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Kuolleiden purjehduskenkien seura

Aug 20th 2022

Overland from Finland to London: Epilogue

12:38

Another early morning, a final mediocre breakfast. The UK welcomed me back with a misty morning. With the end in sight, travel fatigue had by now started to set in and I was looking forward to falling asleep in my own bed.

Despite having moored much earlier, disembarking the ship wasn't allowed until after 6.30. Not quite sure why, possibly to avoid having a train of lorries rumbling past peoples' houses in the early hours of the day. In any case, it meant I wouldn't be allowed on a train for some time, as you can't arrive into London with a full-size bike during peak hours. Not that it mattered, the trains from Harwich port weren't running this morning anyway, due to (yet again!) an electrical fault. This time to the overhead wires.

So I took it easy and slowly made my way towards Manningtree, where I would eventually catch the train to London. Exactly at 8.53, it turned out.

Then a final hour on the train, followed by the last push home before it would all be over. Exactly a month after my departure, I would arrive back at whence I started. All in one piece, save for one spoke, which decided Sweden was where it wanted to stay.

---

Having now completed this my longest and most elaborate overland trip, some final thoughts.

In general, I found travelling overland an enjoyable experience. Despite the occasional mishap, everything fell into place without much trouble. Naturally, it's a much more time consuming way to go somewhere, but to me that was part of the allure.

To me cycling is the most enjoyable way to travel. It's fast enough to move vast distances in a relatively short time, yet slow enough to take it all in. However, from a more practical perspective a distance such as this trip is impossible to cycle in its entirety. But by combining cycling and train travel you get the best of both worlds. You can quickly cover vast distances efficiently and sustainably, while also including stretches of slower travel.

Unfortunately, because trains in Europe are currently mostly optimised at moving people with little or no luggage, taking your bike along can be a bit of a chore. Some train operators will be almost hostile towards the idea, not accepting bikes at all, unless they're disassembled and bagged. Unless your bike of choice is a folder, you need to be patient and flexible, or carry a bike bag. Possibly all of the above.

Without a bike along with me, the experience would've been wholly different. I could've covered the entirety of the trip in a mere two days (apart from the Sweden-Finland ferry). To me that is (time-wise) a realistic alternative to flying, when going for an extended time, like I was. Once the Hamburg-Stockholm sleeper gets going this September, that's going to cut the required time even more, making it a viable alternative even for shorter trips. (Again, time-wise only.)

That still leaves two aspects which I feel will probably dissuade a great deal of people from ditching flying: overland travel is costly (costlier than air travel) and it takes much more effort.

Flying somewhere can be cheap as chips and (practically) no matter where your heart desires, you can buy your ticket for the entire trip from a single vendor. Once those two things are solved for cross-border and cross-operator train travel, I'm certain it will enter its second golden age.

---

Specifically for this trip, I wish I'd had a day or two more on the way out for the cycling. Because of scheduling issues, I had less opportunity to enjoy my passage through Sweden than I'd envisioned. Along my route were an endless number of side-quests that beckoned: beaches, islands, museums, restaurants... you name it, it was there just waiting to be explored.

Having had an extra day or two on my Interrail pass probably would've saved me some money. Now my ex-tempore mode switch to Interrail accepting railway operators was completely out of my own pocket. My original trip between Stockholm and Gothenburg was always going to be on myself, because FlixTrain does not accept the Interrail pass, but the replacement I got probably would've. (I never bothered checking, because my pass didn't have the allowance for it anyway.)

All in all, the Interrail pass was brilliant. Because of it, I didn't really worry about missed connections, beyond those which required pre-booking the bike. I can definitely understand how it's survived all these years; without a bike in tow it provides endless possibilities for spontaneous travel within Europe.

Finally, I absolutely loved the camping. Hotels can be nice, as they bring you right into the hustle and bustle, but falling asleep and waking up amongst all the wonderful things nature provides simply can't be beat. Then strapping it all back on your bike and heading for your next sleep is just amazing.

The world really is best by bike.

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