In Search of the Arctic Circle
Don’t get me wrong, I love cycling and the adventures that come with it, and this is not the first time I’ve undertaken such a venture. However, the current situation was taking it too far. At that very moment I wished I were at home, chilling out to some adventure shows with a beer in my hand. But wait, this was no place to stop; there was only moss, lichen, stones, insects, bushes and a few trees. Plus, even if I had truly decided I wanted to return home now, there was no one who could take me away from here – I was too isolated.
I stopped pedalling some minutes before due to the pain in my left achilles. I had been experiencing this problem for the past three days and the lesion is now reaching the red zone. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the pain. I had run out of painkillers and regrettably there is nothing I can do right now.
‘Only 150km and I will be there.’ How do I reach the Arctic Circle? I need to focus, get motivated and proceed. I had been stuck in this place for 15 minutes, between bushes and some trails and all I was thinking about was the excruciating pain I was in. In such a situation you can quickly find yourself questioning every action and thought. The same question I had also been asked by a local farmer a couple of days before: ‘Why are you exposing yourself to these conditions that arise from such an environment?’ This is self-inflicted pain and there is no arguing otherwise.
At that very moment I wished I were at home, chilling out to some adventure shows with a beer in my hand. But wait, this was no place to stop; there was only moss, lichen, stones, insects, bushes and a few trees.
I couldn’t believe that at midnight I would be cooking with the sun beating at my back. This was a bizarre moment but it matched the arctic environment perfectly. After devouring a pot full of pasta I clambered into my tent and fell asleep with the same clothes I had been wearing for the last three days.
Shortly after, another one appeared. This reindeer however did not waste any of his time trying to convince me to keep going on my ride to the north. He simply passed by and joined his regal friend deep into the nordic forest. I was impressed. Did this conversation actually occur, or was the loneliness and physical pain inducing such vivid hallucinations? Regardless, this animal-human interaction completely changed my point of view on the situation I found myself in. I decided to bite my tongue, silence the negative thoughts and carry on with my ride north.
Of course I was still struggling with the pedalling initially but things were changing. The rain and clouds disappeared, the sky turned blue and even the sun began to shine. What a beautiful scene to witness for the last leg of my tiring journey! That evening, I didn’t stop until very late, around 11pm although it seemed as though it could be 6pm. During the summer time, at that latitude (66°44’33’’) there is almost no darkness during the night.
I couldn’t believe that at midnight I would be cooking with the sun beating at my back. This was a bizarre moment but it matched the arctic environment perfectly. After devouring a pot full of pasta I clambered into my tent and fell asleep with the same clothes I had been wearing for the last three days. I was too exhausted to even consider the idea of changing into my ‘pyjamas’. In the past few days, I had been unable to find a location to shower, but I did come across a beautiful and impressive cold arctic lake. I have never enjoyed water so much in all my years travelling by bike than at that place.
The following evening I had an unusual camping experience. Around 4am I heard steps approaching my tent. I had pitched up in a dense forest far away from the civilisation so this was very alarming. I was frozen in place, adrenaline filling my body, and I was wild in anticipation. Somebody was out there, close to my tent; it must have a plan. Myself? Did I have a plan for this situation? How could I? This was highly unexpected. My cycling shoe was the hardest ‘weapon’ I had in my tent, so I clutched onto it tight and waited defensively. The silence was now deafening. I was on high alert. Should I unzip the tent? Or was it better to wait before reacting? Luckily the noise didn’t occur again and my whirling thoughts and worries soon disappeared too. Now I just had to get myself to fall asleep again. To this day it still baffles me what that noise was or could have been, but I guess it is one of those arctic mysteries that will never be solved.
The sun is shining and it is getting hot. I prepare for the last leg with some protein bars and soft drinks purchased in Rovaniemi. It is to be an incredible Friday afternoon.
‘I can see the flag!’ I am now just 500 meters away. I decide to stop and enjoy from a distance the scene I had been dreaming about for many months. That small spot on the map seems giant now. I slowly approached the finish line whilst listening to Swedish Heavy Metal music with a big smile etched across my face. I stop a metre before the pole marking the edge of the Arctic, enjoying the pleasure of the moment. With one hand I reached out and touched the circle and screamed silently to myself: Bien Mierda! Finally, on the July 26, 2013 at 14:14 I reach the Arctic Circle, and with this action I conclude my unbelievable cycling adventure to the North.
As a finale, to make for a spectacular finish to this unforgettable experience, a massive electric storm begins its display on the biggest cinema screen in the world. The fresh arctic sky is dark in its perfection. It is now time for a celebration and a return home.
Gustavo has already crossed the Andes, the Alps, complete a Patagonia ride and reached the arctic circle with his bike. View details on Facebook.
Thank you to Kusi Kimani for helping with the text edition.