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Finland

Tallin port is sooo busy! There were at least 6 ferries all trying to get into or out of their berths, or waiting in the bay just outside the docks to do so.

I was a bit concerned on this crossing, as there is no provision to tie down the bikes, at all! I was looking around for tiedown straps, but the Finnish guy parked beside me says "it's no problem. The sea is very calm. It's only a worry if it's blowing a gale!" Thankfully, today it was not blowing a gale, and was very calm. WillieWee was standing there calmly when I got back down to him, ready to disembark.

I figured I'd need a new rear tyre before setting off for Nordkapp as I'd done over 21,000km on the Tourance (although there was still a couple thousand km left on it), so intended staying in Helsinki until I got one fitted, therefore needed to find a caravan park somewhere handy. Found one not all that far from the city centre, checked in, joined the Camping Club (sort of compulsory in Scandinavia to have one if camping in parks) and set off to find myself a nice site.

Then a guy in a V8 towing an enormously long caravan comes towards me as I'm about to round a corner - and proceeds to cut the corner, by not allowing enough room to swing it around!!!! Yep! CRUNCH!! Next thing, I'm lying on my back with the bike on top of me. Sheeeeesh! Why these drongos are allowed to get behind the wheels of vehicles when they don't know how to drive them has got me beat!

So then he starts intimating that I will have to pay for the scratches on the van. Like hell, mate! You caused the accident! Of course, I countered with the dents in both panniers - one where the van hit it, and the other where it hit the concrete kerbing. He got a bit stroppy and sent his wife off to the reception office, presumably to get someone who spoke English. When the poor park guy who became the meat in the sandwich arrived, the van guy gave his story, then I gave mine. Stalemate. So I just said "OK, let's get the police then, and the vehicles must stay where they are." Unfortunately, the van guy had reversed the van some distance after he'd hit me to enable me to get the bike back upright, but them's the breaks, I suppose. The parks guy called the police then, and the wait began.

I sat, in the rain, on a concrete block. I can be REALLY stubborn when I want to be! <G> The guy tried to be conciliatory a couple of times, but I brushed him off, and kept rubbing at my "injuries" and limping when I went to the bike to get some water. He got very concerned when he thought I was injured!

After more than an hour had passed, and no police had eventuated, I knew he was getting a bit fractious and wanted to get going. Hey, I wasn't going anywhere, I wasn't in any rush, so I just kept sitting there! He and his wife kept going to the van looking at the scratches. Hmmmmm! Eventually, they went and got the parks guy again, who after some discussion by them, asked me if I was happy to leave things as they were, if I wasn't too injured, as they were OK about things. I put on a sad face and ummed and aaahed a few times, then said OK. But I made sure that he understood that I was going to move off first, just so he wouldn't get the chance to hit me again! So I laughed as I rode off to set up camp.

I ended up taking another day here, coz I was feeling a bit stiff and sore that afternoon and night, and the horrible heat didn't help, either. Didn't get to find a tyre, either, as I didn't feel like riding unnecessarily in the heat and being still a bit sore. Did manage to catch the train down to the huge shopping mall a couple of stations away the next day, to get some money from the ATM, and buy some food stuffs and metho for my stove, as I had run out. Gotta have my morning cuppa, doncha know!

The next day, I set off for the north, thinking I'd stop in the large university city of Oulu, about 650km away, to get a tyre. I was having problems with my back aching badly, partly due to the heat and partly due to having pulled some muscles a bit when the bike fell on me. It was really an effort to ride as far as I did that day. So much for "The world's toughest riders" tag on the bike!! I felt a real wuss.

Found a nice campground in Oulu, with a very helpful young lass on reception, who marked up a map for me of where the Suzuki dealer was. Unfortunately, it was the car dealer, not the bike dealer, but they steered me in the right direction, only a short distance away. Oh dear! It was a BMW/HONDA/SUZUKI dealer!! But they were pretty good to deal with, although I nearly fell over backwards when he told me the price of the Tourance I wanted - €211 !!!!! Sheeeesh, that's over A$300!! I've never paid anything like that for a tyre before. But he thought better of charging me for fitting, I think, as he hesitated when I asked the fitting cost, then said it was "free". And they did it straight away, while I had a coffee in the cafe/lounge, checked my email on their internet machine and wandered around looking at the prices of new bikes, some far less than in Oz, others much higher - Honda GoldWing at €38,000 !!!!! That's almost A$60,000.

So back to the campground to pack up the tent. All was going well, until I get to the final tent pole. PWAAAANG!! there goes the shock cord. Bugger! Now I can't camp tonight. I sought the help of the lass on reception again, and she sorted directions to a couple of camping stores, so I tootled around town. The biggest one was useless, so I ended up in the middle of the city, at a sporting store, where the very helpful lady who spoke some English gave me great directions to another store not far away (I was walking, at this stage, rather than riding through the city all the time).

Off I go, get a lass who spoke English well and was most helpful, but, no, they don't have the shock cord on rolls as we do in Australia. Damn, I'm thinking. Now it may not get fixed for quite some time, as this was the last big city along my route. Then she says, but we do have these repair kits! Yes! Hallelujah! A fibreglass pole wrapped with black shock cord, and the ally end caps. She unwrapped it to make sure there was enough. I rough measured it. Yep, it'll do, thanks. So I also bought a nice green wicking tee-shirt which folds up to absolutely nothing, for the paltry sum of €7.85, just because she was so nice and helpful - and also because I could use another tee-shirt!!

Back on the road, I was feeling much better about things, although I still had to work out exactly how to fix the pole. I normally take them into Allgoods in Lonnie, and get the nice man there to do it for me! But as I rode, I worked out how to do it. I carry a stout needle and heavy, strong linen cord as a general fixit remedy. I'd attach a longish length of linen cord to the shock cord end, then a small knot at the needle end, to keep the dimensions as small as possible, as the hole through the pole wasn't too big. Then drop the needle down the first (of nine) section of pole, wiggling it until the needle popped out the bottom, then pull the shock cord through. Fortunately, it went well later that evening, with only slight modifications to the shock cord attachment methods to make it thinner.

Yeah! Another successful fixit on the road! Now I can camp again. Bewdy!

Stopped at a service station to get fuel, and saw all these amazing bells below everywhere. Didn't get a photo of the best one, though, a huge shining brass one, which was hanging out near the highway, as I didn't see it until I'd already got back onto the highway.

Below: pretty nifty phone booth, huh?

Then we came to the Arctic Circle, and of course, I had to get the photo at the "official" Santa Claus post office. Funny how I've seen one of these before, up in Alaska ...

I asked a guy standing around to take my photo, but it wasn't the best, so got some Scottish people to take another one a few minutes later.

Below: the Scottish photographer's effort.

I rode on in the wonderful long daylight hours, seeing my first few reindeer of the trip, until I'd had enough riding for the day, in the tiny town of Inari. Here I splurged and stayed at the only hotel. These are the views below from the dining room as I had my dinner. Naturally, I had to try the local dish - sauteed reindeer on mashed potato with lignonberry (like cranberry) sauce. Interesting taste, a bit like a mixture of beef and lamb. Horribly overpriced, of course, but what the heck!

Above and below: This little guy sure made a pig of himself at the feeder outside the dining room window during breakfast the next morning. Look at the size of his belly, the little guts! The red squirrels here are a little larger than the grey squirrels so common in the US.

Above and below: Just a couple of photos taken lefthanded while riding.

I stopped later that morning for a coffee at a small overnight camp spot, where this Sami (indigenous peoples) teepee was erected. I sampled some of the local pastry goods, too! Yum!

And the Finland sign, taken from Norway after I'd crossed the border. I think the Customs guy was a bit curious as to what I was doing, parked outside his office taking photos! But he later walked past without saying anything at all, so I was in the clear.

On and on I went, getting closer to Nordkapp, and the weather kept getting cooler. Great, about time! There are several long tunnels to traverse - two about 4.5km or so long, and the main one under the sea onto the island where Nordkapp stands is 6.85km, and is tolled on the island - both ways! It was quite cold in these tunnels, much colder than the air temps outside, so it was quite pleasant to emerge into the dull grey afternoon light and feel "warm" again! At this stage, I was still wearing just a tee-shirt under my linerless jacket, hence the feeling cold!

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