beautiful location, but by this time, I was starting to need my own space so the next day we decided to go our separate ways for a couple of weeks, Minna heading back to Helsinki and me going to Savonlinna, one of the few towns in Finland with a castle. In fact, “linna” means castle.

For the rest of the trip, I became an out and out tourist, visiting as many towns and villages as I could. Finland is littered with lakes – some are spanned by bridges, others are crossed by ferries but all of them are surrounded by forests. There’s a huge papermill in Varkaus where felled trees go in at one end and a national newspaper comes out at the other.

I made it as far north as Kalajoki on the coast, east as far as Knitsanlahti where I hoped to see the Russian border but was disappointed just to see more trees and no high metal fences or lookout towers.

A couple of weeks later, Minna-Ella and I met up again with the intention of riding up to the North Cape. However, while I was waiting for her in Tampere I got a call from my lawyers saying there had been some complications with the sale of my flat and that I’d need to go home to sort them out.

When Minna arrived she kindly called the ferry company and re-scheduled my ferry ticket back to Sweden and we made our way to Turku instead. I gave her the tent so she could continue to the Cape, and boarded the ferry to Stockholm. This docked at 7.30 pm. As it was still light, I wanted to make as much progress as possible and instead of staying the night in Stockholm, took the E18 west out of the city with the plan of finding a motel somewhere along the way.

By 10 pm I still hadn’t found anywhere. It was getting dark by now and I was very tired. When I eventually came to a motel in a service station outside Orebro it was pitch black. I got the last room in the place and fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

The ferry returned from Gothenburg, not Kristiansand, so the next morning I followed the E30 all the way there. The journey back to the Newcastle was uneventful and I returned home just in time to sort out the problems with my flat.

It had been a fantastic experience and was to be the start of a long series of motorcycle adventures.

Ride Statistics

Date Route Mileage
Monday 26/06/06
Glasgow to Newcastle to Kristiansand (Norway)
M8, M73, M74, A69, A1058 to Royal Quay Ferry Terminal at North Sheilds the overnight ferry to Kristiansand 195
Tuesday 27/06/06
Kristiansand to Drammen (Norway)
E18 from Kristiansands to “By the Way Motel” in Drammen 168
Wednesday 28/06/06
Drammen to Karlstad (Sweden)
E18 to Oslo then E18 to “Bomstad Baden Camping” in Karlstad 184
Thursday 29/06/06
Karlstad to Stockholm (Sweden)
E18 to Stockholm then “City Centre Camping” 213
Friday 30/06/06
Stockholm to Turku to Helsinki (Finland)
Ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland then E18 to Helsinki 125
Saturday 01/07/06
Helsinki to Jaala
E18 from Helsinki to Forsby Kaskenkyla then Route 360 to Kouvola then Route 362 to Jaala 107
Sunday 02/07/06
Jaala to Helsinki
Route 12 to Lahti
E75 from Lahti to Helsinki
Monday 03/07/06
Tuesday 04/07/06
Wednesday 05/07/06
Thursday 06/07/06
Helsinki to Estonia
Helsinki to Tallinn by Nordic Jetline hydrofoil
Tallinn to Paide to Viljandi to Kilingi-Nomine to Parnu to Tallinn by car
Friday 07/07/06
Helsinki to Jousta
E75 from Helsinki to Lahti
Route 4 from Lahti to Jousta
Saturday 08/07/06
Jousta to Loyta
Route 616 from Jousta to Kala
Route 481 Kala to Mikkeli
Route 15 Mikkeli to Loyta
Sunday 09/07/06
Monday 10/07/06
Loyto to Huttula
Route 4321 from Loyta to Huttala
Tuesday 11/07/06
Huttula to Savonlinna
Route 62 from Huttala to Puumala
Routes 434, 435 & 14 to Savonlinna
Wednesday 12/07/06
Thursday 13/07/06
Savonlinna to Varkaus
Route 14 from Savonlinna to Russian border the Imatra
Route 62 from Imatra then Route 438 back to Savonlinna
From Savonlinna north on Routes 471 and 468  to Varkaus
Friday 14/07/06
Saturday 15/07/06
Varkaus to Nurmes
Routes 23 then 17 to Joensuu
Routes 6, 73 and 518 to Lieksa
Sunday 16/07/06
Nurmes to Iisalmi
Routes 67 and 87 to Iisalmi 98
Monday 17/07/06
Tuesday 18/07/06
Iisalmi to Kalajoki
Route 88 to Pyhanta then Route 800 from Pippola then Route 786 to Kalajoki 147
Wednesday 19/07/06
Kalajoki to Ruovesi
E08 to Jakobstad then Route 68 to Ruovesi 220
Thursday 20/07/06
Ruovesi to Tampere
Route 68 then Route 12 to Tampere 66
Friday 21/07/06
Tampere to Turku then overnight ferry to Stockholm (Sweden) then Orebro
E12 out of Tampere then Route 9 to Turku
Ferry to Stockholm then E20 to Orebro
Saturday 22/07/06
Orebro to Gotenborg
E20 to Gotenborg 187
Sunday 23/07/06
Ferry from Gotenborg to Newcastle
Monday 24/07/06
Newcastle to Glasgow
Total Mileage 3075