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Europe by Tandem

From Castellon (Spain) to Northern Cape (Norway) by Tandem supporting the fight against cancer.

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Day 7. Kolari- Overkalix

Posted by admin On Julio - 15 - 2010

JL: 141 kilometers. 6 hours and 37 minutes.

The road sides are green walls. We pedaled for hours on end through this tunnel; trying to visualize what lies behind makes the effort more bearable. I think my partner had his mind on the same thing but we couldn’t come up with anyhing customary to say, just expressing our astonishment. We’d been like this for two days; every now and then a hole was opened and the landscape breathed. Distances are huge, they can’t covered; they don’t belong to men. Before so much nature, you feel entirely unsettled. Alone, outside the narrow cement kingdom, everything you know won’t be useful and your greatest wish is to have the skills to run like a reindeer or hunt like a wolf.

The reveille sounded at 6:30. We had to check the mechanics of the tandem. We left Kolari around 8:30 after having picked our yesterday’s wet clothes. What we couldn’t save was my rain-damaged cell phone. So, if you want to call me up, dial Ivan’s cell phone number, till I get a new one. We moved 5 kilometers forward and entered Sweden by cycling across a mighty river.
Beyond the tunnel, the border installations are deserted; the buildings that in past times tried to gate the countryside are now derelict.


















The morning went off smoothly and thanked to the sun, we could wear short-sleeved and knee-length clothes. As we move southward, we encountered new villages. This assumes an advantage as our provisioning will be supplied. The tiny Scandinavian towns we went through are lovely, at
least now in summer; I guess they aren’t that charming in winter. They are different: streets aren’t well-defined, each house is raised on the meadow itself. There are no sidewalks, there are no urbanization elements either. I guess this is not that necessary for the rest of the 7 months of the
year, throughout which the only useful thing is the snowmobile in order to go from one place to another. Every house has one of this. The same thing happens with the isolated houses in the countryside. We tried to seek the path which led us to them but this path was often nonexistent.
In summer, people get to their dwellings by car; in winter, the path would be absolutely useless, even if it did exist.

At midmorning, we met John, a Swedish cycle tourer who, in his three-week vacation, traveled the country up to the north by a recumbent bicycle and who was going back home. He offered us a series of recommendations about the road to go. We were not so sure whether to follow them because that would entail making big changes to our plans. Ignoring them altogether would be a blunder. We have to make some decisions.

In the afternoon, before arriving in Overkalix, we left Arctic Circle, going through the parallel of latitute that runs at 66º. All of a sudden, it was less cold. Tonight the sun will set just for one and a half hours, from 11:57 p.m. to 1:41 a.m. More and more people ask us who we are and where we are going. At dinnertime, a Swedish couple approached me at the canteen and asked me if I were one of the guys who was traveling Europe by tandem for the fight against cancer.In view of my surprise, they told me they found out about it at the hotel reception. Curiously enough, they have a house in Torrevieja and they know our company, Record Go.

Day 6. Enontekio- Kolari

Posted by admin On Julio - 14 - 2010

163 km, 7:15 a.m.

IVAN: The day started off as expected, rain-drenched; we weren’t expecting such a fucking downpour, though! We could say that it was the only moment since we arrived that it got dark, but at 11 in the morning! What a freezing cloudburst! Not as lukewarm as it falls on our land, no, the rain falls cold here.

The day began like this, we set off around 8:30 and we had the chance to warm up and go for a ride for an hour before it started to deluge. From 9:30 to 12:00, it rained cats and dogs, which caused visibility problems on the road at midmorning. You can’t stop, though! Once you’re soaked, there’s no slicker that can prevent you from getting soaked to the skin; you have a duty to the machine and to your legs; a pinprick, a physical breakdown may complicate the day meanly; a 15-minute stop irremediably leads to a difficult-to-fix muscle cooling and, as a result of that, to injuries, colds, etc.

The thing is that, at 12 p.m., we got to the only place where we could have lunch, Muonio. Today’s stage took place along the border that separates Sweden from Finland, at the valley of the Tornionjoki river. 163 km to go, mind you, where you can only find a spot to have something to eat, just halfway through, if you’re lucky enough; and a stall to have a coffee after 120 km. This is one of the greatest hardships of this trip, the fact that there is nothing along the way, just more kilometers and kilometers in the enormity of the woods, and that’s it. But, well, we were fortunate today: we got to Muonio drenched by the rain so we had to get into a hotel, where we could indulge ourselves with a Finnish sauna, take a hot shower, change out of the wet clothes, and have lunch. At that point, we considered the possibility of staying there, after cycling for 81 km; but it wasn’t enough. Although we knew it would keep on pouring down, we set off hoping it was neither early nor too much.

Only 20 minutes later, our biggest fear came true: the rainfall, and good heavens, it was high abundant rainfall, soaked to the skin for more than 70 km ahead. Fortunately, the rain stopped an hour later; it cleared, alternating clouds and sun, which helped us to dry. Our full stomach made that stretch possible.

We made a stop at the coffee stall, the scenery (see above) was worth it; at a bend of the Tornionjoki river, the longest natural course river in Europe, which flows for a distance of 510 kilometers, rich in wild salmon and in Finnish fishermen. For example, after watching the fish counts in the river, they caught a 14-kilogram fish! Wow!

We set off again and the rotten luck struck back, 2 minutes and PUM, the tandem rear tire went flat, another stop and changes, hard to do this with only one hand, while you’re using the other to kill light-aircraft like Laponian mosquitoes; but well, our bodies resemble a bakery, fraught with buns, haha!

We left Norway a couple of days ago, we went through Finland and tomorrow, as soon as we set off, we’ll be in Sweden. It’s telling but during these 550 km, the landscape has dramatically changed. The current landscape is shaped by roads flanked, at both sides, by tall tree walls. It’s full of firs, since we’re getting closer to the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park, a priceless natural treasure in Finland.

Day 3. To the north of the north.

Posted by admin On Julio - 11 - 2010

JL: From Honningsvag to Skaidi. 128 kilometers. 7 hours.

Today was the first day of serious pedaling and we had to make sure we packed correctly. It’s been really difficult to fit everything into my saddleback but after three tries I’ve finally managed to close it. It’s so tight, so dense, that I think it has started to exercise its own gravitational force over objects near it.

The day has started cold and rainy. The temperature was around 8º C, but with lower a thermal sensation caused by the wind. If, in the month of July, 200 meters above sea level, you have snow around you, it means that you are really to the north; it is not a good idea to wear shorts.

After 15 minutes of pedaling we were soaking wet and blue with cold. Hands and feet very cold, goose bumps all over and the nose and upper lip area without sensitivity, therefore, when we tried to speak we would babble ridiculously. It is necessary to arm yourself with determination to continue moving. Luckily, the rain stopped after the first hour and the wind, although cold has dried us.

Out of the 128 kilometers, 16 have been through 6 tunnels badly lit, humid and icy. These tunnels go through mountains so close to the fiord that there is barely any space left for the exterior road. The worst of them was the first one. It had 6.8 kilometers and it connects the island that is located more to the north, where North Cape is located, with the mainland of the Scandinavian peninsulas; and it does so “under the sea”. The tunnel is completely straight, it begins with a descent of 3 kilometers at a 12% slope that takes you 212 meters “under the sea floor”  after that, barely  100 meters of plain ends with another 3-4 kilometers of  rise on a 9% average slope.

The ride was very tough, but, paradoxically, the worst part was the first descent. Using our brakes to stop our 200 kilos of total weight, thrown on the downward slope in a dirty and wet road, was more than the brakes could take. After approximately 1.5 kilometers it started to smell burnt, the brakes had turned red and were squeaking like a siren, smoke was coming out of them and they stopped working. We stopped the tandem bicycle with our feet. The hind brakes are broken. We had to walk for the rest of the descent.

The landscape is breathtaking: green all over, cliffs, steep slopes, water everywhere and continuous changes of light. Water of a thousand colors, reindeers sunbathing in the river bends, fisher eagles and seagulls that look like ostriches; it is obvious that fish around here are abundant. All of that around a road that for 90 kilometers circles the second biggest fiord in Norway, where there are more people riding motorcycles, mobile homes and bicycles than cars.

We had lunch at a small Sami settlement next to the road. There, the full number of passengers traveling on a bus, all of them Italian, rushed towards us and asked us a great deal of questions, they’ve taken our pictures from head to toe and wished all kind of good wishes to us. We bought a piece of smoked salmon of about 350 grams that we devoured without any bread or piece of cutlery. Never in my life had I tried a salmon soooo delicious. I guess it is normal: fished by them and prepared to the purest traditional style without any type of artifice.

At around 17:30 we arrived to Skaidi, town with a Sami name that means “place where two rivers converge”. It is obvious that these are people of very few words.

Here we are watching the final of the World Cup with our Spanish team jerseys that were given to us as a present. Two additional things to highlight about Norway:

  • They are tremendously respectful at the wheel.
  • They are able to watch the World Cup final game without blinking and in silence. We don’t behave like that, not even when we are at the library.

IVAN: Today we’ve awaken with the firm purpose of doing everything it takes for our beloved tandem bicycle to get to Honningsvag so that we’re finally able to start with our adventure once and for all. At 9:30 am the girl that assisted us over the phone in Oslo told us that the tandem bicycle had boarded the plane that was supposed to land in Alta at 12 noon (finally, a breathe of air).

Knowing this and taking into account that we had no intention of wasting time, we’ve decided to go to North Cape by the only way we had, by bus, therefore, we were driven through the road sitting down in a comfortable bus instead of suffering/enjoying it by tandem. But anyway, this has not diminished at all the spectacular beauty of the trip, believe me when I tell you that in this short trip, that has only lasted 45 minutes, I’ve surprised myself with goose bumps, a shrunken heart and, more than once, a very complicated feeling to describe, what a view!!!!

As a comment I would like to say that I’m leaving out 30 pictures of different sights, similar to these, but I cannot fit all of them, I’m sorry.

The anecdote of the day happened when we got to North Cape, as we were approaching the ball that identifies the place, we saw a group of cyclists approaching, carrying a lot of things,  that had just arrived (another turn to the heart and a feeling of healthy envy difficult to digest), upon seeing them, JL tells me “but they look like Spaniards” and I tell him, no, that flag looks German, as they had it folded in half, right after that, one of them replies “yes, we are Spanish”. It was a group from Albacete in the last of their stages through Norway, a trip that had taken them through the coast from the Lofoten islands through Northkapp. Of course, inside of me my soul was screaming “I WANT MY TAAAAAAANDEM BICYCLE    !!!”. We had a joyful chat with them and we’ve taking the mandatory group picture.

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon we found out that the tandem bicycle had arrived to Alta airport, after JL argued with half the airport, they were loading it on a bus that would take it to Honningsvag, yay!, what a feeling of contained joy; will we find it in a good state?

At 6 o’clock in the afternoon our tandem bicycle arrived to Honningsvag, we spoke to the bus driver and he told us that he’d bring it to our hostel where we’ve been staying since yesterday. Tandem unloaded, assembled and checked. Just waiting to see how it will go when we ride it, at least for now everything seems fine.

Tomorrow we depart on our way to Castellon. Grandma: get the rice for the paella ready for around 2:00 pm, if the day goes well, we might show up in Castellon on time for lunch ;) )

JL: Great, we’re finally in Honningsvag, base town from which all expeditions to North Cape leave (located 34 kilometers away). It is 00:35 and it is broad daylight. In fact, there’s not even a sign of sunset any time soon, at this time of year we are in the time of the “midnight sun”. We will need to close our eyes with all our anger.

From 03:30 until 21:15 our route has been Valencia-Paris-Oslo-Alta by plane and from Alta to Honningsvag we traveled by land. Things haven’t gone the way we expected. One of the worst things that could have happened. The airline SAS has “forgotten” our tandem bicycle in Paris. We learned about this when we landed in Oslo where we filed the complaint with the following result: they “guaranteed us” that tonight they will be shipping the tandem bicycle in a flight from Paris to Oslo; tomorrow, Saturday it will leave on a flight from Oslo to Alta, and from there, it will be transported by land to our hostel in Honningsvag, where it will arrive late in the afternoon. Can you believe it?…………

If this is the way things go, and since it does not get dark here at night, we are thinking about sleeping all day long and when the tandem bicycle arrives we might get on it and pedal all night. This problem threatens to delay our planned trip for at least one day; this could mean that we would have to modify all the reservations for the next 20 days (hotels and ferries). A great deal of work….
Apart from this bad luck, we’ve also had a wonderful experience. Upon landing in Alta, we ran into a man that was waiting for his parents at the airport with a truck to drive them to Honningsvag (234 kilometers away). I asked him and he offered to drive us, selflessly, since we shared the same destination. On the way he talked to us about the geography, history, custom and Norwegian languages. It was an authentic priceless master class. Among other things, he told us that for him we were “strangers” and that in Norway the word does not mean an “unknown person” but “a friend you still have not met”.

And, to top it all off, he was our “taxi driver”, giving us a tour around the town and dropping us off directly at the hostel door. He introduced us to his parents, his wife and his dog. He and his wife accompanied us to visit the Artic Ice Bar, owned by a Spanish couple. Apart from this, they’ve invited us, to join them the day after tomorrow, to watch the World Cup final in a hut they own heading south, in Skaidi (coinciding with one of our final stages). They will watch the final inside a jacuzzi (that fits 8 people) with water at a temperature of 38 ºC and a beer in the hand and, after that, they’ve invited us to sleep over at their house with their family. What a great show of hospitality of two people we’ve just met! They insisted so much that we are taken aback by their generosity. At this time we still don’t know what to do, whether to accept their offer or run way. We’ve agreed to call them tomorrow.

The hostel owner has two bicycles. We might borrow them to get to North Cape instead of going by bus. We wouldn’t be able to do it with our tandem bicycle, Paco, but at least we would go pedaling and we would remain faithful to the spirit of the trip. We’ll see what happens after breakfast and after the first early calls to the airline.

About Norway, the first impressions are:

• It seems like the country is brand new, that’s just been unpacked. The landscape shows itself clean and with pure and strong colors.

• Prices have nothing to do with ours: for example, two water bottles, a small salad and two Bolognese spaghetti bowls, 64 €.

• The Scandinavians handle scissors as if they were true scissor devils; they would go for any haircut.

J.L.:
As you know, the car rental company where Ivan and I work, Record Go, feels identified with the sporting –solidarity proposal that we posed and decided to make it its own. Since then, they have offered us all their moral support and time and all the resources we needed. On our part, we will undergo a great physical and mental effort, but a project like this is only possible with the help of many people, with a team that has a shared vision and inside an organisation as open and audacious as Record Go. The impulse of the General Direction, Victor Carratalá, and our partner Agustin Lara, Online Marketing Manager, who has spent a great amount of work and all his department’s knowledge to promote this challenge, have been essential.

This teamwork is largely responsible for the award granted by the Castellón Chamber of Commerce for best CSR initiative.

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a very long name that ultimately comes to express the desire and commitment of the organisations, in addition to conducting its business successfully, to integrate social concerns into the culture of the company, in their daily activities, and actively and voluntarily contribute to social improvement.

The Castellón Chamber of Commerce organizes every year the Award Accord. This annual competition rewards annually the best company of Castellón with the best CSR project. This past week, the jury granted the 2010 award to Record Go Rent Car’s project “Europe on a Tandem bike. Kilometres against Cancer”.

I think that the companies not only communicate through the product / service that they put on the market and the marketing strategy they display for sale. They further communicate daily through the decisions they make, the management style that characterizes them and the projects they are able to undertake. Each act portrays us individually or collectively.

Therefore, we better make an effort to carry out beautiful acts. Undoubtedly, the organisations concerned in awakening a sense of belonging in its members, become excellent places to work, improve on a daily basis, obtain better results and shine above their competitors.

We are very grateful for the recognition that the Jury Award Accord gave us. Surely, the other projects participating were also worthy of receiving the prise.
Thank you all.

Here is the proof:

Last week: two days before arriving in North Cape.

Posted by admin On Julio - 7 - 2010

IVAN: July 7th, two days left before the exit that will lead us to North Cape, to travel the 5,000 km which separate this particular point of departure from our adventure, the European “Finisterre”, the final point, our land, Castellón.

Speaking about the daily 150 km,  about the donations for the fight against cancer, of the tandem bike named Paco (Pa’Conseguir combatir el cancer – To fight and beat cancer) or about the European countries that we will cross,  is like “raining in something wet ,” since I imagine that by now everyone knows that this is a sporting challenge of solidarity, there are channels of donation, that the company we work for, RECORD GO, has become the main “donor” because it will donate 1 euro per kilometre travelled to the account of the AECC and the UICC, or that  Viajes Ecuador has sponsored our flight to the starting destination, or even of the help given by tostadora.com selling t-shirts, or of our friend “Manolo from Macer” of Castellón that, in his truck repair shop, has assembled us a “contraption tripod “that will allow us to record from a side angle.

What I think we have not shown in a clear way is the ROUTE that we intend to follow  (if you pay attention, I speak in conditional form, since speaking in perfect future with so many days ahead and so many potential problems, would be a mistake).

And the luggage for these 40 days was:

CLOTHES 3 shorts, 2 mallots, a pair of gloves, 2 windshields, 2 thermal shirts, 4 pairs of socks, a waterproof cape (thin), 3 pants, a helmet, a pair of glasses, three t-shirts of the Europe on Tandem), 1 shirt, 1 pair of trousers , 1 pair of shorts, a thin fleece, a pair of sandals, automatic boots and slippers.

TECHNOLOGY 2 GoPro cameras for the tandem (so you can follow us in our YouTube channel), a Lumix digital photo camera that Geo-references the photos (you can see in our Flickr page), a video camera (courtesy of TVE, for the “Action direct “program of La 2), 7 Mini-DV video tapes, a laptop computer (to write our posts in this blog), a UMTS (Internet connection), a GPS, a USB port multiplexer, a mobile phone with Internet connection (to also be present on Facebook), and chargers and holders for all the electronics devices, of course zillions of SD memory cards.

Pharmacy: Frenadol, Voltaren, Fortasec, Daflon, Supradina, Aftersun, Xicil, Minerals, Mosquito Repellent. I hope to put all this in the only bag I have, as you can see in the picture, the bag is at the end, and size and if I’m not mistaken with my calculations, I would say it will not fit,  but anyway, I will let you know.

J.L:

And I add to the list …
The tandem bicycle packed and labelled for “undergoing” flights and layovers to North Cape.

And let’s not forget the plane ticket (thanks Ximo, thanks Viajes Ecuador).


Greetings to all, since the next post will already be from North Cape!







IVAN:

Jose Luis, yesterday I read your verse and with delight I accept the challenge,

And the thing is that we leave for North Cape in two weeks,

to cross Europe in or tandem bikes, courageous and dignified,

seeing reindeers, salmons and the typical giant crab.

A long time of early morning rises, cold, rain and suffering;

since we have already trained for 10 months,

and don’t misinterpret me, I’m not complaining,

look at me, or do you not see me happier?
We travelled all over Spain and even the Apostle James greeted us,

and many ports crowned, I remember two in particular

in the moorland Avila, and here the dreaded tower looked.
With the most important thing I finish what intends to be a sonnet,

for to bring down the cancer like a domino,

we expect donations, remember, not just sporting is the challenge.

Training for the Alto Mijares and Alcalatén

Posted by admin On Junio - 26 - 2010

JL:

As usual, my friend Ivan and I alternate opportunities

to write about our progress and

on this morning we both wanted to write and it got out of hand,

he arrogantly challenged me to narrate in verse.
Today long day of solitary mountain, 160 miles,

two poets horseback riding through Montanejos and Zucaina,

where the queen Penyagolosa with skilled presence and pride,

where an abysmal decline begins, the road dances.
The Villahermosa River traverses this land of rugged walls,

the sound of fresh water has  been its irresistible seduction,

stop, naked ,as we came into the world,

and without need to be begged, we dove in the water.

We climbed the 1018 steps of the Revolcador that raise it without an enemy in front,

a new effort to complete another port,

in order to guess the nearby coast face forward receiving the easterly wind,

and from this height to the house flying  low, with awakened rhythm.
Friend Ivan, I hope you are satisfied with my post

as much as it satisfies me to dedicate it to you ,

but since you are capable and I and will not be the last,

I dare you to a singular duel on the blog.

Training Weekend 3 weeks before North Cape

Posted by admin On Junio - 21 - 2010

IVAN: This weekend is for training as we usually do: extensive training on Saturdays and intensive training on Sundays. It have been days with very good temperature and sunny weather. If it weren’t for the unfortunate wind, as one of our colleagues commented on Facebook “for the rider on the road, nothing matters, except for the wind always blowing frontally “.

The departure on Saturday was unusually special for me, and not because of the path, fantastic as always, nor for the wonders of landscapes hidden inside us, but because of the peculiar goal we pursue,  the Hermitage of Santa Lucia and Saint Benet in the Irta Mountain (Alcocebre), located in a unique location: in the last of the giant arms of land that the Irta Mountain extends through the entire coast from Alcocebre to Peniscola.

Odd thing is that from the beginning of this project, around the month of October 2009, I was infatuated with it and always made the same comment to my colleague JL when we saw it from a distance: “We have to go up there!”. Well, the  eagerly awaited day was this Saturday

To climb its 312 m. high, you start from the Fuentes de Alcocebre beach. You have to hold on to the walls of 12% and 20% of the slope, which are very hard, in a poorly paved road with many potholes. In fact, once there (if you don’t take a good mountain bike or go on foot), you must go back through the same path, that infernal road  that is so hard and uncomfortable to climb, and steep and dangerous to descend.

Of course, with this definition, anyone can ask and why do you climb?, Aaaaaaahh my friends, the sights, the fantastic and beautiful views, and what about feelings, yes, yes you read it right, the feelings, because always hear everyone talk about the benefits of this sport, how good it is for health, how active you feel, the self-esteem that you can handle, but the sensations, nobody tells you about this, feelings that an athlete experience when reaching a point of maximum effort, the suffering, the feeling of tiredness and a devastating exhaustion, the sensation of strength and power, the sensation of speed or power or best of all, the sense of arrival, to complete the goal, through the goal, ending the tour, reaching the destination on time, that feeling cannot be experienced on the sofa at home, or in the bar, even in the disco with 4 drinks, that feeling is reserved for those “dummies” who leave aside (but only temporarily) the late night parties, the alcohol  and the fun drink parties , and are dedicated to getting up early and working hard.

But the best way to explain these feelings is through our videos (you can see in our YouTube channel). This is what we experienced on the tandem bicycle on Friday, on the climb and the descent of the Desierto de las Palmas:

There is also a video that I did not have a chance to upload but that shows a feeling I had felt before and that is experienced in a special way when you are riding a bike. It is the feeling of freedom I felt on our 3rd day in our trip to Santiago.  Leaving Albacete, the morning was like is shown in this recording.

Or this video from a few months ago of the Port of Querol, a harmonic dance between the pilot, co-pilot, double pedalling machine, asphalt, curves, wind and freedom.

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