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Aug 14th 2022

Overland from Finland to London: Day 1


With the expiry date on my Interrail pass fast approaching, it was time to embark on the return trip.

Beginning with a ferry ride to Stockholm, then a train ride to Gothenburg, followed by a cycle to Copenhagen, with a ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingør to cross the Kattegat strait. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, if you’ve read the previous post, I think I probably jinxed it with my final remark.

I made it to Stockholm without issue and was standing on the platform when my phone buzzed to indicate a text received. The message told me that my train was cancelled. It wasn’t the only train to Gothenburg that had been cancelled that morning, due to an electrical fault, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. It still gave me a bit of a shock, because later FlixTrain services had no more bike spaces available.

Trains in Sweden are a bit tricky, when you’re travelling with a bike. SJ, the state owned railway operator, won’t take bikes other than in bags. Other operators do, but their networks aren’t as encompassing and there isn’t a single place to find the connections and to buy tickets across operators.

Looking at the departure board to work out which operators’ trains were available to me, I looked up the respective route networks and managed to find a connection that would get me part of the way. I decided to change my original plan to instead reach Gothenburg by bike and get the direct train to Copenhagen instead. It wasn’t the bike ride I wanted, but it would at least allow me to make my onwards connection.

However, during the train trip, looking up other operators’ networks, I found a way to get to Halmstad by train. Halmstad was my original planned destination to reach on the bike, so getting there would salvage half of my original plan. It involved cycling from Linköping to Jönköping, a distance of 125 km, but the schedule was easy enough that it shouldn’t be a problem.

During the train ride to Linköping, a fellow cyclist had told me rain was forecast. It was the understatement of the day, as a massive heavy rain front was rolling in just as I was setting off. To add insult to injury, the wind was also once more in my face. But, to find the bright side, that meant the weather was moving in my opposite direction.

After less than two rainy hours the precipitation subsided and I could see the sky clearing up ahead. The wind was still against me, but things were looking up, I thought, just as a spoke went bang in the rear wheel.

I still had more than 70 km to go and with all the luggage, the bike was quite heavy, most of it on the rear wheel. It wasn’t the first time I’ve ridden with a missing spoke, but that time with only the weight of myself to carry. I felt seriously concerned. But I had no choice but to carry on, there was no other way to reach Jönköping, or anywhere else really.

When I reached lake Vättern the wind really picked up, but on the upside I didn’t have to use the brakes on the downhills. The scenery was quite pretty, though, and I saw plenty of other cycle tourers coming the other way. They were all smiling and with the tailwind they had, I would’ve been all smiles, too.

Eventually I reached Jönköping just in time for the train. As I strapped in my bike in the carriage, I could finally let out a sigh of relief. Equally for the bike holding up, not having to battle the headwind anymore, as well as ensuring my connections for the rest of the trip.

In Halmstad I treated myself to a sit-down pizza and a beer, before heading off in search of a camping spot.

I had again looked ahead on Google Maps for a potential site. It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, but I didn’t have to venture far to find a better location nearby, next to a small river.

For the first time I was in my sleeping bag before midnight, lulled to sleep by the wind buffeting my tent.

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