As we entered Sweden by boat from Helsinki and the ferry chugged its way through the channel that leads into Stockholm, we were blown away by the buildings that lined the sea front. Everything was beautifully designed and constructed, built in stones of varying colours and decorated with delicate features around windows and rooftops.
Though neither Arron or I are really city people, it was impossible not to enjoy the the old town. It is built on a small island in the middle of the city and every building is three or four stories high. Quaint coffee shops and stores selling an eclectic array of goods spill into the streets as tourists like ourselves wander round (or in our case, push our bikes up and down the steep hills) taking photos.
We were lucky to arrive in sunshine and although it has not been sunny everyday, it is definitely beginning to feel more like spring with temperatures breaking free of zero and no snow on the ground! The warmer weather makes for great cycling and it has been so much fun following cycle routes around lovely lakes and through silver birch forests.
Camping has also become much more enjoyable with the warmer weather. It takes us less than two hours on a morning now to get ready, pack up, eat two breakfasts and relax, compared with the four hours it would take us in the freezing conditions of China. On an evening we have sometimes had a small campfire and at night it is no longer a struggle to stay warm. On the whole, things are going great! 🙂
However, our bicycles have continued to cause problems. Mine, also known as Monty, seems to hate panniers. Now onto my fourth pannier rack set-up you might be fooled (as I was) into believing all was well. However the Chinese panniers (all we could find before we left Hong Kong) then started to bend… into my cassette and disc brakes. Obviously this was not ideal and after multiple attempts to find a solution with no success, I crashed emotionally a few days ago.
After a long cry that evening, I decided I was too lazy to cook in the drizzling rain outside and, as we were now running on gas again, it would probably be fine to cook inside the tent porch again.
All was fine whilst I cooked…
But as I unscrewed the gas canister after cooking I realised I had forgotten to check the flame was completely out. Our cookers are also Chinese knock-offs and as a result the gauge doesn’t always work, meaning gas can leak and a tiny flame can burn unnoticeable after we think we have turned off the gas. It is easy to check and blow out but in my slightly over emotional state, I forgot. As I unscrewed the stove the gas caught and suddenly the canister was flaming in my hand and singeing the tent.
‘Why are you setting fire to my tent?!?!?!’ Arron yelled as he leapt out of his side of the tent.
‘Not on purpose!’ I replied.
Luckily I unscrewed the canister quick enough and the flames subsided, but both of us were visibly shaking at another too close call. Suffice to say that whatever the weather, or emotions, we will not be cooking anywhere near our tent again!!!
Luckily, it did provide a bit of perspective and finally my bicycle playing up seemed a minor issue that we could and since have resolved with a simple solution – we swapped panniers.
Unfortunately that has not been the end of our bicycle problems. Arron’s ‘Trinx’ bicycle (also an unknown Chinese brand), also known as Jessica, has begun to snap spokes on a semi regular basis. Arron replaced one in Finland, as well as the rear mech which also broke, but now more spokes have snapped and on closer inspection it seems they are all rusting through (yet more top Chinese quality). As a result we are now in Orebro, enjoying a coffee while we wait for a bicycle shop to open, in the hope that we can replace some, or possibly all of the rear wheel spokes and continue once more.
One of our friends in Hong Kong said to us before we left that it will be the things we hadn’t thought of that would be challenges along the way. He couldn’t have been more right! The cycling itself, the camping and the cold conditions were all challenges we expected and prepared for as best we could, yet none have been too hard or unmanageable. We have carried with us spare brakes, cables, gears, bolts, inner tubes, tyres, spokes (which later turned out to be the wrong size) and so on but we didn’t anticipate problems with pannier racks or the entire rear mech breaking.
Setting up from Hong Kong and buying a lot of unregulated Chinese gear has definitely provided us with a few more challenges along the way and had kept us on our toes!! Thankfully we are now in Europe with extensive bicycle shops, high quality supplies and great coffee! 🙂